In January, Katherine, a student of mine, vacationed in Waikiki. Slender and fit, in her 50s, she’s an avid beginner yogi and wanted to find a convenient yoga class. While I’m from Hawaii, I have no firsthand knowledge of Waikiki yoga; she ended up trying Dennis and his Chocolate-Pineapple Sports-Yoga Studio.
According to Katherine, the instructor is fluent in Japanese and targets Japanese tourists for his outdoor classes, on the sand at Waikiki Beach or on the lawn at Kapi‘olani Park. The day she dropped in on his “park yoga” class, the 15 or so other participants were Japanese girls; Katherine was the only non-Japanese and the only English speaker.
Dennis taught the whole class in Japanese (!), but that was the least of the oddities:
- He started more than a half-hour late, without apology, sauntering leisurely to and from the park restroom after he arrived.
- During the class, he sent a text message and, when his cell phone rang, he answered it.
- He taught poses geared to experienced students, although his website states “All levels are welcome” and “Grandma can do it; she loved it!”
- He tried to impress the class with his asana skills and all the positions he could do. (This might work with Japanese tourists, for whom yoga is just another tourist attraction. They were taking pictures of one another during the class!)
“I know Hawaii is the ‘hang loose’ state,” Katherine said, “but vacationers often have other things to do with the rest of their day. I think of yoga as a respectful practice—that element was definitely lacking.”
If you read this prior post, you know I’m a big sampler of yoga teachers, classes, and studios. So, despite Katherine’s wasted $20, I encourage dropping in on classes wherever you travel. Just remember: caveat emptor.
Why outdoor yoga?
Outdoor yoga is a selling point. I can see why. Nature’s beauty is incomparable, and being outdoors does viscerally remind of us of the Bigger Picture. But I’m not gaga about outdoor yoga.
First, while I welcome an outdoor view while doing yoga, I also value a level floor, a solid wall, and shade from the sun. Yes, I’ve done vrksasana on powdery Hawaiian sand (balance guaranteed). And I’ve found giant trees to be soothing company for still sitting (see Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and see the spirit of trees come alive!). But I generally prefer an airy room with lots of windows.
Second, outdoor yoga typically means public outdoor yoga: huge classes at a go-to location, surrounded by onlookers. To me, yoga requires a degree of privacy and solitude. Indoors, even large yoga classes are sans audience. But doing outdoor yoga at public beaches and parks is a spectacle. Passersby can’t help gawking. Maybe it’s part of the practice to ignore spectators, but why create that situation? And, if you welcome the attention (as this Dennis character seems to), why?
In contrast, private outdoor yoga—whether at a secluded retreat or on your own back porch— sounds quite lovely.