Following my dreams as a traveling yoga teacher

My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.
— The Alchemist

 

Following my passion in life has led me on an incredible journey this past year. A little over ayear ago I said goodbye to my life in Australia, ready to embark on a new chapter. One that I had been eagerly awaiting for some time. 

I did some soul searching and realized that I needed a change in my life, I was becoming stagnant in my teaching career in Australia and felt that I needed to get out of my comfort zone in order to expand my teaching skills and gain new experiences.

I had a crazy schedule, teaching full time, 7 days a week and at one point teaching up to 25 classes. I was slowly burning myself out, reaching the point of exhaustion and felt that I needed to change my current situation to create a better work/life balance.

Yoga is one of my passions in life and traveling has always followed closely behind. I'm sure my family & friends think that I am a modern-day gypsy because any chance that I get I'm on a plane heading someone to explore new cities, meet new people and immerse myself in a different culture. Yoga and traveling go hand in hand, having a job that can take me anywhere in the world is by far one of the greatest perks of being a yoga teacher. 

I started searching online to see what I could find in regards to teaching abroad and it didn't take me long to realize that there is an incredible amount of work out there if you just dig a little deeper and know where to search. 

I updated my resume, sent off as many emails as I could to a range of studios, resorts and retreats in SE Asia and waited to see if I got a response. Within a week I had a few offers come my way and made my decision to start my travels in Bali, not only because it's close to Australia but also because it's the island of the Gods, known for its magical energy.

After many emails back and forth with the program manager, my position was locked in and I now had a start date. I spent the next few months getting my life organized, selling the majority of my belongings and putting the remaining few possessions into storage.

Giving plenty of notice to the many yoga studios, gyms, schools and private clients that I taught. Sorting out my finances, travel insurance and booking my flights. Lastly, the farewell parties and get-togethers with my friends and family before I headed off on my adventure. 

When the day had finally arrived for me to fly out it was a surreal moment, I was saying goodbye to my life in Australia and about to embark on a journey into the unknown. I had to really trust and believe that it was all going to be fine and I knew deep down that this was the right decision for me to be making at this point in my life.

It's never easy to walk away from a comfortable life; giving up having a regular routine, earning a generous income, eating my favorite food, meeting up with friends for a coffee and just basically enjoying the modern comforts of home. All of this was about to become a thing of the past for me, it was scary and exciting at the same time. 

If you have read my previous posts about teaching abroad then you will understand what an incredible experience this has been to help strengthen my teaching career, gaining valuable insight, and new skills. I have loved connecting with so many incredible people from all corners of the world and learning about their culture, their way of life and the journey they have been on to get to this point.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing however as there are always unpredictable things that come up and situations that I have no control over. The biggest thing I have learned is having to adapt to my surroundings very quickly, in regards to my living environment, the food, people that I'm living with, the vast array of students and the weather are all factors that come into play. But I am taking this all in with the patience, grace, and poise that I find within me to overcome these obstacles that I face on this journey.

I have realized that the experiences, interactions, feelings and emotions that come up are a direct reflection of the energy that I am putting out into the world, having that mirrored back to me has allowed me to learn and grow on so many levels.

Travel is a benchmark for growth and expanding your horizons, to get out of your comfort zone and take on challenges that will make you a stronger person both internally and externally. This has been the greatest challenge and accomplishment that I have embarked on and I know that I am walking the path that I am being called to do right now.

My gratitude and thanks go out to all of the incredible people who have touched my life in some form or another and also for allowing me to share my knowledge and passion with you as well. Here's to another incredible, life-changing year on this journey called life.

Learning to say 'no'

Travelling to India is by far one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences I have had so far. The extremes of wealth and poverty, beautiful landscapes and cities full of filth, locals who are beyond friendly and helpful to those who just see you as a dollar sign. This country has it all and you need a thick skin along with a lot of patience in order to navigate and survive this place.

What led me there was an opportunity to teach and manage a yoga studio in the North of India, this was to be my home for the next 6 weeks. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this small city, 5 hours north of New Delhi. It’s situated in the Punjabi region, the amount of wealth here was astounding as we had witnessed so much poverty before arriving here.

The studio owners offered me and my partner their home to live in, meals provided by their chef/caretaker and a peaceful environment to take a break from the craziness of traveling through India.

The studio was located about a 15-minute bike ride away from the house and my mode of transport to get there was on a very old and rickety bicycle to ride. I would hazard a guess that it was made in the 40’s or 50’s, however it did the job getting me to and from the studio each day. The yoga space was the whole ground floor of a large house that could comfortably fit up to 10 students.

The owner of the house was a well-known local dancer and musician who also conducted her own regular classes. In the evenings before my class began I would watch the little girls practicing their dancing, as I walked up the garden path I could hear the jingling of their bells before I had reached the entrance.

I was teaching 10 classes a week over 4 days, a combination of morning and evening classes.  In the first week, I only had a handful of students coming to the classes as the studio had been closed for a few weeks over the Christmas/New Years break. I had 1-2 students in each class and most were regular students who had been coming for a few months.

I was a little disheartened at first as I was expecting it to be a little busier and that a few new students might start coming too. By the end of my second week of teaching, I realized that the best I could hope for was that people would at least show up to the classes as the numbers, although small to start with had already started to dwindle. I quickly realized that even though the students paid for the whole month up front it didn’t necessarily mean that they would be turning up to the classes.

However, my biggest concern was with the couple who owned the studio. The reason why I was offered this volunteer position in the first place was that they had made plans to travel interstate to further their yoga studies. They then planned to take a break in Thailand before returning back to resume classes at their studio. 

The owners were very clear as to how they wanted me to run/teach the classes, checking up daily about every little thing, ringing students in my first week of teaching to get 'constructive feedback', my every move being watched and critiqued with constant questions and criticisms being constantly fired at me.

I have learned over my years of teaching that you need to be true to your style and not let other people or students try to change you or tell you how to teach. I can now also easily detect when I feel I'm being taken advantage of or used in a way that's not in alignment with my morals and values.  

I decided to cut my time short here but I'm thankful for the experience as the few dedicated students who did come to the classes were always so friendly, helpful and embraced my way of teaching. It was also a very beautiful space to teach in and came fully equipped with all of the mats/props that I could ever need to provide support for the students.

This whole experience also allowed me to stand up for myself and have the courage to say 'no, this isn't working for me and it's just not a good fit.'

I have been very lucky to have already had some incredible opportunities and experiences teaching in other countries in SE Asia. I'm not going to let this experience dampen my spirits or scare me off from applying for more teaching opportunities. If anything this was an invaluable lesson for me to learn and to stand up for myself in a difficult situation. 

Vedic Arogya Ashram, Nepal

I have always wanted to go to Nepal, the country known for the Himalayas, the living yogic traditions, sacred temples/stupas, stunning landscapes and the beautiful people. I started searching on Yoga Trade for a teaching opportunity and within a week I had secured my spot to be a guest teacher at the Vedic Arogya Ashram. 

Once arriving in Kathmandu I was greeted by one of the family members from the ashram who patiently waited in the arrivals hall for 2 hours due to my backpack being 'misplaced' on the wrong conveyer belt. We hopped into a little taxi to the ashram, located 45 mins out of Kathmandu in a little village called Godavari. 

My first impression of the ashram was a feeling that I had arrived at a very sacred and peaceful place tucked into the hills and surrounded by natural beauty in all directions. The ashram is built into a hill and consists of 5 levels, the main yoga hall and reception, the shared dorms and smaller yoga studio, the private rooms and dining area/kitchen, the communal showers and laundry area and the artist space/library which looks out on to the organic vegetable garden.

There is a set program here that the guests follow which starts with a 6 am wake up bell followed by Jala Neti (nasal cleansing) and then a 2-hour yoga and meditation class. We then get to enjoy a hearty, warm breakfast followed by Karma Yoga to make the place more beautiful and to give back in a small way.

By mid-morning it's time for a Pranayama session to connect with the breath and the fresh mountain air. Lunch is a big plate of dhal bhat and then we have 2 hours to relax and enjoy the sunshine. After lunch, there is a workshop followed by an afternoon snack and then a hike to the nearby village, a temple, monastery or the local botanical gardens. Another yoga class before dinner and then a silent meditation to end the day.

This was how I spent my month at the ashram, following the yogic lifestyle and embracing the program that we followed on a daily basis.

The guests would change on a weekly basis as they came for a 7-day yoga or detox program, people from all corners of the world came here, from all ages and yoga backgrounds, ranging from beginners to intermediate students.

I was constantly meeting new people and learning just as much from them as they were from me. Apart from teaching yoga and meditation classes, I was able to offer alternative healing sessions to the guests with Reiki, Chakra Balancing, Past Life Regression, Thai Massage, and Astrology Chart readings to those who wanted a little something extra for themselves. 

The ashram is owned by a lovely Nepalis family and they really do make you feel apart of their family as they welcomed me into their home and lives. Anything that I needed help with was always warmly given and nothing was too much for them. It was humbling to see a family with so little giving back so much with a smile on their face. My heart was warmed by their generous spirit, genuine kindness, and patience.

This has been one of my most memorable teaching experiences to date, it was so rewarding to connect with a like-minded community and be able to share my classes, workshops and alternative therapies with them. It was such a pleasure to teach, guide and inspire such a diverse group of people who were all their on their own journey and all had story to tell.  

*This post is dedicated to Nadine, a beautiful soul and yoga teacher that I had the privilege of meeting at the ashram. Her gentle presence, warmth, and light radiated from her being and I was lucky enough to know her for a brief moment in time. Nadine was in a trekking accident shortly after leaving the ashram and sadly passed away. 

 

 

 

 

Marina Yoga Studio Krabi

A few months ago I was doing a google search to see what yoga studios were around in the southern part of Thailand. I came across quite a few in Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, and Phuket but it was a little studio that caught my eye in Ao Nang, Krabi called Marina Yoga.  I really hadn't heard much about Krabi apart from it being close to Phuket, a well-known tourist spot, so I decided to contact the studio to see about possibly volunteering there. 

Within a few days, I had received an email back from Marina saying that one of the yoga teachers had canceled at the last minute and that there was a spot available for me if I could start in 2 weeks time. It worked out perfectly as my partner would be staying in the North of Thailand for an extra 3 weeks so I jumped online and booked my ticket down to Krabi.

When I arrived it was the polar opposite from the big city of Bangkok. What I noticed first was the vibrant greenery all around and the incredible cliffs that you could see in all directions. This was the Thailand that I had always envisioned and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I was so glad to be out of a big city and surrounded by nature.

A short 30-minute drive from the airport and I had arrived at the studio, a beautiful little place just outside of the beach town of Ao Nang. I was met by Marina and she gave me a tour of the place before showing me to my room. I had arrived late in the evening so all I really wanted to do was have some dinner and head to bed. As I laid in bed that night I could hear the sounds of nature all around me and it reminded me of my time at the retreat in Bali. I had loved going to sleep every night to those sounds and I had a feeling that I was going to love it here.

My days here consisted of teaching yoga classes in the yoga shala, a mixture of Hatha and Yin class. On the second week of my stay, the teacher training course had begun so I was now also able to teach some yoga and meditation classes to the students as part of their training. 

I introduced them to Hatha Flow and Yin classes as well as facilitating weekly chakra and singing bowl meditation sessions. I also had the privilege to guide them through full moon & new moon rituals, allowing them to fully connect with the energy of the moon, releasing what no longer was serving them and calling in what they wanted in their life. 

I ended up spending 4 weeks teaching here and being apart of this little community of yoga teachers and students from all over the world. It was a beautiful group of people to work with and also to guide and inspire the students in their YTT and on their yoga journey to become teachers. 

Thank you, Marina, for this incredible experience, it was such a blessing to share my love of yoga through my classes and workshops.  

 

 

 

Bali Silent Retreat

It has been a year since I had made the decision to step out of my comfort zone and look for opportunities to teach yoga overseas. Now the time has come and I find myself on my way to the Bali Silent Retreat located in a small village about an hours drive from Ubud.

As my driver turned off the main road out into the rice fields with Mt Agung in the distance I knew this was going to be a magical place. I was met by the smiling 'office angels' at reception who helped me with all of the paperwork and then I was met by the program manager who took me on a tour of the retreat.  

The retreat consists of 3 styles of accommodation for the guests, male and female dorms, private single rooms and the bungalows overlooking the rice paddies. There is a beautiful open-air yoga shala equipped with manduka yoga mats, blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets.

A magical crystal labyrinth for walking meditations, a huge open-air lodge complete with views of the retreat to soak up when you're enjoying your meals and a well-stocked library with an array of books to enjoy. 

But my favorite part of the retreat was the open air kitchen, complete with a tea making station of fresh herbs, spices, and flowers from the garden, along with the snack jars of homemade biscuits and lots of tropical fruits.

The main table was surrounded by muslin curtains and behind them was an incredible feast of freshly grown and locally sourced dishes made by Simon and his kitchen staff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  

During the week guests can come along to Simons food/health talk and his walking tour of the edible garden. There are also evening meditation classes, fire ceremony circles, guided rice paddy walks and a cultural talk as well. 

The main focus of the retreat is to observe silent, disconnect from all technology and to go within.  It's a beautiful environment to be with one's own thoughts and contemplate life.  In the yoga and meditation classes, guests were allowed to ask questions or have a chat about any concerns. I would often have students come up after the class to chat with me about their practice or ask for advice. 

Teaching here has been an incredible experience for me on so many levels. I enjoyed getting up early before the sun rose to teach the morning meditation and yoga classes. Watching as the night sky changed into shades of pink, orange and yellow as the sun slowly rose. The sounds of nature all around me, the gentle morning breeze and the many creatures that would start stirring from their slumber to greet the day.

I loved teaching classes to a vast array of people from all corners of the world and guiding them on their yoga journey. But most importantly I had the time to deepen my personal practice and take care of myself for a change with good food, fresh air and plenty of rest.

Thank you to all of the amazing staff and guests who helped to make my experience at Bali Silent Retreat one that I will never forget. It's been an honor and a privilege to have been apart of something so special and I look forward to returning in the future.