Off the beaten path and down a country road from the famous Hana Highway, Maya Yoga Studio in Maui is located in a little slice of tropical heaven. The rural North Shore gem sits at the end of the lush and sacred Huelo valley, not only off the path but literally off the grid as well. Yoga Hawaii Magazine sat down with co-founder Nicki Doane to delve into the history and magic of her remote yoga studio, which she runs with her ex-partner Eddie Modestini.
Nicki, originally an East Coast native, began practicing yoga at the Univ. of Massachusetts during the late ‘80s (yoga was offered as a gym credit). There she met Eddie, who was a trained Iyengar yogi and teacher. The duo travelled to Mysore, India together, to practice Ashtanga yoga with Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji), got married, had two children and eventually built Maya Yoga Studio, literally, from the ground up.
“It’s such a special place. It’s like a destination. We kind of like that it’s remote,” muses Nicki, “For years, my pilgrimage was to India. It was a journey, and for some people, getting here is like a journey. This studio isn’t on the way to anywhere!”
The craftsmanship and details of this studio are visually stunning. “This room is basically built like a temple. It’s built of Alaskan yellow cedar, which is naturally repellent to termites, because we live in a jungle.”
The clean scent of cedar, and soft yellow vibrating from the wooden floors and walls, delicately fill the senses. In true Iyengar style, the walls are equipped with 11 sets of ropes secured by rungs.
“When we built this building we didn’t want any wiring in here, so this room is vibrationally very clean. It’s very hard to find something like that.”
Since its beginnings 20 years ago, Maya Yoga has attracted students from around the world, as well as locally from the islands. “Our studio has the reputation to be the ‘serious’ place to do yoga,” says Nicki, “This isn’t a casual place where you’re going to get your lunch-hour workout class.”
Eddie and Nicki indeed have a diverse, international following, and they are frequently invited to teach at studios and yoga conferences worldwide, including Wanderlust, Bhakti Fest, and events for Yoga Journal, a national yoga magazine.
What makes Maya Yoga unique in Hawaii is the “Asana Intensives,” a six-day workshop where practitioners can delve into their practice without committing to a full retreat or intensive teacher training. Each class is powerful, lasting three hours—but just enough to enjoy a deep yoga practice in the peaceful surroundings, yet giving visitors ample time after the morning workshop to enjoy the rest of the island.
The studio in fact shares the property with an eco-tour company that offers guided visits of the surrounding acreage twice a week. A local farmer and chocolatier educates you about the vanilla and cacao trees on the land, and you even get to make your own freshly ground and brewed hot chocolate.
At the studio, Nicki and Eddie also offer 200- and 300-hour teacher training programs designed to offer authentic learning beyond the physical discipline, including chanting, study of the Yoga Sutras, and learning the concept of karma yoga. Nicki leans towards teaching Vinyasa yoga, which she defines as an intelligent sequence of poses, while Eddie teaches more in line with his expertise of Iyengar-inspired, highly advanced style of asana. Iyengar encourages proper alignment, adjustments, and the use of props.
Nicki was in fact offered an Ashtanga certification from the master yogi Shri K. Pattabhi Jois himself, but declined it. “As a teacher, I need to teach whoever is in front of me,” she humbly explains, “I’d rather change the shape of the box rather than try to shove the person into the box.”
She still loves, respects, and teaches from both the Ashtanga and Iyengar traditions, which she studied intensely for many years with the original families of each lineage. But for the most part she and Eddie have created their own way of teaching people, so they truly see their students and offer an intelligent practice to each person, and to the collective class as a whole.
“I want people to have a victory when they come out of the class,” Nicki says, “Hopefully they feel better than when they came in, but also feel that they’ve learned something. For me that is a really important part.”
Nicki is passionate not only about asana practice, but also about the study of Yoga Sutras and chanting them, as well as pranayama (breath work), and meditation.
“Asana is a great way to get people in the door, and I love it, I’ll never stop doing it—because it has such an ability to go right to our psyche, and that’s the juicy stuff.”
“But it’s not all about getting the next pose,” she continues, “Because the second you get an injury, all those poses are gone. So if you have put your worth on how you do a pose with your body, that’s not very sustainable. I’m interested in the sustainable path.”
And if you ask any student who has spent any time practicing at Maya Yoga, they will assure you there’s plenty of laughter in the room.
“I use a lot of humor when I’m teaching,” she says with a grin, “Because this stuff can get serious, and you can get dogmatic about it, and then it starts to have the opposite effect of what it’s supposed to do.”
“Yoga should be expanding your consciousness, widening your reality, not narrowing it, and making us more dogmatic. So sometimes humor just helps to kind of break the tension a little bit.”
When asked what is the purpose of yoga, Nicki responds with a sparkle in her eyes and a playful smile, “Yoga should support the things you love to do in your life, and hopefully it makes you a nicer person. We could all use more of that.”
In addition to the teacher trainings and intensive workshops, Nicki currently teaches a weekly Vinyasa class. She plans to offer general classes Sunday through Friday, starting 2018.
So if you’re still wondering whether or not to take the amazing journey (there’s really no question that this place is a hidden treasure), Nicki shares this about her sacred temple and the teachings that come with it: “You want to learn something? You come here. You want to go deeper? You have issues, problems, you’ve got an injury? You come here.”
Maya Yoga Studio is most definitely an escape; a haven and retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
“Being so elemental out here is a blessing,” says Nicki, “And a lot of us, we need that because we do live these busy lives, so to be able to come here and drop in and get still, and maybe leave some of that stress behind, is so nice.”
For more information, visit Nicki and Eddie on social media, and at
By Stephanie Salina Storosuk
Salina began the practice of Hatha yoga under master yogi Bharat Das, who teaches yoga outdoors in Kapiolani Park. She received her 200-hour certification from renowned yogis Nicki Doane and Eddie Modestini of Maya Yoga Studio, and is a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200). Salina teaches Ashtanga Yoga, Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra, and Hatha Yoga classes in Honolulu.