Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Life of a Nomad Yoga Teacher: Teaching Yoga in Cambodia

My Experience Teaching Yoga and Pranayama in Cambodia

"Please, can you firmly confirm that you will be the new yoga teacher starting on September?" Marc, the general manager of Angkor Zen, asked me on an email. I had contacted him just a day before to see if I could teach yoga at their yoga retreat in Cambodia.

"Yes, I totally confirm Marc," I replied without hesitation.

That was the beginning of probably one of the best experiences that I've had in the last couple of years as a nomad yoga teacher.

I felt so comfortable and happy right from the moment that I arrived at Angkor Zen Gardens Retreat Center, and every single day that passed by it just got better and better.

I had such a great time teaching hatha yoga and pranayama for three months at this beautiful yoga retreat in Siem Reap. If I could have I would have definitely stayed longer but I had other teaching commitments to honor.

The right things happen at the right time

I had seen Angkor Zen ads online looking for yoga teachers since already a few of years ago.

The first time that I wrote them to ask if they would like to have me as one of their resident yoga teachers was back in March 2014. The second time was back in March 2016.

Unfortunately timing wasn't right back then. They had space only when I wasn't available. But this occasion was different.

Marc answered my mail the very same day confirming that they were interested in my profile. That was on July 11. I was traveling in Sri Lanka at that moment.

The following day, after exchanging a few emails, we already had an agreement fixed.

I wanted to stay longer in Sri Lanka

I arrived at Angkor Zen the 28 of August, after spending six weeks surfing and teaching yoga in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka.

I had had a great time in Sri Lanka. A part of me wanted to stay longer in A-Bay, I really like that place, but sometimes life give us signs to help us let go and trust that everything is gonna be alright.

All my close friends in A-Bay were leaving just a couple of days before me. So when the time came for me to leave Sri Lanka, and make my way to Cambodia, I felt ready to do so.

I was also looking forward to teach yoga full time, so although I knew I was going to miss the beach it wasn't too hard to leave.

The agreement with Marc was to teach yoga twice a day, seven days a week, for three months. No days off. Sometimes I was also required to take care of the evening meditation, which I did with pleasure.

The perfect match

There are always two yoga teachers at Angkor Zen who share the four yoga classes per day: three yoga asana classes and one pranayama/meditation class.

How the classes are divided between the teachers is totally up to them.

The previous two teachers decided to alternate the classes each day. One day one teacher would teach the morning classes and the next day the same person would teach the afternoon classes.

I didn't like that idea at all. I know myself and I know that I need to have a fixed routine so that I can do everything that I want to do on a day.

Fortunately Eszter, the other yoga teacher with whom I was sharing the classes, is very flexible.

Yeah, she is a very flexible yogini but also flexible with her schedule. I really appreciated that she was so chilled and cool with everything. She was very open with finding an agreement that would suit both of us.

The best thing was that she is not a morning person. She prefers to teach in the afternoons, and I prefer to teach in the mornings. The perfect match!

So we tested it out for a week. I started teaching the two classes in the morning and she was teaching the two afternoon classes.

We never changed our schedule again. I couldn't have been happier.

My personal three months yoga retreat

I made a very busy daily routine for myself. I was active non stop doing only stuff that I love.

I used every minute of my day to practice, to study, to prepare for classes, to do my online work, to prepare for some future projects and to enjoy the company of the guests and staff at Angkor Zen.

This is what my daily routine looked like:

04:30 Eyes open
05:00 Out of bed
05:30 to 06:30 Personal morning meditation
06:30 to 07:45 Teaching hatha yoga
08:00 to 09:00 Personal pranayama practice
09:00 Breakfast
09:30 to 10:45 Teaching pranayama
11:00 Bodyweight training
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Social media, blogging
15:30 Evening yoga practice
18:15 to 19:05 Evening group meditation
19:30 Dinner
20:00 Socializing. Online research
22:00 Time to go to bed

I felt so happy with my daily routine. Teaching yoga at Angkor Zen became like my personal three months yoga retreat.

I was dedicated to my sadhana (daily yoga practice), I was living at a fantastic place with great company, and at the same time I got everything included. What else could a I ask for?

Getting my rhythm back

Normally I wake up around 4:30 am and start my morning meditation around 5:30 am. But the last couples of years something changed.

I couldn't get up anymore. I would still wake up around 4:30 am but I just couldn't get out of bed till 7 am or so.

Believe it or not 7 am is really late for a yogi who wants to have a long practice including asanas, pranayama and meditation. My ideal practice takes somewhere between three to four hours.

Fortunately at Angkor Zen I started to get my natural rhythm back. This gave me so much satisfaction. I struggled for so long but now it feels as if I am back.

That was another reason why I wanted to teach yoga in the morning. I knew that teaching in the morning would push me to get up earlier no matter what.

The first yoga class at the retreat center starts at 6:30 am. So I set myself to start my morning mediation by 5:25 am to finish by 6:25 am.

That meant that I needed to get up much earlier to do my morning routine before my meditation.

This is not a problem for me since I love to wake up early. Like I mentioned before I always wake up around 4:30 am no matter what, and I never use an alarm.

I didn't always start my meditation at 5:25 am though. Sometimes I had to start around 5:45 cause in the morning I would also take some time to prepare for my classes. That was not bad at all.

The most important part of my day

I love that the daily schedule at Angkor Zen includes a forty-five minutes silent group meditation.

I'm all about meditation so this was by far the most important part of my day. Actually my whole daily routine was like a preparation for that moment.

Meditation is so much easier when you have a fix daily routine, and it is so powerful and special when you can share that time with others in a group meditation.

No wonder why the meditation masters always suggest to try to meditate at the same time and same place every day.

I only wished that the meditation was one hour long instead of forty-five minutes. So many times I wished I could have stay longer, but I know that would have been too challenging for many of the guests who had not tried meditation before.

Putting what I've learned into practice

Teaching pranayama was also one of the highlights of my day.

Angkor Zen's daily schedule included a one hour fifteen minutes pranayama class. That class is usually at the discretion of whomever is the resident teacher at that moment.

Some teachers teach only meditation, pranayama or a combination of everything including asanas, pranayama and mediation.

I loved the idea of teaching a long pranayama class. I had included before short pranayama practices within my classes, ten to fifteen minutes, but a whole class dedicated to pranayama is another story.

I actually wanted to teach a one hour pranayama class for a long time since I believe that the best way to practice pranayama is with intensity, meaning with a long dedicated practice.

This is what I've learned from my teachers. With the amazing teachers that I have practiced pranayama in Mysore (Vijay Kumar, Vinay Kumar and BNS Iyengar), the practice takes about one hour or more.

Even when I did the Advanced Teachers' Training Course at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai, we would start the day at 5 am with a one hour pranayama practice.

So teaching pranayama at Angkor Zen was the perfect opportunity for me to put that in practice.

First I thought that one hour fifteen minutes pranayama class would be too much for beginners but I prepared a nice safe routine suitable to all levels. It was based mainly on the practice that I've learned from my teachers at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram in Rishikesh.

It turned out to be a meditative and relaxing class which would usually end with a five to ten minutes guided meditation.

I enjoyed so much teaching this class. I felt so happy and grateful to be able to share a practice that I love and that I find so powerful and beneficial.

It was also so gratifying to see so many people, who had never tried pranayama before, all of a sudden falling in love with it.

And the other good thing is that teaching pranayama also helped me to stick to my daily one hour pranayama practice, which I did right after the morning hatha yoga class.

Doing more of what I love

Dedicating some time to update my blog and doing the online work that I needed to do has also being really important to me.

Every time I hit that publish button and see one more post on my blog I feel so satisfied and fulfilled.

While surfing in Arugam Bay I didn't feel motivated to write. The extreme heat really doesn't help. But I know sometimes life wants us to focus on other things first.

It was not very easy though to update my blog at Angkor Zen. With my busy daily routine I had only a couple of hours a day to write, and that was right after lunch. Not very easy to focus then.

That's why once or twice a week, after giving my pranayama class, I would take a fifteen minutes bicycle ride to one of the nice restaurants in Siem Reap, that had AC, so that I could focus on writing.

I actually didn't feel the need to go out of the retreat. Going out was usually disturbing to my daily routine, specially for my evening hatha yoga practice, but it was a good opportunity not just to blog but also to get some groceries for my breakfast.

Yes, that's right, I like to prepare my own breakfast (take a look at the video below).

A day in the life of a nomad yoga teacher

I was so excited about my daily routine that when I was thinking about writing this blog about it another idea came to my mind... To share my daily routine on a video.

So I started recording everything that I was doing on a day. It took me a while but I had so much fun working on this video. It depicts exactly what my days look like.

Let me know what's your favorite scene by writing on the comments below the video. And please don't forget to give it a thumbs up and to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I have other video projects in mind.

Some people might question the toilette scene. Some others might think it's funny. I think it is funny but it is also much more than that. It is an important part of the daily routine of a dhyana yogi. Those who knows what I'm talking about will get it.

What made my days complete

So many things have contributed to make of this a great experience.

Everything started with having a great daily routine, busy all day long doing the things that I love, but without the great company that I had I know this would have been another story.

The amazing people that I met from all around the world who came to Angkor Zen as guests, and the amazing staff who make of this a very special place, they all made a difference on my stay as a yoga teacher.

My days were complete thanks to them. I have now so many great memories of my three months at Angkor Zen.

Although I spent most of my time following strictly my daily routine, those moments over lunch or dinner with the guests and staff where so special to me. The perfect balance to my daily routine.

Like that moment where Blackie didn't want to do the down dog with Camilla. We had already been laughing so much for like a couple of hours with Camilla, Fred and Elena before I shoot that video.

I've seen so many times this video and it still makes me laugh, specially when I hear Fred's laugh at the end, "The downdog!"

I got along really well with both Marc and Fred, the general manager and the manager of Angkor Zen.

That's not so surprising to me, I usually get along very well with French people or native French speakers.

Marc is from Belgium, French speaker, and Fred from France. But I didn't know this before I arrived.

I had many interesting conversations with Marc. The more I talked with him the more I realized how similar we are. We have many similar interests and beliefs.

Marc was so pleased to see that I was really enjoying my time at Angkor Zen and he was happy because of the vibes Eszter, Elena, Fred and I created at this yoga retreat.

I had so many laughs with Fred. Every morning he would receive me at the dinning room with a big smile on his face, "ร‡a va Marco?" ready to crack a joke on me at any time.

I was always fooling around with Elena, from Spain. She arrived as a guest but then decided to stay longer and became a staff to manage the social media of Angkor Zen. I called her affectionally the #socialmediaguru. Lol.

It was so fun to make that improvised interview of her while she was trying to interview me. Everyday we had so many fun moments just like that.

And it was so funny to share my dark chocolate addiction with Eszter and Elena. We always had one bar of dark chocolate on the fridge to share quietly after dinner. Lol.

Similar stories

Yes, I've been very lucky. Like I mentioned before in Why I Changed My Plans and Booked a Last Minute Flight, I was exactly where I needed to be.

I don't know how my next adventure is going to be, I feel a bit anxious to be honest but I'm trying not to expect anything and to surrender. These three months has been so magical and unique.

If you want to know more about Angkor Zen you can read my previous blog, In Love With Angkor Zen: Best Yoga Retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I also made another video where Marc gives as a tour around Angkor Zen. In that video you'll also get to visit the Old Market in Siem Reap with me. If you like it don't forget to give it a thumbs up and to subscribe to my YouTube channel.