“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
Bali and Costa Rica are amazing spots for retreats, but they’re not exactly the world’s best kept secrets. For a destination that will satisfy your wanderlust tendencies and need to heal, consider checking out these less-visited locales. Whether it’s health, adventure, cuisine, or culture that’s calling, here are six spots sure to inspire transformation.
Widest Variety of Accommodations: Southern Italy
Southern Italy offers up some truly unique group accommodation options, from monasteries in Sicily, to trulli in Puglia, to caves in Matera. Points south of Rome offer good value for money; check out the mainland provinces of Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, and Puglia plus islands Sardinia and Sicily. In many of these areas, visitors are more likely to encounter Italian tourists than throngs of foreigners. Nationwide, the Italian government supports a thriving program of state-sponsored agriturismos, or independently owned farms that open their doors to independent travelers or groups. While not generally equipped with amenities like yoga props or meditation cushions, they can make great retreat venues as they offer plenty of space for movement and mindfulness practices. Food is generally excellent, making generous use of hyper-local ingredients as a rule. Though agriturismos span the budget-to-luxury spectrum, rates are overall very reasonable and usually include breakfast and dinner.
Most Exciting Food Scene: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s cuisine is flavored by the influences of its native Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim traditions as well as those of its Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonists. The country has only been open to tourists since the civil war ended in 2009, so tourism hasn’t yet totally diluted the cultural picture; with the exception of a few beach towns, you aren’t likely to find yourself in a sea of tourists. Like many Southeast Asian countries, Sri Lanka has a thriving street food scene. There’s a culture of “short eats,” or snacks available by the dozen in both restaurants and shops. Especially in a group setting, these are a great way to try small portions of different foods. Between meal times, feed your soul with a visit to one of the country’s stunning temple complexes. “Can’t miss” sites are the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Dambulla Cave Temple, and the Koneswaram Temple.
Best Island Destination: Iceland
Many retreat-goers first look toward the tropics when thinking about island destinations. However, what Iceland lacks in palm trees and sun-drenched beaches, it makes up for in glaciers, waterfalls, and rugged mountains. It’s easily accessible from both North America and Europe; there are direct flights from 25 US cities by carriers IcelandAir, Wow, Delta, and United. High season is June to August, but you can save significantly on airfare and accommodations by visiting during the colder months. Time your low season visit right and you may be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, generally visible September to April. Whether you visit in summer or winter, consider complimenting your daily retreat practices with time in nature. Iceland offers cold water diving, whale watching, glacier hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and much more. Even close to the capital, Reykjavik, you can enjoy its famous geothermal pools; two good choices are Nauthólsvík geothermal beach and the complex at Laugardalslaug.
Greatest Healing Power: Ikaria, Greece
The residents of the world’s five Blue Zones enjoy unparalleled longevity, which has been linked to lifestyle factors such as a plant-based diet, strong social and familial bonds, spiritual engagement, and moderate physical activity. Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and olive oil. They drink antioxidant-rich tea and wine, as well as goat’s milk, which is lactose-free but provides nutrients like potassium and tryptophan. Some speculate that Ikarians’ regular afternoon naps also contribute to longevity by ensuring they get enough sleep and helping keep stress at bay. The climate, with warm, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters supports outdoor tourism as well as thriving agriculture on the island. Locals grow and harvest the food they eat year round, enabling true farm-to-table living. Ikaria is well-known among Greeks for its “Panagiria,” celebrations of saints’ feast days and other religious holidays, which take place all year long, but especially during the summer. Don’t miss these unique opportunities to mix with locals while trying traditional food and wine, live music, and non-stop dancing.
Easiest Logistics: British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia invested heavily in sporting and transportation infrastructure as host of the Vancouver Winter Olympics back in 2010. Visitors today should breeze through their travels in, out, and around the province. Vancouver is both a foodie’s paradise (worth a visit even if it isn’t your final destination) and home to a major international airport. Travelers also have the option of flying to Seattle and driving north; it’s about a three hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver. British Columbia is a great spot to retreat year-round, drawing visitors to its striking coastline during summer (don’t miss Tofino) and to its alpine areas in winter (notably, ski and snowboard destination Whistler. B.C. beaches are amazing for lounging, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding while the mountains have world class skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice skating. It’s tempting to think of the coast as the place to be during summer months and likewise the mountains in winter. However, look for shoulder season deals on the coast and don’t underestimate mountain areas’ summer potential. Mother nature offers plenty of opportunities for multi-season activities, including hiking, climbing, cycling, horseback riding, and ziplining.
Most Culturally Immersive: Morocco
While Morocco’s coastal resort towns and Marrakesh (one of the country’s four imperial cities are heavily touristed, there are many inland areas and smaller towns largely untouched by outside influences. The strong culture of hospitality in Morocco means you’re likely to be well fed and cared-for throughout your stay. The country doesn’t have many traditional retreat centers, but tented desert camps and riads, or traditional houses offering bed and breakfast-type accommodations, often cater to retreat groups. Morocco is a complete visual pleasure in that it isn’t just major tourist sites where you’ll experience breathtaking architecture. The craftsmanship that goes into the tile, plaster, metal, and woodwork of basic buildings like riads or hammams, not to mention that of mosques, palaces, and city gates, is simply stunning. Though meat-based dishes are often showcased in restaurants, most Moroccans eat meat sparingly. Fresh, raw salads and long-simmered, produced-based dips, soups, and stews often kick off meals, with vegan- and/or vegetarian-friendly couscous and tajine dishes to follow.
Jen Corley (CYT-500) heads the wellness travel division at WeTravel.com, the operator of an online booking and payment platform for retreat travel. When she’s not traveling, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Evan, and French bulldog, Taco.
Yoga teaches us about unity; not only of ourselves, but also of humankind. It teaches us to let go of attachments and appreciate impermanence. So does travel. My career in yoga has already taken me across North and Central America. Yoga can be a mobile career, and it’s one that has allowed me to move around, follow my own path and not have to be limited by staying in one place. What’s interesting is that the experiences I’ve gained keep bringing back the same lessons I go to the mat for.
Have you lived a nomadic lifestyle as a yoga teacher? Do you aspire to? Here I’ll share how yoga can help you connect with international communities and find new and exciting work opportunities. Teaching yoga is one of the best travel jobs out there!
When considering yoga as a mobile career, it’s important to note that some places will have more opportunities than others. When you visit a new area, it is beneficial to connect with the local community as they often have existing yoga teaching opportunities. Common places to find short-term yoga teaching opportunities include hostels and tourist destinations that have a “high season.” Meeting people who are vacationing and simply introducing your services can connect you to interested students. However, one of the easiest ways to connect with local communities before you even arrive is through social media, which brings us to the next tool that can help you grow a nomadic yoga business.
Traveling yoga teachers benefit from having a business card that clearly states their website, email and social media accounts. These tools become like a mobile yoga center, a place that students can be present, follow their teacher’s journey, and leave comments and reviews. These tools are helpful to showcase experience and professionalism for traveling teachers.
Teachers hoping to teach in any given location can use social media as an efficient way to advertise. On a recent trip to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I turned my one-week trip into a working vacation by simply connecting with the local community’s social media page. I taught classes at a hostel and a yoga center and advertised on the community’s social media page. Advertising this way has also been a successful practice for me when living in various communities in Mexico.
Online yoga work is another increasingly popular opportunity that is becoming more easily accessible to yoga teachers who have an existing online presence. Blog writing, live-streaming yoga classes, and pre-recorded videos all allow teachers to work from anywhere that has a reliable internet connection.
International Trainings and Trade Opportunities
Participating in international trainings and using online resources (like Yoga Trade!) allows teachers to connect to yoga communities all over the world. We never know who we are going to meet or where in the world relationships can take us. In my own experience, completing a yoga teacher training in Mexico led me to teach yoga throughout Mexico and to connect with yoga teachers living all over the world.
Work trade opportunities often open doors to many international opportunities to teach yoga online and in countries throughout the world. The positions can range from a few weeks to permanent teaching positions, many in beautiful tropical locations. Learning another language is also incredibly helpful, but it is common to find English yoga classes in many destinations. Getting out there and getting connected will often open many more doors, allowing you to continue your travels.
What kind of lifestyle are you seeking?
Yoga as a mobile career can look different for everyone depending on preferences and mobility. Some people may love to take a year to travel, live and work in as many places as possible, accepting several short-term teaching opportunities along the way. Others may prefer to live a mobile lifestyle that is ongoing and slower paced. They may choose to stay in places longer, spending time building local connections and a client base, or accepting longer-term trade opportunities. Some people have a yoga career in their home city, but would love to have regular opportunities to leave their routine for travel, growth and learning.
Yoga teaches us about community and connections. It’s a beautiful lesson that many nomadic yogis are able to connect to on a deeper level. The opportunities are out there! You just have to be open to them.
So you have decided to become a yoga teacher and are considering enrolling in a yoga teacher training program. Great Vision! But amidst this excitement, have you done detailed research about being a yoga teacher or joining a yoga teacher training program? It is important to take some time contemplating your journey so you can be better prepared for it. Here are some crucial factors to consider before starting on the path.
Why Yoga Teacher Training?
Teacher training programs are open to all yoga aspirants. Yoga teacher training programs give you a deeper knowledge of yoga, both theoretical and practical. With a detailed knowledge of the practices, you will be best prepared for the real world of yoga teaching.
Consider The Place Of Origin
Yoga teacher training programs are available at various beautiful locations across the globe. But nothing is better than getting trained from the land of its origin. So considering India for a Yoga Teacher Training is highly recommended. Nothing is better than getting rejuvenated in the lap of nature and yogic enlightenment.
Setting the Goal Is The First Step
Before entering a teacher training program, it is important to know what you need. Teacher training programs are a great way to grow your practice, which you can use for the self or to become a yoga teacher. It is important to know what kind of training you want and set your goal accordingly. It is very important to have a vision which helps you to remain dedicated.
What Kind Of Yoga Style Do You Want To Master?
Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Restorative, the list of yoga styles is very long. Follow your heart and practice the style you feel most connected with. This will also benefit your future students because the most wonderful experiences of yoga come from yoga teachers who love what they are teaching. Choosing a yoga style is important. Starting with a 200 hour yoga teacher training is best. If you have more time (two months), then you can directly opt for a 500 hour yoga teacher training.
Not A Regular Job If You Are Planning To Pursue It Professionally
Becoming a yoga teacher is not the regular, conventional job. Even though it is not the regular 9 to 5 thing, there is a demand for discipline and commitment. You can have versatile schedules, but when your teaching sessions come into form, you might have to extend your teaching hours. It can be difficult for those leaving their regular jobs to become full-time yoga teachers.
Travel, Teach, And Practice
Yoga and traveling is a perfect combination. As a yoga teacher, you can travel and teach students of different countries. It is not compulsory for all yoga teachers to travel and teach. You can also open up a yoga studio or teach private home sessions. You can teach and take classes in countries around the world including; India, Nepal, Bali, Thailand, etc. These locations provide the ideal escape for transformative experiences.
Consider the Investment
If you are planning to become a full-time yoga teacher, it would be great to get trained from a Yoga Alliance Certified School. But registered training programs can be costly, so it is important for you to set a budget and consider the investments. The cost also varies from certification duration – starting from 200 hour yoga teacher training, 300 and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings. Once you complete your training you can register yourself with a yoga governing organization, such as Yoga Alliance.
It is important to take time to research these various factors before taking up yoga teaching. Ask a lot of questions and make sure it feels right before becoming a yoga teacher .
As Rod Stryker said, “There is no doubt that the foundation of being a great yoga teacher is being a great yoga student.”
Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveler in India. He provides yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature, and the Himalayas.
THE BEACH, PART 1
I have lived a life of excess and I mean excess! I am generous, cheerful, with an enjoyment for travel and adventure believing that ‘life is for living’ so everything I have done has been done to the extreme until there was nothing left, especially red wine!
I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to escape to a yoga retreat, which somehow was connected to a wine bar, yet for some reason, I could never find one.
Now, I have studied yoga before, I wouldn’t say I was a yogi, but it was definitely one of the excesses that I had a relationship with. A healthy one, but of course one that fell to the wayside.
Finding myself at 38, single, burnt out, uninspired, inactive and a body full of red wine. I decided this was a great time to live out my dream of escaping to the land of Namaste and sun salutations. I didn’t really give too much thought about it, I’m not the one to search too much, I’m impulsive and don’t have the patience to find the best deal. The only certain factor was that the destination was Bali. Why? Because I had travelled there before, loved it, knew it relatively well, was really cheap to live and it was close to Australia.
On occasions I had visited Bali previously, I stayed in Seminyak. So I knew straight away Seminyak was not going to give me the Serenity I needed and Kuta, well I’m Australian so Kuta for me is a no-go zone. I think I drove through Kuta once, with my doors locked and windows up. This is nothing to do with the locals, but the Australians that flock there who seem to have been released from a zoo. I can say that I’m an Aussie. We even had a TV show about Australians in Bali. It was a cross between Jersey Shore and well Jerry Springer. Both lovely shows. Google them and you will understand.
With Bali in mind, I sat down at my computer and googled Yoga Retreats, Bali. On the screen before me, popped up a number of locations. Since Seminyak and Kuta were out, I went with my intuition and clicked on Canggu Beach. Now I am definitely a guy who looks for “signs” and here at the top of Google search was a Singles Yoga Retreat, (yes singles, don’t rub it in!). A 30-day yoga retreat in Canggu Bali and it was on sale at Serenity Eco Yoga Retreat.
Now I mentioned I was into life’s signs, so this deal almost jumped through my screen and I started packing my bags while I booked my flight, without even googling where Canggu was, I was just going.
In under a week, I was seated on a plane trying to drink the aircraft out of red wine, before I landed in Bali on my quest to become a Yogi. I landed late, tired and quite happy with the planes bar service; all I wanted to do was sleep so I did.
Waking up with a little sore head, I was taken back by the scene before me. I swear I had landed on the set of The Beach, with Leonardo ordering his takeaway Soy Latte in front of me.
Scattered around this eco-friendly yoga retreat, were pretty young men and women from all over our vast globe, talking in their native tongue and lounging on outdoor couches, sitting in groups perched in a thatched hut, barefoot and drinking Alkaline water.
I have never felt more miscast than ever.
Checking in for my first class of the month, I can say the thought crossed my mind to run to the nearest hotel with a bar and hide. Instead, I faced my fears, registered, grabbed my mat and started my first initiation into the yogi tribe.
Now in Yoga, there is no judging, so once I let my ego stop talking my head off, I found myself loving and being happy with my decision. This turned into great happiness when I found my tribe. People over 30, who were all traveling solo, and harbouring some sort of similar heartbreak, burn out story, similar to mine.
I found my own cast of The Beach.
From that moment forward I can say, my month spent in Bali, facing my demons, (hey I’m not going to lie, I did find a bar on a few occasions) was one of my happiest months in my 38 years.
I did downward dogs, I balanced on my head, I meditated, and I met amazing people from all over the globe. I laughed with these new friends, cried as well. Yoga can be an emotional journey. Ate fresh food cheaply, swam in the ocean, once even tried to boogie board with a new mate from Germany and both nearly drowned. The worst $2.50 I have ever spent. I spoke to anyone and everyone, because traveling solo you are forced too. I made friends with the locals and simply I fell in love with Bali. I also managed to fall back in love with life.
So after feeling miscast on my first day, I can honestly say no matter who you are, where you come from and what you have achieved, none of this mattered at my Single’s Yoga Retreat.
As for Yoga itself, it made me feel alive again, so alive that decided to head to India, to do a Yoga Teacher Training.
For anyone reading this who may be thinking of traveling alone, DO IT. Anyone thinking of visiting Bali, DO IT, and for anyone thinking of Yoga. DO IT.
THE BEACH, PART 2
Where do I start?
Well, first I made it. I am now a certified Ashtanga-Vinyasa Flow, meditation and pranayama teacher. 200 hours of back bending, sweating, studying, crying, laughing and well yoga, yoga, yoga.
So I seem to be attracting my tribe with my vibe, as the saying goes as I once I found myself staying at a real life movie set, with a gorgeous cast of yogis from all around the world. We represented Australia, Poland, Germany, UK, USA, Canada, Greece, New Zealand, France, Spain, Holland, Ireland, and Norway.
All of us brought together to experience a month of intense learning, not only of Yoga but of our true selves. Thrown into the deep end of learning, sharing, pushing boundaries, opening up, letting go, facing fears, twisting our bodies into inhumane positions, standing on our heads, we did all this whilst still trying to wake up every morning, smile and twist and contort our bodies again without attempting to run away.
It’s a journey like no other that can only really be explained by experiencing it.
I can say I meet a bunch of international beings who will always hold a place in my soul, as going through what we went through creates a bond stronger than any distance could ever break.
However, one thing that can be explained is where I was.
Kranti Yoga on Patnem Beach in Goa, India.
Kranti Yoga is a yogi community, village, oasis, home away from home, sanctuary. It’s completely out of a movie. Split into two sections, Garden View and Ocean View. Both sections are surrounded by cute shacks that are found on beaches all around the world, these shacks are built around outdoor yoga studios. You can also find a tree house chill out zone, a common area where we all ate and chatted convincing each other that we could make it to the end.
It’s fully equipped with a laundry, a kitchen where the local staff produces three yummy vegetarian meals a day. The beautiful Indian staff work tirelessly day in and day out to keep all us tired yoga students happy. Now with all the different nationalities and temperaments, that is no easy task, even though we should be Zen with all the yoga.
The two sections of Kranti are exactly what they are named, Garden view is built in the gardens surrounding the property and Ocean view is built right on the edge of the sand to the beach.
There is even a Yoga studio right on the edge of the sand, so there are moments when the sun is setting over the ocean while you’re saluting the sun and getting in the zone, moments like this can’t be described only felt. Since I felt them first hand I can say that you’re missing out if you never experience a moment like this in your life.
Kranti Yoga is built on Patnem Beach with its rolling waves and perfect water temperature that during lunch times and after class it became our personal massage therapist.
The two sections of the commune are joined by a dirt path, that where on any day you can see a variety of cows, monkeys and the local stray dogs who love escorting you from one side to the other. It’s like being in the Jungle Book.
Kranti the creator, the Master, the Guru himself, is a smiling entity whose presence was felt before you saw him by his charming positive energy that poured out of all his pores.
Being the creator of this home away from home for us like-minded yogis, he created something that only script writers could dream of creating. What Kranti has created is a reality, and could not be made for TV.
Now Goa I know is considered the Gold Coast or Miami of India but for me, this was a perfect introduction to India. Even though the beaches are similar to my home in Australia, we definitely don’t have cows that hang out on the beach, with packs of stray but friendly dogs, ladies selling homemade jewelry and massages being offered galore.
Driving also is different, beeping isn’t a sign of road rage in Goa, it means I’m coming through or the past and I hope no one is coming the other way. I learned just to hold on, close my eyes and chant.
Cows come to the restaurant at the same time each night for their feed, walk down the street, through the shops and stop traffic as they are scared. Monkeys come and watch you study yoga, they also are game enough to go into your room and steal your food and tease the dogs.
Electricity also isn’t a given. It cuts out at anytime it wants and could be off for 20 secs or 20 hours, brilliant when you are trying to sleep and the humidity is 90%.
Look, India isn’t for the faint-hearted even though I really was only on level 1. However, I can’t wait to revisit this wonderfully spiritual, dirty, moody unpredictable destination.
But for me, the next stop is Kuwait!
YOGA IN KUWAIT
After receiving my 200-hour Ashtanga – Vinyasa flow certification from Kranti Yoga in India I returned to Australia. I wasted no time in joining the wonderful global yoga networking site, Yoga Trade. That same day I applied for jobs in Bali, Philippines, South America, Oman, Thailand, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Kuwait the options were endless. I had a great response from most of my applications which excited me made me optimistic for what the future had in store.
Especially the places that being a yoga teacher could take me. The list is global. I applied for every job possible job that was advertised, volunteering, paid, unpaid I just went for it and put my best energy out there and decided to allow the universe to point me in the right direction.
Amongst all the jobs I applied for was a position in Kuwait where they advertised for a teacher with 2 years’ experience. Now I had 200 hours experience, no yoga teaching experience but 15 years of dance teaching behind me. I took the leap of faith, emailed them, explained my situation and to my surprise, they contacted me back.
Now I was home with my parents at the time, which is a small town in Australia with only 2 sets of traffic lights and not much yoga going on. They asked me to film a video of me teaching a class, since that was not a possibility I got creative and taught a class in my lounge room to no one……. Odd experience. I sent it off, I have to be honest not much confidence in my performance, I cringed trying to watch it back.
However to my surprise, they came back to me, with an offer to join their studio in Kuwait City, the only catch is I had to be there in 2 weeks.
Kuwait was never on my bucket or to-do list, but I took this as a sign that this could possibly be a great adventure. I live by the motto, “Take the chance, you never know it may just work out.”
So I accepted.
Luckily for me being single and having packed up my life on my quest for a new path, I didn’t have too much at stake really to stop me from getting on the plane and jumping into the unknown. So I did.
Now I find myself in Kuwait writing this article, 2 weeks into living and teaching yoga in Kuwait and my first week as a qualified yoga teacher under my belt. Boy, I wasn’t ready for this intense heat, yes 45 degrees celsius at 9:30 pm, teaching three classes a day, 5 days a week. Thrown in the deep end but I knew I had the ability to swim. I spent the first-week taking classes at the studio which was great. I was able to engage in the vibe and feel comfortable before launching into my own classes.
Another shock was city living after spending the last year either in a country town or the beaches of Bali or India. Outweighing all of the shocks is the joy of teaching and the response I have had from my classes has filled my heart with gratitude and joy. To have a student come up to me after class and say that my words helped her resolve problems in her life, to students appreciating the class and the energy, makes this new journey I have started so gratifying.
Helping people relieve their daily stress from their corporate jobs, family lives, love lives, personal struggles and taking them somewhere special and away from their struggles while they are on the mat, is so inspiring and emotionally satisfying that I can’t see myself doing anything else for a while and this is just the beginning.
From the first part of this article, you will see that in less than 6 months my journey and my soul have absolutely done a 360. For one, I am in a country where you can’t drink, who would have thought, and I have found a way forward when I didn’t think there was one.
This is the magic of Yoga, and of course, everyone’s journey is different but I am living proof that if you commit and let yoga work it’s magic, it will come to the party and assist you in more ways than you can imagine.
I have a few people to thank for this, Serenity Yoga in Bali for reigniting my love of Yoga, Kranti Yoga for teaching me to be the best teacher I can be at this early stage of my journey, Yoga Trade for being the best site in the world connecting Yogis, and Alive Yoga in Kuwait for living by my motto and taking a chance because it may just work out.
To you all NAMASTE.
This journey has changed my life. I’m not saying it will change yours, but if I learned anything on this trip. Anything is possible. You just need to jump.
Kane comes all the way from Australia and has a love for Yoga, Art and Dance. Finding yoga through dance, he has practiced in Bali and Australia until finally traveling to Goa, India where he did his Yoga Teacher Training in Ashtanga Vinyasa.
Aloha friends! This is my review of the retreat centre I worked at and my experience of living like a local on a work trade (spoiler: it was a dream come true!).
Hawaii has been on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember…active volcanoes, spinner dolphins and being able to see the Milky Way being some of the many reasons why.
When an opportunity popped up on Yoga Trade at a yoga retreat centre on the Big Island, I didn’t waste a moment. I applied to be their resident yoga instructor and within a month I was on my way.
This lovely little retreat centre is on the Big Island of Hawaii in an area called Pahoa. Since this side of the island is in the shadow of the volcano (Kilauea) it tends to be the more rainy/cloudy side, but as a result it is so lush and rugged it feels like you’re in the Jungle Book.
The volcano is very active, which has also put people off developing the land here. In fact, the volcano was erupting a steady flow of lava into the sea during my stay. We went to go and look at the surface flow and poke it with sticks (and do handstands on it!).
Another great thing about being on this side of the island is the clear night skies. Lack of building developments = no light pollution = amazing stargazing! When wandering back to my cabin at night I would look up at the stars and feel so grateful for the opportunity to be staying there.
There are about 10 log cabins for guests spaced out over the property. They are basic but if you’re a fan of adventure and being at one with nature then you will love them. You’ll fall asleep at night to the croaks of the coqui frogs and the sound of the ocean in the distance. It’s truly magical.
The work trade volunteers at KMEC cook breakfast and dinner in the community kitchen, which guests can choose to have at an extra cost. Everything is vegan, gluten-free, organic and DELICIOUS!
Breakfast is fairly simple buffet with gluten-free cereals, fruit and teas/coffees. The dinners, however – another story! We had a chef staying with us who is now interning at a fancy restaurant in New York – she was so talented and everything she made was to die for. Some sample meals we had:
- Vegan tacos and chilli
- Jackfruit BBQ “pulled pork”
- Quinoa crust pizza
And with a beautiful communal dining area, everything tasted ten times better.
The property is off-the-grid meaning everything runs off solar power, propane or a backup generator. A rainwater catchment system provides filtered water for everything – showers, taps, washing machines. During spells of dry weather this meant we ran out of water a couple of times and had to call in reinforcements to fill up the water tanks.
Some of my time was spent harvesting fruits from the gardens for our meals, which I really enjoyed. Any food or garden waste is made into compost that we used to fertilize the gardens.
Yoga and Meditation
Guests staying at KMEC can attend morning yoga classes in the lovely yoga hale for $10, taught by the resident yoga teacher at the time.
At the bottom of the gardens you’ll find a Balinese meditation pavilion, the pride and joy of Len, the owner of the property. The parts were all flown in from Bali and blessed by his Guru. There’s a mini library in there, mostly the teachings of Master Kirpal Singh, the meditation guru after whom the centre was named.
Life as a Work Trader
There are usually about 15 volunteers staying at KMEC at any one time, plus two managers who are full time employees. I was sharing a bunk bed in a teensy cabin with one other volunteer. This made me a little claustrophobic at first but actually we were rarely in our cabins apart from right before bed so I had no trouble with personal space issues. We also became BFFs so never wanted to be apart anyway!
We pretty much lived outdoors, which is such a wonderful experience. Our cabin had a screen as a window to keep bugs out but apart from that you feel like you’re just living at one with nature. Even in the bathroom, when you shower or sit on the loo you’re looking out into the jungle.
The jobs you can do as a work trader at KMEC include maintenance, gardening, managing the reception, cooking, cleaning and yoga teaching. In exchange for your accommodation and free daily yoga, volunteers are asked to work 25 hours per week and pay $150 for food. I did a mixture of yoga teaching, housekeeping, working on reception and a bit of cooking for my ohana. A typical working day (5 days a week) looked like this:
7:30 – 9: teach yoga
9 – 10: breakfast
10 – 1: housekeeping reception/cook lunch
1 – 2: lunch
2 – 5: yoga practice, read, beach time
6:30: dinner + relax
As work trades are so common here, I felt part of a big community, almost like I was living like a local. The same people would pick me up when I was hitch hiking, I’d see people I knew at Uncle Robert’s market or at Kehena beach for the Sunday drum circle. I loved this way of traveling compared to just staying in hostels and doing touristy things everyday. Not only was it MUCH cheaper, but we got to find out about sites and activities that tourists would never see, simply because we were with people who live on the island permanently and knew all the secrets.
“Ohana” means family.
I know it’s inevitable to become close with people you’re living and working with, but there is definitely something special about the people at KMEC!
Even though we were experiencing some of the most unique, out-of-this-world activities on a weekly basis (active lava flows, wild horses, whale watching) it’s the smaller, everyday things that will stay in my memory forever.
Like chasing cockroaches out of my cabin with my roomie almost on a nightly basis. Or hitchhiking 3 hours across the volcano crammed in the back of a truck with 2 other volunteers. Or singing around a campfire with the whole crew.
I could go on forever, but suffice to say it was one of the happiest times in my life so far.
Teaching Yoga at KMEC
Teaching yoga every single day at KMEC allowed me to develop my teaching skills to another level. Each class was a mix of guests and other volunteers, which gave me the experience of watching some students progress each day, but also the variety and challenge of always having new students in the class. In the afternoons I’d often help my friends work on specific asanas so I also had plenty of experience teaching in a one-to-one setting.
With the experience I got at KMEC (plus several other Yoga Trades I did throughout the year) I found it much easier to get teaching positions at studios when I got back home.
My time at KMEC was truly one of the happiest times of my life. Everyone who passes through remarks on just how special the energy is here, guests and staff alike. This side of the island has so many unique things to see and do and KMEC is the perfect base from which to access all of them, whilst being a unique experience in its own right.
I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of this special community and I truly mean it when I say: Big Island, I’ll be back.
Mahalo for reading everyone!
Originally published here:
Natalie is a traveling yoga teacher and blogger from London. Her quest to delve deeper into the Ashtanga tradition has led her all over the world, from India to Hawaii and Indonesia. She documents her adventures on her yoga blog, Ashtanga Yoga Girl.
IG : @ashtangayogagirl
Becoming a traveling yoga teacher is more accessible than ever before due to resources like the internet and you know, Yoga Trade.
However, there are also way more “traveling yoga teachers” competing for the same opportunities. The “better” the gig, the more competition there is.
How can you stand out?
The most effective way to stand out from the crowd and land your perfect gig abroad – is to create your own website!
Having your own website is the foundation of becoming a successful traveling yoga teacher.
It will not only help you secure great teaching jobs, it will help you build your brand, increase your income, and attract more students wherever you are in the world.
In today’s technology driven world, anyone has the resources to build a website – even you!
So, before you even go there with “not being tech savvy enough” or “not having enough money…”
Websites don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to get up and running. For real! With platforms like WordPress.org, you can create a beautiful yoga website for as little as $15/month!
And take it from me, the non-tech savvy girl… WordPress makes it super simple to build your own website. However, it does require some patience, an open weekend, and a few cups of tea.
Before I share why traveling yoga teachers need a website, I encourage you to download our FREE Beginners Guide to Creating a Yoga Website you Love (7 Steps). In this beginners guide we’ll walk you through the 7 steps required to create your own yoga website. It’s 100% free. No tech skills required.
Alright here we go, time to share the top 3 reasons why every traveling yoga teacher needs a website.
1) Secure more higher quality teaching gigs
When you become a traveling yoga teacher, getting that first job abroad is as nerve-racking as it is exhilarating! Hitting submit on the application process always leaves me a bit anxious.
Unfortunately, you’re not the only applicant waiting to hear back. With the popularity of traveling and teaching yoga, securing a job is becoming more competitive. Yoga teachers need a way to stand out from the crowd.
Creating your own yoga website will set you apart and play a massive role in securing more and even better yoga jobs abroad.
“These days, it goes a long way to have a solid online presence. Making a website or a resume landing page with great photos and savvy writing can help a lot.”
– Erica, Co-founder of YogaTrade.com
When teaching abroad, it’s common not to meet your future employer until you arrive on your first day.
Having a website gives them a chance to see more of who you are and what you’re about.
Your website shows that you’re a committed professional who has the ability to attract more students to whatever studio you’re teaching at. (The studio hiring you cares about this tremendously).
Your website is also your resume – it showcases your teaching experience and credentials, but it also goes a step deeper by showcasing your personal style/brand.
With your own yoga website, your readers are able to get a sense of who you are through the images and content you personally curated to display. This distinguishes you from the rest of yogis applying for the same job.
Bonus: Your website gives you an outlet to share your travels and stories with everyone along the way!
2) Connect with yogis worldwide
Connection makes the world go ‘round!
The yogiverse is expanding all over our beautiful planet creating new opportunities to share your gifts with the people who will appreciate them most.
In our digital age, having your own website helps you make connections around the world that would otherwise be impossible. This means more customers, more business partners, and more friends.
How your website can help secure more clients (3 steps):
- Get clear on who you’re meant to serve – what is your unique niche/style/brand?
- Showcase the “real you” on your website
- Your ideal clients can find YOU online by searching your niche (ex: “yoga for surfers”)
Once your ideal clients start finding you, you can build a solid relationship through social media and your email newsletter.
Oh and not to mention, your website is an incredible networking tool!
Your website builds your credibility and shows that you take your yoga business seriously. You can more easily reach out to peers who have similar passions.
By serving a similar community, you have a great excuse to connect with your peers. You can share tips, discuss your challenges, and maybe even work together!
Now that you have a website, you’re “in the game” and there are many ways to collaborate with other website owners.
Also, having your own website allows you start connecting with people that are “out of your league.” Instead of reaching out “blind” – you have a reason to connect AND you can provide them something of value, such as featuring them on your website.
3) Make some extra cash!
It can be challenging to earn a solid income on the road. Wouldn’t it be great to start earning a little income from your website while traveling?
After creating your website, you can start exploring different ways to “monetize your site.”
Just so we’re clear, just because you have a website doesn’t mean you’ll immediately start earning the big bucks. Creating a sustainable income online requires a consistent effort over time.
In 2014, my partner (Brandon) and I spent the year traveling and teaching yoga throughout Asia. Towards the end of that first year, we started earning enough from TheYogaNomads.com in order to pay for our travels. Whoa. I didn’t think that was possible!
Here are a few ways your website can start earning an income right away:
- a) Affiliate Marketing. Affiliate marketing is when you help market another person’s product, for example: your favorite traveling yoga mat. If one of your readers ends up buying the product/service you recommend, then you get a commission (at no extra cost to the person buying it). To get started, I recommend signing up for Amazon’s affiliate program and writing about your favorite yoga gear such as “your favorite traveling yoga mat.”
- b) Freelancing. You can get paid to write article for other online publications. Your website acts as an online resume for your previous work which will help you secure more (and higher paid) freelancing gigs. If you have other skills such as social media marketing or web design, you can also leverage your website to secure new clients.
- c) Market your own offering. Your website is your 24/7 marketing machine for any product or service you offer. You can share your offerings on your site and even accept payments (social media can’t do that). Products and services to consider: online yoga classes, online courses, yoga products, workshops, retreats, etc.
Let’s wrap up…
If you’re looking to make a successful career being a traveling yoga teacher, having a website is the foundation to your success!
Your website helps you secure teaching gigs abroad, network with students/peers, and monetize your website so you’re earning an income while traveling!
Before you go, be sure to grab our Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Yoga Website. 100% free.
Download this beginners guide to see what it takes to create your own website. It’s easier and (cheaper) than you might think. Join over 3,000+ yoga teachers committed to building a fulfilling business (and life).
Cheers to your success!
Anne is a Co-founder of TheYogaNomads.com and CreateBeautifulYogaWebsites.com – online communities dedicated to helping yoga teachers build profitable and sustainable careers. She’s originally from Minneapolis, but spends half the year teaching yoga abroad in places like Costa Rica and Bali. Download our FREE Beginners Guide: How to Create a Yoga Website you LOVE (7 steps).
I’m approaching the end of my 3 year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training, and lately I’m struggling with this paradox of having an exam in yoga. To strive and train for an exam, is to me, so in contradiction with the ‘yoga philosophy’.
Six years ago I started practicing yoga to heal myself from an serious back-injury after doing so many back-bends as a contortionist in a circus. Today, practicing yoga asanas makes me feel good, it makes me feel alive and I feel much more aware and clear-minded.
Every morning, when I step on my yoga mat, I like to do some wake-up stretches and unwinding of my body. I’m feeling the state of my body this morning, and I’m just flowing and slow dancing to wake my body up and get the sleepy stiffness away. This kind off moving wouldn’t look like yoga, but it feels good. I move in an intuitive way.
Next, I’ll start with one of the 6 sequences I’m repeating every week, always in the same order. Because it’s Iyengar and this is supposed to be the most logic and best order for the body’s balance. Those have been elaborated by one of the most senior students of B.K.S. Iyengar.
Usually at this point my mind starts working, instead of “citta vrtti nirodaha” (YS 1.2) which is often translated simply as, ‘Yoga is the ability to calm/direct/restrain the fluctuations of the consciousness/mind’. Mostly I’m criticizing myself, because through the Iyengar Yoga method I’ve gained so much knowledge about how each pose is supposed to be, all the details I should be aware of. So instead of being right here on my mat, at ease with myself, offering myself the best I’ve have to give for today, I’m doing all the opposite.
Because of that exam. Because of the pressure. Because of the expectations.
Here is the paradox: Yoga is about the path, not about any goal. A perfectly executed advanced pose is not going to bring me enlightenment. NEVER! But, that exam is waiting for me. Therefore, I have to raise my practice to a certain yoga level, because I really want to pass that exam. But the yoga I loved so much, is gone, because of this exam.
Yoga is about the path, not about a goal.
This exam is a part of my path. So what can I get out of this struggle. Instead of going in a downward negative spiral, every struggle can be an opportunity to grow.
What causes trouble in this situation, is the mind, the mind and it’s thoughts. So the question then becomes – HOW do we calm or restrain the mind to achieve this desired state of yoga? Well the simple answer is: do your yoga practice. Simple. Just keep doing a regular and sustained yoga practice and all will come – as the late Sri. K. Patthabhi Jois would say. But we are creatures of wanting to know everything and sometimes the simple answer just doesn’t cut it!
Patanjali actually describes the five fluctuations (functions or states) of the mind (or five vrittis) to help us better understand the workings of the mind. He says these five vrittis can be painful or non-painful. They are:
1. Valid Cognition (Pramana)
(Knowledge should be acquired through direct experience for accepting any knowledge as correct.)
2. Misconception (Viparyaya)
(Learning to dissolve our personal subjective frame of the way we see things, so we can start seeing things for what they truly are.)
3. Imagination (Vikalpa)
(Imagination, doubts, indecsion, daydreaming…. these are all our own creations, but our mind might start believing them for being true. We create an imagined world for ourselves based on our way of thinking. This ‘power of positive thinking’ may appear new age, however the yoga sutras has been teaching for thousands of years the importance of controlling the mind! Through this control, we can liberate ourselves from suffering.)
4. Sleep (Nidra)
(When the mind is not in one of the first three vrittis, it might be in the nidra state: the mind is directed inward, operating at a very subtle level. B.K.S Iyengar says that “sleep is the non-deliberate absence of thought-waves or knowledge”. )
5. Memory (Smriti)
(The Yoga Sutra 1.11 is translated as “Memory is the mental retention of a conscious experience” or “memory is a recollection of experienced objects”. All conscious experiences leave an impression on the individual and are stored as memory. It is not possible to tell if a memory is true, false, incomplete or imaginary. Think about a different people who will recall the same event, they all might remember it differently. Memory can influence your present situation more than you might realize, by holding onto certain impressions (conditionings), it’s very likely we can’t experience the now AS IT IS…without bias, judgement or criticism.)
So, how can this knowledge serve us in calming the fluctuations of the mind?
By being able to become an observer, stepping out of yourself and observing and recognizing these different functions of the mind, without being attached, upset or frustrated, slowly you will learn how the mind works. Once you are able to observe without reaction, you will be able to differentiate the mind and all of its fluctuations from your true nature. You aren’t the mind and it’s thoughts, emotions, imaginations, memories and fluctuations. No, behind the fluctuations of the mind, you might catch a glimpse of your true self. The true self which is only emptiness, and at the same time contains everything. You might discover there is no separation between ‘Me’ & ‘You’.
So the most simple answer to calming the mind and finding peace with life’s paradoxes is to do your practice. Do your practice, and stay the observer – On your yoga-mat, off the yoga-mat, all day, all night. Yoga is all the time, meditation is all the time. Through a regular and sustained practice, life will unfold the way it is meant to.
Yara will be a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor from October 2017 on. She is a certified Myofascial Energetic Release (M.E.R.) Therapist. She is Dutch, currently living in France. As a former circus-artist she loves to play, move and travel around the world.
“Yoga is about progress, not perfection”.
I see this phrase – and others that say essentially the same thing – a lot on social media, and at first glance, I like it. I like it a lot. Finally, someone is telling me that I don’t have to be perfect! I can screw up, and no one will mind! I can fall out of Headstand rather than elegantly lowering myself back down into Child’s pose, and it’s ok. I can wobble in Tree pose, and fart in Happy Baby, and puff rather than glide my way through Surya Namaskar (and, by the way, I don’t even have to use Sanskrit names that I can’t pronounce, let alone remember), and it’s all fine. And as a relatively new yoga teacher, the initial idea of progress not perfection is doubly appealing. It means that next time I lose track of which leg goes forward first, I shouldn’t worry about it. If I forget where we are in that sequence I so carefully prepared, and a class of 40-odd students are sweating in Downward Dog while they wait for me to tell them what to do next, it’s ok. I can laugh it off. I can demonstrate firsthand to my students that even yoga teachers don’t get it right all the time. Everyone messes up occasionally, and it’s all ok.
It felt great, until I realised something…that implicit in that phrase, there was an assumption that it wouldn’t always be this way. I would progress. I would get better. Not only that, but that I would want desperately to get better, and that I would work hard to do so. I would put in the hours on my mat until I became more flexible, stronger, and able to come down out of headstand like the textbooks say you should. I wouldn’t fart in Happy Baby, and my Sun Salutations (or Surya Namaskar, now) would be effortless. And I definitely, definitely wouldn’t forget what comes next in the sequence I teach.
I realised that, in today’s western (yoga) world, being imperfect is acceptable up to a point. After that – if your progress isn’t fast enough or good enough – yoga becomes just one more thing that you can’t do. Time to give up and try something else that you might have better luck with.
Yet this is almost the exact opposite of what yoga teaches us (or is supposed to teach us), and that is that everything is already perfect. Not perfect for now, or good enough for now, but perfect in the present moment.
We are all already under so much pressure in our lives to be perfect….or at least, if we can’t be perfect, to at least want to be. We are always striving to be better in some way. To have more money, to have a better house, to get a better job that’s higher up the ladder, to be better parents, better siblings, better children, better teachers. To be better people. And in a way, that’s natural and good. Ambition is what gets us out of bed in the mornings. The desire to grow is what keeps us learning and exploring. The desire to nail that headstand is, perhaps, what keeps us coming back to our mats, at least to start with. Without progress in some form or another, millions more of us would still be dying of the flu, and I wouldn’t be typing this now.
But our desire for progress has become all-consuming, and the word “progress” itself cannot be criticized. If something is labelled as “progressive”, then the overriding feeling is that it must be good whether we like it or not. Sometimes, it feels like the worst thing we can do is to “not progress”. We must always be moving on to the next even better thing, and we become very attached to doing so. Then if, for some reason, that progress doesn’t happen, we suffer. We suffer even if it does happen, because it’s never long before a new desire for something even bigger and better and “more progressive” kicks in, and the whole cycle starts over again. We very rarely stop and take a moment to appreciate what we already have, and to appreciate where we already are….and even rarer is the feeling of being satisfied with that.
If we let it, yoga gives us that feeling. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to improve our asanas, or that we don’t want to grow and learn in our practice. But those precious hours on the mat are our time – perhaps the only time some of us get – to be ourselves, warts and all. Yoga gives us the space and time to be who we are, not who we pretend to be. It gives us the opportunity to discover who that person is. It isn’t the time to push, or to berate ourselves for, yet again, not being good enough or not making fast enough progress. Maybe we will eventually be able to do headstand without crashing down out of it….in fact, if we keep practicing, the likelihood is that we will. Yoga, though, can also show us that it is futile to become attached that hope. Instead of constantly chasing after a new goal, yoga shows us that we have a choice, and we could choose to believe that wherever we are in our practice is perfect. It’s where we are now, in the present moment – and being aware of the present moment and acknowledging it, candidly and truthfully and authentically, is part of what yoga is really about.
Progress? Or perfection? I’m going with perfection…..just not the type of perfection we are so used to thinking about and aiming for. Not a perfectionist style of perfection, but a perfect-in-the-present-moment type of perfection. It’s hard. I haven’t managed it yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. I suspect there will always be a part of me that worries about making mistakes as a teacher, that pushes to be better, stronger, more flexible, and that berates the other part of me for not doing well enough. But I am starting to accept that all I can do is show up, in the moment, as I am. Perfect.
Or, at least, good enough.
Ali is a certified yoga teacher, crystal healer, writer, editor and dreamer at http://kriyashakti.net. When not on the yoga mat, she can usually be found reading, drinking tea, or on a beach (ideally all three). She is currently based in the U.K.