Is there a better place than Maui to unify your mind, body and soul? As you speak with Deni Roman, you realize that she really listens. She hears what you’re saying and replies thoughtfully. This may appear simple, but it’s a difficult skill to cultivate. Her consistency and dedication, along with her empathy and innate pedagogical ability, make her a fine yoga instructor. Roman runs her own studio, Maui Yoga Path, at the Mana Kai Resort in Kihei. She has been practicing and teaching yoga for 27 years and has taken pilgrimages to India and around the world to deepen her understanding of this now ubiquitous practice which melds the mind, body and soul. Upon entering her studio, you realize that she cultivates a friendly, warm and welcoming environment.
Her doors open to the clear and shimmering Hawaiian water. Her voice is unwavering, but never unduly harsh. She wants all her students to reach a little higher. Students are students. People are people said Roman. I love them all. And yoga doesn’t exclude anyone. We can be connected to the divine. First, you have to connect with that higher power whatever that higher power is you choose. Yoga in Sanskrit means union. It is a union of the mind, body, and spirit.
Roman attended Emerson College in Boston, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communications. She taught in a lower-income school for a year and then worked as an ergonomics consultant for Fortune 500 companies. When I first started teaching, I was seven years old. I started my own dancing school. There was nothing else which inspired me.Teaching incites the fire in her. I wanted to be like a bow and arrow. I had clarity and I knew my target, she said. Roman looks to teach only what she really knows and lives. You can’t teach something because someone else told you to say it, she remarked. In addition to teaching, Roman always strove to take care of her health. She played competitive racquetball, was a body builder, studied dance and ran marathons.
She knows how much discipline it takes to be an athlete, and she applied this discipline to her yoga studies. It was like I was born knowing the importance of health, Roman said. She emphasizes sadhana of yoga, which is the spiritual practice which includes the mind, body and soul. A vegetarian since the age of 27, Roman lives the yogic practice of ahimsa or non-violence. This must be adhered to throughout the practice of yoga. This practice is thousands of years old for a reason, she said. I know how this changed my life.
Her preferred path of yoga is Iyengar Yoga, Movement and Meditation. A few years ago, Time Magazine named her guru, Yogacharya Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, one of the 100 most influential people of the year. That same year, Iyengar became a word in The Oxford English Dictionary. I just fell in love with the Iyengar way, said Roman. It’s a very strict, classical way of teaching. If your ego is too big, then you won’t be able to handle it. You have to think: I want to see my true self. Some poses are deceptively easy. The corpse pose (savasana) is actually an advanced pose in Iyengar yoga. It’s about trusting your surroundings and letting go.
In yoga, ego is an obstacle, said Roman. It’s like saying to yourself, Can I get out of the way so my life can flow? She believes that it is essential to find a yoga teacher with whom you connect spiritually. You must connect heart to heart, she said, touching her chest. The word guru in India means a person who will liberate you from darkness and remove ignorance, said Roman. That person must have walked that path before you. Trust is important in all relationships and it’s especially crucial when looking for a physical, mental and spiritual teacher. The guru must guide properly. Every experience is needed, said Roman. The key to all of it is to live through it consciously and with integrity.
In 2004, she traveled alone throughout India and found this to be a life-altering experience. She said that she enjoys going to Pune, India, the center for Iyengar yoga, because she has a chance to shed her role as teacher and become, once again, a student. I asked the biggies, she said. Who am I? What am I searching for? She always wanted to go straight to the gurus in her reach for a greater understanding of the yoga path.
I couldn’t have picked a better location than Maui for my home, said Roman. For her, Maui offers the chance to let go of materialism, to have paradise as your home, to have open air and a large room. It’s really one of the world’s chakras because of Haleakala. My dream is to live half of the year on Maui and the other half traveling. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel and refers to the seven energy centers of the human body. In her yoga sessions, Roman reminds her students that they are being rewarded for past good deeds by having the chance to practice yoga so close to the ocean, in such a heavenly location.