Meet the Exotic Yoga Retreats Team: Nina Butler, Yoga Instructor


It is important to us at Exotic Yoga Retreats that every travel experience we share with you is unique and inspiring. We have taken great care to build a team of travel and yoga experts that organises and facilitates these experiences.

From the moment of your first inquiry, until you say goodbye to the new friends you’ve met on a retreat, it is our goal that every interaction you have with the Exotic Yoga Retreats team is a clear reflection of our shared values.

To this end, we would love for you to get to know our team! This month, we are featuring Nina Butler, Exotic Yoga Retreats instructor and retreat leader. Read this interview with Nina to learn more about her yoga practice and style, and some insights into who she is and what she’s all about.

Where it all started for Nina - yoga with her mother, Diana, in South Africa.

Where it all started for Nina - yoga with her mother, Diana, in South Africa.

Exotic Yoga Retreats (EYR):  Hi, Nina.  First things first- Tell us how you got started with yoga.  What inspired you to begin practicing?
Nina:  I was born into yoga. My mother has been practicing since she was around 14 years old. She continued with yoga throughout her three pregnancies. My brothers and I were all yoga babies. I was the last born and only girl. I remember rolling about on the floor as a child mimicking my mother during her practice. When I was in school, I focused on competitive sports - middle distance running, swimming, tennis and netball. I love sports, but pushed my body too hard and struggled with eating disorders in my teens. This culminated in stress fractures in my ankles, shin splints and malnourishment by the age of about 18. This is when I returned to my yoga roots, seeking out a way to still ‘exercise’ while not aggravating my injuries. Soon, my desire to replace exercise routines (and addictions!) blossomed into a fuller and more meaningful daily practice that included meditation. Yoga was my salvation and guide back to mental and physical well-being.

EYR:  Our guests consistently tell us how much they love the yoga that you teach on retreat.  Tell us more about that! Which traditions and practices influence your teaching?
Nina:  I am influenced by a very traditional Hatha training I did in India in 2010 - this is the foundation of my teaching. Yet, since then I have continued to expand my practice and have experimented with Vinyasa, Ashtanga and restorative styles. I love to mesh all lineages, and teach in a responsive and creative way. I have also practiced extensively in Vipassana meditation, and often find myself leaning on deeply embedded knowledge of Buddhist meditation. Goenka’s voice is forever in my head! 

EYR:  That’s quite a variety!  Given the wide range of your practice, and the wide range of clients that join our holidays, how do you approach instruction on a yoga retreat?
Nina:  There is no set template for this because every group is totally different. This is what keeps teaching on retreats so interesting! Sometimes the environment or the retreat schedule also plays a strong role in influencing the way classes flow. For example, a travel retreat, where the days are full of excursions and touring, calls for a very different type of yoga class and set of themes than an immersive retreat that is held in one location only and includes plenty of down time for guests. I am always receptive to the needs of the group, and our given environment, and tailor the instruction accordingly. So my approach is to listen and watch first.

Nina, a travel, nature, yoga and book lover!

Nina, a travel, nature, yoga and book lover!

EYR:  And when you teach a class, what do you hope your classes leave in the minds, bodies and hearts of your students?
Nina: An open and kind disposition to the world. When a class concludes and people feel that their chests and arms are open to embrace, that their minds are ready to understand and empathise with otherness, then this is a fulfilling class.

EYR:  This is why we love your classes so much. Thanks, Nina!  Now let’s get to know more about you. We love to use some of the questions from the Proust Questionnaire, which was popularized by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist. Proust believed that through answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.   Ready?
Nina:  Absolutely!

EYR:  First off, what is your idea of perfect happiness?

Nina: A long, solitary walk in nature with nothing but blue skies and open vistas.

EYR:  That really does sound like perfect happiness- and you’ll be able to do a lot of that in Tuscany this summer! And, what is your greatest fear?

Nina:  Never being able to escape in nature in solitude. The death of long form fiction writing.

EYR:  What is your current state of mind?

Nina:  Content, focused

Nina with her partner, Chris.

Nina with her partner, Chris.

EYR:  That’s a fantastic state of mind!  What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Nina:  Doing stuff that matters to me - my dreams and job align. I seem to be incapable of doing stuff for the sake of it. I have effectively crafted a pattern in the everyday that aligns meaningfully with my visions and goals.

EYR:  We are happy to be a part of that!  Tell us more about how you see the world. Which living person do you most admire?

Nina:  Shirin Ebad - Iranian Nobel Peace Price winner; Dr Edna Adan Ismail, founder of a teaching hospital in Somalia, doctor, FGM activist and all round super human.

EYR:  What do you most value in your friends?

Nina:  Honesty; openness; empathy

EYR:  Those are great qualities and ones you embody as well, if we may say so!   What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Nina:  Frugality and thriftiness

EYR:  And, on what occasion do you lie?

Nina:  To make others feel better about themselves … If I feel I’m in a corner and want to dig out of it!

EYR:  We suppose if there’s a reason to lie, that’s a good one!  Are there any words or phrases you most overuse?

Nina:  Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. 

EYR:  We suppose being a yoga instructor, that makes good sense!  What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Nina:  Literature

EYR:  The perfect love!  What talent would you most like to have?

Nina:  Grit

EYR:  What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Nina:  Prejudice 

EYR:  And finally, when and where were you happiest?

Nina:  When I’ve been in nature in solitude, with no distractions, and plenty of wonderful books.

EYR:  That sounds amazing!  Are there any writers we need to put on our summer reading list that you recommend?

Nina:  There are so many!  Here are just a few of my favorites:  Amitav Ghosh; Adahf Soueif; Edward Said; Mahmoud Darwish; Chinua Achebe; Orhan Pamuk; Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, Judith Butler, Ghassan Kanafani; Colm Toibin; William Faulkner; Patti Smith; Zadie Smith.

EYR:  Quite a list.  Thank you, Nina.  We are so fortunate to have you as part of the Exotic Yoga Retreats family, and I know our clients and friends will enjoy getting to know you more. 

Never happier than in nature!

Never happier than in nature!