How Island Yoga Began – David’s Journey to Koh Yao Noi

Before the creation of Island Yoga, David was a green card holder in the mountains of New Mexico. He was working as a rock-climbing instructor and yoga teacher, riding an abundant wave of seasonal employment the way many young athletes do in the USA. It is commonplace for these hard-working eccentrics to reward a season of long hours instructing tourists with a trip abroad. 

David and his friends regularly came to Thailand for climbing beach vacations in Krabi and eventually heard about an island that was lost in antiquity, “a climbers haven”. He set off to discover Koh Yao Noi, and was captivated and entranced by its beauty. He had never before found a place that was so full of natural beauty.

When he returned the following season for a longer trip he chose to spend the entire time on Koh Yao Noi. Although he usually scaled all of Thailand on these trips there was something that felt so right on this big limestone rock in the Phang Nga Bay. His days were consumed by personal interactions with locals, asanas, Thai cuisine, and climbing adventures.

Soon enough, his Visa was ending and his flights approached. Just like every year, the momentum of a well-established life in America was calling… But the spontaneous call to make a home in Thailand was singing a more beautiful tune! Koh Yao Noi was the most transformative environment he had ever found, and that sealed his fate. 

Sitting atop a limestone cliff in Koh Yao Noi with just his backpack, climbing ropes and Ecktara, he decided to leave his possessions for his friends back home and stay on Koh Yao Noi.  He immediately knew it was the perfect location for yogis to truly connect to themselves so he scoured the island looking for a resort to partner with. After many conversations and almost giving up hope, one day whilst strolling along the beach at Tha Khao he spotted a few simple bungalows right on the waterfront.

Ulmar’s Nature Lodge at that time was a simple resort with 3 bungalows run by Ning who was born and raised on Koh Yao Noi. They struck up a partnership so that David would take care of the yoga and marketing side of things, and Ning would make all of our guests feel warm and welcome.

David spent the last of his savings on the construction of a single seven by seven-meter, open-air shala with the help of local builders, with hopes that some students might show up. And that was it! In March of 2009, Island Yoga was born. 

Island Yoga started as a one-man show. David taught every class and checked in every guest for the first year. As word got out about Island Yoga, it became obvious that more and more people would keep coming. Island Yoga needed more space and more teachers! 

The Heart Shala was conceived during the fourth year of business. Like-minded teachers showed up and a small team formed. A couple of years further on, with even more need for space, a grander vision appeared in the form of the Bhakti Hall! 

Island yoga has scaled beyond David’s original expectations. This has to do with the harmony between Western and Thai staff who work side by side to make Island Yoga Vacations a culturally rich experience. After 10 years of continual growth we can now accommodate up to 60 guests at full capacity! Our space is still growing, with new developments and exciting teacher training opportunities popping up every season. Most recently a health food cafe and chill-out area were created where yogis can relax and refresh in the shade with a beach view. 

Though he is a dedicated student of spiritual disciplines like yoga, meditation, and tai chi, David has a lighthearted approach to teaching. He teaches sunrise Tai Chi every day and a dynamic morning yoga class three times per week. He travels regularly in the Indian Himalayas, visits China, and climbs in the Greek Islands avidly. A highly involved leader, David’s next vision for 2020 is to hold silent meditation retreats at Island Yoga.