Onward! A Yoga Journey From A Trickle Source To the Sacred Ganges

yoga journeyAt the age of 41, I have just quit a fully-funded PhD in Geophysics to follow my heart.

“Do you remember that yoga teacher training of which you got kicked out in your early thirties?” it said, “Well, you’re ready now – so go for it”. I sat down with a spreadsheet, because that is what we scientist-types do, and I calculated. I told my heart, “I hear you, Love, but this plan of yours is going to ruin me. It will max out my credit card and completely deplete my savings account, and still I’ll be short”.” Your task here is to have faith and trust”, it answered, “faith and trust that I will not lead you astray”.

Once I accepted that this is really what I was going to do – reason be gone – I meant to research this plan thoroughly, but the Universe already had a school in mind for me. From the first time the page came up, I knew it had to be the Tribe Teacher Training program in Rishikesh, India. There is nothing reasonable to which I can point as evidence that this program is better for me than another, except that my heart beats faster when I read about it. The schedule, philosophy and methods are not significantly different from other programs. It is not cheaper. The venue is beautiful, but so are others. The final certificate I will earn is the same. There are hundreds of other doors of similar shape, size and color, but for some reason of which I am not privy, this is the one inviting me in. So, I am going to India, to the shores of the sacred Ganges, to be guided by the Tribe team on my path to become a yoga teacher.

The path that has led me here started as a very small inconspicuous trickle. In 1992, I bought a Power Yoga video by Bryan Kest. I actually bought the video because I thought the guy on the cover was cute; I knew nothing about yoga. At the time I played hockey, rollerbladed to work every day and lifted weights regularly, but that video worked me. The more I did it, the more it worked me. I loved it, but it was several years before I realized the more subtle, profound effect yoga was having on me.  Every time I practiced, I was given permission to be myself. “You do what you can, you rest if you need to, this is your own yoga”, “It isn’t about being stronger or more flexible than another person, it is about finding your edge and working there”, “It’s okay to fall, we all fall in life, but we can learn to fall with a little bit of grace, a little bit of equanimity”.

I found I lived by these teachings off the mat as well. I bought three more videos (two by Bryan Kest, one by Shiva Rea) and one book (by Baron Baptiste) and used these as resources to create my own practice. I was not bound by any knowledge of what yoga is supposed to look like. I just listened to my body and had fun. My yoga practice became a sanctuary, a space-time recharge socket that powered me through three careers, one marriage and approximately twenty moves.

By the time I signed up for Ela McDaniel’s yoga class and, shortly after, her yoga certification program, in 2004, I had been practicing “Melissa yoga” for 12 years and not once in a class or with other people. I was eager to deepen my practice through the teacher training, but not yet open to receiving Ela’s gifts. I wanted to hear about proper positions; Ela spoke of chakras and other ethereal concepts. I was eventually dismissed from the training on the grounds that “I was too stuck in my ways”, which was absolutely accurate. Because I recognized that it was accurate, Ela and I remained friends and I continued to attend her regular yoga class for over a year, until I moved again. Her class brought me such joy. It simultaneously grounded me, set me free, empowered and humbled me. I started to listen.

What I heard when I started to listen was how opinionated my heart is. It has been bossing me around ever since, although it is true that it has not led me astray. In parallel to my worldly-life, the life where I get degrees in geophysics, I have been led on a spiritual quest. In the past few years, I have experienced a complete readjustment of my worldview, one in which my place has become infinite yet insignificant. I have learned to meditate. I have forgiven myself and others and freed myself of past hurts. I have sought and found stillness. Then, one day, while wandering alone in the desert during a 4-day fast, I felt my center of being rise from my solar plexus to my heart chakra.  It is now from that place that I practice yoga.

I know that the next step in my journey is outward. I have been drawn to partner yoga and acro-yoga lately, at the polar opposite to my solitary practices of early days. I can feel during these classes how nourishing the contact with other souls is. This is where I need to go next: to a place where I can share all the gifts yoga has brought to my life with others. Whether as a workout, a personal sanctuary, a means to achieving a little bit of equanimity in an insanely busy world, as a link to our own heart or to some other grace I have yet to discover, yoga is a gift worth sharing. That is why I wish to teach yoga.

2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay

By: Melissa Park

If you liked this article and want them to win a free yoga teacher training, then make sure to vote for her by leaving a comment (scroll all the way to the bottom), and sharing this article on Facebook or Twitter. Each comment, Facebook, and Twitter share counts as one vote and you can do all three!

Are you interested in becoming a yoga teacher? Then visit our Yoga School Directory to find the right teacher training. Or, visit our Yoga Retreats page to explore beautiful yoga vacations from around the world.

Join the Conversation

  1. Deborah Molsberry says:

    You truly are a free spirit Melissa and I know that your heart will not lead you astray! I love you!

  2. Roseanna Page says:

    Melissa has found this new intention in her life, and will make something now of it.

  3. melissa park says:

    Go Melissa go!! :-)

  4. Glacier girl says:

    This is me, wishing myself luck

  5. Heather Hirsch says:


    Good luck on your journey!

    Love, Heather

  6. Jean BLUSTENNE says:

    Your decision can be a good idea… And, like we say in french : bonne ou mauvaise, c’est TA decision !!! alors bravo !

  7. Glen Hubbell says:

    Self taught people who go on to formalize their knowledge and skills are the very heart of innovation in their field and inspiration to the rest of us.

  8. Sarah Wieland says:

    Melissa is inspired by something greater than herself. Her questing is taking her out of her head and into her heart and it is from this space that she is ready to share. I would love to see her win the scholarship so that she can make this journey to inspire others.

  9. Alden says:

    Melissa, this sounds amazing! I’m glad to hear that you have found your path, I’m still looking for mine.

  10. Christy Pie says:

    Melly Pie, go forth and follow your heart as it is the true compass to fufilling your life’s dreams and happiness!

  11. sophinette says:

    Voila un bien bel article ou je découvre une nouvelle fois ma cousine, pleines de richesses…..
    je te souhaite de réussir dans tes projets, tu le mérites
    bien à toi

  12. Yveline BOEWA-MI says:

    “It’s okay to fall, we all fall in life, but we can learn to fall with a little bit of grace, a little bit of equanimity”.
    that’s so lovely and it so true !! you go girl !! <3

  13. Patricia says:

    I love your quote “It’s okay to fall, we all fall in life, but we can learn to fall with a little bit of grace, a little bit of equanimity”, as this is something I have been learning for myself the past few years, how to set aside the perfectionist and move beyond to something greater. I wish you luck in your journey – I’ll miss your wonderful stories!

  14. erin says:

    melissa, you rock!

  15. Michèle B. says:

    Bonne chance Mélissa !

  16. Karine R. says:

    Il faut vivre ses rêves et faire en sorte qu’il se réalise.
    Donc je soutiens!
    Bon courage.

  17. DadInPain says:

    Great article. You win hands down. Please take lots of pictures, see you on the trail in the spring. Time to re-post to all of my friends. Now go have yourself a Pain Free Day. DIP

  18. Rinita says:

    Melissa honey, you go forth and learn as much as your heart desires. The world needs more people like you so that you can guide us lost souls in this materialistic world. You are a beautiful person – a person of my own heart. Besos mi querida. xxxxx

  19. Glyn Williams-Jones says:

    As the supervisor of the “fully-funded PhD in Geophysics” and Volcanology, I was of course disappointed that your path was not going to parallel mine, teaching about and traipsing around active volcanoes!

    However, I have always believed that if you are truly to excel in life, you have to follow your heart (and gut…the head can often get in the way!) to what really excites your passion. Your path has obviously meandered (I’ll skip the geo-pun) quite a bit, but you seem to have found your calling where you can really grow while teaching others about your passions.

    I wish you all the very best and expect that one day I’ll stumble upon you in quiet contemplation on the flanks of Mt. Baker.

  20. Stéphane V says:

    Great essay Mel !.. fascinating, that’s what you are !

  21. The Chuck says:

    Yeah for Plan λ-φ!

  22. Jana B says:

    Sounds like yet another great adventure (although maybe not as cold as the Yukon)! Good luck and enjoy.

  23. Doug Clark says:

    The next step in a never ending whirlwind of life experiences…I hope this one excites in you the same passion you hold for Mt. Baker. I’m sure it will be an exciting adventure no matter what, Mel, and maybe be life-changing. Good luck!

  24. Helena says:

    I admire you, Mel. <3

  25. Peter Kelly says:

    Good luck Melissa!

  26. Courtenay Brown says:

    Best of luck Melissa, great essay. I hope everything works out for you.

  27. jbwright says:

    i love you, and that hat! good luck!

  28. j_j says:

    crazy virgos ftw!

  29. Edith WONG FAT says:

    Quand ton coeur s’ouvre, le chemin se dessine.
    La Lumière t’accompagne. Bonne chance

  30. Edith WONG FAT says:

    We are with by the heart and the mind
    good luck

  31. Emily says:

    Good luck

  32. Rébecca WONG FAT says:

    Magnifique article.
    Je suis contente du chemin que tu empruntes et je suis sure qu’il t’apportera encore de nombreuses richesses.
    Bon courage cousine,on est de tout coeur avec toi.

  33. Evan says:

    I support this. Don’t forget the glaciers though. Good luck.

  34. Rachel Volcano says:

    I suggest that you add this to the list. Yes, THAT list. Reason #587 why I love Melissa! You constantly amaze me with your intelligence, energy and vibrance for life! Follow your heart my love!

  35. Christine Witcher says:

    Good luck, Melissa!

  36. Niki T says:

    I know you will make a fine yoga instructor, and wish you the good fortune to be able to support yourself by it! Hope you win the tuition contest.

  37. barbara hoden says:

    super article, je connais Sophie et Ether, je suis aussi dans ce genre de métier, bon courage à toi et surtout continue

  38. barbara hoden says:

    si tout le monde s’ouvrait ainsi le monde irait mieux. que ta vie soit belle et à tout ceux qui participe

  39. Brian Miyakusu says:

    I know that you follow your heart and that you will be successful. You have a wonderful perspective that naturally heals people. I’m sure that even more people will be affected by your writings, teachings and life.

  40. Dacia Grayber says:

    Khalil Gibran: “A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?”

  41. Perry says:

    Good job Melissa.

  42. Leesa D says:

    Melissa is a truly inspiring person in so many facets! This is so perfect!

  43. naomi says:

    you’re in your body like a plant solid in the ground
    … yet you’re wind -rumi

  44. becca says:

    way to follow your heart!

  45. maizy says:

    good luck melissa
    hope to meet you someday when you visit NH!

  46. yogi says:

    ^ me too!

  47. naomi says:

    don’t forget to pack your hula-hoop! :)

  48. becca & naomi says:

    we loved your essay… good luck in india
    look us up when you get back! <3

  49. Niki says:

    good luck on your journey Mel

  50. Graham says:

    Way to follow you heart Melissa, it is the way to true happiness.

  51. Ruth says:

    Good luck becoming a yoga teacher!

  52. Jude says:

    You can do it!

  53. Ruth says:

    good luck journeying

  54. Min says:

    Best of luck on your journey!

  55. Alex Crovetto says:

    This sounds like the perfect destination for you at this point of your life. I send you much support but I know you’ll do well at anything you set your mind to.

  56. Evelyne Barbier says:

    Boonne formation

  57. Shannon says:

    Mel, Congratulations on your sacred journey. Love, Shannon

  58. baboudesiles says:


  59. Jesi Mattson says:

    I can’t wait to take one of your classes. You are so inspiring!

  60. Jane says:

    Aspects of your story remind me of my own – good luck on this journey!

  61. Isabelle says:

    Good luck from another solitary practitionner.

  62. granatapfel says:

    wishing you luck and happiness on your way!

  63. Nikki says:

    Good luck, safe travels!

  64. Rachel says:

    Good luck!

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