One of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and altering experiences I have had in my journey as a yoga teacher has been the time I spent teaching abroad. For years I dreamed of the opportunity to combine my two favorite things: travel and yoga. This past year I made my dreams into a reality, thanks to a platform called Yoga Trade. In reflection my time spent teaching abroad was one of the most influential and expanding experiences. It was a catalyst for me to become the teacher I am today. Here are 5 ways my yoga trade experience offered me the space to flourish and grow.
1. Practicing with Yoga Teachers from Different Backgrounds
There are many travel destinations all over the world that offer a strong yoga community. These communities are filled with yoga teachers and practitioners from all different countries, lineages, languages, etc. Each teacher came from a different training or framework. This allowed me to look at yoga from new angles, to hear different backgrounds of connection to this practice, and to open me up to other dogmas.
I live and teach in an average American city. I feel there is little diversity within the yoga community. Most people have been trained between the same few studios, under the same teachers, and practice within the same circles. Being able to get out of my bubble expanded my relationship and understanding of yoga.
2. Freedom to Try New Things
Teaching yoga in a tourist location made for an influx of students everyday. There were only a few people in the area that came regularly to my classes. Most of the students were on holiday, therefore they were only in that location for a few days. This gave me the chance to constantly try something new. I found when teaching in a hometown studio you seem to get the same clientele. It can sometimes feel like they have more rigid expectations and ideas of what your teaching style offers. Tourist that come to class are looking for an experience and probably do not have any preconceived ideas of what you offer. You can try out different breathing techniques, cueing, meditation styles that you may not normally have the confidence to try in your home teaching spot. I think we grow the most from those times when we feel uncomfortable and go for something new. If you fall flat on your face chances are those students may be moving onto the new destination the next day anyway. Learn from your mistakes, recalibrate, and keep going.
3. More Time to Work on Your Craft
Many yoga teachers can relate on the desire to want to have more time to spend in your own sadhana or improving your teaching techniques. In Western culture, it can be very hard to financially support yourself with only teaching yoga. We juggle many different jobs or roles to make it all work, and the energy left over can go into our personal growth and practice. My yoga trade gig allowed me to financially support myself while abroad so I could shift all my attention to yoga.
In my experience I was receiving accommodation for free and a little money per class. This money was enough to feed me and indulge every once in awhile. I was actually able to slow down and focus on just teaching yoga. My list of responsibilities abroad greatly diminished. I wasn’t constantly pulled in so many places, so I had extensive time to spend becoming a better student and teacher.
4. Exposure to New Styles of Yoga and Modalities Healing
Living in a diverse yoga community creates a wide range of spirituality offerings, workshops, lineages of yoga, modalities of healing, etc. People from all over the world sharing their personal knowledge, truth, and practice. There is ample opportunity to try something you have never even heard of before. From these experiences you will gain a more open heart and mind. You may even find your new calling.
5. Teaching People from Different Cultures
As a yoga teacher, you probably can relate what works for you at one studio, may not work for you in another. We are constantly working to give our best offerings, but even in your hometown it can be different based on age, demographics, locations, etc. Teaching people from different cultures can be another learning curve. Will your cueing make sense to someone who’s second language is English? How can you get really clear and intentional with your message so a wide range of people can recieve it? Being able to work through these types of questions and scenarios only sharpens your teaching skills and makes you more accessible to a wider range of people.