Can you remember what you were passionate about at age 10? Bike rides? Video games? Beach fun? For Kauai native Kailani Hart, it’s “living the yogic way,” and she is currently the youngest 200-hour RYT instructor in the U.S. Hart started her training at Buti Yoga headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz. and completed her training last fall in Kona under the tutelage of Buti yoga founder Bizzie Gold and master trainer Tara Winterhalter.
Yoga is a family legacy — her mother and grandparents were also yoga teachers — but Hart’s mission goes beyond sharing yoga with the world. A vegan, animal lover, and environmentalist, she also spreads the virtue of living gently on this planet. For more on her service mission, check out her YouTube vlog series, “Rainbow World,” which chronicles a family trip to six states in a month without consuming any plastic.
What kind of yoga do you teach?
How do you teach yoga?
I teach my yoga classes with enthusiasm to remind the students that yoga isn’t only being serious in the pose, but about having fun throughout the class. I teach using stories, crystals, cards, pranayama, asanas, dance, games, partner, and even acro yoga. At the end of every class we all lie down in savasana. During this time, we calm our bodies and minds and focus on our breathing. To close every class, we all sit in half lotus or lotus, hold our hands in a mudra, and recite “The Shanti Path.”
Why do you teach yoga?
I teach yoga to make other people feel happy and calm. I enjoy teaching my family and friends, and in turn, they enjoy practicing yoga with me. I learned that my great-grandmother and great-grandfather practiced yoga and taught my mother. She started teaching yoga when she was 22, and also taught while I was growing in her belly. She then started teaching a class for families and my friends, and I have been learning from her since we were babies. I knew I wanted to carry on the legacy of teaching yoga.
Who is your favorite yoga teacher?
My favorite yoga teacher is Tara Winterhalter from Fall River, Mass. I like her classes because they are energetic, super-fun, the flow is great, and — I love the dancing part. Of course, my other favorite teacher is my mom. She encourages me to try my best without pushing too hard. She likes to smile and make others smile while in class. She’s playful and makes everything fun. When I was little, she used to make up yoga stories and we would do postures to the stories. The yoga games and stories I grew up with still make me smile when we teach them now.
Do you live what you teach?
My Aloha Ohana yoga classes are donation-based, and the money goes to animal welfare here on Kauai. I think this virtue of “giving” is exactly what I teach in yoga. Ahimsa — one of the principles in The Eight Limbs of Yoga — means non-violence. I teach peace in my class, I do not eat meat, and I like to help animals. So yes, I try my best to live what I teach.
Can you laugh at yourself?
I can so laugh at myself! I love to get goofy. My mom and I put on records and make silly dances together that makes us both laugh. I also like to pull silly pranks on our parents with my friends. Every Wednesday is prank day, and we all laugh so hard.
Did you fall in love with yoga your first time?
I don’t actually remember the first time I did yoga. But I do remember being little and falling down quite a bit. I would get a little frustrated but would get back up again. I actually really remember climbing on my mom when she would do yoga, and I loved that!
Do you remember when you thought you could teach yoga?
I remember when I wasn’t sure that I could actually teach adults. I had been teaching kids for a few years already but that wasn’t hard because I felt comfortable in front of them. When it was time to teach adults, I was a little intimidated. But then I thought, “I really know what I am doing.” After that, I was able to do it, and felt really good about my hard work. Everyone was happy for me; that made me feel happy.
I think people are sometimes intimidated because of the really challenging postures. When there are so many images out there of yogis doing hard poses, people may be afraid to try yoga. I think we all have to remember that yoga is good for everyone, and we all look amazing within our own practice.
What is your advice for yoga students?
I think it’s important to always stay calm. Not just in yoga poses but in real life as well, when you find yourself at your edge, just breath through it. Recently, my band — The Flying Phoenix — played in front of the whole school, and we were nervous. I taught them the pranayama (breathing) technique of nadi shodana (the “rainbow breath”), and it helped calm us down. We were then able to play music with a balanced mind.
What is your approach to yoga?
My approach is to be playful and fun. The more we can all laugh and smile together, the better. I use yoga a lot in real-world scenarios, such as at school. When there are a lot of distractions, I know I can practice pranayama, and that the calming breath will help. I also follow the yogi code of ethics to help me live a good life.
If one continues to practice what benefits can they receive?
As people continue to do yoga they are able to breath through the challenges that occur in life. They also get the benefits of being more flexible in the body and mind.
What do you find rewarding about being a yoga instructor?
I really like being able to help as many people as possible be calm and happy in their lives. By being a yoga instructor, I can teach tools that have been used for over 6,000 years to help people with their mind, body and spirit.