I wake up with the sun and walk along the rocky coastline for ten minutes to the refurbished castle where I’m a volunteer yoga instructor leading a yoga class.
I fetch the mats from the office and lay them in rows under a canopy so that the students can see the Bay of Kotor behind me as I lead them through a series of breathing exercises, stretches, and yoga flows.
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After class, I dive into the sea for a quick swim and cool off, before walking down to the local cafe where I recline amongst the cobbled streets sipping on coffee and munching on a grilled vegetable salad with fresh Calamari.
The rest of the day is mine to explore the Bay of Kotor and work on my book until I return to teach a sunset yoga class.
The life of a volunteer yoga instructor
I’m living in a beautiful part of the world at a luxurious resort, and I’m staying for free in exchange for teaching 1-2 yoga classes a day. More than just a free place to stay, seeking out volunteer yoga instructor exchange positions helps me experience a place from a different perspective than most travellers.
The local staff love feeding me breakfast and dinner after my classes so we can swap stories and chat about the area. They delight in showing me their local hangout spots and send me on a meandering bike ride around the coast that I would never have found if I was there on my own or staying at a hostel.
I’ve explored beautiful bays, mountainous terrains, ski resorts, and surf towns.
As a volunteer yoga instructor, I’ve enjoyed teaching yoga workshops in the winding gothic streets of Barcelona, with a view of the Edinburgh castle, and many other places that I’ve come to think of as second, third, and fourth homes.
Volunteering as a yoga teacher lets me combine my passion for teaching yoga with my desire for community while on the road.
If you love to travel and are passionate about helping people, a volunteer yoga instructor position may be the perfect fit for you
Travelling (especially after seven years) can be a solitary pursuit. Staying for a month or two at hotels, hostels, or guesthouses allows me to immerse myself in the local culture and meet other travellers.
In Quito, I was introduced to the best Arepas I’ve ever eaten by the hostel manager, in Banos I made a daily trip to the hot springs thanks to being pointed in the direction of the local (and much more affordable) pools. Going to the local springs led to entertaining conversations with the Ecuadorians going to bathe surrounded my sulphuric scents.
However, teaching yoga and travelling isn’t something that’s incredibly easy to do. You need to be qualified, professional, persistent, and flexible.
If you’re interested in teaching yoga to support your travels, here is everything you need to know:
Getting started as a travelling yoga teacher
To teach abroad, you need more than a love of yoga. You need to be a qualified yoga teacher. You should have a minimum of a 200-hour certification.
Ideally, this should be a Yoga Alliance certified school, but if that’s not possible, another reputable school and relevant experience will suffice for most places.
For example Wild Self Yoga offers teacher training and private group classes in the Byron Bay region on the north coast of NSW. Their teacher training programs offer a fully immersive, residential experience over three weeks.
If you’re in Ireland, Yago – School of Yoga offers yoga teacher training in Ranelagh, Dublin 6, Galway and Limerick.
Since the person hiring you likely won’t get to meet you or try a sample class before hiring you, having at least a year of yoga teaching experience is helpful in getting a teaching position abroad. If you have less experience, it’s still possible to get a placement, you just need to be open and flexible.
For example, many hostels look for yoga teachers that can also help out with reception for a couple of hours a day. While only you can decide if this makes financial sense for you, thinking of this position like an apprenticeship is a great way to get the experience you need while still getting to travel.
To make yourself stand out from other teachers, it’s worth having a niche or speciality that you can offer when pitching yourself as a teacher. For example, can you run a workshop on yoga for surfers? Or perhaps you can teach a class that combines yoga and painting!
Being able to offer something extra to the places you’re applying can help you get more offers and earn more money as most hotels and guesthouses allow you to teach workshops and privates to earn an extra income.
Make sure you have the right permission for the destination you’re visiting. If you don’t have a valid visa, you’ll have trouble finding a job and risk getting in trouble with the authorities. It’s just not worth it.
Depending on how long a stay you’d like to have and the nature of work you’re doing, you may be required to have a work visa rather than a tourist visa. This will vary from country to country so best to check your countries visa requirements before leaving!
You’re qualified, you have the experience, and you know your niche. How do you find a yoga teaching position in a beautiful location abroad?
Finding a yoga placement as volunteer yoga instructor
There are a few places you can look for job postings, and I also recommend reaching out to hotels individually to ask for their services.
- YogaTrade. The biggest listing of yoga volunteer jobs abroad. There is a small fee to access the listings, but there are high-quality postings from around the world. The postings range from teaching yoga and helping at a hostel in exchange for room and board to paid yoga positions.
- BookYogaRetreats – By exploring this site, you will get a good idea of who and where Yoga Retreats are currently running. A little intuitive use of Google should enable you to find the correct contact person behind these retreats so that you can reach out to them directly.
- Help exchange websites – Sites like HelpStay, Free Volunteering, you can find a host who is looking for a yoga teacher at their project.
- Google search your destination + yoga hotel or yoga hostel. Once you find hotels, hostels, or guesthouses in your desired location that offer yoga classes, you can send an email offering your services.
- Co-working/co-living spaces. In addition to hotels, it can be helpful to reach out to co-working and co-living spaces in your desired location. For example, Co-working Bansko hosts a nomad in residence, and they are open to the skills you want to bring. Selina co-working in Latin America offers skill exchanges in various locations and always provide yoga classes at their spaces.
How to secure your yoga teaching position
Now that you’ve found the places you’d like to teach, how should you reach out and get the job? If it’s through a listing on one of the above sites, you should follow application instructions, and then follow the tips below to make your cover letter stand out.
If you are cold emailing a hotel or co-living space, here’s what you need to include:
- A brief introduction about yourself, your experience, and what you’d like to offer to their hotel/hostel/co-working space.
- A summary of your experience and the types of classes you offer
- How long you’d like to stay and for what dates (if you’re flexible on dates, let them know, but still give a range so they can let you know if there is availability).
- Outline what you’d like to exchange. For example, a morning and an evening yoga class five days per week in exchange for a room and breakfast. Depending on your experience, the cost of living in the location you’re going, and the type of classes you offer, you can decide what you think would be a fair exchange. It’s essential to set these details upfront so that both parties are happy with the arrangement and know what to expect on arrival.
- Once you hear back from a place that’s interested in working with you, you can negotiate the final details and confirm your dates for arrival!
Where to go as a volunteer yoga instructor
According to the International Yoga Federation, over 300 million people practice yoga worldwide. That means you’ll likely find places to teach wherever you go.
However, there are certain special destinations should you get the opportunity.
Yoga began in India over 5000 years ago. Taking a class or course here is like connecting with the mother-source. The courses are also usually much cheaper than in the US or EU.
Regardless of if you’re just starting out or have years of experience, taking a yoga course in India could change your life.
For more information about India, check out the guide to volunteering in India.
Yoga in Costa Rica is huge. Whether it’s the influx of American expats wishing to live a more spiritually connected life or bohemian travellers looking to find themselves, Costa Rica is a yoga hotspot.
Due to the high temperatures during the day, it’s common to see groups practicing on the beaches in the mornings. You’ll find all ability levels, from beginner level to experienced students, so work can be easy to find.
Thailand, and the majority of Southeast Asia, is a prime destination for young backpackers and digital nomads.
While competition is high, it can be an excellent place to learn, practice and teach yoga in alternative formats – Tantra Yoga, Acro Yoga, Bikram Yoga, or even branch out and experiment with Pilates or Tai Chi.
Tips for teaching yoga abroad
You’ve finished your search, secured a placement, and now it’s time to enjoy leading classes and exploring your new location! Do remember to strike a balance between working and holiday. While you’re there to enjoy, explore, and make friends, you still need to be professional, prepared for your yoga classes, and flexible for students of all levels and abilities.
Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from teaching yoga abroad for the last two years:
While it’s perfectly okay to make friends with the guests or other staff and enjoy a drink or night out, make sure you do this before your day off. Nobody wants to go through a class with a hungover volunteer yoga teacher. It’s not a fun class to teach, and it’s not a fun class to be in.
Read the energy of the place
When I taught in a small surf town in Ecuador, the vibe was very laid back. I took Spanish classes with some of the guests, learned how to surf, and spent many an evening on the beach watching the sunset. When I was in Banos, a small mountain town, my interactions with the guests were based around finding hot chocolate after a day of hiking or mountain biking. Reading this energy can help you plan for your classes.
If you know guests have been out hiking or surfing all day, you can tailor your lessons to stretch those areas, and take into account tiredness from the daily activities. If your students have been strolling around a town or lying on a beach, they might be looking for a more energetic yoga class.
Digital nomads spend hours behind the laptop. A special focus on improving posture could include a short training session on daily stretches and mini-routines.
Others prefer the meditative aspect of yoga and the extensive benefits it can bring to your general wellbeing and mental health. Speaking with the students could reveal the demand for separate breathing and meditation sessions.
Tailoring your classes to the vibe of the city and your place of teaching is an invaluable skill for a travelling yoga teacher. While some people just want to stretch, others seek the educational and long term health benefits.
You have the ability to educate and motivate others to live a happier, healthier life. A little physical activity can have huge benefits to the general well being of your students. This information, and the confidence it instils, is a powerful, positive message to spread.
Have something else to work on
If you’re just looking to teach for a month or two, you might be happy to have time off to yourself to explore and relax. However, if, like me, this is a long term endeavour for you, it’s worthwhile to have other paying or passion-based projects to work on while you’re teaching.
This could be something as simple as setting up local yoga classes and workshops outside of what you’ve agreed upon with your teaching location. It could be teaching English online, working with graphic design clients, starting an art project, or seeking out something important to you.
With the recent explosion of Zoom and other video conferencing platforms, live-streamed yoga classes are increasing in popularity. You can also harness the power of social media and host live sessions on Instagram or Facebook. These are excellent marketing opportunities for your personal brand.
The opportunity to teach yoga abroad is a special one and can help you save money, help people have healthier travels, and get to know the local culture. I hope this article has given you an idea of what it’s like to teach yoga abroad and learn how you can get started!
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