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My 35th Birthday: Reflecting on the Magic of the Past Year

Updated: 1 day ago

Rebirthing myself in the Kaveri River near Mysuru

Today is my birthday. This day, last year, was the hardest day of my entire life. It’s the day that I decided to pack up whatever I could fit into my car and leave behind the life I was living. In many ways, my 34th birthday was a funeral for who I used to be. And today, I can finally say that I feel like I have been reborn, after a year of deep work. I welcome Year 35 as my greatest year yet.

I want to reflect on where my 34th year took me. When I woke up on March 16, 2023, I only had one intention for my birthday and that was to get some space and figure things out. I didn’t expect to lose my marriage, my home, multiple friendships, my business, and nearly every belonging  I’ve ever had. I had no idea what I was doing, but something inside me told me that what I was doing was right.

About a month and a half later, the divorce was final, and I had a fresh offer in on a house just a few doors down from my old house. Yes, you heard that right -- I was trying to recreate my new life, right next to my old life. My yoga teacher, Pat (@patmcleaf), was the only one who got through to me and convinced me to pull the offer. He told me to take some time, maybe a road trip or a little vacation in Mexico. “Go somewhere where nobody knows your name and see who you are there,” he wisely urged. I hung up our Zoom call and immediately did something that would change my life forever. I bought a plane ticket to India.

I can’t really point to exactly what compelled me to do this. It feels like some sort of divine intervention, or my higher self. My Indian yoga teachers have told me that all ashtangis were ashtangis in their past lives; we all feel the call to return home. Mysore is the home of ashtanga yoga, and upon arriving here, my soul felt a peace that it has never felt before. 

My original intention was to stay for one month. I was enrolled in a yoga teacher training to get my 500 hour certification, and the plan was to head home after that. In my training, I lived in a dorm with 16 other beautiful souls, most of whom were Indian. They taught me about Indian culture and traditions. We chanted and practiced and visited temples. I fell in love with India through their eyes. And they told me that if I wanted to vacation like a real Indian, I needed to go to Goa.

So, I googled “ashtanga Goa” and stumbled upon Purple Valley. Oddly, I had never heard

The monsoons in Goa felt too intense at first, but once I accepted them, they became a part of my daily ritual

of PV before, despite it being the world’s most prestigious ashtanga retreat center (whoops -- just one of the ways I'm a #badyogi). I just saw a place that had ashtanga in Goa, so I signed up and bought a plane ticket to Goa. At the same time, I booked an onward ticket to Paris from Goa, 6 days later. Just a small vacation, I told myself, and then the plan was to spend a week in Paris before heading home.

It was monsoon season in Goa. Upon arriving, I was confronted with endless rain that was so loud that I felt I no longer had thoughts inside my own head. To make matters worse, I was one of the only guests at PV. It turns out, this was their first monsoon season and the marketing hadn’t reached many people. And all of us were not prepared for how intense the monsoon really is. But in the midst of all of this, I made some incredible friends and I met my teachers, John & Marta. In our first practice, John pushed me to do things no teacher had ever asked me to do before, including the transition I was most afraid of at the time (chakrasana) and something that eventually became my focus for many more months: Drop Backs.

My time with John and Marta felt so incredible, so deep, and so important, that I pushed my plane ticket to Paris back one week. And as the next date approached, I pushed it back another week. And then another. I did this 4 times until I just let the ticket go.  I ended up staying in Goa for 6 weeks instead of 6 days, walking nearly 10km a day in the torrential rain as part of my solo internal work, and practicing ashtanga in the deepest form I had up until that point in my life.

August rolled around and  applications to practice with Sharath were opened. John and Marta asked if I wanted to practice in Mysore with Sharathji and I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. I got accepted, but this meant that I would need to be in Mysore for October and November. I had nothing to do for August or September, and kindly, John and Marta asked me to come stay with them in Singapore and practice at their shala. Singapore was such a contrast to India. The country is an urban utopia and one of the cleanest places on earth. I loved the walkable streets and immaculate public transit with gorgeous tropical gardens on every corner.

In Bali, you can feel the Hindu spirituality everywhere, quite literally because there are temples everywhere

While in Singapore, I took trip to Bali, which changed my entire perspective on the practice. I ended up scaling back all my poses to Garbha Pindasana, a pose that I was unable to do properly but had been skipping past, hoping my teachers didn’t notice (newsflash: they did). I wrote a blog post on this whole experience, if you want to read more. Long story short, my hips were tight -- reeeeally tight. And I finally needed to fix that. My time in Bali ended with an earthquake, which felt symbolic of things that would be changing soon in my life.

I headed back to India for September, and settled into an apartment in Mysore before heading back to Goa to practice with my friend and teacher Neha. While in Goa, I met a physical therapist named Jeelna who took one look at me, and knew exactly what was wrong with my hips. She gave me some exercises to do, which I started doing regularly, and my hips responded beautifully. By October 1, when my time with Sharath began, I was able to do Garbha Pindasana. It was rough, but it was happening.

Me and Sharathji

The two months with Sharath flew by in a blur. My practice got stronger and smoother. I made amazing friends. I settled into Mysore life and realized I could do this for longer than just until the end of November. I decided to stay and practice with a teacher I practiced with briefly in September, Chidananda, for the month of December. In this revisiting of Chidananda’s teaching, I recognized that I found my teacher. I spent as long as I could practicing with him in December and left India on my 180th day (the maximum you can stay in one year) to head to Sri Lanka, with plans to return to Mysore for February through April.

Sri Lanka was a rough time. I practiced with a teacher that I did not vibe with at all. The food of Sri Lanka was awful. The weather was more hot and humid than I had ever experienced. The men I encountered on the streets were creepy and unsettling. I felt that nothing good could come from this trip to Sri Lanka, but I was lucky to have a friend there with me. Nicolas and I  made Mangoes out of the lemons that Sri Lanka handed us and ended up having a time that we still talk about fondly.

I returned to Mysore 3 weeks earlier than planned, on January 4. I have been practicing with Chidananda since. I had a good friend visit from the US, I visited Hampi, and I found slack line. I also decided to commit fully to building more strength, so I hired a personal trainer to help me get stronger.

I am entering age 35 with a newfound outlook on life. I am stronger than ever. I am happier than ever. I am simultaneously more lost and more focused than ever. I had a year that took me to 4 countries in the most unexpected ways imaginable. And I am so grateful.

All it took was a big leap. It was hard (and still is) but has brought me to such an unbelievable place.

To more magic in this coming year...

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