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I hop from one foot to the other, before realizing what I’m doing, and instead, I still myself and breathe deeper.
I can hear them coming through the entrance hall, as it fills with excited chatter. I’m about to meet my next group of students. Despite a decade of teaching, I still get butterflies before a new retreat. After all, each one is such a unique blend of personalities, often from unfamiliar places, and it is impossible to anticipate my approach.
Over tea and deliciously indulgent, vegan-chocolate brownies I learn that this party of 20 people represent no less than 17 countries between them. I’m British, living in Amsterdam, and we’ve all come together at a retreat in Central Portugal. The world suddenly feels very small.
My mind begins to race, moving through the vast databank of information I’ve carefully collected over the years, searching for insight and cultural clues into how these people might tick, so I can decide how I should teach them. Although we are all so similar, there are subtle differences that, for teachers, may bring a few surprises.
It’s funny. When I first started teaching, I didn’t give any consideration to the impact country and culture might have. I’m not sure I even imagined I would, one day, teach abroad. But finding and securing yoga jobs overseas has become easier thanks to websites like yogatraveljobs.com and Workaway.info. So I became a traveling yoga teacher.
While yoga will always be my guiding light, meeting and teaching people from all over the globe has become an endless source of inspiration and delight.
Here are a few unexpected things you’ll learn from teaching yoga abroad.
1. You will gain a deeper sense of connection and community
You will develop friendships all over the world and your community will spread across the entire planet. You will start to realize how connected we all are, as you see the similarities in the stories we all so clearly share, giving you a deeper sense of oneness and unity.
2. You understand different cultures more than before
You will have direct experience of countries and cultures that were previously foreign to you, which installs in you more understanding, respect and empathy for others.
3. You learn to adapt your teaching
You will learn to consider the cultural appropriateness of your class content, as well as identifying certain patterns in people according to country and modifying your teaching as necessary.
4. You will develop your language
Your first language won’t necessarily be everyone else’s first language. So you will learn how to choose your words more carefully and communicate your ideas with greater clarity while keeping it simple. It’s likely you will pick up or develop a second language too. And, don’t be surprised if you develop an unusual, culturally neutral teaching voice.
5. You will learn to laugh at yourself
Not everything you try while teaching will work or even be properly understood, so learning to laugh at your failures and celebrate your successes is essential.
6. You’ll become more resilient
The truth is, teaching a diverse group of international students can be challenging. However, it will change you in more ways than you could possibly think of and offer you opportunities for growth that simply aren’t available on your home turf.
Teaching yoga aboard is a rich and deeply rewarding experience. I’d encourage anyone who is wondering about it to go for it, at least for a short while. Your heart will be all the fuller for it. You don’t have to necessarily even teach. You can also look for a position on the support crew at a yoga school or retreat, and learn that way too.