One day in my late thirties, it became painfully obvious that family life was not my path. While my girlfriends were busy starting families, I was increasingly obsessed with yoga. Until that point we had shared goals and dreams, but with no crumbs and spilled milk on the back seat of my car and no husband anywhere in sight, my life was taking a different direction from theirs. I realized I needed a new map. So I decided to pack up and move to South India for a year to study yoga.
In Mysore, I rented a big old house and a beat-up moped. Every morning at 5 am I saluted the sun and stood on my head. Every afternoon I hosted a wanton mix of students at my home for a class on yoga philosophy. I dodged cows and Tata trucks on my scooter and hung fresh garlands of jasmine over my doorway. Every evening, after meditation, I sat on my front step under the gently swaying palm trees and contemplated how bizarre, and how utterly right this choice had been.
I learned to relax that year. I became softer. I learned to breathe deeply and to keep a strict discipline. I finally learned to silence the constant self-doubt that was an heirloom from a chaotic family environment. I started to paint. I earned a teaching authorization that gave me confidence to pursue my passion further. Suddenly I could travel the world and make a decent living doing it.
When I stopped trying to fit myself into others’ versions of how I should my life, I relaxed profoundly. I followed my heart to what brings me happiness: yoga. And, while I was busy doing what I love, I found a community that shared my passion. I found my tribe. Rather than playing tag-a-long with my girlfriend’s families, I created my own.
Perhaps a spiritual journey is about making peace with our circumstances, even when life does not go the way we expect. I’ve learned that in order to respect myself, I need to honor my quirky choice of lifestyle.
That year in Mysore was one of the best years of my life. The yoga practices are part of my daily routine, and I still keep in touch with many of the friends I made there. And now I’ve got the right map to find my way home if ever I get lost.