Monday, February 26, 2018

Teaching Yoga at Plantation Villa. This is How it Ended

Teaching Yoga at Plantation Villa. How it Ended

Updated 10/06/18. I was considering ending my yoga teaching gig at Plantation Villa (the Ayurveda resort I mentioned before) pretty much as soon as I arrived. But I didn't want to break my daily routine, and I didn't want to waste time, or money, searching for another place where to teach.

It was not an easy choice. So I tried to give it some time to make sure I didn't take any rushed decision.

Update 03/03/18: You can watch the summary of this blog and the previous blog on my second vlog:

What I had given up to be there

Several months before I started teaching yoga at Plantation Villa, my family had asked me to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve with them in the US.

By that time I already had made an agreement to teach at Plantation Villa, starting from the 1st of December. But I did want to see my family during the holidays.

So the beginning of October I emailed the owner to check if I could leave for a couple of weeks in December to spend Christmas with my family in the US.

I was not expecting much. I knew we already had an agreement, but I thought it wouldn't be a big deal since I was going to stay there for six months anyway.

She responded that this was not possible. December was the busiest season at Plantation Villa and they really needed me to be there.

I understood and accepted her response without any complaint. I confirmed her my commitment to teaching there for six months starting December.

But once I was there, dealing with the accommodation issues, the mealtime rules and experiencing the treatment that we were receiving as yoga teachers, I couldn't believe I was going to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve at this place.

I was really not in a good mood those first few weeks.

Moreover, once I arrived at Plantation Villa I realized that it could have been so easy to make an agreement with Alana, the other yoga teacher, so that I could be away for two weeks.

I was feeling really irritated. I could have spent the holidays with my family, or I could have stayed at Angkor Zen, in Cambodia, and have a fantastic time with them. But it was too late for me to plan a trip anywhere.

Having these thoughts in mind didn't make my stay any easier.

I decided to be truthful to myself.

As you can imagine all of this made my experience teaching yoga at Plantation Villa quite disappointing. I didn't want to stay any longer. Staying any longer felt like disrespecting myself, which is completely unacceptable to me.

But at the same time, I didn't want to have a break from my daily routine, not even for a day. I was feeling so focused and productive. I didn't want to waste any time searching for another place where I could teach yoga and meditation.

Luckily, while I was trying to decide what to do, Fred, the manager of Angkor Zen, sent me a message asking me if I would like to come back in March to Cambodia.

Of course, I wanted to go back to Angkor Zen. I actually never wanted to leave!

So I decided to shorten my stay at Plantation Villa to three months instead of six. I wanted to leave earlier but logistic-wise it was better for me to stay till the end of February.

On the 20th of December, I wrote an email to the owner to let her know about my decision. In a very brief email, she responded that it was all right. She thanked me for letting her know in advance, and she added:

"I also wanted to let you know as we had a few guests emailing our head office asking for refunds noting that the yoga class is too hard and they couldn't participate.

You might want to keep the yoga to a little more manageable level as a lot of the guests are not really regular hardcore yoga practitioners..."

I was like, really?

Almost every day I had guests approaching me to tell me how much they enjoyed my yoga classes, and how grateful they felt that I was there.

And these were not just young fit people. Many of them were beginners or had very limited mobility due to their age.

"Whatever," I thought.

A not so merry Christmas

The Christmas dinner was such an awkward moment.

The staff arranged the garden with Christmas lights and with a long table so that all the guests could sit together for a nice Christmas dinner.

During the day Alana asked the manager, "What about us (the yoga teachers)?" He answered that there was no space for us.

So the two of us were supposed to have a "lovely" Christmas dinner, all by ourselves, in... can you guess where? The kitchen!

Of course, the inevitable happened. When the dinner was ready the guests started calling us, asking us to join them for dinner.

That was such an awkward moment. They were saying, "Alana, Marco, come, join us!" while we were standing at the entrance of the garden not knowing what to do. There was no space for us to fit in.

But since it was a request of the guests, after a couple minutes observing the reaction of the guests, the manager instructed the staff to add another table and chairs so that we could sit with them.

I shorter my stay even further

Although I had shortened my stay to three months I still wasn't feeling at ease. Something was still bothering. I wasn't being fully truthful to myself.

The point is that I didn't want to be there anymore.

I was staying for three months only because of practicality, and because I didn't want to have a break from my daily routine, but the truth is that I just wanted to leave.

I felt that they didn't deserve to have me as a residential yoga teacher.

I don't say this with pride or arrogance but rather with an honest appreciation of my own self-worth. I respect and value myself. I deserve to be treated much better.

So after journaling for a few days, trying to decide what was the right course of action, making sure that I was not running away from a situation but rather being truthful and respectful to myself, I decided to leave even earlier.

On the 15th of January, I sent another message to the owner, confirming her that I was not going to make it till the end of February. I was now going to leave by the end of January. I could have left right away but I wanted to give her at least two weeks' notice.

This was the best decision ever.

It felt good as soon as I sent that message. I started to feel more comfortable with myself right away, and I started to enjoy my daily routine even more.

I was looking forward to the end of the month though. I was literally counting the days. Lol.

The owner was cordial in her response, lamenting that I had not enjoyed my stay at her resort, but she didn't bother to ask for any reasons or feedback, and so I gave her none.

I got annoyed even till the last day

Guess when we got paid for December... We got paid on the 4th of January. And that's only because we reminded them to please make the payment.

Knowing this, ten days before the end of January I sent an e-mail to the owner to remind her that I would be leaving on the 1st of February. I asked her to please make the necessary arrangements so that I get paid on the 31st of January.

I know. That shouldn't be my duty, but I knew I had no choice. I had to do it.

Five days before the end of the month I also asked the manager at Plantation Villa to talk with the head office so that I receive the compensation by the 31st.

I reminded him about it pretty much every single day, and he confirmed to me several times that I was going get paid on the 31st, for sure.

Well, guess what happened...

I didn't receive anything on the 31st. The manager told me that it was a holiday, but that I would certainly receive the payment the next morning.

Of course, that didn't happen either.

I received the payment on the 2nd of Feb after sending another message to the owner. I can't imagine how long I would have had to wait if I didn't actively ask for it.

She apologized for the delay, but for me, especially under these circumstances, this is completely unacceptable. Such a lack of respect and consideration for the yoga teachers.

I went quiet on social media

I think this is a very sad situation.

Just before I arrived at Plantation Villa I was very excited about this new adventure. I was a bit anxious of course, but I was also really looking forward to it.

I didn't expect it to be as good as my experience at Angkor Zen but I thought it would definitely be good.

I was daydreaming about writing a nice blog post like I did for Angkor Zen, and perhaps making another YouTube video of my "positive" experience living and teaching yoga at Plantation Villa.

I was so excited to continue sharing my journey on my blog, and my social media, like I did in the previous months.

But things didn't work out quite that way.

I was so active on my Instagram before, sharing the love and the passion for what I do, but then all of a sudden I went super quiet.

I lost all my enthusiasm pretty much as soon as I arrived at Plantation Villa. I didn't feel like mentioning them on my feed at all. Why would I connect with them, or promote them in any way?

I had nothing positive to say, and instead, I ended up doing the opposite of what I was hoping. I'm writing a blog post about my not so positive experience.

I could have become a brand ambassador

This is the problem when people don't have a good concept of customer service. Your customers are not only your customers but all the people that form part of your organization.

In my opinion, they haven't realized this at Plantation Villa. This is a lack of vision by the owner and the management of this resort. They've failed to see the bigger picture.

Yoga teachers who come to teach at their resort could become like brand ambassadors, promoting their business for free simply for the pleasure of doing so. And they would do so if they feel really happy in their environment if they feel they are treated with respect and appreciation.

You see, not even for a moment, Marc, the general manager of Angkor Zen, asked me to promote them in any way. I did it, and I continue to do so even right now, simply because I felt happy there and I want to share that experience with others.

As a matter of fact, some of my followers, people who have joined my previous yoga retreats, or people who have been following my blog for a while, asked me if they could join me at this Ayurveda resort in Sri Lanka.

I told them that that was not a good idea.

Even though Plantation Villa would have paid me a commission if I would have brought guests to them, I actually recommended them to wait for a little and join me instead at Angkor Zen, where I will be from the beginning of March till the end of May.

Why would I invite anybody to join me at a resort like Plantation Villa if I can't even sit with them at mealtimes?

Searching for new yoga teachers

The owner of Plantation Villa doesn't like to spend time searching for yoga teachers. That's why she wanted me to stay for six months, and she was quite adamant on that.

But instead of cultivating a positive relationship with the yoga teachers, they cultivate no relationship at all. So although she doesn't like to spend time searching for yoga teachers, she ends up spending more and more time on that task.

I was supposed to stay for six months but I stayed only for two months. Alana was also supposed to stay for six months but she stayed for three months and a half.

That means that they had to start searching for new yoga teachers, and the other yoga teachers that they found, committed for about six weeks or so.

If the teachers, however, would feel absolutely happy during their stay, if they would feel at home, they would extend their stay and they would keep coming back to teach. This is what nomad yoga teachers do.

This is actually what happens at Angkor Zen.

They don't need to search for yoga teachers anymore, or if they do they need to do very little effort. Yoga teachers keep coming back, and by sharing my own experiences in my blog I do my little contribution motivating other yoga teachers to come to their resort.

Esther, the other yoga teacher at Angkor Zen while I was there, extended her stay from three months to five months.

I had to leave after three months because I had the commitment to teach at Plantation Villa. But I'm coming back in March to teach for three more months.

The other two teachers who came after I had already been teaching yoga at Angkor Zen before.

Do you get my point?

Would I recommend Plantation Villa?

That's a tough question. Because of my experience as a yoga teacher, I might be a bit bias. But to be honest, I believe most of the guests do enjoy their stay. It is not by accident that Plantation Villa has 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor.

The staff is super friendly and kind, and if you are a guest they will treat you as a queen or a king. They really go above and beyond to make the guests happy.

I think this is probably the highlight for the guests during their stay. It is the people working at Plantation Villa what makes their stay so special. They love the staff and the staff loves them back.

The location of Plantation Villa is another highlight. It is truly beautiful. There is so much green around. You can go for nice long walks in nature, even within the premises of the villa.

Walking path within Plantation Villa premises

As I mentioned on my Instagram, my days wouldn't have been complete without my daily 20 min walk in nature.

The yoga hall is fantastic. Such a pleasure to teach and to practice yoga there, except for the annoying flies and mosquitoes.

Yoga hall at Plantation Villa

I also heard many good things about the Ayurvedic massages. Alana and Lucilla, the two other yoga teachers, really liked them. And the guests seem to enjoy their daily treatments. I can't talk through personal experience because I never tried them.

The food is also pretty good. I must say though that the food is not as healthy as they claim. They use refined coconut oil and regular table salt. For an Ayurveda resort, I think that's quite disappointing.

I don't know much about Ayurveda but the two other yoga teachers had studied Ayurveda before. They told me that the food is not really Ayurvedic, it is simply Sri Lankan food.

Ayurvedic or not I think the food was still pretty good. I didn't like the dinners though. I think they tried to make the dinners more Western-friendly, but there was too much rice flower, at least for my taste.

If you suffer from allergies I should also let you know that some of the rooms have a damp and moldy smell. Having no mosquito nets on the windows doesn't help. You have no choice but to sleep with the windows closed at night.

But regardless, I think most of the guests really enjoy their stay.

So if you are looking for a nice Ayurveda resort in Sri Lanka, based on the experience of the guests, I would say that Plantation Villa (affiliate link) can be a nice place to visit.

I would ask you though if you ever go to Plantation Villa as a guest, make sure your yoga teachers are taken good care of.

Teaching yoga at Plantation Villa

Now, if you are a yoga teacher searching for a teaching gig in Sri Lanka....

Well, I guess you already know my answer. I can't recommend you to come to this place.

Update 10/06/18. Such a small world. I met Lucilla and also Ceran, the yoga teacher who joined Plantation Villa after I left, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Ceran actually came to the same yoga retreat in Cambodia where I was teaching.

As soon as we met we talked about Plantation Villa. Both of them had a completely different experience. Ceran enjoyed his stayed so much that he is looking forward to come back.

They told me that the article that I shared on my blog might have helped to improve things a little. So I asked Ceran to write a comment about his experience. You can read his comment at the end of Why I Stopped Teaching Yoga at an Ayurveda Resort in Sri Lanka.

Perhaps one day they will change their attitude towards yoga teachers, but until that day comes I can't recommend you to teach there.

You might manage to make yourself sufficiently comfortable. You might be able to make the best of your experience there. But if you are in the yogic path you know how it is. We strive for self-love and self-respect. We can't accept being treated anything less than we deserve.

Staying in a place like this will suck your joy and energy away. I've seen it with my own eyes. Although we can adapt and enjoy our time, there is still a part of us that suffers. Don't ignore how much you deserve to be treated well.

This is another reason why I'm writing this blog post. I like to share my journey as a nomad yoga teacher, but I also like to share my experience so that other yoga teachers know what to expect.

But of course, since we are all different we can all have different experiences.

For a different point of view, I suggest you take a look at the comment of Gemma Bonfiglioli on my previous post. She was a yoga teacher at Plantation Villa and her experience was completely different.

Is not the staff fault

Although I don't appreciate how the staff treats the yoga teachers I know that it is not their fault. I have nothing against the staff. In reality, all the staff is really nice and friendly.

The problem is simply because of their training, and because of the culture of the organization, and in my opinion, the culture is established by the owner and the management of the resort, not by the staff.

It is not my intention to hurt anybody's business by sharing my experience. Not at all. It would be terrible to know that the staff, who work so hard from morning till night, are left without a job.

But I must tell things as they are. I have to share my experience. This is what my blog is all about.

Hopefully, the owner will change her attitude and a new internal culture, more positive and caring towards their yoga teachers and the staff members, will be cultivated at this resort.

Visiting a yoga retreat

If you are interested in joining some really awesome and unique yoga retreats in Sri Lanka I suggest you visit my blog 7 Unique Yoga Retreats in Sri Lanka for Every Budget.

It is my personal wishlist of yoga retreats I would love to visit in the future.

It includes surf and yoga retreats for the beach lovers, retreats with amazing vegan food and Ayurveda-based therapies for the health-conscious, and yoga retreats by the jungle for those who love nature, wildlife and hiking.

If you are interested specifically in yoga and Ayurveda retreats then you can visit my blog Top 7 Yoga and Ayurveda Retreats in Kerala [With Reviews].

India is just next door to Sri Lanka and Kerala is by far the best destination for Ayurveda with many different options for all budgets.

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A valuable experience

Although I didn't appreciate the way yoga teachers are treated at Plantation Villa I still feel this was a valuable experience for me.

As I mentioned in Why I Stopped Teaching Yoga at an Ayurveda Resort in Sri Lanka, I enjoyed a lot having the opportunity to teach hatha yoga and meditation to their guests.

I enjoyed a lot those evening Meditation Q&A sessions, and I really enjoy being very productive with my free time, using every single second of my day to do what I love.

I lost that routine pretty much as soon as I left Plantation Villa. I knew that would happen. Luckily I'll be teaching at Angkor Zen soon, starting March 1st, so I'll have a new routine in no time.

I will tell you more about where I've been, and what I have been up to since I left Plantation Villa in my next blog post.

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