Yoga is for everyone, whatever your beliefs regardless of your body shape, whatever your age wherever your path is leading you. Yoga is all about balance of body mind and spirit and and living in the moment.
Yoga is like music - the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind the harmony of the soul. Yoga is a way of life. It is about your body that is your best work of art. Moreover Yoga enables you to access a calm and quiet place and you become more enthusiastic and positive about life in general.
People who practice yoga love it. They talk of being kind, patient and humble, whole and happy; affirming that through yoga the quality of their life and relationships has improved. Yoga reduces stress, and helps to lower blood pressure and regulate mood. Relaxation improves immune function, and can improve memory function and reduce depression.
In Samoa we have our very own yogini Rachel Laulu, and she has spent the last few months teaching yoga in Samoa and she plans to be here for another year. Rachel describes herself “as a qualified hypnotherapist, positive life counsellor, meditation teacher, massage therapist, kinesiologist and yoga teacher; and a Dionysian health conscious epicurean who likes to stretch lots. “
Rachel sees yoga as the science of getting to know your body; feeling comfortable with your body, understanding how you need to move your body. Yoga is for her a ‘mindful meditation’ where you always go back to breath. “Yoga is about finding yourself in that centred place of creativity.” Rachel enlightens me that yoga is an ancient practice founded 5,000 years ago and it has been adopted by many religions and faiths and it has evolved into Tai Chi and other Asian martial art forms as well as Pilates.
Rachel Laulu, Samoas’ very own yogini
Yoga as an art form and a science based on movement and breath. There are many different forms of yoga and it was originally used to get the individual into meditation. Breath (pranayama) is vital in any yoga class and you can charge up your adrenals and charge up your body through breath. Rachel confers that “Breath is amassing, it can be the same as having a cup of coffee. I am going to write a piece on different ways of breathing.”
Yoga teaches you to love your body as you see your body as an instrument of movement, sound, and smell. It is good to practice it daily and Rachel reflects that; “when I have not done yoga I am not happy. The difference it has made in my life is that I appreciate things more. It is my passion. When I teach everything is enlightened I can feel in my body how my students need to move. I am heightened and I am aware of everyone’s needs.”
Rachel smiled as she recalls one of her teachers saying; “Yoga is an ongoing process of learning, it’s a 5,000 year old can of worms.” …”There is so much philosophy and I revisit it. I have trained under a lot of people; teachers pop up in odd places. I have spent a lot of time in South East Asia and Europe. I have not yet gone to India and I will go there sometime but I don’t think I will leave it. Most of my life has been spent there anyway – I have spent so much time studying yoga that it’s a big part of me and I will go there eventually. I do things when I feel they are right and now is been the right time.”
Rachel came to yoga at the early age of fourteen. When she was twelve she was diagnosed with degenerative back condition spondylolisthesis. “When I was about fourteen a friend took me to an ashram, ‘The Loft ‘in Wellington, and I did yoga and had a meal and meditated.
I have done yoga since then and I have been practising it and teaching it now for twenty years. I am thinking of studying Ayurveda the holistic medicinal health side of yoga. I now want the certification and I will go to New Zealand or Australia to complete the certification. I will stay in Samoa for another year. I am doing it by distance at present. With Ayurveda I will be diagnosing peoples ailments, assessing their diets and offering them an holistic approach to health care.”
I asked Rachel what drew her to Samoa. She has travelled a lot with yoga in Europe and Asia. It was her intention “to check out where Dad was from as his family is from Nofoalii. I’ve always had that in my blood that ‘I must go I must go.’
I am a half-caste and born in New Zealand and this is a journey we all go on. It’s in my blood I want to find about where we came from as all those years Dad told us stories about Samoa.” Rachel recalled that her grandfather has gone to New Zealand in the 1960’s with dreams for a better education for his children.”
Rachel believes Samoa needs yoga as for a very relaxed people there is a lot of stress here and a lot of health issues. Rachel would love to reach more Samoans as “Yoga can take you out your own ego and give you a perspective on what you are doing. Yoga is non judgemental and it can help you make choices. It’s inspiring.” She believes it could alleviate a lot of the lifestyle diseases seen currently in Samoa that are made by people making poor choices.
Rachel is currently working at Aggies Resort and currently she is working on a few things – At the Ifelele Plantation Rachel is in discussion with the owners Paul and Joan for regular Wellness Retreats. People will book on line and Ifelele Plantation will do the promotions. Rachel will do one retreat a month mainly in the weekends. The programme can be tailor made to cater for different needs. The Wellness Retreats will be vegetarian and vegan and all food will be organic.
Rachel would love to take a class at the Tourism Fale as she wants to introduce yoga to Samoans that is accessible to everyone. Commenting on the current Zumba popularity Rachel notes that if you are overweight cardio can be problematic and knee injuries can be frequent. “I’d like to see yoga around more, cardio is fun but if you are overweight you need to move slower and you must know how to move. This is where yoga can be perfect for Samoan people.”
I asked Rachel if she had ever thought of doing yoga programmes for diabetics. She said she would love to be involved with this but she notes it would need to be ‘one on one.’ She says that, “I have done nutrition and with type 2 diabetes people need to look at their nutrition as well as exercise.
This is another avenue in Samoa where you could look at the lifestyle diseases. If people wanted to do individual classes they just need to contact me. I am doing a few already and if others want to do it they need to ring me or contact me on FB. The preference is for me to come to them.”
I asked Rachel what are the opportunities of yoga for older people? Rachel says age is not a barrier to yoga some fabulous women in their nineties, still teach and practice yoga. “One thing I say in my classes, all yogis have stood where you are now, making the decision to do the best for your body and your mind. You do not need to be an acrobatic yogi; it’s more about doing the best for your body. You will get better at it. You are better giving it a go than not giving it a go.”
So how do you cope with loss of strength and flexibility? “I will use different techniques and give breath to different parts of the body. With yoga it’s been tried and tested and you can only profit from it. With Yoga you learn about your body. I will get people to do poses with their eyes closed and then they can focus on their bodies. Balance is another of our senses and yoga teaches us to build our sense of balance. If you feel you are loosing the sense of balance you can bring it back with yoga.”
“At present I am teaching general classes and I never know who is going to turn up. I love general classes and it’s great, as people tend to encourage others along and make them feel comfortable. I am not sure if Samoa has the population to teach different types of classes. “
Rachel is available for corporate classes and private sessions with businesses, schools, events and retreats. You can contact Rachel on phone 7279723 - or on Face Book Rachel LaUlu Yoga Samoa.
Dr. Vanya Taule’alo writes & edits the Observer Art Page for the Samoa Arts Council (SAC). Guided by SAC’s vision “to envisage a future where the Arts Sector is fully developed for the benefit of Samoa”, the page promotes all forms of art and promotes the arts in the Samoan community. For more information on SAC see samoaartscouncil.com and Samoa Arts