A few years ago, I started a New Year’s Day tradition where I committed to doing something I had never done the first day of the year to set the year off right. While this realization came to me while backpacking in Chile, it doesn’t mean every year since then has started off that dramatically. 2017 started with a hike with my dog around a lake in Santa Rosa, CA I had never been to before and 2018 was the first New Year’s Day I spent with my boyfriend. When 2019 started to roll around, I had a desire to go on a New Year’s adventure and found the perfect one for me – a New Year’s Ashtanga retreat in Ojai, California. I got to explore a new place in California I have always wanted to go to; immerse myself in my new yoga practice that I couldn’t get enough of; and do something new to start 2019 off right.
The trip was perfect as it taught me a lot – but not what I expected. Heading out of town for the first few days of the year showed me how much this year shouldn’t be about me seeking new experiences away but seeking them at home. This was a big realization for me as much of my journey of self-discovery over the past few years has been about leaving home in search of more. Most notably, I left my home of over 20 years, NYC, to move across the country to California. I travelled all over the world from Costa Rica, to Thailand, to India, to Chile, to Africa, seeking new experiences and fulfillment. And all of those trips gave me those things. But what I realized on my trip to Ojai is where I need to be right now is home.
This became most obvious to me on my mat during my yoga practice at the retreat. As I said earlier, I have recently taken up Ashtanga Yoga. With Ashtanga, you do the same series of postures every time and practice on your own at your own pace. So, I thought that going to a retreat with a new group would be fine. I had my practice and my routine and I would just go through it as I always do, but in another room with different people and a different teacher. Right? Wrong.
It was NOTHING like at home. While I have been practicing yoga for many years, I am only a few months into my Ashtanga practice. When I have practiced previously, I would bounce around from one teacher or studio to another, enjoying trying out different teachers and communities. But when I got to Ojai to practice, I quickly realized all of that had changed.
While it should have been the same as at home, it was anything but. The vibe was different, the room was different and my practice was different. To be honest, it was miserable. I didn’t feel good, I felt anxious and I felt uncomfortable. I thought it would pass but for the three days I was there it did not get better. I couldn’t understand why until it hit me – I missed my yoga community at home. In Ashtanga, the yoga studio is called the shala, and being away from it made me realize how important the community there was to my practice. Not just my teacher, but my fellow students who I may barely speak to but who I know because they practice besides me every day trying to work through their stuff and be better people. I have done everything in my past to avoid this attachment, but there it was right in my face – I had a home base and I didn’t want to leave it.
And then I thought about it more and I realized this went way beyond me being attached to my yoga community and shala. What happens on your mat, after all, is just a mirror for what is happening in your life. And this mirror was showing me it was time to stop seeking experiences outside but to seek experiences at home. My home being my life in California which I have built over the past two years. My home being one filled with loved ones, community, experiences and work I value deeply. My home being where I want to be and where I want to cultivate my year ahead.
So, while it was a tough trip mentally (experience wise it was a wonderful beautiful place I would highly recommend!) I would do it again in a heartbeat as it put me on track for my year ahead. This year, I am going to do less travel away and more travel within myself and my community to cultivate the home I have been seeking and have been fortunate enough to find.