1. You’re Not in Kansas Anymore
Forget what you are used to back home, you are in a foreign country! Teaching yoga in a foreign country, where yoga is a completely new for 90% of the people, where most people think of yoga as a hippie meditation thing, can be very intimidating. Coming from America and moving to the Western Cape of South Africa, was very scary for me. I’m used to instructing mostly Power Yoga and Vinyasa style, where students commonly come for a workout and for their ego. Here no one has an ego, and they just want to feel what yoga is about. They are new to the practice and so are you. To instruct these students, forget what you knew back home, become a part of their culture and see what they need. Something magical happens during the process.
2. Patience Grasshopper
One of the key principals about yoga is patience, taking a breath, settling in, then letting it go. Not everyone in class is going to understand the postures, which may frustrate them and you. There is always that one yogi in class that looks very confused and almost broken in every posture. Imagine that person, but taking a class from a foreign teacher, and just imagine their frustration too! To survive this, take a moment, walk over to them, laugh a little, and show them the correct way. Never get discouraged by this student, instead let them become your favorite student! Having that small amount of patience and positive attitude means the world to them and will fulfill you as well.
3. Ow Now Brown Cow
Speak very clearly! Although you may be in a country that speaks English, it may be their second or even third language. The language barrier in countries can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you both speak English but still don’t quite understand each other. While instructing students, we are used to our own slang but for them it’s foreign. From your first experience, notice how you describe postures, be aware of how they respond, and hopefully you don’t get blank stares and statues after telling them to swan dive forward fold. Speak very clearly and try to think of ways to broaden your cues so that the students understand. And every once in a while it’s still fun to throw in some new slang for them to learn!
4. Build Your Billboard
Market yourself as much as possible! Coming into a new country with hardly any yoga teachers or classes, you have to use all your branches to market your own special skills. I moved to the Western Cape, where I am literally the only yoga teacher in the whole Cape. It is really quite amazing and makes you feel very appreciative to have a skill and knowledge that you can pass on to students who, hopefully, will be very thankful to have you there. Use that desire to market yourself, showing how you can help with their fitness and health, and to escape their daily routines by adding yoga to their lifestyle. People love foreigners coming to their country, hearing stories and living vicariously through them, so they would love to have you bring a part of your life to them. You will meet many people and make so many connections. Just use every resource available to get people to your class, and remember that things that build the slowest are always worth it!
5. Love What You Do
No matter where or who you are teaching, you have to love what you are doing! While teaching abroad, you’ll find a new appreciation for sharing yoga with others. Try to find areas that are less commercialized and you can truly connect with your students. It is really amazing to teach people that are not there for their ego and are new to everything. And seeing them notice how different they feel even just after a few classes is so rewarding. When you see that growth in others, your passion will grow as well! You’ll find fulfillment within them and you yourself will become more grounded and happy. Love what you do and that love will become your shadow.
Bekka Glass is from Charlotte, NC and currently living in the Western Cape of South Africa. She graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Film, but afterwards decided to pursue her passion with yoga and become a Yoga Instructor. She also teaches StandUp PaddleBoard (SUP) and SUPyoga. She started traveling to see the world and experience new cultures, and thought what better way to do this by teaching yoga abroad! [email protected]_glass.