This blog post was written by Vinyasa Yoga School 2014 alumni Leona Dinopol and originally posted on her blog Yoga with Leona It’s easy to tell yourself (and others) that you have found inner peace when you live in a world where people literally seek the same thing as you. When you find yourself in the company of people who radiate certain positive energies, the vibrations tend to rub on you too. When the strangers you meet on the street smile at you for no other reason than to greet you “Namaste!”, those smiles become infectious. You hold those smiles in your heart for as long as you can, knowing you won’t meet strangers as jolly and friendly as they are anywhere else in the world. When you meet authentic yogis – not those who merely practice asanas, post yoga selfies on social media and proclaim themselves “yogis” (yep, I’m guilty), but those who actually seek to become higher versions of themselves – you know you are in their presence almost immediately when you notice their lack of ego. You recognize their compassionate hearts. When you try to learn an art or a science from people who really embody what they teach, you know the knowledge they are trying to impart something authentic. They are sharing a piece of themselves to you, and you take in every piece and try to protect each one by practicing and teaching others to the best of your ability. [I would like to thank my teachers in Vinyasa Yoga School. You’ve all been such a wonderful inspiration.] It’s easy to drastically change your lifestyle when you have no other option. When you’re stuck in a city where your normal diet is no longer the norm, when the food you wouldn’t even consider eating back in your own home is the only thing that’s available to you, then you not only reconsider, but you actually partake. Not only that, you begin to enjoy what you have and wish it would always be your norm. It is so easy to tell yourself and others that you are genuinely happy with your new life. You feel at peace and you love what you have when the world around you is very much conducive to peace and love. The only moments you dread in this new life of yours are the few short hours in the early morning when the temperature drops below what you’re accustomed to. But even with that, nothing can cool the new flame of joy in your heart. Of course you know deep within, this couldn’t be your new life. It’s a temporary retreat from the world you’ve been so familiar with, the world in which you were brought up, the world which happens to be your home, the world you need to come back to in a few short weeks. What’s difficult is returning to your separate reality and see that the world you were used to, the one where you come from, the one where you’re supposed to thrive, hasn’t changed. You come back thinking you were supposedly a new person, only to find the same hustle and bustle when you come home. That’s the real challenge – to maintain calm and composure, and to keep a positive perspective in life in the midst of all surrounding tension and turmoil. That’s when you know if your retreat really made an impact on your life – if you still have that joy in your heart despite the external situation. And that’s when you become thankful that of all the new asanas and mantras and philosophies you have learned, letting go of attachment was one (and mostly emphasized) of them. Coming to Rishikesh, as with most decisions I make in life, was deemed unnecessary by a lot of people in my life. But I’ve learned that sometimes you need to go seemingly insane and make unconventional and irrational choices so you can regain your focus again. Sometimes all you need is to completely overhaul your surroundings to realize that it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside. What you need, and what you hope to become, has always been inside you. Thank you, Rishikesh, for showing me exactly that. I will forever be grateful.