One of our Still & Moving teachers had a grandmother here on the island whose school teacher sent her home from school one day with a sign hanging around her neck saying: “Don’t talk Hawaiian to me.” In 1896 the government banned teaching and learning in Hawaiian language. Over 70 years later, the resurgence of the Hawaiian cultural pride emerged. A local radio show sparked revival of the native ‘oleo (language). Hawaiian language activist Larry Kimura along with many Hawaiians led the charge in the 1970s, getting Hawaii’s Department of Education to sanction Hawaiian-language immersion schools.
In the back roads of Kaneohe, in the ʻili of Waipao, in the ahupuaa of Heʻeia, in Koʻolaupoko on Oʻahu, I heard the captivating tones of conversational Hawaiian – a rare sound in my experience. I walked across land embraced by the Ko’olau Mountains, towards a brightly shiny silver Airstream trailer with a hawaiian lei painted around it, as if engarlanding the vehicle. Over a dozen local musicians and Hawaiian cultural practitioners gathered, many with instruments in hand, to share the blessings of Hawaiian mele (music), community, and our keiki (children). With a camera at my side to photograph the event, I felt a sense of sacredness and gratitude as I absorbed the tuneful gathering.
Something different was happening here. Laughter and easy aloha filled the space.
I felt especially connected to the culture, language and land where I grew up. Gathered on the land of Papahana Kuaola were the people (students/mentors/participants) of Mana Maoli.
Mana Maoli came to life in 1999, a non-profit initiative that locals of Oahu created to plan and grow a community, culture, and environment-based public charter school. By the time I encountered the group, a project within Mana Maoli, Mana mele, had just completely refurbished an Airstream and transformed it into a state of the art – solar powered – mobile recording studio. Mana Mele carries the vision into music. Their one-of-a-kind, high-tech trailer serves as a hands on, mobile ‘classroom’ for children, as well as a recording studio for local musicians, and has by now blessed hundreds, possibly thousands of people in the community.
“Teaching and caring for our keiki is the most important thing we can do as adults,” says John Cruz, widely acclaimed musician and Board Chair of Mana Maoli.
The non-profit has grown into a multidisciplinary collective of educators, artists, musicians, cultural practitioners, community organizers, and families who share a common vision of community empowerment.
Mana Maoli took early steps by creating monthly events with cultural learning activities, games, and Hawaiian food, for the kids and their families at the Papakolea and Maunalaha Native Hawaiian Homesteads. These monthly gatherings eventually turned into weekly classes in Hawaiian language and culture. The Hawaiin language is still classified as an endangered language, meaning that every effort to teach the language helps to perpetuate a deeper connection to the ‘aina (land) and spirit of Hawaii. Perpetuating the language is of huge importance.
The nonprofit founded Hālau Kū Māna Public Charter School, Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy and the Mana Mele Project, which serves over 2000 Hawaii students each year, delivering cultural, academic, and life skills and inspiring students to learn and create.
Unlike the traditional western sit-in-your-chair-with-a-book approach to schooling, Mana Maoli students learn by participating in real-world settings, alongside mentors and top professionals. The collective currently consists of around 200 music, video, and education professionals who expose students to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) – all with a uniquely Hawaiian perspective.
Mālie, a young student, found her calling through Mana Maoli. She shared, “They opened a new window for me… I didn’t know what audio engineering was, but now I see myself being a sound engineer because of my mentor, Aunty Kelli. She’s taught me so much. I plan to go to college for engineering.”
Mana Maoli continues to take big strides, enriching the community. We can all get behind this cause – to work towards a Hawaii where children have access to hands-on learning that can inspire and connect them to their cultural heritage, to the ‘aina (environment) and where the community comes together with sound cultural values, such as aloha (love, fellow-feeling), kuleana (personal responsibility), malama (to care for, preserve, protect), allowing for a stronger Hawaii.
MANA : nvs. Life-force energy/power, powerful nation, authorization, miraculous, divinely powerful, spiritual.
MAOLI : vs. Native, indigenous, genuine, true, real; really, truly. Hawaiian native.
Born in Massachusetts in the 1950s, sixth in a Catholic family of seven children, Ruth Marie moved continuously until finally landing in Hawaii for graduate school, where she has happily lived ever since, adopting her Hawaiian name of Pulelehua given to her by Pir Moineddin, a Sufi on Maui.
One of her family’s many moves brought them to South Carolina, where her father’s job was to integrate an all-white electrical company. Even though Jim Crow laws had been removed, the family was surprised to see a few “Whites Only” signs. When they searched for a house to rent, and the landlords learned about her father’s job and that their family was Catholic, landlords refused to rent to them. The family moved from trailers to a convent, until they managed to rent a house in a larger town.
Naturally friendly, Ruth Marie soon invited a number of new acquaintances to their home for a party, including one black girl. No one showed up for the event except her black friend. After that day they were evicted from the house, but not before a group of white supremacists burned a cross into their lawn.
Unwavering, Pulelehua has continued to maintain friendships with folks of any color ever since. She also developed a heart for standing up for what she believes is right and just. As an undergraduate at UC San Diego, she was so disturbed by the killing her country was doing in Viet Nam, she led a protest against the US military coming to the college campus to conscript soldiers from amongst the students. She regularly demonstrates and advocates for women’s rights, equity and social justice for all.
Pulelehua first came to the islands together with her mother for both of them to attend graduate school at UH Manoa in 1979. Within her 30 years of her subsequent employment there, Pule headed up the enormous project of putting the entire library system of the University of Hawaii online. They began by designing their own software system to pull off the task. She continued to take courses and completed a Masterʻs in Educational Technology. She calls herself a “nerd” – the rest of us would probably call her a genius!
Now a devoted hula student of Kumu Malia at Still & Moving Center, Pulelehua has danced her entire life – even through the grocery stores as a little child! She began sharing Sacred Dance in 1991, with the Sacred Dance Guild, which she has done ever since with dancers from around the world, and which drew her to her church at Calvary By the Sea, where she also dances and leads sacred embodiment of prayer, including: labyrinth walks, liturgical dance, and a welcoming prayer.
She conducts moving meditation workshops with groups including Hospice, youth groups, women’s groups, church communities and educational groups. “We are dancing for healing, dancing for life, dancing to stay grounded. We dance to embody the spirit we are intended to be,” enthuses Pule.
Most recently, Pule took Brain Dance teacher training in 2016 and currently leads online classes, to which EVERYONE is invited!
Most recently, Pulelehua took a BrainDance teacher training from the creator Ann Green Gilbert in 2016 and currently leads online classes in Mindful BrainDance, to which EVERYONE is invited Wednesdays 10am HST on Zoom! mindful-braindance.com
Kathe Gibbs has ushered 2000 newborns into their mothers’ waiting arms in the comfort, safety and sanctity of their homes. Now as one of the residents on Mouna Farm, Kathe provides her midwifery skills all over the island of ‘Oahu. “I go to where the mother is with my ‘concierge midwifery’ practice. I offer care throughout their childbearing year, sometimes working with families before conception. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege,” says Kathe, who is a Preceptor for The North American Registry of Midwives (NARM, which has been granted licensing oversight in the new Hawaii law).
Kathe experienced two great visions in her professional life, one of which fully manifested, the other of which is currently in process.
Back in 1974, after achieving her BS in Psychology and Early Childhood Education at UC Santa Cruz. She was doing graduate studies and teaching yoga when a paradigm shifting event revealed a different life path. She found herself unexpectedly serving as the sole attendant at a friend’s home birth. The baby’s father was out of reach, hiking in the back country when the mother-to-be went into labor. Unphased, and experienced in seeing home births herself, the first-time mother calmly guided Kathe through every step of the labor, from making a fire in the hearth, rubbing her back, boiling water, all the way to catching the baby!
Attending the birth of that baby was an “Aha” moment for Kathe. It left her charged with the joyous realization that – despite the impressions from culture, media and people’s stories – childbirth can be so natural, so much “the way things should be and always have been”. Kathe felt thunderstruck. She knew to the roots of her soul that she would spend her life caring for mothers and birthing families safely into the world.
As she had learned that 90% of all births are normal, she saw herself using ancient birthing practices in today’s world backed up by modern medicine if the situation calls for it. With that clear-as-crystal insight, Kathe began her years of women’s health care and midwifery, starting a Women’s Health Center in Tehran (1975-77). Formal midwifery and clinical training began in 1979 at the Seattle Midwifery school. Her education and instruction (listed below) included a B.S. in Nursing. She was in the first group of midwives to be licensed in both Washington state (1981) and California (1995).
In practice on her own, as well as in partnerships and in many clinical settings, Kathe has attended births in California, Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C, Texas, New Mexico, Iran, the West Indies, as well as here on the islands of Hawaii, where many of her clients are military families.
As a NARM Preceptor, and officially certified by the Midwifery College of Utah and the National College of Midwifery, Kathe has served as an educator, overseeing the academic and clinical training of new midwives. By 2001, Kathe had a thriving midwifery practice in Santa Cruz, California, attending to births in the safety and comfort of the mothers’ homes.
In late 2010, Kathe experienced the second vision of her life to come, triggered by the question: “How would your life be different if you had a place to go?” She saw “A Place for Women”. It would be a women’s clinical training site, a birthing center where women of all backgrounds could come together as early as pre-conception, and receive continued education, advocacy and support through the three trimesters of their pregnancies, as well as postpartum. In the hands of skilled midwives, as well as other medical professionals, these mothers would give safe, strongly supported and joyous births.
She had brought her children to Hawaii every summer for decades. After seeing the Hawaiian film Ola, which featured both Mouna Farm and other innovative health programs, she felt irresistibly drawn to the islands. When she reviewed the Hawaii 2020 Health Goals, she recognized a HUGE need for women to have better access and affordability to comprehensive maternal and infant care. In 2015 she closed her California practice and moved to Hawaii to fulfill her second vision. After some time in Hawaii Kai, she happily landed on Mouna Farm, a place of inspiration and healthy living for all.
Dreams, like all births, begin as a seed, tucked into a small, fertile place to be nurtured into being. Kathe is carefully tending her model and idea of “A Place for Women”, a wellness center and birthing home. Kathe commits herself to giving back to the community, which appreciates her safe, supportive, and restorative service to women and their babies. She knows that the goal of improving society’s care for women, like pregnancy, requires patience. Her dream is alive and well, and promises to be very successful, uplifting women in so many ways.
Kathe’s Educational Background
1977 Informed Homebirth Childbirth Educator training, MA
1979 – 1981 Seattle Home Maternity Service, Preceptorship, WA
1979 – 1981 Seattle Midwifery School, WA
1980 High Point Community Women’s Clinic, Women’s Health Preceptorship WA
1981 St. Jude’s hospital, Preceptorship West Indies
1983 – 1985 Regents College, BSN program NY
2004 – 2006 Naturopathic Graduate Studies, Clayton College of Natural Health
Full Circle – Midwifery
650.269.0853 / http://www.fullcirclemidwifery-hawaii.com
By Sarah Hodges
Have you ever struggled to accept help, even when you really needed it? We all face this situation, and sometimes have to overcome our own pride to accept acts of generosity. It’s not greedy to accept help. The truth is, nothing happens by one person alone. We all rely on the assistance of many others to accomplish our own life’s work. Right now, more than ever, we get to experience the importance of each other’s help. Putting ego aside, we find that great things come from accepting what is offered. Here, blessings can abound!
Only in accepting can we give, and thus the natural flow of giving and receiving continues to thrive. In the natural cycle, the plants release oxygen and need carbon dioxide to live; on the other side, animals breathe out carbon dioxide and breathe in the oxygen that the plants produce. A miraculous life flow happens in this dance of giving and receiving. We exist in a beautifully interdependent universe, where nothing operates isolated from another.
We still need discernment in navigating offers of help. Pay attention to any internal warning signs that are telling you that a gift may be dangerous or come with ill intention. Anything that risks our physical, mental, or emotional well being is not actually “help” – it’s harm. When we are true to ourselves, we don’t betray ourselves. When we are centered, we more easily see when to accept and when to graciously decline an offer.
We can also move beyond any fears of not being deserving, or not being able to repay. We can consider accepting a hand reached out in assistance, just as naturally as we may offer help spontaneously with a loving heart. In walking our path in a pure-hearted way, honoring all that is sentient and insentient, we mindfully take our place in the great, interactive flow, which the trees and animal kingdom naturally move to in their own way.
If giving is a blessing, we might well be magnifying any blessing offered to us tenfold, just by our willingness to receive.
Wondering what our Good Deeds Squad is up to?
A couple weeks ago, Marcia Iraha generously donated 150 yards of fabric to Still & Moving Center, having originally come to hula with Anne Shirai, one of our devoted hula students from Japan. Marcia gave it to our official Ambassador of Aloha, Doris Morisaki.
Hmmm… How to make best use of a box of fabric in these Covid 19 days? One yard of fabric yields around 12 – 15 masks as a layer of protection against infection. However, Doris doesn’t consider herself much of a seamstress…. So, she made some coconut wireless inquiries and soon came up with a solution.
Keani Alcoran, a former hula student at the Still & Moving Center, runs logistics while her mom and aunty sew masks. Doris connected this team of family mask-makers with Marcia to receive a portion of her fabric gift. Keani’s family then donated the masks to first responders.
Doris also discovered that our very own yoga teacher, Lee-Ann Kong, formerly a fashion designer, has also joined the ranks of volunteer mask sewers in Hawaii, creating masks for first responders and medical workers. Doris provided the rest of Marcia’s fabric donation to Lee-Ann for her generous production. Lee-Ann’s most recent delivery of dozens of masks went to Pali Momi.
Doris’ resourceful connection of Marcia’s bountiful donation with two industrious mask sewing teams on Oahu thereby multiplied the acts of generosity. Good deeds galore!
Even though where we go and who we see in person right now may be limited, there are many out there in the community who are finding ways to still connect, share their talents and skills, and do good deeds. We want to celebrate these people!
This article could have been the lead story for our letter. I’m so proud of our team.
In the lightening speed that everything changed for all of us here on island, we heard about “flattening the curve” and we shut our doors after the last class Monday night, March 16. I’m delighted to say we re-opened classes on Sunday, March 22nd, after only 5 days of closure, to a very receptive student body! Let’s recognize the magnificent efforts of the Still & Moving staff and faculty in making that happen, lead by our Operations Manager Neela Vadivel.
I had to make the harrowing decision, just after our 9th birthday – which we didn’t dare celebrate – to shut the doors and walk away for who knows how long. Yet our team’s surge of resolve in the face of a huge challenge has left me breathless with admiration.
The Still & Moving Almanac quote for our online opening day turned out to be: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance,” by Alan Watts in the week of Dancing Through Life.
Oh my gosh, do our staff, faculty and students know how to dance!
As a group, we knew virtually nothing about online classes, except for a small, low-tech Nia Mentorship group that I’ve been running once a week for the last 5 years. We needed to know the latest, greatest online platform for teaching, and we needed to know it yesterday.
Neela strode forward to spearhead our efforts. She and I quickly determined that Zoom provided the best service once our yoga teacher Joelle Ng gave us a demo. Neela then set to work organizing a few key staff members to learn the technology, setting up private lessons for all the faculty to teach online.
Yes, we wanted to keep giving our top-quality movement classes. We were also determined to keep our teacher-student and student-student interconnections strong through LIVE, INTERACTIVE online classed, in which everyone could share before and after class. That’s a different animal than recorded classes. Live, interactive online classes require constant supervision by our staff to help our students get into the broadcast, help the teachers manage the technology required, and keep all the timing like clockwork. Unmanaged, the system would leave lots of room for snafus that would feel unprofessional.
Neela describes her experience: “Transferring nearly 100% of our classes to an entirely online platform can only be described as an exercise in frustration and vulnerability – exhilarating at times and downright infuriating at others.
“We dove into the unknown, headfirst, with none of us having even the slightest experience managing IT, while concurrently training ourselves, each other, our teachers and our students.”
Neela accepted the brunt of all the transition work, taking the studio phone home to monitor 24 hours a day until we finally managed to divvy up the workload. She made sure that no one stepped onto the Zoom stage unprepared to deliver their class or unsupported by plenty of staff behind the scenes.
Our teachers bravely agreed to teach online, to be a link of normalcy to our ‘ohana at a time when everything is topsy-turvy. They’ve been so heroic, completely adapting their classes to teach to a group we can only see as tiny squares on a computer screen, changing our right-left cueing because now our students are moving in our mirror image, learning to feed both our music and our voices directly into the computer with technology we’ve never used before. We’ve been willing to take the chance of falling flat on our faces – like having all the sound equipment fail for the first 15 minutes of a class – and keep smiling and dancing all the way to the end.
As Kendra Gillis reports from the front desk: “I won’t say it wasn’t a shock to the nervous system as it definitely was. It was a quick decision to close the studio with an even quicker decision to move everything online. But when you have a team who are motivated, things flow much easier. We all learned something new together. Rather than one or two “knowing” and teaching others, we all stepped into this blind but willing to learn as a team. I think that’s fantastic. And I’m really enjoying teaching my own classes online.”
Like Neela, Emily joined Still & Moving Center’s staff after working for years in Cirque du Soleil, where she served as stage manager. Emily says: “My skill base is in crisis management, organization and leadership, so this transition has been very engaging for me. In a time when we’re experiencing a global crisis it’s so easy to feel alone and helpless. But serving our community and seeing how grateful everyone is gives me a sense of purpose.”
One of our newest staffers, Sarah Hodges describes her experience: “The task of getting our whole studio online looked insurmountable to me, especially since none of us were pros in online conferencing. We sat together and every day and did research, talked to other studios who were moving online, and what seemed impossible just started to happen. It was pretty miraculous. And then I went online and saw classes full, with students from all around the world! It felt like a big win for everybody.”
According to our Feldenkrais teacher Eva Geueke, these online classes are fulfilling a prediction from Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais that some day this self-healing technique would be in every living room!
Kendra adds, “As someone who loves being home, loves being introverted, this has been an awesome experience. I’ve been taking more classes than ever before at Still & Moving… without actually being there! I’m excited for what this online format holds for the center in the future.”
And here are a few comments we’re hearing from our grateful students:
– The teacher is smiling at me!
– I’m so happy, being in Vietnam, that I can finally take classes again at Still & Moving!
– My teachers are pros.
– It’s wonderful to move again and to connect with fellow students.
– I sure hope you keep offering online classes even after you open back up.
And no doubt we will. It’s a brave new world out there, and our staff, teachers and students are definitely rising to the challenges of it.
Seldan Edwards, the headmaster of the private school I taught at after graduating from college, passed this advice on to me early in my career. I had all kinds of new ideas for the drama classes I was teaching, things the school had never done before, things that might have seemed a bit risky to an institution whose reputation for classic, quality education went back nearly a century. Yet Selden did his best to accommodate my requests, seeing my enthusiasm and best intentions. He taught me a lot with his response.
Saying yes to something new allows us to change and grow, keeping pace with shifting circumstances, evolving ideas, and different life perspectives. That very willingness to go with life’s flow is healthy. It cultivates our resilience, braves us to face the unknown, to take risks, to potentially fail, then to learn, and try again.
When someone asks something of us that challenges the way things have always been done, or the way we were planning to do that thing, we may feel tempted to put up resistance. Even considering the possibility of saying yes renders us mentally and emotionally more flexible. On the physical plane, we’re less inclined to go into a stress response to change. And spiritually we’re more porous to light flooding through – perhaps from unexpected sources. This open stance can only make us healthier as whole human beings.
By Sarah Hodges
“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”
― Leo Buscaglia
Starting three months ago, 20 young participants of YouthBuild Waimaānalo took on the task of building new small houses for the homeless. They’re working alongside general contractor Gary Silva and his subcontractors, who mentor the kids in the field. Those very structures are now being incorporated into Waimānalo Kau Hale, behind Blanche McMillan’s home. As the youth are putting up the structures, they’re helping to bring a new village to life during this time when solid shelters are so much in need. U’ilani Fonoti, program director for YouthBuild says about this effort, “It has been an amazing experience to see how Waimanalo comes together and works to solve problems. It’s a testimony to the community support, that without funding we’ve been able to get this homeless village up and running.”
Together we are stronger, and that includes looking out for everybody in our communities. YouthBuild Waimānalo launched in 2017, receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild, with the initiative to empower young people who would greatly benefit from the support. YouthBuild Waimanalo helps at-risk youth between ages 16-24 years old to earn a GED, learn important skills that prepare them for the workforce, and gain the confidence through on-site experience to enter Hawai’i’s construction industry or move towards other goals that they may set during the course of the program. The program offers its services to youth who have dropped out of high school, are facing homelessness, adjudication, aging out of foster care, or have disabilities.
The program not only prepares youth with practical construction skills for this crucial industry in Hawai’i, but also arms them with a restored self-worth and sense of personal responsibility. YouthBuild mentors teach construction skills in the hope that one day the upcoming generation will alleviate Hawai’i’s current and worsening housing crisis. The program plants a seed by empowering the young.
Before embarking on house building this year, the kids of YouthBuild helped families on Hawaiian Homestead land with home repair and smaller construction tasks, such as widening door frames. All of their work forges a deepening connection to the community. Through the program these at-risk youth can form powerful relationships with potential employers, developing skills to make life changing contributions to others in need.
I’m enormously heartened to learn about these noble efforts in our community, and to witness people coming together with the shared vision to lift up those who may be struggling, and ourselves along the way.
by Sarah Hodges
Today, ‘ohana includes all who are brought into the family group. Your ‘ohana nourishes you. There are even hānai (adopt, nourish) relationships which feed a person both physically and spiritually.” – Leilani S. Hino
In times when I’ve felt any kind of struggle, I’ve sought both inward and outward. I’ve discovered that drawing close to loved ones brings me a sense of well being and fulfillment. Sometimes I gravitate to my grandparents and parents for this sense of comfort, and sometimes to members of my global community.
The universe gives us our blood family. I have also chosen a global family with whom I share some of my most meaningful relationships. This is my extended ‘ohana. In our blood family we have many kinds of relationships – close, distant, and those who we need to stay away from. My global family consists of people who show a willingness to listen to my perspective and who express kindness to others, both unalike and similar. They live with open-mindedness and with respect for the land, the spaces we inhabit, for other people, and for self. These are my people. I cultivate my ‘ohana with both of these groups.
The people we put ourselves around impact our physical health. We tend to focus inwardly on our busy lives and forget about the importance of close relationships for holistic health. As children, our comfort comes from our family: those we hold close, those who hold us close. Their embrace settles our nervous system.
I spent several years rigorously studying art abroad, disconnected from ‘ohana. I felt terrible, REALLY terrible. Spirit knew that I needed healing. When I returned to Hawaii I spent six months painting, meditating and praying for healing in a little cottage on the North Shore. I hardly spoke to anyone, isolating myself as the only way I knew how to deal with the world. I didn’t know what protective coat to wear – no longer wanting to wear the identity of an “artist”.
My longing for ‘ohana led me to Still & Moving Center for a West African dance class where I encountered joyful community through song and dance. Here I got wind of an amazing lomilomi healer named Uncle Alva. Several months later I was driving through Waimanalo past a house with a gathering of people out front, and felt deeply drawn to that space. Come to find out, it was Uncle Alva’s place, where he practiced and taught healing through. lomilomi massage. After my first session with Uncle Alva, he said, “Come as my guest to a class I am giving tomorrow night. You will meet your brothers and sisters there.”
Uncle Alva led me into a community of healers that transformed my state of being. I finally felt support with a sense of belonging and joy. We learned together, shared meals, talked story and laughed. Uncle showed me how being in community heals. He saw that as a people, we need togetherness in this life-journey to do our individual work in the world. We’re each stronger when we feel part of a larger whole.
When you feel off-balance, remember what a precious resource friends and family are and remember to reach out. Wanting to protect ourselves and be safe, wanting to be perceived as “OK” or wanting to be respected – all of these fears may cause us to shrink away from our ‘ohana.
Find the courage to come close. Take the risk, because it’s worth it!
Happy, Humorous Yoga & Aerial Teacher
Lee-Ann has lived a life that shows the benefits of an extended ‘ohana. Although her parents lived in Hawaii Kai, Lee-Ann spent most of her time with her grandparents and aunt in Kaimuki. “My parents tried their best, but I was their first kid and they were young. They were making the best decisions they could, but that didn’t do it for me. That’s OK. It made me self-reliant.”
“My grandparents were the best people in the world, so supportive and so amazing. They grew up in the WWII era. My grandmother was pulled out of school to work when she was in about 6th grade. She taught me to value education, to take care of my things, and to take care of myself. She had a great sense of humor. They both passed many years ago. I miss them very much but they are very alive in me.
“Whenever I have a dream about my grandmother, she’s laughing. That’s the best thing, no matter what’s going on. It’s important to be positive because we create our own reality. We can see past things that we perceive as negative. Things always turn out as they should in the end, and we’re always taken to a better place. It’s important to be happy where you are. All you have is YOU. Make your own happiness, and you’ll be happy all the time,” affirms Lee-Ann.
Once you take one of Lee-Ann’s yoga or AiReal yoga classes, you’ll find laughter and happiness to be trademark signatures of her teaching style.
Lee-Ann reports that she was not very active to begin with: “I was a chubby little kid who liked to hang out in my aunt’s kitchen and bake.” It wasn’t until college at Honolulu Community College (HCC) that she started rock climbing and hiking. Once she left college to pursue fashion design and her climbing friends moved away, she felt the need to keep moving.
She attended Zumba classes with a friend, and her favorite part turned out to be the yoga stretches at the end. While she liked the yoga videos she tried, she wanted “someone supervising me to make sure I was doing it right.”
A friend gave Lee-Ann a Groupon for a little yoga studio behind the teacher’s house, where she learned a lot every Wednesday morning. Before moving away to the mainland, her teacher put the idea into her head to eventually take a yoga teacher training.
Lee-Ann has worked full time at Sedona for 20 years, helping people find items that assist them in their lives: gems, talking with energy readers, energetically-charged fragrance oils, feng-shui tips, and just talking. One day a customer of hers at Sedona named April Patterson offered Lee-Ann a free yoga class at Still & Moving where April taught Yoga for the Stiffs.
As Lee-Ann describes her yoga journey here: “I thought April’s class was just great, and then she moved. Then I attended David Sanders’ classes and I loved how he shared so much for us to think about during the postures. Once Claudia subbed for David, I thought SHE was great! When Claudia told us about her yoga teacher training, I knew it was the right thing at the right time for me. It’s always better to know more than less.
“At our teacher training, Claudia was tremendous at teaching the basics of how to do the poses, breaking the moves down and doing each asana with proper alignment. I know people who complain of getting hurt in yoga… Not the way Claudia teaches! And Claudia is always so supportive and open to our questions. I really appreciate her love for what she does.”
We hired Lee-Ann first as a sub and then as a team teacher of a unique, team-taught class called Yin-Yang Yoga. One day she and her co-teacher Ciara Steynberg ventured upstairs to try an aerial dance class with Kezia Holm. That eventually led to Yumi Hi’s AiReal yoga classes, where she found Yumi to be hilarious. Once Carmen Curtis, the founder of AiReal yoga, came to deliver a teacher training at Still & Moving, Lee-Ann was all in!
“Carmen taught us that poses are ONLY safe when done in proper alignment. I learned from her that a lot is going on inside that you may not see from the outside. So I learned to find the moves from the inside out, so to speak.”
“Everyone can benefit from some style of yoga. In the case of AiReal yoga, it’s actually easier than regular yoga to do a number of moves. Using the hammock as a prop actually allows people to get into postures that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. The aerial hammock gives students more accessibility to yoga poses that their joints or their lack of strength or their stiffness might otherwise allow them to do. They have LESS chance of hurting themselves in the hammock than they do on the mat!’
Whether doing yoga on the mat or in the hammock, Lee-Ann reports psychological benefits beyond the physical ones: “Yoga can calm people down, taking their brain off their day. Yoga helps you focus on the present moment so that you can keep your balance and breathe and find your alignment. It gives you a mental vacation.
“I ask people not to take yoga or AiReal yoga so seriously. I add some humor. I encourage students laughing, talking, even swearing if they want to! And people do! I like to interact with everyone to know that each student is OK. I ask people about specific parts of their bodies, getting them to really tune in. And I try to make things funny, especially if we’re doing a pose that’s not particularly comfortable!
Lee-Ann remains grounded in her extended ‘ohana. She has friends at Sedona who come from really rough childhoods, and who also were not close with their parents. “We make it a point to be supportive and loving in a way that we weren’t supported as children.”
With her parents and younger sister now having moved away to the mainland, Lee-Ann stays close to her aunties. In fact, two aunties in their sixties now attend her AiReal yoga classes! Even if they started taking class to support Lee-Ann, they are now earnest students finding that AiReal yoga effectively gets them into shape.
Lee-Ann enthuses: “My aunties are having a great time! They go upside down and find great support in the hammock, doing moves they can’t do on the mat. I am so proud of them!”
And we are proud of Lee-Ann for her can-do, make-my-world-a-happy-place approach to life.