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In this series of posts, YJ contributors share their experiences of yoga in its birthplace. If you’ve considered traveling to India to practice, to find your teacher, or to find yourself, learn more here weekly about what you can—and can’t—expect.
Finding someone to practice “yoga” with in India is easy. There are so many self-proclaimed swamis, yogis, and gurus in studios, temples, and centers across the country. But finding your teacher, a truly enlightened soul, is like finding a diamond among the coal. In India, it’s like finding a diamond in the dust.
My Journey to Find My Teacher
It took me 15 years and many disappointing experiences with cubic zirconias, before I found my diamond last year. But I realized then I had been preparing myself for him the whole time. My first trip to India in 2007 was powerful. It was my honeymoon and we went to see Sai Baba in Whitefield as our first (and only planned) stop. I quickly became appalled at how people treated each other trying to get closer to him. I defended a poor 7-year-old girl trying to save a spot for her mom, against an older woman who had just shoved her aside. I told the little girl to come sit by me, that her mom could have my spot. I was disgusted. I left hoping that my ex-husband also felt the same. Luckily, he did and we didn’t go back.
Instead, we took a train to Mysore, where I had hoped to practice with Pattabhi Jois, but because we were only going to be there for several days we weren’t allowed to. So we practiced Ashtanga Yoga with an unknown yogi who proved to be a badass tiny Indian teacher. He taught me so much in those few days that I still apply what I learned from him in my practice. We then traveled to Rishikesh and tried all the ashrams and teachers, yet none were what I was looking for.
Finding What I Was Looking For
Seven years later, I was introduced to Swami A. Parthasarathy over a pre-recorded video lecture that my boyfriend, Eric Paskel, shared with me in December 2013. I sat in Lotus Pose (Padmasana) on top of the desk and stayed that way, fixated, for an hour.
I’d found what I had been looking for: authenticity and integrity. These two qualities are surprisingly rare, but as soon as I saw Swamiji and heard his teachings and his delivery, I knew he had them. Everything he said was rational, true, genuine, and easy to digest. No whistles and bells. No fancy words or flowery accessories. Just a simple man speaking simple truths.
The Proof Is In the Path
As a true seeker, I had to make sure that my first intuitive feeling was correct, so I studied his lectures and books until I met him in April 2014 in New Delhi on my second trip to India. That trip, however, was originally planned as a retreat with another teacher and proved to make me question many decisions in my life, which ended up being both heartbreaking and empowering. I literally had to let go of one teacher (and $2500) to find the other.
After the first five days of lectures with Swamiji, he suggested I visit the ashram (aka academy) near Pune. The Vedanta Academy’s focus is on developing one’s intellect in order to discover our true Selves by applying the ancient teachings of yoga. The daily schedule at the Academy emphasizes discipline with self-study, lectures, student discussions, traditional chants, karma yoga, exercise, and believe-it-or-not, very minimal asana practice. The idea is to make one look inward for answers.
I have studied the Yoga Sutra and had a disciplined asana practice for 15 years, yet I always felt I was missing bigger pieces to the puzzle that would allow me to find ultimate enlightenment. The teachings helped me grow for 15 years, but that deep-rooted feeling of “there’s got to be something more” and “there’s something missing here” never left me. Swamiji’s teachings, based on the ancient texts of yoga, the Vedas (dating back many centuries prior to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras), gave me a clear, methodical, and logical path. And the strong, powerful, flexible body I had built in the 15 years prior serves me on my continuous journey. After this trip, all was confirmed. He is my guru.
“When the student is ready, the master will appear.”
The famous Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the master will appear,” has proven to be true for me. Wherever you are in your journey and whatever you tend to be most drawn to (asana, philosophy, service, etc.), you’ll gravitationally attract the right teacher for you. Never follow anyone blindly, though. Question, analyze, and observe them, their teachings, their students, and their community. Only surrender to your teacher once they have proven themselves and it all makes perfect sense.
ABOUT RINA JAKUBOWICZ
Rina Jakubowicz is a bilingual yoga teacher and Reiki practitioner based in Florida. She is the founder and owner of Rina Yoga, which now has three studios in Miami, and teaches there and at events worldwide, including Yoga Journal LIVE. She is the yoga expert on Univision’s Spanish language music television series Tu Desayuno Alegre, the host of Health & Wellness Channel’s YOUnity Yoga daily morning show, and the creator of a pioneering yoga curriculum for children and teens called Super Yogis’ Schoolhouse.