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A Yoga Work Trade in Hawaii

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.

 

 

The Kirpal Ecological and Meditation Centre (KMEC)

 

Location

 

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.

 

Accommodation

 

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.

 

Food

 

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.

 

Sustainability

 

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.

 

Final Thoughts

 

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:

ashtangayogagirl.com/yoga-work-trade-hawaii/

 

 

 

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

Leprosy & Lessons in Love: Meditation In Action

With fear on my mind and love in my heart, I choose to follow people who live to benefit more then just themselves.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, in total health and abundance but I became aware of the unsatisfactory nature of a life without service to others.

Nathan & Zohar, run meditation in action projects around the world known as Sangha Seva Retreats.

They first came to Anandwan in 2004 as volunteers and have been facilitating groups of people to experience and contribute to the community every year since.

Anandwan (‘Forest of Joy or Bliss’) is a leprosy rehabilitation center in Mararashtra, India. Baba Amte, a saintly man, founded Anandwan in 1951 with the mission of providing a life for people with Leprosy that went beyond offering medical support but a way for each individual to be wholly integrated in society.

All Photography by Shilpa Shah

Leprosy is the oldest known disease and is extremely misunderstood and stigmatized all over the world but particularly in India – as being grotesque, highly contagious and even a personal curse of God or Karma.

Historically, India has had the highest population of the disease with many afflicted people being rejected and disregarded from society – left to fend on their own support, in times of dire need of the support of others.

Baba Amte fiercely started this project with 6 patients living on donated government land- without even a water source. With the power of love in his heart, within only 2 years the land completely transformed into a self-sufficient community – apart from sugar, salt, and oil.

Therefore, you can imagine the jobs that were manifested – from making on-site homemade mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, fabrics, housing and furniture, homemade specialized wheelchairs, custom-made shoes for all these differently shaped mended bodies and feet, bio-waste methane system turning cow and food waste into gas to cook with, growing food and cooking for all these many mouths – all day, every day!

The community has grown to host approximately 3,000 individuals with a range of differences in the body and mind (children, elderly, with physical and mental disabilities) that may have not had a safe place in the world without Anandwan.

Anyone can live here with the guidelines of not taking any intoxicants, non-violence, and being willing to work, if able. Baba said “give people a chance – not charity,” which from my observation seems to be clearly successful.

As a part of the meditation-in-action mission, 17 international volunteers, joined together for 3 weeks to practice meditation while consciously living and working in various workshops throughout the Anandwan community.

I choose to work in the elderly home in the mornings and alternating between the hearing and the visually impaired school in the afternoon.

Besides working with other people, I had to deal with my own suppressed internalized fear I was unknowingly hosting around touching elderly people’s bodies. It really had nothing to do with Leprosy as in retrospect I remembered that I also felt this sense of rejection at my grandma’s retirement home in Toronto. The look of fragility and potential weaknesses somehow gave me the impression of it not feeling safe to touch the bodies of these human beings. Maybe some unconscious fear of “catching” whatever they have even if it was just my own projection of their pain and suffering. As it turns out, odds are as a human being, if I’m super lucky, I will indeed catch the state of old age regardless of physical contact will people or not.

Baba was known to say that the real leprosy to fear is this leprosy of the mind.

The illusive walls between where the being behind ‘their’ skin and mine – began to fade away. I realized that my intention was to share moments of connection, not “fix” anyone or anything.

Through breaking down my own barriers of fear I shared in the most precious exchanges of love during this project.

They, like you and me and all other beings- simply want to experience happiness- feel love, less suffering, less pain. Something we can all naturally offer to each other – but as I can see it must start with the fragile being behind our own skin.

The human beings living at Anandwan showed me strength and joy through the endurance of suffering and pain. Maybe it really is the challenges that strengthen the spirit. All I know is the light and love radiating from these people felt so bright that I couldn’t even see the different abilities, shapes of bodies or sense capabilities in all their various forms.

We all have opportunities to dive into these unfamiliar environments and into the power of love that exists beyond the discernment of our mind that constantly creates distinctions between good, bad, less or more, like or dislike, into this golden thread that ties us all together – the aliveness that exists in meeting each moment with full awareness- of life, exactly as it is.

“Namaste” – the people of Anandwan say here with their hands at their heart and I couldn’t imagine a greeting that was more appropriate. I see you – as a pure divine living, breathing, feeling being – as significant a life as the one I consider “my own.”

May we all find ways of stepping outside our own fears and into the transformation power of love – for ourselves and for each other.

 

 

 

Sacha Bryce, BSc, RYT, is a Holistic Yoga Therapist based in Toronto, Canada. She has travelled the globe studying, teaching and living Integral Yoga. Her mission is to share the power of the practice to liberate herself and others from suffering.

IG: @sachabryceyoga

First Time Yoga Instructor in Nicaragua

Last spring, I signed up for Yoga Trade.

On my first day, I looked at the posts for volunteer and intern positions and I applied to three posts. I had an interview by the following weekend with a hostel in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. I Skyped with the volunteer coordinator there and we really clicked. We talked about yoga, volunteer positions, beaches and monsoon seasons. The next night, I was signed up for the job. It felt like fate!

In the summer, I completed my yoga instructor training in Bali. I was nervous about starting to teach, but I knew leaping into it was probably the best way to make it happen.

In August, I boarded the plane and headed off for Nicaragua, where I had never been before. I caught a bus from Managua, where the airport is, down to Rivas, and from there caught another bus to San Juan del Sur. The town was very cute—a few blocks of stone streets lined on both sides with colorful buildings. The hostel was a one-minute walk from the beach!
I met the manager and he showed me the yoga studio on the top floor, which moonlighted as a bar at night. The hostel had really cool artistic touches, like a murals on the floors and walls, recycled bottles as chandeliers and barrels turned into tables.

I made my own schedule and posters for the five morning classes I’d teach each week. In exchange for the yoga classes, I got a room in the volunteer apartment up the road, daily breakfast (burritos or gallo pinto) and free shuttles to the surrounding beaches.

My first class was the hardest, of course. I went early to set out mats, blocks and straps. Then 10 minutes before class, a cleaner came to mop the floor! I had to pick it all up and then set it all out again. The manager’s girlfriend came for the class, which made me nervous. I realized later she just liked yoga, and wasn’t there to check on me. She told me later she never would have guessed that it was my first class ever.

Each morning, anywhere from 2 to 15 people came. The room was small so 15 was a stretch, but we made it work. It was always interesting to see the levels of the yogis who came too. A few times, I had someone for their first class ever and sometimes other yoga instructors who were traveling through came for the classes. Some yogis didn’t speak English so I had to be good at modeling the poses and alignment adjustments. It was difficult at first to try to make a plan for such a mixed group, but it’s a good skill to learn.

After a couple of weeks, another volunteer yoga instructor joined me at the hostel. We made a new schedule that included afternoon classes as well, which meant we could implement my idea for sunset yoga on the beach! Looking back, that was probably my favorite part! It was also really nice to have another instructor teaching classes that I could go to and learn from as a new instructor myself.

On the new schedule I taught two classes on Fridays and one class Tuesday through Thursday. That meant I had 3-day weekends so I made time to travel and see some other islands, beaches and cities around Nicaragua. I really enjoyed the local beach shuttles as well because there are so many gorgeous beaches near San Juan del Sur. I also had the opportunity to take Spanish lessons from another volunteer at the hostel. One night, I saw one of the hostel’s volunteer projects in action: helping the endangered sea turtles. I got to go to a far-away beach to see the babies hatching and making their way to the sea. We also saw some mother turtles laying eggs in new nests they were digging.

I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity to start teaching yoga in such a relaxed, fun way, and in a new, interesting part of the world!

 

 

 

Katia loves to travel and do yoga. She currently lives and teaches yoga in Mandalay, Myanmar. She also enjoys blogging about her experiences on katiayoga.com

Traveling Afar to Realize Just How Far You’ve Come

This morning I was a bit stiff as I woke up to teach my 8am Power Yoga class in a beautiful beachfront studio overlooking turquoise waters and white sand in Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. I was a little worn from teaching Vinyasa 2 with arm balances and inversions from 8pm to 9:15pm the evening before and having little time to sleep and recover. I’m traveling, working hard and pushing myself to soak up of every minute of this opportunity.

I stepped to the mat to begin teaching and began with some simple asanas to help my students warm up, but also restoring my own sore body. A few breaths and it came to me: GRATITUDE. I realized that my “bad morning” was actually quite incredible. I realized just how amazing my life really is, because right now, I’m realizing a dream and goal I set for myself.

I flashed back to a time when I worked in marketing for large corporations. I did this for 17 long years, 11 of which were spent fighting traffic to reach a downtown office building each morning. I would wake at 6:30am, scurry to wake, shower, put on make up, iron my dress clothes, scour to find panty hose that didn’t have runs in them, pack a lunch and hurry out the door without eating breakfast. I would arrive to my desk, usually a few minutes late, and log in to my computer. For the next 9 hours, I would sit within gray walls of a cubicle (later upgraded to an office), and I would work hard as I watched the small clock in the bottom right corner of my computer screen. I would challenge myself to learn and improve my skills. I would work hard to earn a paycheck and even stay late each night, with hopes each year of a pay raise. But I would not work with passion.

During my breaks in my corporate life, I would dream of traveling afar and living on an island. I would think of ways that I could bring meaning to my life. I would even read blog posts like this one, wondering how others accomplished this. At the time, I wasn’t even practicing yoga. So I would dream of ways that I could help people, possibly volunteering and using my Spanish language skills from college. This day dream was relentless, and evolved into creating goals and like I would do for large companies, I created a “strategic business plan” for my own life, complete with a budget and timeline.

Fast forward to years later. Years of life experience, years of yoga practice and years of teaching yoga and self discovery. I made countless preparations and took each step of my strategic plan, but I calmed down and listened to my heart as well. Now, I find myself exactly where I dreamed I would be. I’m making a difference in my students lives and doing it in beautiful places all over the world. How could I ever wake up unmotivated when I think about how far I have come?

Each yoga class I teach, I begin by asking my students to create an intention (a present tense affirmation) for their practice and to carry that intention with them throughout the day and throughout their week. This intention setting is the first step to making self improvements and working toward goals and dreams. As I’m currently teaching many tourists in the Dominican Republic, I’m often asked with wonder after class how I ended up here, essentially how I ended up with my dream job. It’s my hope that by my example and by my yoga instruction, that I’m making a difference in each of their lives, helping them on their own path to pursuing what makes them happy. It’s my passion to help others to find peace and wellness in their own lives, one-hour of yoga at a time.

If you are not where you want to be right now in your life, you are not stuck. You can make the right choices each day and put in the hard work to find a new outcome. It starts with a daydream and then building your own strategic plan. And that can be reinforced each day as you step to the top of your yoga mat, breathe, set an intention and journey mindfully on your path.

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Chel Rogerson (RYT 200) teaches yoga and works as a freelance writer traveling the world. She also teaches/performs hoop dance, pole dance and fire dance in the Outer Banks of North Carolina through her business, Bliss Fit.

Heart Activism

 

It wasn’t clear to me at first but I was amongst great activists – humans utilizing this precious life and the power we all have to ignite change through positive action.

“Action is movement with intelligence.
The world is filled with movement.
What the world needs is more conscious movement, more action.”
– Iyengar

Ekuthuleni is an ecological retreat space set in the foothills of the Pyrenees of Southern France where people are doing just that- actively connecting the practice of inner work with outer action.

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Nathan & Zohar, the facilitators of SanghaSeva Retreats, focus on how meditation can carry into making conscious actions in the world. This summer I participated in a Sustainability & Simplicity Retreat at Ekuthuleni. The first week we immersed in the practice of silent meditation and then in the second week we intentionally put our practice into action while using our bodies as tools to work with organic materials found on the land to build a straw bale sanctuary. We investigated how we can live a low-impact lifestyle in our environment – allowing nature’s needs to speak louder than human desires.

I slept in a tent on a wooden platform amongst the forest, showered my body under the rays of sunshine with solar-heated water and used composting toilets.

We nourished our bodies with the veggies from the garden.

We nourished our hearts and minds in meditation on a platform amongst the trees.

This simplistic way of living in nature allowed us to relax into the clarity of how supported we are by the Earth and how blissfully uncomplicated life can be when we can realize how much is already provided for us by nature.

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I learned that through the practice of listening we are able to become aware of opportunities we have in life to contribute – even if it’s by choosing not to participate in things that we view as destructive or counterproductive.

“When you have a pro-peace rally, I will be there.” – Mother Theresa

Activism is directing your energy towards the things you are FOR rather than against in this world.

Flash forward to yoga with women and children at the Refugee camp in Calais, France.

I intentionally do not watch the news and before the retreat I was not even aware that such a place existed just north of where I was standing – 10,000 human beings in need of support – that I now felt able to contribute to.

At the camp I often felt the temptation of my mind to comprehend the whys and hows of the perceived inequality and injustices of this world – but instead, with practice – I was able to bring my focus back to the precious human beings in front of me that I was fortunate enough to meet.

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This is my form of activism – union through human connection – regardless of what you call it – yoga, creativity, dance or play – embracing the joy that exists in the moments where we are able to let go of the mind’s stories of who we think we are.

The shared happiness that is not “mine” or “yours” but in the spaces in between that do not rely on the names on our passports or the stories we have bought into of who we are based on where we are from, what we do, or what we have.

Beyond acting to aim at the faraway destination of reaching solutions for the entirety of humanity and our planet – we can find the potential power that exists within us all to make choices that are coherent with the things we wish to see in the world right now.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

The practice of meditation allows us to see more clearly that we can be great activists by simply waking up to what is already right here and leading a life where we actively follow our heart.

 

 

 

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Sacha Bryce is a Toronto-based 500-RYT travelling yoga teacher and life enthusiast – with a mission to share the practice for the benefit of all beings!
Find her on instagram @sachabryceyoga

9 Practical Things to Consider Before Traveling to Teach Yoga

So you’re thinking about traveling abroad to teach yoga. Perhaps you’re considering doing it for an extended period of time, or maybe you’re looking at doing a few months here and there. Traveling the world while sharing your knowledge of yoga, meeting new students, exploring different cultures and taking your practice to new places is an exciting opportunity. But here’s the thing, there are a few steps to take before you embark on that journey such as creating a compelling CV and building a profile on yoga job websites like Yoga Trade. There are also a few key points that you need to think about to ensure that your time is well spent and that the role is exactly what you expected and agreed upon.

A little about my personal experience: I completed my 200-hour training in San Francisco at the end of 2015 and was in the midst of a major career shift and relocation back to Hong Kong. At this point, I wasn’t 100% certain if I wanted to make the jump and transition into teaching full-time and already had a few trips planned and booked throughout 2016. I began looking into different short-term opportunities overseas via Yoga Trade – I love to travel, and I love yoga; mixing the two seemed like a no-brainer! So I put together a profile, paid the membership fee and submitted applications to work at hotels, retreats, surf camps and studios around the world.

One of the key things that you should know about traveling abroad to teach yoga is that it can be competitive. Of all the places I sent my yoga CV off to, only two got back to me. I ended up interviewing with one hotel, and guess what? I am wrapping up teaching five weeks of yoga in Vang Vieng, Laos! I realize that I was extremely fortunate to have landed a great opportunity in a beautiful town that was looking to shake off its party hard past, and excited be a part of growing Vang Vieng into a spot for wellness and yoga in Southeast Asia; but it doesn’t always work out this way and there are a few key factors that I think anybody looking to travel and teach yoga overseas should seriously consider before taking the leap. Here’s what you need to think about:

1. Cost of flights and travel

I applied to places in Nicaragua, Mexico, Portugal, Morocco, Bali, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Laos. But what I really should have done was look into how much time and money it would have taken to travel to each of these places, and decide whether I was comfortable paying these costs out of pocket before sending off my application. Luckily, teaching in Vang Vieng was worth the two flights, layover in Bangkok and slightly terrifying seven-hour bus journey to get there. Here’s the thing, most employers looking for yoga teachers to teach for a few months are not going to foot your transportation or visa expenses. So consider whether you’re willing to pay for your flights to work hundreds of miles away.

2. Seasonality of the destination

Now that you’ve decided on where you might want to travel to and where the opportunities may exist, think about seasonality. As an example, I ended up teaching in Laos during rainy season when tourist numbers are at its lowest. In practical terms, this meant that in some classes there was only one student, in others there were about seven or eight, but I also had to cancel a few classes because of no-shows. I enjoy teaching 1-on-1 and small group classes so it didn’t end up being a massive issue, but when you’re paid by the number of classes you teach or number of students that attend, this can seriously affect your income so bear seasonality in mind.

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3. Number of students and general level of classes you are expected to teach

Some retreat centers may expect you to teach a dozen or more people per class, and some know that their class sizes tend to be much smaller. Some places cater to people who have been practicing yoga for years, whereas other places host classes where the majority of students have either never attended a yoga class in their life, or have been to one or two classes back home. Ask your potential future employer what the typical class size and level is so that you can ensure that you know what to expect. While you’re at it, find out if there’s any flexibility to decide what style of classes you will teach, or if there’s a fixed schedule to stick to. At Yoga in Vang Vieng, teachers are given the responsibility of putting together the schedule and entrusted to decide what they want to teach on each day.

4. Time commitment

How long is your gig for? Most places will ask for a 1-3 month time commitment, especially if accommodation is being provided. This also ties into the issue of whether you will need a work visa as some countries are extremely strict. How many classes will you teach per week? How long is each class? Are you the only teacher or are you splitting the teaching responsibilities with others?

5. How much will you be paid? Fixed salary? Per student? Per class?

We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty parts: not every position will be paid. In fact, it is quite common for some places to offer accommodation in return for teaching two classes a day, six days a week. There are lots of arguments for and against this type of arrangement, but my only point would be this: whatever the arrangement is, make sure you’re comfortable with it. If remuneration is being offered, find out if it is a fixed salary, if you’re being paid per class or if you get paid a certain amount per student. While you are discussing issues related to pay, find out if there are other opportunities for you to generate some income through private lessons, workshops, seminars and so on.

6. What else is part of the package?

Will accommodations be provided? Is it a shared room or will you get your own space? Is the accommodation on-site or elsewhere? Are your meals provided or will you be given a per diem? What about your stinky, sweaty yoga clothes – will laundry be taken care of or will you have to potentially hand wash your leggings in the shower?

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7. What do you really know about your potential future employer?

Doing your due diligence for a yoga-related job is the same as applying for any other job: what do you know about your employer? Find out what to expect by speaking directly to who you will work with via e-mail and Skype, ask to speak with other teachers who are currently working there and also see if you can get in touch with any former teachers to find out what their experience was like.

8. Insurance

Do you need liability insurance? In my experience, the concept of liability insurance for yoga teachers has not really caught on in many parts of Asia, but it is essential in many parts of the U.S. and Europe. It’s always better to find out if where you are looking to work has you covered on that front and whether students are asked to sign a waiver.

9. Confirmation of your job

If possible, ask for a confirmation of your job or work trade in writing; it should include your start/finish date, number of classes you will teach per week, remuneration and so on. While these may not always be enforceable, it gives a valuable opportunity to get everyone on the same page. The last thing you want to happen is to have a different start date in mind or god forbid, book nonrefundable plane tickets for a job that isn’t 110% confirmed.

The experience of traveling abroad to teach yoga can be extremely rewarding: I met some truly wonderful people, continued to work on my teaching skills, chased a few waterfalls and explored a part of the world I otherwise probably wouldn’t have visited. But here are the key takeaways: be clear on what you’re hoping to get out of the experience, and know exactly what you’re signing up for. What are some other things you would encourage teachers to consider before they travel abroad to teach yoga? Share your thoughts below in the comments section!

 

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Florence is a wanderlusting yogi who calls Hong Kong home, but these days you can find her at Yogawinetravel.com and on Instagram where she writes and shares photos from her yoga journey and travels around the world.

Embrace the Unknown

Location: Palmar Tent Lodge, Isla Bastimentos, Bocos Del Toro, Panamá

Living on a beach in the jungle for over a month in a rural, environmentally conscious setting proved to have its challenges. Sand is to the beach, as glitter is to arts and crafts. It sticks to you everywhere you go, you wake up to it in your bed feeling like sand paper between your sheets, and it doesn’t rid your body in the foot-pump shower of cold recycled rain water you’re allowed once per day. There is no AC, in fact the only air conditioned room I ever stepped foot in during my time in Bocas Del Toro was to use the ATM in town. There is constantly a layer of moisture or sweat (or both) on you at all times. Plus side to that is I never needed lotion for dry skin. And things don’t dry here, EVER. The first week I hand washed my clothes, hung them out to dry, and three days later they were holding the same amount of moisture, and therefore molded. Everything molds at some point, even my passport has turned an unappetizing shade of green. Thank goodness for the laundry service in town. For $4 they take a bag of your laundry and wash, dry and fold it for you. The only bad part is I lost my favorite shirt this way. It’s a risk I was willing to take though, all of my clothes smelled of mildew and sweat and salt water combined. There are trails of leaf cutter ants on nearly every path you step on. Although the thought of being bare foot all day seems luxurious, one wrong step and your toe will be stinging for days. Those ants are workaholics, and they show no mercy for disrupting their business. Speaking of bugs, I resided with bird spiders and tarantulas, cockroaches making themselves at home in the kitchen, bats sleeping over my head in the living room, and crabs greeting me every morning for my bathroom routine.

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And yet with all of your surroundings wanting to kill you, living on a beach in the jungle was surprisingly adaptable. I suppose the human kind can instinctively adapt to any environment, if given time and patience. The first two weeks I was really doubting the living arrangements, and the last three I learned to embrace it and the conditions actually made me so much more grateful for the luxuries we have in this world. I forgot what a warm bath felt like, and instead found joy in eating freshly chopped coconuts on the beach. I forgot about wearing makeup and the need to impress others with the right outfit, and instead gave up ‘looking good,’ and felt confident in my own sun-kissed skin and miss-matched outfit. Basically if any of your clothing items were dry it was a good day. During my time in Bocas I learned to not only let go of needing the material items of this world, but I also have a much greater appreciation for the little things most humans take for granted, such as a dishwasher or working Internet.

I gave up all of the comforts of life back home in the United States to witness the natural beauty of our planet, and to search for my contribution to this world, doing all that I know and love to do: teach yoga and write. Somehow traveling and living in the elements really sheds the layers, clears the smoke and allows you to get to the root of your being. It’s not over, heck no, this is only the beginning of what I’m out to discover. Social media and articles may perceive the adventure I’m undertaking to be a walk in the park, every second of every day being some extravagant exploration and constantly undergoing life-altering experiences. But in reality it’s the opposite. What I’ve discovered so far during my long-term travel is that it does have its ups and downs, situations of hard decision making, days of doing nothing and then feeling bad about it. It’s exactly the same struggles I face living back home, but it’s heightened at a much greater scale. And if you don’t fight against it, you have the ability to learn the lessons of life very quickly, and that life is so much more beautiful.

You make close friends in a matter of days or weeks and then you have to let them go, let their own journey unfold. A lesson in non attachment. Back home you maintain the same friendships for years and then something happens where you don’t see that person, and you can’t handle it. There have been a couple of casualties of items that were dear to me, including my beloved 40 ounce HydroFlask that I used not only to keep me hydrated, but as a weapon when full of water. That bottle also served as a reminder of my yoga home in Houston, Texas, BIG Power Yoga. I got the water bottle when I first became a member, and bedazzled it with stickers along the years of my time there, from yoga teacher training to full-time manager, representing a different era of my journey. This deep loss has really struck a chord and has allowed me to practice this life lesson in non attachment more than ever. I have to trust that water bottle served its purpose for me in my life, and now it’s time for it to move on to its next purpose.

I’ve learned a huge lesson in embracing the unknown. The first couple of weeks my type A personality got the best of me. I woke up in fear of what the day would bring, because my only plan was to teach yoga at 5 o’clock. With a few days of depriving myself of having a schedule, I transformed from the need of keeping a calendar to control my every waking moment, to rising out of bed and thinking “I wonder what today will bring.” Seriously, the moment I realized I was saying that to myself, I finally realized what living actually is.

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I soon discovered that if you learn to let go of controlling what your day is going to look like or should look like, then the universe has the opportunity to step in and guide you in the direction you’re meant to go. By doing this I’ve had the opportunity to do so many things I never could have planned for. Yacht parties, driving an ATV through the rainforest, eating next to a deep sea speargun fisherman whose catch of the morning was on my plate, hanging in a hammock on a catamaran, stand up paddle boarding around the perimeter of a tiny island, staying up late around a bon fire and then letting it burn out to be in awe of the Milky Way constellation and the millions of stars scattered like confetti in the sky. Not one of those things were planned, were ever an agenda or something I checked off my list. And yet they are now a part of me, and I was in the experience of belonging in those moments as if they were always meant to happen.

That feeling of letting go cleaned the slate of my need to know what’s going to happen next. I still have no idea of what I’m supposed to fulfill during my time traveling or what it’s supposed to look like on the other side. But what I’ve gained is so much more valuable. I’ve learned a lesson in trusting the process. I’ve always known to do that, but now I know what it actually feels like in my body. It literally feels like a weight lifted off of me, that I’m not supposed to know what I’m supposed to do, and that’s ok. I believe that I am supposed to be right here for a reason, and leave it at that. I can allow myself to be with that truth and then let the universe take charge of guiding me by listening, feeling the sensations in my body when opportunities arise.

I’ve gone completely yoga teacher on you by this point, but the lessons I learned on my mat before this trip, the lessons I’m teaching to my students during this trip, and the lessons I’m allowing to sink in as I write this article, are all boomeranging back to me and showing me their effectiveness each day. These lessons are what have gotten me to this point in my journey, and I know they are what will carry me through all of the difficult situations, beautiful moments, and leaps of faith I have only tapped the surface of thus far.

It’s becoming clear to me, how I’m experiencing all of this life exploration is more important than what I’m experiencing. You can keep pictures to commemorate memories and great experiences in your life, or you can hold on to what you felt, what you learned from that experience and implement it throughout your entire life until your very last breath.

 

 

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Steph is a yoga teacher from Houston, Texas. Currently she is traveling through Central America teaching yoga wherever her heart is led to. Steph teaches vinyasa and yin-style classes and is committed to her students feeling rinsed out and restored!

From Here To There: A Willingness To Transform

My life in Costa Rica is magical and unique and one that even I could never could have imagined I’d be living. I receive a lot of questions about how I ended up where I am… How a life evolves isn’t always apparent; how do we go from point A to B? The truth is that transformation is within the grasp of most but we have to be willing to seize it, which actually often takes the form of letting something go.

I was living just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan where I had finally gotten a decent job out of college. I wasn’t earning a lot of money but I also was no longer stuck in a call-center with a crazy boss breathing down my neck and timing my “allotted bathroom breaks”. (Yea, no thanks… Life is more than that!)

In my small town, Lowell, I had just finished up my teacher-training program with Prairie Yoga at Cascade Yoga Studio. I had a couple of yoga teaching jobs that I did some odd evenings, but for the most part I would come home from my day-job and hang out with my cat and live-in boyfriend. We’d go to breweries, see local shows, and hang out with our close group of friends.

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It was pretty much a standard city life, full of work and activity. Yet I wasn’t truly happy. Buzzing around my head was a lifelong dream to travel. I had traveled a lot as a kid, so from an early age I was bitten by the travel bug and never able to shake it.

One day, I was invited by a distant friend of mine to join her in Lake Tahoe for Wanderlust Festival and I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to go. At the festival, I was talking to a fellow yogi and explaining my plight of living a corporate life while dreaming to be out in the world and traveling. I was told about the amazing company Yoga Trade that was just starting and a listing for a job in Costa Rica that they thought I would be perfect for. I had never met this person prior to this conversation, nor have I spoken to them since. I have no idea where they came from or how we even started talking, but they planted a seed that grew an opportunity for transformation.

I took a look at the website, found the link to apply for the job and jumped at the opportunity. In my mind, I was competing for a job with other yoga teachers who had way more experience than I, as well as more traveling experience, other yoga-related skills, and so on. I truly didn’t believe that I even had a chance.

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I went back to my regular job, sun-kissed from Cali and loving life. I actually forgot about the application until about a month later when I received an email back saying that they wanted to have a Skype meeting with me as soon as I was available. You can probably imagine the look on my face when I read this… I was shocked, excited and scared all at once. I hadn’t told anybody about having applied, especially my boyfriend.

Naturally, I accepted their invitation for the Skpye meeting with excitement. The call lasted an hour, talking about the position, who I am, and who they were. It went well yet I still didn’t think I would actually be asked to come to Costa Rica to teach yoga. Yet three weeks later, I got a reply asking to have another Skpye meeting, this time with the owner of the lodge.

After another successful interview, the prospect of actually leaving began to consume me. I wanted so badly to leave and travel. I wanted to see things other than my computer screen and the latest thing on Reddit; I was ready to do anything else with my life. At the same time I was reticent, unwilling to get my hopes up. I still considered this a dream for the distant future, not one that loomed on the horizon.

I received a kind email from my first interviewer, gently telling me that I didn’t get the position. It had come down to me and one other candidate; while they opted for the former, they emphasized how much they had liked me. They invited me to come down to Costa Rica to stay there for a week for free and to discuss future opportunities to work with their lodge.

I was not shocked or let down; I was actually, surprisingly, relieved. I had somehow managed to get a free week-long vacation at an eco-lodge in Costa Rica and didn’t have to make any crazy decisions to leave my whole life behind.

I was smiling and happy with the outcome, satisfied with myself for taking a chance and accepting any outcome. I sent a “thank you” email to my interviewer and, just as I was shutting my laptop, a new message suddenly popped-up. Curiously, I opened it to find out that she actually did want to offer me the job. The first candidate had suddenly been unable to commit to the full-length of the placement — knowing that I was ready to give up everything — she offered it to me instead!

I was thrilled, terrified, and so completely excited that I couldn’t express my gratitude enough. Somehow the cosmos had shifted, revealing that I was meant to leave for a metamorphic journey, not later, but now. Just how life-changing it would prove to be I could never have fathomed. I only knew that I was ready and willing to leave my old life behind.

A few short weeks later, I was giving notice to my job, buying airplane tickets, changing in bonds to pay off my credit card debt. Beyond professional and financial matters, I had to inform my friends, family, and boyfriend about the journey I was about to embark on. I was saying goodbye and leaving the solid life I had built in exchange for one full of new adventure.

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My friends were happy for me and celebrated my departure as opportunity. My family was excited, albeit a bit nervous, and happy to act as cat-sitters. And my boyfriend, well, he was anything but onboard with my decision.

Unwilling to travel with me, my boyfriend was afraid to break out of the mold, too fixated on the path of a 9-5 job, a mortgage and kids. My placement in Costa Rica was only six months but he was unwilling to do long-distance, saying, “You can’t really expect me to not have sex for half-a-year.” And with that I found myself finally able to let go of the last thing holding me back. I exhaled fully, cut our lease short, gave him the furniture and helped him move it into an apartment in the city. I took the cat, my yoga mat, and my smile, bid him farewell, never looked back again.

To choose my journey over my relationship was the sacrifice that I needed to make in order to allow myself to be truly happy. Perhaps not surprisingly, it also allowed me the space to meet the amazing and truly good-hearted man who has helped me stay in Costa Rica permanently. We now own an amazing ocean-front lodge, Casa Marea Alta, where I’m able to earn my living doing something I truly love. Even though it has been difficult, alien, tiring, and frustrating at times, it also has made me happier and helped me transform into a better person. I would gladly make the decision twice; it provided me a new purpose, a love, and a home.

 

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Elizabeth Arnold is a 200 RYT, Tai Bodyworker, and Reiki Practitioner. She is currently the resident yoga teacher at Casa Marea Alta in Costa Rica. You can find out more about her and life in Costa Rica by visiting her website www.BethAnneYoga.com.

Nama-Stay Yourself: 5 Tips to Teaching Yoga with Authenticity

I didn’t expect that teaching yoga would in turn teach me so many lessons.

Teaching with authenticity came as an unexpected challenge as a new teacher.

Without knowing what was going on in the bodies and minds of my students, I felt unable to stand strong in my own feet and in my own voice. I naturally began to defend my vulnerabilities by creating a separation between the students and myself. Teaching became a performance where I felt like I was on a stage with an audience.

I have learned that if we want our students to feel comfortable, secure and connected we must strip off our masks and face our students as we are- allowing them to be exactly as they are.

“Tear off the mask. Your face is glorious.”– Rumi

 

1) Practice, then Preach

Teach only what you know. Self-practice will give you the deepest understanding of yoga that you can then share with others. You are only able to share your experience with your students. It is not possible to teach something that you have not yet experienced for yourself. This would be like teaching a language that you cannot yet understand. Anyone can repeat the words of someone else but to teach effectively you must be able to express what it is you have learned. Share your practice.

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2) Yoga is Connection

Make direct contact with your students. Through speech, sight and touch you have all the tools to connect with every student. Ask questions – create a safe environment for people to interact with you. Make eye contact – let people know that you are seeing them. Always first assess what the students are comfortable with, but people generally like to be hands – on adjusted. Safely assisting and supporting your students can immediately create a connection. You are not a YouTube video – take advantage of being in real time!

 

3) Teach People, Not Poses

Respond to your students. If you are not cultivating awareness of your students while teaching them – how can you expect them to be aware of what you are teaching? Teaching is never one – way but a reciprocal process. You are teaching unique individuals. Stay tuned into how the class is receiving and responding to what you are saying. Approach the students with a sense of curiosity and respond according to their needs. Each moment is a mystery and so is each class – each student brings something new that you can learn from – stay present.

 

4) To be Sacred does not mean to be Serious

Enjoy yourself. Trust me that if you are not enjoying teaching – no one else will be IMG_0235enjoying your teaching either. You are creating a space for people to explore themselves as living human beings – dropping into the excitement and aliveness that exists in each moment. Teach what you feel passionate about so you are able to share this joy. Remember not to take yourself too seriously, as it’s not really about you anyways!

 

5) Live Yoga

As a teacher, it is your responsibility to maintain the practice outside of the class and into the world around you. This does not mean you should attempt to be who you think is the “perfect yoga instructor” but to live your truth – making conscious choices of how you interact with life. It’s not about having anything – the perfect practice, the perfect diet or even a smile always on your face – but about cultivating awareness to your relationship with yourself and the world around you – in every possible moment. You have the opportunity to share the reasons why you practice and teach yoga that stretch far beyond the mat and into the world – share this.

May everything we do benefit all beings.

 

 

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Sacha is a Yoga Trade Travel Representative – living nomadically all over the globe as a student and teacher of yoga. She is passionate about sharing the benefits of yoga as a way of living in connection with oneself and the living world around us.

Reasons to Start Living Yoga Today

Yoga is an entire science of living which works on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. The movement towards living yoga is one which brings back the depth to the practice, helping us navigate our relationships with the world around us, offering tools that promote mindfulness and present moment awareness, and ultimately paving the way to more joyful living.

Here are 5 reasons to get started:

 

1. You become what you repeat.

While it’s unfortunate that there is a misconception, particularly in the Western world about yoga as a purely physical practice – I do still believe that the growing number of mary3people rolling out their yoga mats is something to be celebrated. I like to think of yoga asana, or the postures as the gateway drug. We start with the physical then learn to integrate our energetic body through conscious breathing until eventually our mind settles into deeper states of concentration. For this reason, BKS Iyengar refers to the body as the “vehicle to the soul”. In the same way that stretching and deep breathing create space in the body, meditation helps ease the mind by creating a sense of inner spaciousness. We learn to simply observe as feelings of stress, anxiety and fear arise before reacting. This means we have the control to choose how to respond. Rather than blowing up when things go awry, we can shift gears into a more calm, relaxed state. Thanks to neuroplasticity, it’s possible through regular practice to actually rewire our brain into these positive thought patterns even outside of our practice. Or to put it simply, we become them.

 

2. Wake up!

In between a series of long-held, intense balancing postures in class the other day, my teacher, Shy brought us into a standing position where we could rest for a few breaths mary1with the stability of our two feet grounded on the floor. “If you’re not enjoying this right now,” he paused, “Wake up!” I laughed out loud… guilty. My mind and body were already agonizing in the posture coming next. This is a strong reflection on the way many of us live our lives – hung up on the past or stressing about the future. Yoga snaps us into the present so we can make the most of every moment. After all, the only time we are guaranteed is right now.

 

3. Your vibe attracts your tribe.

Cultivating positive energy through yoga and mindfulness allows our practice to be of service to others. It’s contagious. Buddhists recognize the Sangha, or community as one of the Three Gems alongside the Buddha, the teacher and the Dharma, the teachings, all of which further us along our spiritual path. This support network is even more valuable as advancements of the modern world have made it easier to isolate and disconnect from the world around us. Instead, we can utilize the online yoga community to increase our Sangha to a global scale, allowing for cross-cultural connections and an overwhelming amount of online resources for sharing knowledge.

 

4. Acceptance: No mud, no lotus.

Yoga does not promise to fix us; it’s a practice of acceptance. Similar to the way the lotus mary4flower can only emerge from the muddy floor of the pond, yoga brings awareness to the difficult areas of our life and trains us to accept them so we can grow from them. We become grateful for even the most challenging situations life throws our way. Imagine that. It is through this process that we begin to experience our true nature, the union of all aspects of the self and the world around us.

 

 

 

 

 

5. For the benefit of all beings.

You don’t have to be an activist or a yoga teacher for your work to be of service to others. Living yoga and mindfulness practices allow us to go out into the world acting from a place of love, compassion and understanding. In many cases, simply not contributing to violence or hate is enough. It is only through the wisdom gained from our own experience that we can start to change the world around us.

 

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Mary’s passion for yoga has taken her across the world from the U.S. to Southeast Asia & India where she leads retreats, private lessons and co-leads 200-Hr Teacher Training. You can visit her website for more details on where she will be next.

http://www.marytilsonyoga.com/