Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond image. I am often asked “How did you come about being a yoga teacher?” My answer is “Yoga found me”.

Five years ago, I was sitting in my high floor office in Chicago, browsing the web and searching for inspiration. I was looking for a sign that would tell me who I am or what the purpose of my life was. I had spent most of my adult life working very hard to get to this very office. I was a high-flying globe-trotting consultant for Fortune 500 companies, living a very comfortable life and earning a six figure salary. Born and raised in a conservative family in India, my sole motivation was to go above and beyond the tradition and norms of society, where women are expected to complete education, get married and raise a family. This motivated me to get the best education which is what brought me to the United States. In a few years, I was professionally very successful and I had proven myself to the world. I was supposed to be happy, but before I could realize it, I was captured in my own image, which was suffocating me. How can one be super successful, make good money and not be happy? My ego prevented me from sharing my feelings and discussing these questions. I started drifting away from family and things that were important to me. To release this captive feeling and frustration I started running and kickboxing. I was trying to break through an imaginary cage. I bet many of you can relate to this situation. How many of us are running away from work and life by torturing ourselves after work hours, eating and drinking mindlessly or working out to death, just so that we can live through another day?

After months of agony and many sleepless nights, I had no answer to what I wanted to do and what would make me happy. However I realized that I was not meant to be a prisoner of Corporate America and I finally decided to quit my job. Not being able to rationally defend my decision and not knowing where my life was headed, I started traveling. I wandered through Asia for over six months. For the first time, I had no agenda or to-do list, something that I had never lived without. Quitting my full-time job had created this huge space where I just started absorbing everything I saw. During this transformation, I lost a lot of friends who stamped me as a wanderer and a loser. I came back to Chicago in peace with myself and felt totally in tune with my consciousness. My new motto in life was “Satchiananda”, which means living from a place of life, consciousness and bliss. I even got my first tattoo called “Satchiananda”. I was happy and it showed. As a by-product, I lost a lot of weight and stress which were gifts from my corporate life. I was not an emotional eater anymore and I ate to nourish. My pictures on Facebook got many likes and awesome comments, which I was not used to. Many people started asking me to coach them on how to lose weight and be healthy. This inspired me to become a certified personal trainer.

Life was great until one day I had an accident in the boxing ring and broke my neck. My confidence and image was shattered and once again I found myself on the threshold of starting a new journey. I lost all motivation but the only memory that kept coming back were my travel days. They kept telling me that there is more to life than you can see and you cannot stop now. Not able to lift any weights, I started doing simple standing yoga poses. Somewhere over the next several months, I was healed before I was cured and yoga made me feel alive, loved and free. Practicing yoga re-connected me to my roots and I was able to finally understand the philosophy of yoga that was taught to me since early childhood. This time coming from a place of experience rather than belief. There is a quote by Leonard Cohen “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”. The light of yoga had penetrated deep into my soul and made me a yogi. My injury connected me to my true calling and passion and I immersed myself into studying the various forms of yoga. A teacher once said, when we find our true life’s passion, it will be fully expressed when we begin to share it with others. To share the gifts of yoga, I began teaching extensively. Before I realized it, a year had passed. While I loved teaching yoga, I yearned to expand my understanding of the yoga philosophy and wanted to unravel the ancient hidden jewels of yoga. My journey now took me back to my homeland in India and I spent the next several months in the Himalayas exploring spirituality and living the Ashram life. My learning and experiences in India helped me to evolve my mission as a yogi and I currently focus on spreading awareness of the therapeutic aspects of yoga. I am working to create partnerships with various organizations and individuals to bring yoga therapy to those who are physically and/or materially incapable of accessing it. What keeps me motivated? The satisfaction and happiness from guiding a blind woman through a yoga class or teaching joint stability to 90 year olds truly brings yoga alive within me.

When I reflect back on my journey over the years, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is “Get rid of old to make room for new.” Sometimes you do it deliberately, other times it is forced upon you. The most important thing is that one needs space in their life and heart to be present and embrace new experiences. Some of us know what our passion is but are scared to act upon it. But most of us don’t know our Dharma, our calling, our purpose. The real question is, if we don’t have time to explore the gifts of life, will we die not knowing or experiencing it either? You don’t have to burn yourself out of your current job like me to find your passion. All you can do today is to get rid of the old comfort zone of friends and experiences that define your identity and you will create space for new things that are waiting to connect with you. Put yourself out there and try something new. Explore a new country, learn a new language, get involved in a volunteer organization or something as simple as trying a new yoga studio. Every experience, whether good or bad, teaches us something. The universe conspires; you just have to pay attention to the signs!

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