I wake up just before dawn, pull on bike pants and a tank, and head over to the beach. The stars, a crescent Moon, and Venus are beginning to fade, and the soon-to-rise Sun creates a breathtaking skyscape of magenta, cerulean, and navy. The surf is very high this morning. The sea’s rhythm makes it seem as if the very Earth is breathing in the day. I slip into pranayama, then meditation, with ease.
I’ve come to a resort on the Pacific coast of Mexico to teach yoga on a weeklong teaching “vacation.” In that moment just before daybreak, I am at peace and infused with bright gratitude.
Once again, I’ve merged my love of travel and the joy of sharing yoga. I feel blessed, blissed, and ready to teach the 8 a.m. class when 12 sleepy people step onto the mats I’d set up earlier.
I learned about teaching vacations a few years ago on a girls’ trip at a resort in Jamaica. After attending a yoga class overlooking the Caribbean, I asked the teacher how she landed this #goals gig. She told me about “teacher travel” companies that allow yoga and fitness instructors to spend weeks at luxury resorts in exchange for a few hours of teaching. I was intrigued.
Traveling and teaching, a dream vacation
I reached out to Suzelle Snowden, owner of Fitness Pro Travel. She’s been matching yoga instructors and fitness pros (including Pilates, aerobics, and Zumba teachers) as well as DJs—with all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South Asia for 30 years. In exchange for teaching a daily class or two to other travelers, you receive a week of luxury lodging. The fact that you can bring a guest for free? That’s like the last, best moments of savasana.
“There are endless possibilities to travel in luxury and share your passion for yoga with the world,” she says. “It is a truly unforgettable experience; you have to go to know.”
Here’s how yoga vacations work
Companies like Fitness Pro Travel, NRG2GO, and Fitness Vacation Exchange screen teachers online. They require at minimum a 200-hour Yoga Alliance certification and one to two years teaching experience. You may also need a current CPR/AED certification.
Once you’re on board, the company offers guest teachers ongoing support with travel questions, and sets clear guidelines and expectations. A robust chat board offers location info and tips from other teachers who have visited the resort. Some travel teaching companies offer training opportunities so you can accrue continuing education hours toward certification maintenance. They may also offer concierge service if you want to host your own yoga retreat.
At the resort, guest instructors are considered an extension of the fitness and entertainment staff. Your job is to plan and teach one or two 45- or 60-minute classes a day, and to talk up your classes to other vacationers. You set up your space with on-site mats and props and, if you like to play music in class, bring speakers and a playlist.
Your yoga “students” are likely to be people with varying levels of yoga experience. A surprising number of people are trying yoga for the first time when they come to your class. Be prepared to teach beginners–check for injuries or health issues, offer an array of variations, and remember that most people are here to have a good time, not participate in a yoga intensive.
When your class is over, the rest of your time is your own to explore the country you’re visiting or lounge around the resort to your heart’s content.
After teaching, I prioritize relaxation. My companion and I laze about in hammocks, get free massages, and go parasailing and upright paddle boarding. Meals at the resort are free and plentiful, with an array of restaurants that offer various cuisines. I pile my plate high with local fruits vegetables, and the best of local cuisine. (Drinks flow freely, too, but my drink of choice is sparkling water with a twist of lime.) We wander into town to go shopping, sample local eateries, visit museums and art galleries, and learn about the local culture. It’s a marvelous vacation and, because I’m doing yoga every day, I treat it like my own wellness retreat.
What to know before you go
If there’s a caveat, it’s this: You don’t get paid. In fact, you pay a program fee that ranges from $500 to $750. And you are responsible for your airfare and expenses involved in getting to the resort. But when you calculate rates for all-inclusive resorts, the fee amounts to a fraction of what a week’s stay would cost, and that includes your companion.
For my first yoga teaching trip, I returned to the resort in Jamaica where I first learned about the program. I’ve since taken my husband on a trip to celebrate our anniversary and shared the experience with girlfriends.
Now, my goal is to go on multiple-week vacations to maximize the cost of airfare. Your minimum stay at a resort is one week, but you can plan and book back-to-back weeks. “You might choose to stay at the same resort for more than one week, if it’s available, or resort-hop around a specific area to accumulate different experiences,” says Snowden.
Either way, it’s an ideal way to treat yourself to the deep rest and adventure you long for while sharing the practice you love. Go to know!
About our contributor
K. Anoa Monsho is a freelance writer and yoga teacher based in Atlanta, Georgia.