I had my eye on yogatrade.com for yoga teaching jobs. I debated regularly if I should wait until after yoga teacher training or join immediately to start dreaming of my life in possible yoga teaching scenarios described on the site. One day, I got an email offering 50% off of the subscription fee. I joined that day and applied to positions that night. I applied for a yoga internship in the Philippines, a volunteer position at a juice cleanse retreat in Portugal and to a volunteer position in Nicaragua. I could barely sleep that night, I was so excited.
I heard back from the job in Nicaragua by the weekend. We agreed to interview early in the next week via Skype. I had a great time chatting with my interviewer and relating over the mishaps that occur in a country like Nicaragua or Myanmar. I started off by saying my internet might cut out and she laughed, saying hers was the same. We talked about monsoon seasons and flooding. We talked about language, food, beaches, buses, and interacting with locals. We really hit it off. She said she was also hiring two other yogis for the same position so I could learn from their classes too. That really appealed to me—it would be almost more like an internship than pure volunteering. I was also excited about the proximity to the beach in San Juan del Sur. And I was eager to help out—the hostel had several initiatives in town I could potentially volunteer with. By the end of the call, the position was essentially mine. I got an email formally offering it to me the next day and I accepted within the hour. I told one of my friends about it, and she said it sounded like the volunteer position I would create for myself if I could make up my own dream post. I agreed; it all sounded perfect.
Throughout yoga teacher training, I had an unfamiliar confidence and determination, knowing I would really be using everything we were talking about every day, coming up soon. When we finished our training, I doubted myself and wondered if I was really ready, but I knew I had no choice. My flight for Nicaragua was booked!
In the week leading up to the experience, a string of discouraging events took place. Both of the other yoga teachers bailed. One had trouble with her passport and was nearly thrown in jail in another South American country. The other simply said, “I won’t be able to make it either.” Also the coordinator I hit it off with left the company. Then I heard that elections were coming and there could be violent protests. I didn’t let any of this stop me. In the airport, I almost wasn’t allowed to board since I didn’t have a return flight, but that didn’t stop me either.
When I got to Nicaragua, I stayed in the capital for one night, waiting for a shuttle to take me south to San Juan del Sur. It left 3 hours earlier than scheduled, so I took a “chicken bus” down with a guy I met in the hostel. I told him all about how much I love yoga the whole way (and he actually seemed really interested, though he never did come to my class).
My first day, I got a tour of the hostel, which went something like, “here’s the bar/yoga studio. The mats and stuff are in that cabinet. Do you have any questions?”
My first yoga class was tough. I planned it out and practiced the day before and ran through it over and over in my mind, describing how to do each pose. When the big day came, I had trouble with lefts and rights when I was mirroring the class and questioned how long I was holding each pose. My biggest problem, though, was confidence. I had definite impostor-syndrome. I wanted to tell everyone, “this is only my first class! Sorry if I’m doing things wrong!” But at the end, I thanked everyone for coming and they thanked me. They smiled and seemed happy enough. Weeks later, when I told one of the girls who had come that it had been my very first class that she attended, she said she was shocked.
I got into a good routine of teaching yoga, practicing yoga, meditating, blogging, swimming in the sea, watching the sunsets, taking Spanish lessons and traveling on the weekend.
For yoga, I worked hard to create open-level classes with a collection of variations so that whoever came to my class could be challenged in their own level. I never knew how many students would come, what their level would be, or what kind of yoga they expected. Sometimes “students” far outshined and outstretched me, gracefully bending deep into my prescribed shapes. Sometimes people watched me with a constant perplexed grimace, unsure of how to match their body to mine.
I followed a formula we learned in yoga teacher training to try to address every part of the body using a variety of types of poses. One girl thanked me after a class, saying it was just what her body needed. People asked me what type of yoga I taught, and I said I was trained in Hatha, but it was hard to know. I thought of Pradeep Teotia describing kinds of yoga, “hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, ashtanga yoga, aerial yoga, yoga-lates, acroyoga… some other shit yoga! Yoga is just yoga!” Each day, I came closer to knowing my yoga and learned from my mistakes how to be a better yoga teacher.
Sometimes I forgot my place and had to spend a long pause looking at my notes. Sometimes people corrected me on left and rights. Sometimes people corrected my cuing alignment. One day I had 19 people in a space for 10. Sometimes parades went by and I could hardly even hear myself over the music and drumming. One time, only one student came and she didn’t do the poses I said even when I asked if there was anything she wanted to focus on or if she had any injuries we needed to work around. I also started doing sunset yoga on the beach, which was pretty magical with the waves purring as they crept onto the beach in front of us.
In class, I tried to remember to cue moments to use the straps and blocks. I also learned to go a little slower, breath a little more, and make people do some “weird” stuff. I did restorative poses, chanted om and asked everyone to be still for short meditations. I told people to stick out their tongues in Kali and made little jokes about some of the poses. People laughed with me. Most people who came seemed to enjoy our hour together almost as much as I did. People would smile and sometimes thank me again at breakfast.
Eventually, another teacher did come. It was so nice to have a yoga class to go to and to learn from. We had lots of fun showing each other funky poses and stretches and exploring outside the studio as well.
But there were still some down-sides. The internet came and went, as did the water in the apartment. Sharing the small space with 8-10 volunteers was tough- no one wanted to take on cleaning. The walk home up a dark high-way was frightening, especially after one of my roommates saw a machete-fight. Construction started on the hostel, so I would say, “breathe in [kong, kong, kong] and out” over the hammering noises. I felt lost sometimes waiting for my daily hour of teaching. The wall and the roof of the volunteer apartment didn’t actually meet, so tarantulas and scorpions could (and did) crawl in. I met a toad one night in the bathroom and a cat in the kitchen. A praying mantis leapt into my bed another night in the dark and I nearly killed an Atlas moth in my fan when it came toward my light in the night. Also it was just too darn hot in the apartment. One time, the water tank leaked in through my window, drenching all of my clothes. To top it off, I got fleas from a cat that crept in. In that moment, I called out to the universe “ok, ok! I hear you! I’ll go!” The next morning, the landlord told us to be extra careful because he saw a thief lurking by the bars that served as our apartment’s front wall. That sealed the deal for me. The hostel coordinator said he understood and wasn’t upset about me leaving earlier than originally planned.
I packed up and prepared to go to Guatemala. Everyone said San Marcos is a yogi’s dream. The night before I was planning to fly out, I got an email from my old boss and someone had quit, leaving an opening for me back in my old job in my old world- with my boyfriend and my friends, in the rice paddies, by the dusty markets and the lazy cows, with all those adorable smiling children. My decision was made before the actual job offer even came through. I was back in Myanmar before I knew it.
My first yoga teaching experience was gone as quickly as it came. As hard as the situation was sometimes, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned so much from teaching every day. I was so thankful that they let me experiment and learn and grow as a yoga teacher even though I had no experience, nothing to back me up. They took a chance on me in a way I can still hardly believe. I am also proud to have pushed myself and followed my passion, even if it was a bit short-lived.
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