city yoga, country yoga: practice on the island of oahu
posted: April 1, 2014
Yoga should feel the same whether you’re in an urban center or in the wilds, shouldn’t it? And yet where our practice is set can result in a profoundly different experience. From the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii, our ambassador Nadia Bonenfant looks at the contrasts between city and country yoga.
The morning traffic rush in Honolulu, as it looked some 40 years ago
It’s early morning and the city of Honolulu is just waking up. It’s already humid as I make the 75-minute drive there from Oahu’s North Shore, the music for the yoga class I’ll be leading playing in my car. The playlist is dynamic, energizing and, as always, fuelled by ocean inspirations.
With 375,000 people, Honolulu the largest city in Hawaii, and 73 per cent of the state’s entire population call it home. The word “Honolulu” is derived from the native words hono meaning “bay,” and lulu meaning “shelter.” The city is a key trading hub and the location of a major military defense, as well as home to a large number of yoga studios and wellness gyms. It’s a stark contrast to where I’ve been staying with my buddy Jamie Sterling, fellow lululemon ambassador and professional big wave surfer, up on the North Shore. This morning, as I yoga he surfs world famous waves.
Nadia and Jamie on the North Shore
Contrasts keep me on my toes. Contrast in breath, in energy levels during the day, in weather and how we can adapt our daily practice to recognize and embrace these unseen forces. Yoga is also about contrasts, and feeling that every time we practice we are different. Contrasts come in places we teach in.
The island of Oahu is such a place of contrast. Honolulu is urban, busy and vibrates on such a different level from the rural and peaceful atmosphere of the famous beaches and lush tropical forest of the North Shore. Albeit far removed from yoga-crazed mainland cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles, Honolulu has tailored itself a place in the yoga world as one of the most beautiful cities to practice in.
Yoga on Waikiki Beach, Oahu’s famous Diamond Head in the background
I am excited to connect with the gang at lululemon store at the Ala Moana Centre and spread some ocean love yoga for friends who aren’t making it to the countryside. Here, teaching is different in its nuances, flow and energies. Inside the store, the sound of the ocean can’t be heard and you can’t see clear blue skies, but store practices bring people together, on their mats and into their imaginations. Then it’s about what I, as teacher, can bring into that space, creating a place where amidst concrete and busy lives, we call can find our inner ocean, our inspiration.
The ocean: birthplace of life and of consistent transformation. La Mer, El Océano, whatever you call it wherever in the world you may be it bonds people, traditions and cultures. It’s a place of gathering, of liberation; a place of cycles; a sacred stage where what needs to be released is released and where what needs to be taken in is willingly absorbed.
People who have salt water running through their veins can certainly attest that their love of the ocean makes them feel part of a larger community. Growing up on the Junasika, a 43-foot sailboat, sets a pretty good canvas of why I am addicted to the ocean and coastal communities. I love the vastness, the smells and the consistent undercurrent, even when things on the surface look calm.
All looks calm—ocean and otherwise—during yoga at a FLUID Retreat
Through yoga I can share my love of the salt water; of the great blue skies and sunshine I bask beneath when I surf; of the heat from the beaches on the North Shore and the fluidity from the ocean. It’s about finding the two-way connection between my inner land of contrasts and that of every single person in the room.
And so teaching in Honolulu—in any city—is a way to call in the great outdoors, but from the inside out. It’s about mindfully connecting with natural spaces from a place of mind and heart, and finding peace on the mat before returning to the heart of the city.
Nadia Bonenfant is the founder of JUNA Yoga Retreats in Canada and Co-founder (with Jamie Sterling) of FLUID Surf/Yoga Retreats in Hawaii. A passionate yoga teacher, skier and surfer, she travels the world leading yoga and outdoor journeys. A mother, lover of life and nomad at heart, she feels blessed to be walking down the path of connection and fluidity. Follow her on Instagram.
Homepage image via The Yoga Connection