If you’re a skilled yogi or yogini with a yen to travel, you don’t have to wait for your next vacation to hit the road. Working as a yoga instructor overseas is a perfect way to combine your love of asana with getting paid to do what you are passionate about and seeing the world. Whether you’re already a certified teacher or not, teaching yoga around the world is a rather simple process, if you follow these five steps.
1. Get your yoga teaching certification.
If you’re interested in yoga enough to consider becoming a teacher, you probably already have some idea of the kind of yoga you prefer. Every style of yoga has slightly different certification processes; there is no central licensing body for all kinds of yoga everywhere. Kripalu Yoga teachers, for example, are only licensed through the Kripalu Center for Yoga in Massachusetts. Your preferred yoga studio may also offer teacher training courses.
Yoga teacher training courses that are run by Yoga Alliance’s Registered Yoga Schools are highly respected, and offer many opportunities, from intensive residential programs that complete the coursework in a month or less, to programs that happen every other weekend over six months. Remember: just because a teacher training course is taught by someone very well-known, does not necessarily mean the quality of the course is better than one taught by your favorite yoga teacher in your hometown. A training course in Bali is not “better” than one in Boise; it all depends on you, what you hope to get out of it, and what kind of teacher you’d like to become.
You can start looking for a Yoga Alliance RYS in their directory, especially if you have some idea of where you’d like to study. Course fees can vary wildly also, so find a course that fits your budget. If you aren’t interested in a Yoga Alliance school, you can look at other options; YogaFit is another large organization that offers teacher training in both general yoga and specialist courses, like prenatal or senior yoga. If the program you choose to take is accredited or nationally recognized, it will be much easier for you to find a job — for example, YogaFit is recognized by the American Council on Exercise. Specialist coursework can also improve your chances of employment: anatomy, acro-yoga, or yoga therapy are all niche markets that would make your skills very appealing.
2. Decide where you want to go and for how long.
You don’t have to sell all your personal belongings and throw your yoga mat bag over your shoulder for an indefinite period of time; you can start out on a smaller scale, with a few months or a season as a “working holiday”. If you are new to teaching, consider applying to be an in-house yoga teacher for resorts and hotels in tourist destinations. You should also consider whether you are looking for variety — multiple short-term jobs — or stability — one long-term placement.
Check out YogaTrade for an up-to-date job posting list — while this is not a comprehensive listing of every yoga job in the world, retreat hosts and resort owners routinely post opportunities for trained teachers all over the world. You can also join the Facebook group Yoga Jobs Alll Over The World (yes, 3 L’s) for similar opportunities, which range from paid positions to volunteer/internships. Be aware that even unpaid positions often come with room and board included, so you are essentially getting paid by not having to fork out anything for living expenses.
Celebrity Cruises contracts yoga teachers for cruise ships through Canyon Ranch; teachers must be well-rounded (which means they can also teach Zumba or step aerobics), and willing to sign on for a 7-month contract. Instructors receive room and board, opportunities for more permanent employment, and a monthly tax-free wage.
3. Work out how much money you want/need to earn.
Teaching yoga is not exactly a lucrative business, and there is a distinct lack of job security. If you want regular paychecks with benefits, you’ll have to look extra hard for the right opportunity. If you’re prepared to make some financial compromises for the experience, there will be a lot more jobs available to you. You may need to accept a local income (say, living in Thailand and earning substantially less than you would teaching in the States, but with lower expenses), or a stipend plus room and board; you could even barter or exchange your services for housing abroad. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of; nobody should be working for free, especially not a trained instructor. But if you’re interested in seeing the world more than getting the big bucks in your pocket, you will have many more chances to pack up your suitcase and go.
If you want to make the most of your smaller income, try to travel over-land rather than by air (or take advantage of bucket airline seat sales), and to nearby countries, rather than zigzagging across the globe.
4. Get a following and do retreats.
If you’ve been practicing and teaching for awhile, or you have a unique skill or niche market, consider putting together a workshop series and encouraging studio-owners to bring you in for specialty workshops. Are you particularly good at arm balances, backbends, inversions? Can you put anyone to sleep with the restfulness of your voice? Sell yourself to yoga studios as a unique learning opportunity, and you can be flown around the world on their dime to bring your knowledge to their pre-existing student base. When you start teaching more classes and workshops and develop a “following” — people who are interested in taking your classes wherever you might be — you can pretty much write your own ticket.
5. Find out the visa requirements for wherever you’re going.
Not every country has visa requirements for temporary workers; for example, if you are working for a resort in exchange for room and board only, you may be considered a volunteer worker and not need any further approval. Some countries, like Thailand, require even volunteer workers to have a valid work visa. A work visa is not the same as a tourist entry visa, so do not assume that you are automatically conferred the right to work if you are allowed to enter a country as a tourist.
It is very tempting to work “under the table” to avoid having to deal with complicated visa applications. Keep in mind, though, that if you are found to be defrauding a government by working illegally under the wrong visa, several things could happen: you could be deported from the country and banned from re-entry, possibly for life; you could be arrested and face criminal charges; you could face quite an exorbitant fine. Also, if you think you want to extend your visa or change jobs, you will need to find out the individual processes necessary for the country you are in. Illegally overstaying can carry very harsh consequences.
That said, some countries have unregulated underground economies; for example, in Spain, the black market (those who are working in jobs illegally) comprises 19% of the country’s total GDP. In these countries, it is easier to work without the appropriate visas in place, because it is more common for everyone to work “off the books”. Be aware of the risks you are taking if you choose to go this route, however; the consequences of getting caught can be much higher than the inconvenience of the application process.