A regular yoga practice can do as much for your mind as for your body. After an Iyengar yoga class at the Silent Dance Center in Mo‘ili‘ili, I meet Barbara Terry, who has practiced yoga here regularly for twenty-five years and has excellent posture to show for it. As a retired Hawai‘i public school teacher, she has seen her share of challenging classrooms, including some with eighth-graders twice her size who did not want to be told what to do by anyone, especially an English teacher. “Yoga helped me stay sane,” she says. “That’s for sure.”
Iyengar yoga emphasizes proper alignment and uses blocks, belts, chairs and other props to help achieve it. It doesn’t produce floodwaters of sweat like Bikram does, but it demands concentration. “I like the mental process of getting into the poses,” Barbara says, “and I like to be reminded to breathe. Sometimes you work so hard you forget. It sounds silly but it’s not. Breathing is quite important.”
When she occasionally lets her yoga practice lapse, her shoulders droop, and she has to remind herself not to slouch. But ordinarily she stands tall without thinking about it, her feet rooted, shoulders back and down and the full dome of her chest facing the world. “Everybody thinks the key to good posture is in the back,” she says, “but really it’s in the feet.” While we talk Barbara fills a janitor’s bucket with water and begins to mop the studio’s koa wood floor. She cleans in exchange for her yoga. Silent Dance Center is the oldest yoga studio in Honolulu, established in 1977. The wood-framed building is a century old, the only surviving structure of Mo‘ili‘ili’s Japanese language school. Its roof sags, it needs fresh paint and it is hemmed in by newer concrete buildings on all sides, but overall it looks good for its age, just like Barbara. I joke that it must be all the prana—the life force moved by yogic breathing—holding up the building. “The prana and the love,” she replies.