After a long day of travels, I joined Jaclyn Keoh for a class on Aqua Nicaragua’s thatched roof open air yoga deck where she is wrapping up her tenure as the resort’s guest yoga instructor. Aqua’s deck is perched on the hillside overlooking the private cove of Redonda Bay and the crashing waves of the Pacific—one of the finest yoga venues in all Nicaragua.
Jaçlyn’s bright smile, calming presence, and warm demeanor immediately put me at ease. She knew just how to positively encourage and motivate each individual student in their practice while guiding the group through a rejuvenating flow structured to help us release deeply held tensions from the body and mind. Balance work, stretching, and the seamlessly choreographed progressive vinyasa left us all feeling recharged and relaxed. After finishing class, we slipped into shavasana enveloped by the cool breeze and the sound of crashing waves, geckos chirping and howler monkeys roaring in the distance.
Later on, Jaclyn and I caught up over dinner where we chatted a bit about her journey and what it has been like guest teaching at Aqua Nicaragua.
AM: How long have you been practicing and teaching yoga?
JK: I have been practicing yoga consistently for about 12 years. I decided to do my teacher training In Melbourne, Australia (where I am from) at a school called The Academy of Yoga Learning. It was a two year course which worked out to be 1200 hours altogether. I arranged the course around the schedule of my full time job and loved how it gave me the time and space for everything I was learning to really sink in.
AM: Tell me a little bit about your recent journey and decision to become a full-time traveling yoga instructor.
JK: Prior to teaching full time as a traveling yoga teacher, I worked in the corporate world in digital marketing. I decided to leave my position at the end of last fiscal year and immediately took a teaching position in Ubud (Bali, Indonesia).
After my tenure in Ubud ended, I did some traveling around Indonesia and found myself on the Gili islands, just off the northeast coast of Bali on Lombok Island, where I discovered the only yoga center on the island, H2O Yoga and Meditation, where I began another teaching assignment.
AM: What have you enjoyed the most about being a yoga instructor?
JK: So far, the consistent learning and sharing with others has been a highlight. After my two year teacher training, I began to realize just how much there is out there and how much more I had to learn. Yoga is a field that is incredibly broad and deep. You can adopt as much or as little as you would like and I love how there is always something that everyone can take away from practicing yoga.
AM: Are there any specialty areas that you tend to focus on as you teach?
JK: Yes, mostly restorative and Yin yoga. I’ve found from working corporate jobs for many years that people, whether they realize it or not, really need the restorative aspect of yoga along with the meditative and relaxation benefits. An area of interest to me right now is yoga therapy and I am particularly interested in learning more regarding the effects of adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue.
AM: I see that you also run your own business, Nourish Yoga. Would you mind telling me a bit more about that endeavor?
JK: I started Nourish Yoga a few years ago and began by offering restorative group sessions in the corporate setting. I then took on a number of private clients and hired a few other teachers to help me grow the business. That aspect of the business is still continuing right now back home in Melbourne.
Many corporations will offer one class a week for their employees at no cost to help them learn techniques to relax and enjoy a better work/life balance. This was the niche I first got involved in and was able to expand my offerings from there.
I also recently launched a couple of online courses titled “Business Basics” and “Mindful Marketing”, specifically targeted at yoga teachers (or yoga teachers in training) to help them with the business side of their practice. I have found that many teacher trainings are so intensive and focused on the asana and other parts of the practice that there is not much attention paid to the fundamentals of running your own business.
Unless you have a business background, it can be daunting to know where to start. From basic bookkeeping and organization skills to learning how to obtain an Employer Identification Number or finding the right insurance, I focus on the business and marketing components that are traditionally left out from most teacher training courses.
AM: What was a challenge you had to overcome while starting your own business?
JK: When I first got started, time was the resource that was most scarce for me and it was difficult to juggle multiple priorities. Working full-time, teaching, and then trying to get my business up and running was challenging, to say the least.
Coming from a Chinese background, my dad especially was resistant to me quitting the corporate lifestyle along with the steady income so that was another roadblock I had to overcome. Teaching alone is, in my opinion, not enough to sustain the kind of lifestyle I want to build, so I’ve had to be creative, try new things and put myself out there in order to differentiate my services from everyone else’s offerings.
If you are passionate and believe in what you are trying to create, you find the energy to keep moving forward; many times the obstacles work themselves out.
AM: Do you have any person, place, or thing that has been influential in getting you where you are today?
JK: The person that has most inspired me to delve deeper into yoga is a Melbourne based instructor named Camilla Maling, founder and director of the Yoga Lab. Camila is an Anusara inspired yoga teacher, yoga therapist, dancer and sound designer. She has this incredible way of communicating that holds your attention. Every time I go to one of her classes it is so much fun; I always learn something new about myself in a meaningful, long-lasting kind of way. Her work is about getting back to the source and relearning how to listen from the inside out. She is an incredibly inspirational woman!
[See Camila’s Tedx talk on embodiment, self determination, and living from the heart.]
AM: Do you have any book recommendations or other inspirational resources that you have found to be especially helpful in your journey?
JK: I enjoy listening to lecture series by the late philosopher Alan Watts and also resonate with any podcast by Ram Dass. I must say I am a fan of eastern philosophy and the way that it challenges my western upbringing. I am an audio kinesthetic learner, so doing and listening is what keeps my attention and how I best learn.
AM: Right now we are chatting in Aqua Nicaragua’s restaurant overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific. In a nutshell, what is it like to be teaching as a guest instructor at this incredible resort?
JK: I love the fact that I get to interact with people all across the spectrum with their yoga practice, from beginners to those with advanced practices. Learning how to hold the group space together keeps me on my toes and it has been a challenge that I have especially enjoyed! Everybody here has been so lovely and grateful; guests come here primarily to relax and Aqua is such a beautiful and conducive environment for that to happen. You are able to fully let go and relax here and it is rewarding for me to see the transformation that occurs from when someone first sets foot on the property to the day they depart.
When I first arrived at Aqua I was struck by how completely integrated the accommodation is with nature. The fact that the howler monkeys and wildlife are right outside your window and the beach just steps from your doorstep is deeply refreshing and helps put life into perspective. Being next to the ocean is healing for me—the sound of the crashing waves and feel of the salt water on my skin is also very grounding.
There are not many places that I have been to like this—Aqua truly is a special, one-of-a-kind place.
AM: Thanks for sharing your perspective, Jaclyn. The final question I like to ask my guests is: what advice would you personally give to someone looking to expand their yoga practice?
JK: I encourage people to look a little further past the asana of yoga. Asana is just one of the many limbs of a complete practice. For me yoga is a way of life, and I think it is important to continuously look for something from your practice that you can integrate (or better integrate) into your everyday.
I also believe that yoga is for everybody. Yoga has, in many ways, been glamorized and I feel this can turn people off—especially if they think they need to look a certain way or need to have special abilities in order to practice, which is not the case at all! If you can breathe and move a little bit, then you can find a teacher or a class that suits you and can help you get to know yourself better.
AM: Thanks so much, Jaclyn, for taking the time to share some of your story and advice with me. I look forward to the next time our paths cross again!
JK: Happy to speak with you and thanks for joining us in practice today.
Jaclyn discovered Yoga as a teenager after numerous sporting injuries and found Yoga not only helped her recover physically, but also nourished her mind and soul. After working in accounting, marketing and retail buying for 10 years, she realized she did not have enough time for her mental health and emotional development, which lead her to question her path. Jaclyn swapped the comfort of a nine-to-five job for the new possibilities of Yoga and has never looked back.
The vision of Jaclyn’s business, Nourish Yoga, is to help others discover, educate and empower themselves in order to explore boundaries and navigate through life with steadiness and ease. Nourish Yoga exists to encourage you to examine your own physical and energetic landscape, embrace life and fully discover the beautiful multi-dimensional being that you are.
Connect with Jaclyn at www.nourish.yoga.