Teaching While Traveling: What Makes You a Yoga Teacher On the Road?
When I earned my 200 hour yoga teacher certification in March 2017, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I packed my bags and flew across the world. Backpacking throughout Southeast Asia and Australia had been a plan for almost as long as getting certified to teach yoga.
I envied friends who stuck around Austin and looked for jobs at studios, but felt relieved that I didn’t have to join the pool of applicants in a very competitive industry. Austin has an amazing yoga scene, but with so many experienced and extraordinary teachers, applying for studio positions can be intimidating.
That being said, I knew it would be a while until I could even think about applying for a “proper” job teaching yoga. In the meantime, I devoted myself to my practice, taking as many classes as I could and strengthening my personal practice so that I could keep a routine up while travelling. I also planned ahead and wrote/recorded a few audio flows that I would record throughout my travels. Where would I record them? Thailand? New Zealand? Australia? I’d just have to wait and see. But when I thought about the present moment, I was always thinking about what I could do to enhance my practice and my journey toward becoming a yoga teacher. I looked to Australia for the possibility of studio jobs. I wanted to teach regular classes, in big studios, and earn money for what I was doing.
But of course, not all plans work out the way we picture them…
Am I a Yoga Teacher? Or Am I a Failure?
I was excited to apply for teaching jobs when I first moved to Brisbane and Melbourne (I spent about four months in each city,) but quickly ran into complications.
First, it was about insurance. Then First Aid certifications. Then a Yoga Alliance membership. Then applying for a job in general with no experience teaching in a studio...were all of these steps worth the possibility of getting a job in a studio for a few months? By not pursuing these avenues, was I “failing” my goal of being a yoga teacher in Australia? It was hard enough fitting studio time into my schedule of working and exploring Brisbane and Melbourne...how could I fit in working toward another career?
I had an interview or two for studio jobs, but I kept hitting roadblocks. And at each of these roadblocks, I thought about how far behind I would be if I got back to America and hadn’t taught at a “proper” studio abroad.
I’m at the end of my Melbourne journey at the moment. I didn’t get a studio job, but as I’m reflecting on the past year of travelling, I’ve thought about my yoga journey.
A week into our trip, I took my yoga mat out into the beach outside our Koh Phangan resort and recorded a Hangover Yoga flow. Before I recorded it, I talked to one of the staff about recording the flow and how I was a yoga teacher. He told the owner, and before I knew it, I was teaching a class to the owner of the resort and a handful of guests. The class was free and pretty improvised on the spot. A few Sun Salutations for beginners, Navasana, and stretches before a savasana. I had no time to be nervous about teaching because it was pretty spontaneous. And after I taught the class, I had a conversation with a stranger about teaching and how to get into yoga.
The more I told people that I taught yoga, the more opportunities I had to teach.
This happened a few times throughout my travels. The more I told people that I taught yoga, the more opportunities I had to teach. When I taught, I usually followed up with a few people about my favourite resources for beginner’s yoga online. An online resource that I created myself (a PDF on poses that you can do for anxiety) still remains one of the top drivers of traffic to my blog. These PDFs were developed as I taught yoga to Couchsurfers. I didn’t make any money from the classes that I taught in Australia or Asia, but I could tell that I was making some sort of an impact.
But still I wondered whether or not I could really call myself a yoga teacher. Other people did, sure, but was I satisfied in what I was doing if I wasn’t getting paid or holding regular classes?
What Makes You a Teacher? Teaching.
In Melbourne, I met a woman who was also a yoga teacher. She taught private lessons and I shadowed her as she assessed and taught a class for one of our housemates. From the moment I met her, I knew that I would be able to learn so much about yoga from her and that she was someone who was devoted to improving her practice. And she hadn’t had a “proper” studio job either. She taught privately.
In my last few weeks of living in Melbourne, I’ve decided to shift my thinking about what makes me a yoga teacher and whether or not I’ve “completed” my goal. I didn’t sign any contracts to have a regular job in a studio, but did I teach yoga?
And by throwing away the idea of what makes you a “proper” yoga teacher, in a world that focuses so much on the exchange of money, I realized that didn’t just the act of teaching yoga make me a yoga teacher?
The Teacher in All Things
One of the gifts that yoga has given me is that of connection. I am not physically next to anyone who I’ve taught or learned from, but we all share this connection of experiencing and enjoying yoga. There are many ways to experience yoga, and many journeys that we can take to becoming yogis, taking a break from our practice, and diving deeper into the practice. Whether you are teaching to one person or one thousand, once or once a week, with a certification or not, there is knowledge to be shared from your experiences.
My favourite yoga teacher in Austin often spends the last minute of her classes bowing to the teacher in all things. And as I release the thoughts of “you’re not a yoga teacher” that tend to bring me down, I look to all of the people who I have taught in Asia and Australia and bow to the lessons that they have taught me. We’re all in this together. Throwing the free classes away discredits the work of the wonderful people I’ve met, from all around the world, that showed up to their mats to make a positive difference through yoga.
As I make goals for the next year of my life and travels, I want to continue down a path of deepening my practice and sharing my experiences with others. As more training opportunities arise and I stay in a place long enough to hold Couchsurfing yoga classes, I use the positive experiences of past classes to encourage me to hold more events. I still have one more flow to record, and may save this for when I’m in Bali or volunteering at a yoga retreat in New South Wales. There are so many opportunities for teachers to make an impact and share their practices around the world, and I am excited to take this new journey with all of you.