When people ask me whether I’ve been to India, I always answer, “Not in this lifetime.” That is not a lame attempt at humor but comes from inner knowing that my connection with India was there before I was born. I see Yoga as India’s crown jewel and her greatest gift to the world.
My first thread of connection to India and to Yoga came when I was in grade school.
I was pretty young, probably in 3rd or 4th grade and was working on my summer reading list. I had checked out a book at the library and while reading it, I came across the word “reincarnation.” I asked my mother what that word meant; she explained the meaning and then said emphatically that “we” don’t believe in that, it is not in the Bible and it is a sin to believe in things that are not in the Bible. I could tell she was upset that her child might be in danger of being led astray by this book I was reading and energetically understood that the idea was “dangerous” and that I should never talk about it again.
The only problem was that in between her explanation of the meaning and her becoming frightened about what I was reading, I instantly knew this concept to be valid; my inner words to myself were, “Oh yeah, I know about that already, I just didn’t know the word for it until now.” And then immediately I got the message not to ever speak about it again. It confused me and yet I was obedient and never spoke about reincarnation to anyone, mainly because I believed doing that would upset people.
Years later, while studying to attain a Master of Arts degree, I worked as a Graduate Assistant, teaching some Freshman English classes. A deputy sheriff and his wife were enrolled in one of my classes and they invited my then husband and me to dinner one evening at their home. During the meal, the lady, who was an artist, looked across the table at me and said outright, “You believe in reincarnation, don’t you?”
The early 1970’s were the small beginnings of Yoga’s greatest flowering in America, though at the time there were very few yoga books or classes available, at least in the heartland. The emerging awareness of India and Yoga came mostly through TV yoga personalities and teachers, Richard Hittleman in California and Lilias Folan in Boston, MA, as well as through news of the Beatles’ journey to India and their connection with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Mostly these matters were peripheral to my life. By then I was immersed in the mental life, teaching English to high school students in a large Texas school district.
In 1973 my marriage ended, and in the emotional pain of what I then saw as a failure, a colleague and friend suggested an article about Yoga that she believed would offer me some solace. She also gave me her copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, one of my all time favorite books. I soon found a couple of other books on Yoga, one by Lilias Folan (Lilias Yoga and You) and one by Jess Stearn. The one by Jess Stearn was Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation.
In 1975 I remarried, read Joy of Life Through Yoga and attended my first yoga class, expecting to learn how to meditate and gain inner peace. It was a Hatha Yoga class, and my body felt wonderful afterwards. I came to the class in the body of a woman and went home in a body that felt as vibrant as a child’s. From these beginnings everything else in my life, especially related to India and to Yoga, has flowed.