From the crystal clear shores of Byron Bay, Australia, to sunset tadasanas on the Moroccan coast, Christina Kaplan has taught yoga around the globe. A Pennsylvania native currently living in Boulder, Colorado, Kaplan has a wide variety of teaching experiences in near and far corners around the world. We asked her some questions about what it’s like to travel for yoga, and for some pro tips on how to become a traveling yoga instructor. Here is what she had to say.
Becoming a Traveling Yoga Teacher
Kaplan was born with yoga in her genes: her mom became a yoga instructor when she was just a toddler, and she “rolled in and out of the asana practice” throughout her life. Kaplan became more devoted to her practice in her teen years, and became a yoga teacher soon after.
Traveling and yoga, she said, chose her. As an avid traveler, Kaplan found herself eager to share her passion for yoga wherever she traveled to. She has had the best luck finding teaching positions through yoga teacher Facebook groups based in the city she was hoping to work, and created an easy way to network and find available positions.
Her most recent teaching endeavour was in Byron Bay, Australia, which she described as a magical town full of “ backpackers and travelers of all sorts, amazing yoga practitioners, teachers, healers, and turmeric lattes.”
Pro-tip when searching for a teaching position: Be proactive and patient at the same time. Manifest your destiny. Tune into what feels right for you. Take advantage of every opportunity that arises with caution and a strong heart.
The Best and Worst Parts of Being a Traveling Yoga Teacher
Kaplan shared that one of the best things about being a traveling yoga teacher is being able to combine two of her passions: traveling and teaching yoga. She has loved the opportunity to learn about the diversity and culture in various corners of the world, and to embrace each locale she teaches in. She recalls that one of her favorite moments from teaching abroad was during a class she taught in Morocco:
“Towards the end of class, the sun was setting and the room was glowing. So, I led a walking meditation outside of the yoga shala, onto the beach where we all stood together in a grounded tadasana, dug our feet in the sand, and submerged our focus to the transition from day to night. To date, it was the most extraordinary sunset I have ever experienced.”
Teaching in all corners of the world has also taught her that even though cultures, appearances, and languages may be different, there is an incredible connection and oneness among all people.
Logistics have been one of her biggest challenges while teaching yoga abroad: finding places to teach can be a challenge. While some larger cities have many open positions they need to fill, smaller cities or less popular tourist destinations do not have as many teaching positions available. When she first arrived in Byron Bay, Kaplan had trouble finding a studio that needed a teacher. Her solution was to improvise by creating her own space, and she started hosting classes on the beach.
Pro-tip when teaching abroad: Remember who you are and why you are there. Always show up authentically with that intention and gratitude.
Teaching Yoga Where There is a Language Barrier
Kaplan says she has not had too much of an issue with language barriers while teaching yoga abroad, and most of the students have had enough understanding of English and Sanskrit to follow along.
“It all comes down to intuition as a teacher to meet my students where they are at,” she said. “When I do sense a language barrier I will demonstrate [poses] more often than usual and see how it goes from there.”
She also recounted a story from one of her teachers who shared some wisdom from his experience teaching in Japan, where there was a significant language barrier. His students did not know much English, and his Japanese did not go much beyond the words for “yes” and “no.” This teacher’s solution was to simply use what he did know to teach; he would demonstrate poses and simply say “yes” in Japanese for the correct way to do a pose and “no” demonstrating the posture in a way that could be harmful to the body.
Pro-tip when you sense a language barrier: Use clear visual examples and use what you do know of a language if possible!
How Teaching Abroad made Kaplan a Better Teacher
Teaching yoga abroad has made Kaplan the teacher she is today. She says her experiences have helped her expand her horizons and remember to approach teaching and traveling with a “beginner’s mind,” in other words shedding biases and taking in what is around her fully and openly.
Teaching in different locations has also helped her tailor her classes to current events wherever she may be:
“Whether we are exposed to it or not, we are feeling what is happening in the world around us,” she explained. “The current events tend to theme my approach to the classes that I teach. Wherever I find myself I try to stay abreast of what’s happening. It’s necessary to be present and awake to everything.”
She also ties her classes to world events by shaping them around the chakras. For example, after recent tragic shootings in America, she has focused her classes on the root and heart chakras. In terms of the root chakra, this included lots of grounding asanas to cultivate stability and presence in a time of uncertainty and tragedy. In response to this event in terms of the heart chakra, she used heart openers to highlight the importance of love, compassion, and empathy in a time full of hatred and fear.
Pro-tip for honing your own skills when teaching abroad: Maintain your own practice! In Byron Bay, Kaplan said her classes started to feel forced, so she took a break from teaching and focused on her own practice. She said it was difficult to sit back and watch in a town where yoga was so prevalent, but waiting out her “teacher fever” helped her refocus and bring new energy when she returned to teaching.
Kaplan is currently finishing her undergraduate degree at Naropa University, facilitating teacher trainings with her mom year round, and traveling during the summers. Upon finishing school, she plans to facilitate yoga retreats abroad and combine her education in visual art, peace studies, and Somatic psychology with her yoga teaching.