For every yoga teacher out there in the world, we can all probably relate on some level that when you first start teaching, it’s hard and scary. It requires you to dig deep and make yourself vulnerable to what’s happening within. It also makes you vulnerable to judgment, criticism, and your personal weaknesses, which is hard to stomach if you’re not ready.
I can only speak for myself here, but when I finished teaching my first class I went home and cried, and they were not tears of joy. I walked away from that first class feeling like a fraud. Like I didn’t know anything and didn’t deserve to be up front teaching.
As the saying goes, “the more you learn, the less you know,” and this couldn’t be more true for me when I finished my yoga teacher training. When I left my month-long intensive, I felt confident to teach. Then, I started teaching back home, and I shrank into myself. I lost all confidence in my ability to guide students through a 60-minute practice.
If you’re a new yoga teacher and looking to gain experience or confidence, or maybe you’re a seasoned teacher and feeling burnt out by the daily grind of trying to make a living doing something you love, here are six reasons why every yoga teacher should teach and travel.
Teaching Takes Practice
I taught my very first “real” yoga class at a small, boutique studio in the town where I grew up. The studio owner and various teachers there had watched me grow and strengthen my practice over the years, so when I came home as a certified teacher they were excited and supportive of me teaching.
My first class was on a Friday afternoon, the day before New Year’s Eve. For a yoga studio in a small town ski resort, this is possibly the busiest day and most definitely the most hectic week of the year. I had 30 students in my class, most of them hard-core yogis from LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York; the music didn’t work properly, people walked in late and walked out early, and I was so scared that I couldn’t leave my mat at the front of the room.
When I went home that night after my class, I sobbed. I collapsed on the floor and cried for 10 minutes. Then I went and took a shower and cried some more.
It took at least five classes for me to gain my confidence back after that. Other teachers would ask me to sub their classes and I always turned it down because I didn’t feel “ready” to do it. Ultimately, I didn’t want the students of those teachers to be disappointed in my class.
After teaching about ten yoga classes in a three month period, I was pretty confident that it was something I didn’t want to do.
Then, I started teaching at InanItah.
Teaching While Traveling Allows You to Practice!
What I’ve always known is that teaching yoga, like anything else in life, takes practice. I’ve started teaching between three and five classes a week at InanItah, and it’s been the perfect way for me to practice.
Teaching as a volunteer either at a hostel or within a community setting means that one of the biggest stressors in life, money, is no longer an issue. I can teach classes, and I don’t have to worry about “losing my job” or stressing about my income because students aren’t showing up to my classes. The setting I’m in gives me room to breathe, grow, process and learn from my mistakes in a safe and welcoming space.
There’s No Judgment While Teaching During Your Travels
Teaching yoga while traveling means I get to practice in a safe environment with little to no judgment. I know I’m not the only yoga teacher in the world who is a harsh self-critic and perfectionist, and “Western yoga” today, especially in the United States and Europe, has become more about the physical workout then the inward journey of the self. And while we all say there’s no judgment and your practice is yours alone, that’s not the reality. There is judgment and criticism. I’ve watched students walk out of a teacher’s class because they didn’t like it. I, myself, have harshly critiqued other teachers on their classes (before I became a teacher myself). Everyone is a critic, and everyone has an opinion.
The best part of teaching while traveling is you no longer worry about what other people think. Yes, I want people to like my classes and get something out of them, but at the end of the day, I’m providing a free or very cheap service to other like-minded travelers. The majority of the time theses students are just grateful to have somebody lead them through a yoga practice. I know I always was before I started teaching.
As a new yoga teacher, teaching while you travel is the best way to gain your confidence and find your voice as a teacher. It’s the easiest way to find your style and define what you aim to bring to your students.
You Can Continue Your Education as a Teacher While Traveling
As a new yoga teacher, I’m like a little sponge. I’m constantly looking to expose myself to new teaching styles, new ideas, new music, new books, new teachers, new schools of thought, and new forms of meditation. Yoga today has become so widely accepted and practiced that many of the people you meet on the road are serious yogis or yoga teachers themselves.
Teaching at InanItah has exposed me to different forms of Yin, Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Hatha yoga. I’ve gained a new appreciation for mantras and their use in classes and meditation to quiet and steady the mind. Teaching as I travel has been the most fun way to continue the study of my practice. And as any yogi knows, the learning never stops, we only continue to go deeper, which is what I love so much about the practice.
There’s Daily Inspiration All Around You
It’s hard not to be constantly inspired by what’s around you while traveling. From beautiful backdrops to jaw-dropping sunsets and sunrises to great conversations with fellow travelers and yogis, I’m continually amazed by how inspired I become while on the road.
Inspiration is important while starting out as a yoga teacher because the whole process of teaching can be intense, overwhelming and a bit exhausting at times. But to teach a yoga class with a beautiful volcano towering over the temple where you practice, or to have a class on a platform that overlooks the jungle or the ocean as the sun sets is pretty inspiring. It’s hard not to want to teach in that type of setting!
Teaching While Traveling Allows You to Go With the Flow
When I first started teaching, I would get so nervous before my classes. I had to write down my entire sequence before I taught, and then I would practice it to make sure it was exact. I would spend hours picking out the right music for the perfect sequence.
While I still get a little bit nervous before a class, I don’t stress about it anymore. I now listen to how I feel and what I want to teach, which, I think, makes my classes better, deeper, and more powerful.
Do I want to teach yoga for the rest of my life? I have no idea. Do I want it to be my full-time career? Probably not, but who knows at this point. What I do know is that teaching yoga has been a beautiful tool for me to travel on a budget and continue on my path towards self-growth as I find my direction in this crazy maze called life.