The Nomad Yoga Story
When you consider the origins of the word Yoga – which comes from the Sanskrit for ‘yoking’ or ‘union’ – and Nomad, which intrinsically means to ‘wander’, or adopt the lifestyle of an intrepid itinerant, you get an insight into how Hoi An’s ‘Nomad Yoga’ came into existence. Let’s explain further.
Natalie Prete first came to Vietnam as Natalie Devoy back in 2005. Originally from a small fishing village in the Northeast of Ireland, Natalie pursued a career in hospitality and for a number of years worked in 5-star corporate hotels in the US and Holland. Yearning for a break from the fast-paced hospitality industry, she opted to come to Vietnam through the Volunteer Service Overseas. This gave her the sea change she craved but also enabled her to contribute to a community in a meaningful way. She trained teachers at a hospitality college in Hue on how to run a hotel and remained in this role for 2 years. When her voluntary service was complete, she found she wasn’t ready to leave Vietnam and so took on a position as Training Manager with the Life Resort group and moved to Hoi An (in Hoi An this hotel is now the Anantara Resort). During her tenure at Life Resorts, Natalie developed a keen interest in massage and after 4 years was ready to travel again and to study massage in Bali, India and Thailand.
But a different opportunity arose. An old colleague invited Natalie to take on the role of Spa Manager at the groundbreaking Fusion Maia resort – the world’s first spa-inclusive resort. It was an important position where she could hone her skills further in the health and wellness field of hospitality. It also meant she would stay in Hoi An. Luckily this choice coincided with her meeting Julien, her now husband, in 2010.
After 3 years at Fusion Maia and also part-time studying for a Diploma in Nutrition, Natalie decided to go on a sabbatical to study more and work out where in the world Julien and her would be most at home. Julien had also been running his own restaurant in that time and they both needed to explore again – as a couple. During their time away, Natalie completed a course in anatomy and massage at the renowned Chiva Som Academy in Bangkok and went to Nepal where she went on a yoga retreat that was life-changing. While Natalie had been practicing yoga for a number of years, it wasn’t until she’d experienced the teaching styles of the Rishikesh yogis (at the Nepali retreat) that she became truly impassioned with yoga. It prompted her to take on a 200-hour course at the Rishikul Yogshala yoga school in Rikishesh, India – recognized as the global capital of yoga and meditation. Here, she followed the teachings of Swami Rama and was introduced to Ashtanga Vinyasa, Hatha and meditation.
When Julien and Natalie returned to Hoi An, Natalie found she really missed the Rishikesh style of teaching and invited her yoga teacher, Vipin, to come to Hoi An for 2 weeks. Through word of mouth (she only alerted her friends of his arrival) every class filled up for the duration of his stay. Vipin and Natalie discussed the possibility of opening a yoga centre in Hoi An that specifically offered the styles of yoga that she had learned in Rishikesh – and he also felt that the Rishikul Yogshala school was ready to expand internationally. However, Natalie was unsure of how the ‘project’ would move forward and in what form.
The lightbulb moment for Natalie came in the form of Julien’s idea to open a café. Julien, who hails from Paris and is an experienced restaurateur and chef, originally wanted to open a coffee and ice cream café in conjunction with his existing business called ‘Pop-Up’ – a cyclo bar used for events and private catering. Immersed in her studies, Natalie hadn’t realized his café concept had evolved and that he wanted to in fact open a vegetarian restaurant in the building next to their house. He’d already rented it and was making renovations when she went in to take a look. The space immediately appealed to her. While downstairs was being furnished as a dining space, there was a perfect studio space upstairs – roomy enough for at least 10 people to do yoga comfortably. The light, air and atmosphere felt right. Before overthinking it, she skyped Vipin and asked him to send a teacher over – which he agreed to immediately– and thus the Nomad Yoga and café concept was officially formed. Just 1 month later the yogi from Rishikesh had arrived and Nomad Yoga was in operation – as was Nomad café.
The name and concept makes more sense in looking back at both Natalie and Julien’s stories (Julien’s is yet to come). Both have been travelers; nomads of the world. They found each other in Hoi An. Kismet, fate, gravitational waves. Whatever you might call it, however you wish to view it. Their union was meant to be in Hoi An. While they both arrived in Vietnam in 2005 – just days apart – and were both in the same city (Hanoi) for 6 weeks they didn’t meet until 5 years later in Hoi An. They fell in love and married not more than a year after. The etymology of the word ‘yoga’ is symbolic in this case not just because it has become Natalie’s vocation but because it is as a symbol of her and Julien’s own union – in both soul and mateship. It combines not just their love for each other, but their own life passions – a yoga school (Natalie) and a café (Julien).