I grew up in the vibrant urban land of New York City, Queens to be specific. It was an amazing place to be surrounded by rich culture, deep diversity, and a strong sense of community. I truly believe it was a big reason I ended up studying psychology and community organizing in my college years. I was incredibly active in the social justice movement - understanding before my yogic journey that progress is not possible without the pillar of sangha (community) and satya (truth). It was meaningful work but work that inevitably burnt me out mentally and physically. I was at a loss - immobile, empty and overall in a very dark place. I fell into a severe depression.
I bought a one way ticket to India.
There was no looking back. Even with all the anxiety of the unknown, something was calling me to the Holy Motherland. In those five months I witnessed my life from a different perspective. It was the first time I had ever slowed down even for a second and centered back to myself. Who was I? What was I really doing in this life? My five month experience wasn't easy but it was one of those experiences I'll forever carry in my life. It's in the darkness that I found my light and the ancient lands of India ignited that peaceful fire within. The sights of temples, the sounds of divine chanting, the smells of burning incense left an imprint that led me towards my yogic path.
When I returned I went straight back into work but it wasn't the same in animal welfare. I worked on a citywide animal rights campaign to ban wildlife in circuses, then worked in New York City communities to help reduce the surrendering of animals to shelters in low income areas, followed by leading a large animal foster program. But I was doing it again, going full force but never slowing down. I was burnt out...again. Didn't I learn my lesson the first time?
And once again, I bought a one way ticket but this time to Costa Rica. I spent weeks there studying Spanish, living with a local family, and spending time in what could possibly be one of the most sattvic (pure) environments on this entire planet. But I found myself feeling anxious and down. One day I was laying on the beach, facing belly down, gazing out into the ocean. What was missing? Then it came to me...
I wasn't in a relationship with my truest self, my soul.
Back to New York City I went. I stepped into the Bhakti Center in the Lower East Side. Through the yoga studio, I came across their temple and chanted the night away. I felt a vibrancy in me that I had never felt before. Something came alive. I signed up for their yoga teacher training and the rest is history. The training gave me truths that I had been seeking my whole life without even realizing it. I started to implement the 3 pillars of yoga - sangha (community), seva (service), and sadhana (daily spiritual practice). This created the foundation that has helped me navigate and expand my body, mind, and soul.