In my mind, I'd always imagined myself in one of those 30 day intensives on a mountaintop overlooking the ocean in Costa Rica or Hawaii-- sun-kissed and blissed out-- far, far away from Southeastern Pennsylvania.
And yet-- here I saw a challenge.
Anyone could claim enlightenment after 30 straight days of yoga in a tropical paradise.
But what about here, in regular old, freezing cold Pennsylvania?
How would the freshly-minted yoga teacher-- fresh out of the retreat setting-- fare in less-than-tropical, everyday life back in the "real" world?
Knowing myself, I had to admit:
I probably couldn't handle the shock.
Certainly not after a mere month of yoga. (After ten years, maybe.)
On the other hand-- if I were somehow able to survive six months of winter while growing on the yogic path-- well-- after that, I could probably handle anything.
And so I decided to put this theory to the test.
I would enroll in the teacher training at The Light Within, and forge a hardier character in the crucible of focused yoga over the course of many more months than I'd initially wanted to spend "in training."
As it turned out, I was right about one thing:
Pennsylvania is not a tropical paradise.
This past winter was especially brutal (for me, at least), and I spent much of it in total isolation from my friends in other places or any sort of social scene.
During the first few months of training, I wasn't sure I'd make it.
Because I was living at home (again, a less-than-ideal challenge) and, shall we say, seriously underemployed (the challenge on top of ever other challenge), I found myself struggling with profound anxiety and depression-- exactly the things I'd been hoping to eradicate (or at least circumvent) with my yoga practice.
I admit, there was a certain irony in my mother having to almost literally drag me out of bed in order to make it to the studio-- an hour away-- first thing in the morning-- usually two or three times a week (that is, when we weren't snowed in. Which was often.)
I'll never forget those long drives to West Grove-- my mom, impossibly chipper and full of energy; me, hating the world and my own spinelessness for having chosen Pennsylvania over Hawaii.
Of course, everything would change once I finally got on the mat.
For the hour and a half that I'd spend on the mat-- even if my mind was racing-- my body found some sort of peace in conscious moment.
On the days when we take two classes, back to back, I'd often reach a certain state of awareness in precisely what I physically could and couldn't handle that day. There was precious little room for spacing out-- not paying attention to my body's signals would likely result in injury (as it had so often in the past).
Eventually-- after, say, month three-- I found myself getting stronger; not hating the ride to West Grove quite so much. I was looking and feeling healthier-- -planning once again for the future-- starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel where I might one day actually become a teacher of this practice to other people who might be going through what I'd been going through-- or worse.
And then, one day (I don't recall exactly when, but probably four or so months into the program), it occurred to me:
I have a yoga practice.
And my life is better with it, than without it.
Where would I be now, had I gone to the 30 day intensive in Paradise?
Would my practice have "stuck"? Would a month have been long enough to forge a certain stick-to-itiveness in the face of persistent challenges in a sub-zero climate?
I don't know.
All I can say is:
I'm glad I stayed in Pennsylvania.
(True, I did take a ten-day-long trip to Hawaii, in order to attend the Wanderlust "Yoga, Music, and Surfing" Festival in February, but that's a different story.)
And now that my teacher training is coming to an end, I see that my yoga journey is only truly just beginning.