Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, gave us all some great advice when he said, “Follow your bliss.” He encouraged his students to first discover what really fed their souls and then to delve deeply into that. It’s a pretty simple formula for living a fulfilling life. When I first discovered Ashtanga Yoga I had reached a point in my life where I was only very dimly aware that I had a soul at all. At the time neither my job nor my lifestyle was providing me with any bliss—I was definitely on a road to nowhere. That all changed with that first class, when all of a sudden I was reintroduced to an old friend—my own immortal soul. Miraculously, my life began to open in many wonderful ways and I was filled with a sense of unlimited possibilities. My health and self-esteem improved dramatically, I had a whole new group of interesting friends, and I was voraciously reading spiritual books that were expanding my horizons in wonderful ways. A couple of years into my yoga practice I had the opportunity to begin teaching when my teachers, Brad and Gary, took an extended trip to India and left me in charge of the yoga studio. I was humbled at the depth of my ignorance when I first began to teach, but I enjoyed the on-the-job training that came with it. I began to teach yoga full-time in 1981, when it was still very much a fringe activity. As a consequence, I didn’t have many students and was living in poverty. Still, I continued to follow my bliss, managing to scrape together enough money to make my first trip to Mysore to study with Guruji for three months in 1982. At the end of that time, Guruji was gracious enough to give me his official blessing to teach.
Over the next ten years I continued to struggle financially, but I began to feel some sense of confidence as a teacher and I started receiving invitations to teach in various places. In the beginning it was terrifying to teach workshops to strangers in unfamiliar places, but, at the same time, it felt like a soul expanding experience once I got beyond my initial terror. As the popularity of yoga has soared over the years, more and more opportunities have become available to me. Teaching workshops is not quite as terrifying as it once was. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive an invitation to teach in some interesting and exotic place, but as I get older I’m finding the thought of long plane trips a little less appealing. My good friend, David Swenson, estimates that he’s on the road about 300 days per year. What seems to work for me is to be home for 300 and on the road for 65. I still love to practice and to teach but I’m finding a need to pace myself these days so exhaustion doesn’t suck the joy out of it. About this time of year, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, I begin the countdown—just three more workshops in 2016 before that week in Maui! For those of you planning to see me in Pittsburgh, New York, or Las Vegas this year, don’t worry, I promise to take really good care of myself in the next six weeks so when I see you I’ll still be following my bliss.