What do you get when you pile five Ashtanga nerds into an SUV for an evening of yoga philosophy by the beach? Sutra-related jokes, directional challenges and lots, lots of laughter. For a field trip ostensibly to meet the author of a translation of the Yoga Sutras, the mood was heavy on laughs, and curiously light on heavy-hitting, epistemological discussions about What Patanjali Really Meant. Not that I was complaining. We were on our way to meet Bhavani Silvia Maki, a Kaua’i-based Ashtanga yoga teacher and now author of The Yogi’s Roadmap: The Patanjali Yoga Sutra As A Journey To Self-Realization. I had not read Bhavani’s book, and didn’t know of her prior to this evening, but if it’s a YiY field trip, it’s bound to be worth my time right? Right.
The journey began, as it always does, in the YiY parking lot, where Patrick was appointed chauffeur and Philippe, the navigational co-pilot. I highly recommend this jonesing for this pair of travel companions for future field trips as their back-and-forth about left turns, right turns, any turns, made for essential in-car entertainment as we wound our way around town. Making good time on the 17, we arrived at the small group, pre-talk, invite-only reception at Matt and Sherry’s place with some time to spare, which we spent strolling under a canopy of Eucalyptus trees to catch the setting sun by the beach. Unfortunately, not all of us were equipped with beach-strolling footwear, so after a few snaps of the sunset and passing birds, we made our way back to the house for some delicious nibbles and wine, best enjoyed while
standing next to a gas heater.
Bhavani and her 6 month-old son, Nikola, greeted us with big smiles. After cursory introductions, I found myself a little tongue-tied considering that I knew nothing about this lady or her work. What does one say to an author you know nothing about?
Fortunately, she had many stories from her years of study with Guruji to share that bridged the gap. One in particular (page 168 of her book) was a powerful lesson in humility, ego-reduction and surrendering to one’s teacher. After an hour or so of socializing and book-signing (not to mention the copious consumption of pita crisps and hummus on my part), we headed to Dharma’s Restaurant for dinner, on the advice of other locals who were at the reception. The omnivore in me was delighted that this was not a place for the faddish, kale-chip-and-green-smoothie crowd, but rather a homey, cafeteria-style joint that served delicious, simply-prepared food. Between the five of us we sampled most of their soup-and-salad offerings, with the Persian Dahl coming out tops for nailing comfort, flavor and nutrition in a tiny bowl.
Bellies full, we headed for Bhavani’s talk at the Pacific Cultural Center, along with the local yogi/yogini scene. Starting with a spot of chanting where she took us through the key sounds that make up Om, she went on to talk in more detail about Patanjali’s origin story along with a host of anecdotes from her personal practice and the process of writing the book. All of which made me more curious than ever to dive into her book.
The evening ended at 9:30, and we all went to bed that evening way too late for a good Ashtangi’s routine. Still, it was an evening worth spending to meet someone who was so much further along the yogic path, and to think about how life choices and circumstances brought her to where she is today.