India or Bust?
Like most who practice ashtanga yoga, I’ve long considered whether a pilgrimage to the home of Ashtanga yoga, in Mysore, India, would be right for me.
My head pulls me one way. My heart pulls me another.
My head tells me that it’s insane to invest so much money and time traveling across the world to study yoga with a complete stranger. It tells me my obligations at home are too great. I have two young children for whom I’m the primary caregiver. I am the manager/owner/director/teacher at our fitness and wellness studio. I couldn’t possibly burden my husband with all of that on his own for over a month. Again. I made a pilgrimage of sorts last year when I traveled to Miami Beach for a five week intensive with Tim Feldmann and Kino MacGregor. My head says that my family has already sacrificed enough for my silly hobby. Not to mention that there are incredible teachers right here in the States who frequently travel to nearby cities for workshops. My head says those are more practical options for deepening my practice.
My head also has a lot to say about the treatment of women in India, and how uncomfortable I am traveling to a place that requires a separate dress code for women. India, for all its beauty and rich traditions, is a place saturated with patriarchal and misogynistic customs. My brain isn’t sure how to reconcile that with my deeply held feminist beliefs. And did I mention how scared shitless I am of going by myself?! The culture shock alone would give me daily panic attacks.
And my kids! It killed me to be away from them for a month when I went to Miami. I cried almost daily. They did okay while I gone, but for months after I returned, my five year old son asked me to never leave again. Whenever I take short weekend trips (usually to yoga workshops), he gets nervous that I'm going back to Miami for a long trip. I just don't know if I can rationalize another extended trip that's entirely voluntary.
There is, of course, truth to much of what my head says. Traveling to India for a month would be a financial strain. We are paying for private school for two kids, in the middle of an enormous business expansion, and are still trying to save up to buy a home. My husband would be doubly busy during my absence, and he is already the busiest person I know. There are fabulous teachers much closer to home. Women in India, even the western ones, are required to cover their shoulders and thighs in public…and if you follow me on instgram, you know how I feel about covering my thighs! My travel-induced anxiety would be a force to be reckoned with.
But my head gets one part totally wrong - my yoga practice is much more than some silly hobby. It’s a critical component of my self-care. I can’t imagine where I would be without it. Yoga is the driving force of my personal growth. There is no aspect of my life that yoga hasn’t touched. I can look back at the evolution of my life for the past six and a half years and see exactly how my journey through the practice of yoga has mimicked my journey through life. Or perhaps vice versa.
My heart knows that is true. My heart doesn’t require sufficient logic to explain why my practice is so meaningful to me. It just gets it. It gets that I want to see the shala for myself. That I want to smell, feel, and taste it for myself. Relying on others’ stories and insights is no longer enough to satisfy me. I want to humble myself before the majesty of India. I yearn for the wisdom I would gain and the growth I would experience. I am longing for my own Mysore experience. My heart knows that this is the next step in my journey through the practice. And life. Defying all sensible logic, my heart is telling me to find a way to get to India and create a personal connection to the lineage of Ashtanga yoga.
But still, my logical mind persists. Even as I write this and am brought to tears by the power of my heart’s desire, my mind wields its influence and convinces me I’m being silly and selfish. In yoga and in life, I have always struggled to trust my heart over what may seem more rational. If it doesn't make sense on paper, my mind almost always wins the battle. I default to logic, reason, and verifiable evidence. “Prove it”, my head says. “The heart deceives”, it contends.
Where is the proof that traveling to India will be a positive experience? How can I make sense of it on paper? The truth is, I can’t. It's irrational for a 32 year old mom to fly across the world to a developing country, live there for a month or more, and immerse herself in the spiritual tradition of yoga while her kids and husband make do at home. It sounds crazy! Intense, life-changing, amazing, and beautiful, yes. But also straight up crazy.
But I simply must go. Maybe not this year. Maybe not next year. But sooner rather than later, I need to travel to India and practice at the Sri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute.
I’m learning that my head must embrace my crazy heart and make room for its wild desires if I am to ever to feel at home in my own mind. I know that now. I am not who my head wants me to be. I am passionate and sometimes foolish. I’m a little wild and crazy. So what? There are worse things to be. I want to trust my heart despite its flaws, just as I trust my mind despite its imperfections.
When I returned home from my time at Miami Life Center last year, my husband told me I seemed like a different person. I was happier and more balanced. I understood and embraced myself more. Maybe that was because I had been eyes-deep in yoga for five weeks, which is bound to transform anyone on its own. But I think those changes had more to do with my leap of faith in making the decision to go. For once in my life, I chose to trust my heart despite the protests in my head. It’s as though I surrendered to the wisdom of my heart and finally accepted that it knows what I need just as much as, if not more than, my head.
So…India or bust!
Who’s comin’ with me?