By Camila Pagliuca
I was floating on the air. It’s how I felt when I left the class. With the sensation I didn’t have to do anything else that day. Even my desire for sailing was satisfied. I drank a bottle of water very slowly, looking at the cars passing by, carrying boards, dogs, and people. It took me a while to feel like doing something else.
This happened in Maui, where I had the opportunity to go twice. In May 2002, and again, in March 2003. My main interest was sailing. Maui is a paradise to any windsurfer. It is also an enchanting island, with many options to practice yoga, and great schools in Hatha Style.
I went to the North Shore because of the windsurfing, which ended up being a good choice. It seems that the best Ashtanga teachers have also chosen that side of the island – probably because of its mild climate. I felt good in those small towns without large malls, with only a few stores and coffee shops full of options for vegetarian people. In the 60s and 70s, Maui, and specially the North Shore, became a refuge for people looking for a way of life more connected to Nature, and to the peace and love atmosphere characteristic of the Woodstock time.
In 2002, I was learning the first series of Ashtanga, still in that stage of forgetting postures here and there. I had a Brazilian friend, Patrícia Gentil, who lived in Maui and practiced Ashtanga. She was the one who introduced me to the first yoga schools I attended in Maui. The trip from Brazil is way too long, but the arrival is always wonderful. With a humid climate, and light rain, Maui is very similar to the Brazilian Northeast region: a great place to sail, surf or just enjoy the beach.
My first practice was at Maui Yogashala, in the western town of Paia. It is a very commercial type of yoga school, with many classes of all levels throughout the day, several teachers and styles, and a cool boutique. I had a few classes with Nadia, the owner, who developed the Maui Yoga (another Ashtanga version). The place is really fun, and at the end of a class I found out I was practicing among Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama, pioneers of tow-in surfing. Nadia worked hard to adjust all my muscles.I remember my first complete series with Nadia: over two and a half hours practicing, with long periods of holding the poses. She loved to keep us breathing in marichasanas, because she said Pattabhi Jois – yoga master founder of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (AYRI) – in Mysore, India, used to do the same in his workshops. It was from this place that I left floating on the air, in total plenitude.
Patrícia always spoke about her teacher Helena in a very sweet way. Helena accompanied her last two pregnancies and taught her a lot. So, on a typical Hawaiian morning, with hot sun, blue ocean, and not too much wind, we headed to Helena’s house.
It was a small place. She moved the furniture away and we positioned ourselves very close to each other, stretching our little rugs on a straw floor with nice smell. We left the payment on the kitchen counter. Helena taught the Ashtanga class very carefully, and watched our postures and breathing. She was very sweet and got happy with our little conquests. I took a class with Helena with the first series of Ashtanga modified. In the sitting positions, she gave us a sequence of postures to work the opening of the pelvis area. I memorized that one to “use whenever needed.”
But, for me, what was really remarkable in Maui was a class I had with Nancy Glifford. It was an incredible experience! Many people had told me about “Fresh Tomatoes.” It is located in Haiku, a rural town, humid and very green. It’s on the way to Hana, a part of the island with preserved forests. To get there, we go higher, moving away from the ocean, toward the Haleakala Volcano, which observed us from up there. Several curves later, we saw the sign “Fresh Tomatoes.” We were kind of shy. It was the first time for Patrícia as well.
As soon as we entered the room, I felt hot. Nancy greeted us and asked if we knew what we were doing over there. We were speechless and just nodded. I paid attention to some pictures of the most bizarre postures I’d ever seen in my life, and all of them happened right in that room. We stayed close to the door and I did not even look at the other side of the room, just thinking about the class about to begin.
Later, I understood why Nancy asked us if we knew what we were doing over there. It was because that was one of those days when “she doesn’t speak” (it was like a friend and student of Nancy’s referred to the Mysore Style). So the class started and she really did not speak. I got some verbal correction from the assistant teacher, and that one was for sure the best practice I had in Maui.
When the class was over, she asked me who my teachers were, and I talked about Cristiano and Jimena (from Fortaleza, Brazil). She didn’t know them, but said they were teaching me well. I was brave enough to tell her I thought my mula bandha was not ok. She told me not to worry, because after 10 more years of practice, my mula bandha would get better.
Maui is a wonderful place, where Nature openly reveals itself through the wind, waves, and fire, which created it all. Very inspiring to practice yoga. Selected by many veteran Ashtanga teachers to live and work. It was one of the places where, for many years, Pattabhi Jois taught his classes when he was not in Mysore (Nancy organized them). That little green place in Maui lives in my heart… I will always come back whenever I have time to combine that simple life with kite surfing, surfing, windsurfing, and yoga, of course!
Aloha (almost Shanti, almost Namaste)!
** Our thanks to Cathia Karin Heuser and Maurício Wolf from YogaMala that contributed to this article – published initially in one of our printed issues of 2002. Our partnership helps disseminate yoga and its philosophy to many people that can read this article in English and Portuguese.