July 29, 2011

It Begins With the Mother: Quintessential Yoga on Kauai

Road to yoga

‘So where are we going,’ I asked Sara, the owner of the cottage where we were staying on Kauai. She had asked me to a yoga class a few days prior, and this day I was able to separate from the family and pull it off.  I didn’t know if we were heading to a studio, or the beach perhaps.  Instead we drove into lush Hawaiian jungle, closer toward Mt. Wai’ale’ale, the crater in the center of the island, a green wall weeping with rivulets of cascading waterfalls, and I thought, ‘this is good too.’

‘We’re going to my teacher’s.  She teaches out of her husband’s art studio.’  I nodded watching the scenic show of green out the window.

How different than my drive to yoga in Denver, down one exit on the highway and up a traffic-light lined parkway into the parking lot of a strip mall.  Forever grateful for my practice at home, nonetheless, I could not help but think this felt so sane, natural.

We pulled over at the end of a grassy lane and walked into some trees, down a mud-slicked hillside and there was the studio, green like the trees, built like a lean-to back into the hillside.

Statues offering perfect plumeria blossoms welcomed us into an outdoor entry. As I was signing a guest book just outside the studio door, she came around the corner. “This is Patricia’, Sara said.  I was greeted by a woman of about 70 with a ready smile and a direct gaze.  She said the name she calls her studio in Hawaiian, the language melodic, ancient, echoey, meaning  ‘breath of God’, and just hearing that helped me breathe as I entered the space – an artist’s studio with the artist’s works on the walls, Christmas lights wound around the beams glowing warmly in the room darkened by an impending storm.

I slipped into the bathroom just off the studio floor before class started.  Everything was beautiful here! I quickly perused the walls covered with Hawaiian poems and pictures – one I realized was Patricia in a Gap ad, gray hair blowing, contented smile, a leg straight up in the air.

She counts her son, Saul David Raye, among one of her teachers, whom I’ve learned from others is known for his gentle, heartfelt approach.  Now I know where he gets it.

sunset from kalamacottage.com

Surely these qualities flow from mother to son.  As class got underway, my breath and body impatient, tight from travel, her teaching quickly conveyed that there would be no performances here today.  There was nothing I had to do, nowhere I needed to be but here.

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled as we rose to Warrior 2, facing each other toward the center.  Noticing the other women in the room, several older also with a strength of presence, ready smiles and direct gazes for the reticent newbie, a realization struck me, or rather, reminded me of what I know:  I need…elders.  Women elders.   Women with wisdom, experience, and power who can show me how to grow into these qualities.  I need a gray haired teacher.

Timing her instructions between downpours of rain and loud claps of thunder, Patricia allowed nature in the room to do its work.   Lying open-hearted in savasana, the rain crescendoed to such a pitch that it fell as if through the roof and directly into my chest.

Driving back, senses heightened now, Mt. Wai’ale’ale  was no longer ‘water, falling, falling’, but water heaving – sobbing, gushing, pouring, dumping over the top of the crater and down the green wall so powerfully that my words trailed off mid sentence as I looked up into it.  Even Sara’s jaw dropped, despite having lived on Kauai for twenty plus years.

Upon my return to the cottage, I sat on the lanai for a few more moments of peace before the rejoining my family.   Seventeen separate cascades fell down the mountain walls from where I sat.  As much as I longed to, I did not make it back to another class with Patricia that week, but who knows where the gentle realizations from Mother Kauai may lead.

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