Victoria Nhan
Originally from Canada, Victoria (or Vic amongst her friends) left the comforts of home and a stable career to wander the big, beautiful world in 2016. Through her travels and explorations, yoga and mindfulness have kept her grounded, taught her to bring awareness to all levels of the body: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. It has helped (and continues to help) her transform. The practice has helped her cultivate more love, peace and joy. Teaching in studios and spaces around the world, Victoria loves sharing the practice and guiding students to cultivate love, peace and joy on the mat and within themselves.

On and Off the Mat with Victoria, a Traveling Yogi, Mindfulness Meditator, and Digital Nomad

How long have you been practising yoga?

For about 5 years, but yoga didn’t become a lifestyle until I did my yoga & mindfulness teacher training in the summer of 2016. I learned that the practice is so much more than merely physical.

How important a role does yoga play in your life?

Yoga, and mindfulness play an incredibly huge role in my life. The practice has taught me to listen to my heart, to my body, and to deepen my understanding and the way I live life, in the present moment where compassion, love and understanding are cultivated.

What is your yoga philosophy?

Yoga is more than just physical asanas (poses). Yes, physically it is a great way to build strength and flexibility. But yoga and mindfulness are much more; it’s about creating space where there wasn’t space before – in body, mind, and spirit. It’s about connecting back to yourself, taking care of yourself (on all levels: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual). Yoga gives us a chance to slow down in a very rushed world, and we get to “be”, not just “do”.

How important is meditation to your yoga practice?

Meditation is extremely important, and probably more important than asanas in my personal practice. I practice the teachings of Plum Village, and mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh where he teaches us that meditation can be brought into everything we do – from walking to eating, to washing the dishes. To meditate is to focus on one thing at a time, either on our cushions, mats or in tasks in daily life.

What style do you most enjoy teaching?

This is a difficult question! I love teaching them all – but if I had to choose, I’d say gentle Hatha or restorative yoga. Both practices are extremely powerful, in that we cultivate more breath and awareness instead of all the focus being on powerful, strength poses. Yoga is an opportunity to bring awareness to different aspects of our lives, our emotions, thoughts, feelings and then let them go. Cultivate strength and resilience, but also compassion and understanding. If I can help students do that on the mat, I’ve done my “job” 🙂

What has helped you improve your classes since you first started teaching?

Making sure I had a strong self-practice! Teaching from your own experience and practice is how I teach. I can’t teach students something that I don’t do or don’t believe in – it feels too fake and I think others feel this too. So making sure I also made time for my own self-practice, I am able to teach truly from the heart.

Also, reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s books and going to other yoga classes – where you learn a lot about different poses and cues you could bring to your practice and what you don’t want to bring to your practice. Thich Nhat Hanh’s books are super helpful in deepening my own practice, and in deepening my practice – I am a better teacher as you can only teach from your experience.

Tell me about your yoga teacher training.

My 200-hr training was a Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training with saigon om, and it changed my life. It really woke me up to life, actually. The yoga part was great, but really what I took away from it was the practice of mindfulness – how to bring awareness to my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and then how to take care of them (the joyous ones and the not joyous ones). I learnt more about my body, my tendencies (or yoga doshas we call them), and how I could use the practice of yoga (a mindful movement) to help me cultivate more peace, love and joy.

What made you decide to train as a yoga teacher?

I just quit my job, sold all my stuff, and left the comforts of home. I had always wanted to do my YTT as a way to deepen my practice, to learn more about myself and yoga, I didn’t really want to teach yoga or be a yoga teacher. I was on this new journey to find and participate in things that made me happy – so I took the leap and invested in a month-long YMTT with saigon om.

Even as we started the art of teaching module of the training, I was still thinking, “Nope, not gonna teach, it’s too much pressure”. But then something clicked: the practice is so powerful and it’s helped transformed me (and continues to transform me), so why shouldn’t I go out there and share it?! Now teaching brings me so much joy. I love sharing the practice. I love seeing students try something new. I love seeing how yoga creates joy in the students. In sharing the practice, I continue to deepen my own practice. After every class, I’m buzzing with good energy (and if I’m not, it means I was a bit off in my own practice and didn’t share fully from the heart or wasn’t fully present when I taught… which happens, we are human).

How has yoga changed your life?

How yoga & mindfulness has changed my life: I was introduced to mindfulness meditation a few years ago, while working at a violence against women organization. The counselling department had brought a lot of mindful practices into the workplace as a form of self-care. I didn’t really start to understand and practice mindfulness until I learned about mindfulness in the Plum Village Tradition and teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh at my 200-hour yoga & mindfulness teacher training. Thay (teacher in Vietnamese and what Thich Nhat Hanh is often affectionately called) teaches us that mindfulness is bringing our awareness to one single focus – whether that is breathing, washing the dishes or riding a motorbike. That’s what mindfulness is about, awareness of a single focus in the present moment.

Mindfulness allowed me to become more self-aware, and with this awareness, transformation started happening (and continues to!). I started bringing awareness to the way I lived life: very rushed, multi-tasking, often to finish a to-do list, with little patience and a short temper. Once I was aware, I was able to consciously slow down. In slowing down I started to notice the Wonders of Life, as Thay calls them. The trees, the sky, the food on my plate, the people around me. Mindfulness taught me how to really live life, to move, speak and act with more compassion, love, peace and understanding. I often ask myself, “Did I cultivate love, peace and joy?” whenever I write an email, send a text, or make a post on social media, and in doing this I first cultivate these three things in myself, and then in others.

Yoga is a form of mindfulness, a mindful movement. Yoga is a practice where we step on the mat and leave the outside world off, leave our to-do lists off the mat and focus on our bodies and breath. Yoga is the bridge to connect body and mind, and when we do this, we learn so much about ourselves. That’s what yoga has taught me and how it’s changed my life. It’s taught me about myself, and from there I can transform.

What is your definition of a digital nomad, and how does yoga fit into that?

I struggle with the term digital nomad, it’s such a buzz word nowadays and I struggle fitting into its stereotypical definition. Lately, as I continue to travel and work online, I’ve been meeting a lot of “digital nomads” whose sole focus is all about making money: how do I make more money, how do I sell more bracelets, how do I sell my DN guide and make a better profit, and this makes me sad. I also see lots of people sharing only the sunshine and rainbow side of the lifestyle; there are struggles too. Lately, I feel like being a “digital nomad” is something people are trying to sell. Below are my thoughts…

I think as Digital Nomads we are extremely privileged; we’re not constrained to one office, one city or even one country. We have the privilege to travel across borders and make money while traveling. Often people travel only on vacation, during the 2 weeks they get to take care of themselves away from their job. DNs make this a lifestyle, but we’re also working, we’re not always sipping coconuts on the beach, surfing big waves, or answering emails atop a waterfall. Sometimes I spend hours at a cafe ‘cause I’m on a deadline, or I am in my hotel room typing away – as I am now 😉 But this isn’t me complaining, I still have mountain views from my hotel room, instead of plexiglass! This is me sharing that being a DN is hard work – I’m sure I work more than 40 hours a week – and when I don’t work, I don’t make money and I don’t eat or travel. I see us just like anyone else, we all work to have money for the necessities (food, shelter, some clothing) but as digital nomads, our priorities are on travel, experiences, and in my case food (instead of buying a house, education, a wedding, etc., that tradition and society try to pressure on us).

Mindfulness and yoga are practices that really balance my DN and nomadic lifestyle I am copying my Mindfulness for Digital Nomads workshop description as it might give you an understanding of how I bring these two worlds together. (Ed.: Keep an eye on Nomad’s Events and Workshops page for Victoria’s next Mindfulness for Digital Nomads workshop.)

“Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing.” We bring our body and mind into harmony while we sit on airplanes & overnight buses, answer our emails, and explore the world.

Digital Nomads (DNs) live a lifestyle many envy; they work from beach offices and trot around the globe. But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, DNs also face unique challenges. They work weird hours, spend a lot of time behind a screen, and are continually trying to balance work responsibilities with their thirst for exploration. Being constantly on the move can often leave DNs feeling ungrounded and all over the place.

This special 2-hour workshop will introduce you to the practice of mindfulness and teach you practical tools to feel less stressed on the road, more grounded, and seize every present moment to the fullest. We will practice some gentle yoga postures and energy activating exercises to counterbalance all the sitting and typing DNs do. There will also be an opportunity for us to learn from one another, sharing our challenges, accomplishments and questions with the community.”

Do you think training as a yoga teacher is a viable way of travelling the world full-time?

I don’t teach yoga full-time so it’s hard for me to say. I think it could be, yes. But of course, as anyone who works and travels full-time, this will depend on the availability of work, pay rate – as they’ll differ from country to country, and your living expenses.

I tried to teach yoga full-time but this took the joy out of teaching for me. But now, since I teach a couple times a week it’s the perfect balance to my life behind the computer and it brings me so much joy and love when I share the practice.

What is your advice to aspiring yoga teacher nomads?

Practice yourself; develop a strong practice off the mat in your own life so that you can truly share from the heart on the mat to your students.

Yoga teachers are not perfect or “god-like”. We are human: we fumble, we mix up right from left, we can’t do all 6000+ yoga poses, and that’s okay! Go with the flow – so what if you forgot a side, laugh (and I’m sure you won’t forget that sequence/side in the future). Have fun on the mat, don’t be so serious!

My yoga teachers also taught me this, and it sticks with me: We are yoga teachers, but we’re on the mat to share our experience and share the practice, we are no better than anyone else in the room. We just know a little bit more. Teaching and sharing is not about you the teacher – how good you were, how you remembered poses, how you walked on your hands or whatever – it is about the student and their practice. Did you help them in THEIR practice? So I don’t ask students how the class was, I ask them how their practice was 🙂

Tell me about a day in your life at the moment.

I’m still trying to find a good balance between working, exploring, eating and napping. I think – and my close friends would tell you – that I probably work too much, haha. Every day is literally different but I have some “routines” that help me with work-life balance.

Because so much of my work is online, I consciously need to be mindful of being offline for my own sanity. The more I work online and on social media, it’s becoming hard to be on social media for pleasure, it feels like work! So, I turn my phone to airplane mode at night and don’t turn it back on until the next morning after a coffee. This ritual has really taught me to slow down and enjoy the morning, the sun, and just the pleasure and gratitude in waking up to a brand-new day.

Sometimes I read in the morning with my coffee; after which, I turn my phone on and scroll through my emails (I have like 6 email accounts, it can be overwhelming, hence consciously being ready to check them is important so I don’t get so overwhelmed).

Then I’ll pick somewhere to work for the day: cafe, coworking space, by the pool (if there’s an outlet, internet connection, etc.) and work for a few hours. I usually have a to-do list with a few (there could always be more, but then that gets overwhelming, so I include the few most important ones) items on it. Work through the list and mid-day head back to my accommodation to rest – usually this is the hottest time period, so I find my mind gets really tired from being “on” all the time and I need to either take a nap, lie down and do nothing, indulge in a movie or TV series mid-day.

Then the rest of the day is a mix of: a little more work, hanging out with my friends, exploring a new restaurant or space, trying a yoga class or meditation session, checking out live music somewhere, and usually early to bed.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s hard to answer where I’ll see myself in the next 3 months let alone in 5 years! I don’t know where life will take me, I might still be exploring the world or I’ll be home in Canada to be closer to my family, it’s all very open right now.

But, I do see myself continuing to practice and teach yoga and mindfulness as well as working online. And I’d love to continue to bring these two worlds together by running workshops on yoga and mindfulness for the digitally nomadic (a friend from Chiang Mai came up with this creative name!). The practices have really helped me, so I’d love to continue to share it and maybe if it touches just one person, that’s awesome.