Not too many years ago, I was sitting in my corporate office in Europe dreaming of a different kind of life. In general, I wanted my life to have more meaning and I wanted it to feel exciting. In the last years, I have transitioned from Europe to the Philippines, from an office to teaching yoga outdoors, and eventually to also hosting other travelling yoga teachers.
If you are dreaming of teaching yoga in far-away locations, read on! This is what I have learned when I made the decision to move to a different country to teach yoga, and what these last three years abroad have been like.
Getting Started and Knowing Your Options
Maybe you are already teaching yoga in your home country, or maybe you are dreaming of making the jump and developing a career out of yoga. Whatever your motivation is, know that there are different options available.
First, you will need to decide how long you want to travel, what continent or country speaks to you the most, and what you plan to do with your home base while you are gone. But don’t worry, you don’t have to sell all your belongings and depart for years on end. You can start with a one to two-month working holiday, and see how you like it.
It’s a misconception that only very high profile teachers can pull off retreats, or that only very popular teachers can teach on dream locations.
If you are a beginner in teaching, you can look for opportunities to become an in-house yoga teacher for resorts or hotels that offer yoga as a service to their guests. This provides a great opportunity to learn and develop your skills as a teacher without being intimidated by large classes straight off the bat.
Being an in-house yoga teacher means that you live on resort premises while teaching one or two walk-in classes per day, which are relatively small (from private to 6-8 students) and generally cater to beginner to intermediate level students.
Remember that in this scenario, you’ll be teaching yoga to people who are on holiday, so the aim of a yoga class is slightly different than back home—people just want to relax and enjoy themselves. As a teacher, this allows you to develop a few class structures to form your basis, and because the guests come and go, you get to practice your key classes over and over to a fresh new group.
How to Find a Location
This is a step that can take some time. If you are already travelling, don’t be shy to offer your services to places you like. Even locations that don’t currently offer yoga could be interested in starting—they just might need someone to take the lead in developing a regular class structure.
If you already have a country or city in mind, start researching the yoga spots there and email them to ask if they’re looking for new yoga teachers, or are planning on hiring in the near future.
There are also many good resources online. Yoga Trade is a great resource where retreat organizers and resort hosts regularly post for teaching opportunities. It has a small yearly fee which allows you full access to the job posts.
When responding to a post, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the organization in question and the location where you would be working. Describe not only what makes you super special, but what your motivation is for working with the specific organization. This is an important piece of information that a lot of retreat hosts looks for.
There are also many Facebook groups, like “Yoga Jobs Alll Over the World” (yes, with 3 Ls) that have many opportunities posted regularly.
Looking For More Challenges in Yoga Teaching?
For experienced teachers, it might be more interesting to look for large retreat centers where people come specifically for yoga. These are environments where people come to learn new skills, to develop their practice and to dedicate their holiday purely around yoga. Especially in popular hubs the classes are bigger and there are more classes offered with a specific focus.
To get more freedom, you could promote any special skills you have, and package them as a workshop to offer to yoga studios and retreat centers. Are you a specialist in arm balances, inversions, or any one style of yoga?
If so, you can create a 2-3 hour workshop based on your special skill/talent, and sell that to studios abroad. This way, you can keep your freedom while travelling, and you can generate cash while making new exciting connections.
Leverage the Other Non-Yoga Skills You Have
Resorts and retreat centers are always interested in any other skills you may have. How many languages do you speak? Do you love cooking, can you do (Thai) massage, acupuncture, or other wellness services? Make that known in your application.
If you’re a bubbly person who loves talking to people, consider doing some customer relations work for resorts in between yoga classes. If you’re an accountant, web developer, or graphic designer, your skills can also come in handy to help smaller hotels and resorts promote their venues and services.
The main point is this: The more you are willing to do for your experience, the more chances you have to be noticed.
Having said that, draw your own limits, and do not accept anything that feels off, or anything which does not resonate with you and your goal. Arrange a phone meeting with your future host to feel things out, ask to contact previous yoga teachers to get some references, and no matter how simple or short your stay, it’s always good to make a written contract of your responsibilities.
How Much Is It About the Money?
Obviously, money is important—but how important is it in your case? Again, this depends a lot on your experience and the location you are aiming for.
Work exchange means that your host provides you with accommodation and food, but generally, no money will change hands. In some cases, you may negotiate VISA payments or other costs into the deal, but generally, this is all about exchanging services.
With limited yoga classes per day, this can be a lucrative way to earn experience and travel the world with a budget. To optimize your travel expenses, opt for locations that are close to each other and plan your flight routes so that you can easily stay within one region.
If you are looking for a fixed salary, look for larger retreat centres and yoga studios with a constant flow of yogis. These are places that can generally offer a base salary on top of other benefits, and some are even able to cover your flights.
Know the VISA Requirements for Different Countries
Alas, the pursuit of the yoga-travel dream doesn’t come without legal issues. It’s VERY important to look into the VISA requirements for any and all of the countries where you plan to teach yoga. Apart from knowing the length of your allowed stay, the VISA you hold can also dictate what you can and cannot do professionally while in that country.
For example, in some countries, if you are working as an in-house yoga teacher for food and accommodation only, their immigration laws may consider this volunteer work, so you may not need apply for a working permit.
Legal and immigration issues aside, my personal tip is to stay in one location for at least 3-4 weeks to get accustomed to the new place and new routines, and learn about the local culture.
Manage Your Expectations Before You Take Off
Living la vida yoga on a tropical island is in many ways a dream come true for me. But it’s not all about coconut drinks and sunset flows. Sometimes the reality of the working life in less developed countries can hit hard, and it’s good to think about what you are willing to “put up with” for your dream.
The living conditions can be very simple, there can be more insects than you are used to, private facilities can be rare, and something as basic as water and electricity supply can be flaky. Some locations can be very remote leaving you to entertain yourself in between the yoga classes.
Still, travelling and teaching will provide you experiences unlike anything at home! Nothing beats the excitement of meeting different people, gaining valuable and fun experiences and getting to share yoga in different cultures. No matter what, an experience like teaching abroad will influence your own practice and your teaching style, and develop you in ways you cannot imagine.