It’s hard for me to pinpoint one exact moment in my life that I felt was the most impactful transformation of all.
This is due to the feeling that every little breath and every little action I take is powerful in its own way. Although this article is meant to show a transformation through yoga, I cannot divide my life into segments of before-and-after yoga since I profoundly feel that yoga has always been part of my existence even if I was unaware of it.
I’d like to share a countdown of events (not necessarily in chronological order) ending with the most profound feeling I’ve ever had—the moment I felt God or, as we yogis would say, Purusha, blessed me and touched my heart.
5. Freshmen Year of High School (1994)
I started my high school years in the “cool” group with the more “attractive” guys and girls of the school. The guys were mostly the jocks and we always had something to do on the weekends because we were the ones throwing the parties. I’m sure you can all picture that group from your high school vividly.
One day, near the middle of freshmen school year after winter break I was hanging out with two of my “girlfriends” in the quad deck. We were laughing although I don’t recall now what we were talking about. I had to leave to go to class and started walking away from them. They stayed because they had a free period—yes my school had free periods, which was awesome especially when you had the last three periods of the day off like I did senior year. Nevertheless, I started walking away but decided to turn around to make a funny face and I caught them talking badly about me behind my back with the typical rolling-of-the-eyes expression that you see in movies all the time depicting the “cool” yet mean girls from high school.
I turned back around and in that exact moment I remember making the decision to make new friends that weren’t two-faced regardless of how “uncool” the new ones might seem. I never looked back to those friends again. I felt confident in whom I was and what I had to offer at the very vulnerable age as a freshmen in high school. Thank you bitchy, freshmen girls!
4. My First Yoga Class (1999)
A dear friend suggested I try yoga although I vehemently thought it was too slow and boring for me since I tended to be a type-A personality. But, he planted the seed. One day my mother was looking at the newspaper and she saw that there was a 108 year-old swami coming to teach a class at a local studio in South Beach. We both looked at each other and said, “What the heck?” It would be her first yoga class as well.
We showed up as amateurs to what clearly seemed to be a more advanced group of yogis. We set up on one end as to not attract too much attention. We were just sitting there waiting with blank faces when we saw two people holding up an old Indian man as he slowly walked into the classroom. They sat him down in a chair in front of the room facing us. He looked around the room and opened his mouth to start speaking. He began drilling us and challenging us militantly and intensely. He was screaming at everyone in his Indian accent, but in a good way. He took no bullshit.
I unconsciously understood his approach and I loved it. His name was Swami Bua. I loved every minute of the torture and I’m not a masochist. I was astonished at what this little man was asking us to do and how some people could actually do it! I went back the next day for more. He left his body in 2010, but in a very real sense he is still alive within me since he branded me with the blessing of yoga for life. Thank you, Swami Bua!
3. My Divorce (2007)
Clearly anyone’s divorce is a turning point in his or her life. This experience marked a very important time in mine. I was 27 years old and at a point where I needed to claim my life for my own. I deeply loved Bob (name changed to protect). He’s an amazing man. Even to this day, I will always be here for him whenever he needs me. Naturally, it was a difficult decision for me to make.
It was the most beautiful and amicable divorce I have ever heard of. We willingly gave our things away to each other without a fight. We cared less about the physical belongings and more about our love and health. It was beautiful! With that purity and true unconditional love we felt, there was room for me to transform something that seemed to be negative into something positive. Losing myself was not an option for my inner peace. In order to find myself again, I knew I needed to make the difficult choice of getting a divorce. This decision to choose myself first was imperative for my inner growth regardless of the consequences. I always have gratitude for all that I have learned from Bob. Thank you, Bobby!
2. Conducting My First Teacher Training (2008)
Shortly after my divorce I embarked on one of the projects that I had wanted to tackle for a while. It takes a lot of work, organization and vision to put together a production like a teacher training—writing the manual, piecing together the lesson plans, deciding what books to use, etc.
The most difficult part of the teacher training was feeling like I, as the teacher, was capable and ready to make new teachers, and then put them into the world as an embodiment of yoga, or at least something close to it. It was a huge responsibility and I can honestly admit that in the beginning I was nervous that I was unable to give knowledge and wisdom to those seeking it.
The first training was intended to last three months. Since I just wanted to keep giving more information and share more pearls, it lasted almost six. Luckily, the trainees weren’t complaining. They appreciated all the extra attention and love.
For me, teaching the training was my most lucid and present moment in my life. That’s why I continue to teach it. I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be in every moment of each training.
No matter how tired Rina may be or whatever excuse Rina might have in her head, it doesn’t matter. It disappears and becomes insignificant. (Yes I am referring to myself in third person. Get over it.) Rina is able to merge into her purpose and become more and more connected to the source. It is one of the biggest blessings I receive from teaching the trainings. The first training marks the moment I decided to give up all the fears of failure, of rejection, or of being inadequate. I surrendered and trusted. Thank Purusha, I did!
1. My Serendipitous Encounter in India (2006)
During my first teacher training course in 2002, I stayed at an ashram in Florida for a month. I didn’t feel any deep connection with the teacher who was teaching me, but halfway through the training a Hindu man in what seemed to be his mid thirties came to stay at the ashram. He didn’t speak much English, but from the moment I looked into his eyes, I knew that he knew something. I felt his wisdom and his love for all humanity. He was pure and sweet. He reminded me of Gandhi because he was constantly bowing with his hands in prayer and his eyes would light up like a child. He left the ashram and I never saw him again, but I never forgot his face or how I felt when I saw him.
Fast forward to 2006, when I went to India with my dear friend, Bob, with the intention to see the motherland of spirituality. We only had the first few days planned so we were being receptive to whatever was meant to come. As anyone who has been to India might tell you, it’s a love-hate relationship. After some difficult places we visited—and an overall inability to communicate clearly with locals—we landed in Rishikesh, a foreigner’s dream.
Here’s the story: The first day we arrived I saw a sign on a window of a travel agency on the top of a hill. The sign said “yoga classes.” There was a fork on the top of that hill, so I started walking to the right towards the sign. Bob started walking towards the left onto the main road. I suggested we go to the travel agency to find out when the yoga classes were being held in the city. He convinced me to check out the rest of the city on our own first and then we could stop and ask if we felt like it later. Of course, I decided to follow him since this was at a point in my life when I was less instinctual and more obedient to others’ expectations of me.
We wandered the city for several days. On the second to last day of our stay, we passed by that same travel agency. I asked him, “Can we please go in here now?” He agreed because he figured that we might want to book an excursion or do something different than the previous days. We walked in and I noticed it was a combination travel agency and internet café. There was one man behind the main counter and one in another room, but he was behind a desk and not completely visible. The man behind the counter helped us book our excursion for the following day.
We arrived the next morning and the man behind the counter, who apparently wasn’t a guide, told us that our guide got sick so he’d have to be our guide for the day. He was the owner’s son who helped out with the family business. During our drive, he told us that his brother was a yoga teacher who worked at fancy hotels. He really made him sound like a super yogi who was quite busy and in demand. I mentioned that I’d like to meet him one day.
We stopped for lunch nearby the agency. He got called into the agency to book a huge group of about 20 people to go white-water rafting, which was great business for him. He asked us if we wouldn’t mind if we went back to the agency for a few minutes so he could finish the transaction for the large group. Naturally, we said it was ok.
Bob went to the bank while I waited inside the agency. I sat in one of the chairs that were in front of a computer, but faced my chair towards the center of the agency. A man with his head down walked across me from left to right, then right to left, and then again from left to right. I was just watching him when all of a sudden I get the impulse to say, “Excuse me!” He was now standing in front of me and looked up. I looked right into his eyes and it all just clicked in that moment. I clearly said in awe and disbelief, “Yogi Hari’s Ashram in Miramar, Florida, 2002!” His eyes lit up and he exclaims “Yes!”
And in that moment, I felt Purusha’s hand on my shoulder whispering into my heart, “You see? Magic is always around you! You just have to see it! I am everywhere.”
And Purusha is. This was the same man from my first teacher training whom I mentioned. Whose smile or energy I would never forget. He also happened to be our guide’s brother who I’d said I wanted to meet one day. And the man in the office the day before who I was unable to see clearly behind his desk. I was obviously not meant to see him until that moment…
And that moment forever changed my understanding of the universe and of yoga. In a country as crowded and over-populated as India, I happened to see the one man whose name I never knew and that I’d I never had a conversation with, but just felt. In all honesty, when I arrived at Rishikesh I had the feeling I would see someone I knew, but to be even more honest I thought it would be a westerner or someone from home. This man, whose name is Bhagwat, is that someone I saw from home… Purusha’s home.
Thank you, Bhagwat and always Purusha!
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger