Hawaii woman teaches peace through yoga
When Amanda Webster first set foot on a yoga mat at the Kailua YMCA, she had no idea it would eventually become her life's work. No, more than that - her life's purpose.
It was 2008, and she had just given birth to her first child, Kaeden. She started attending yoga classes as a respite for her body and mind. Something resonated.
Drawn to the practice, she wanted to learn more, so she took a teacher training course in 2011. Down the rabbit hole she went, as she likes to say. The practice became a lifestyle. The lifestyle became a calling.
"Halfway through my training, I heard a voice in my head saying, 'You're going to teach.' I told it, 'No, I'm not.' It insisted, 'Yes, you are. You're going to teach, and you’re going to offer long-term programs to people really interested in the lifestyle of yoga.' It was very specific," she laughs.
"A voice?" I wonder aloud.
"A voice. Don't you hear voices in your head?" she responds.
"Um, not really. I don't hear voices," I tease. We have a humorous rapport.
"Yes, you do," says the woman who's known me now for five years. Casually, at first. In fact, I somewhat paralleled her own path towards teacher training.
I, too, found a yoga class at the Y. I, too, felt a familiar sensation with this ancient system of knowing the body and mind. I, too, tumbled down the rabbit hole after embarking on more classes, then retreats, then a year-long training program. It was she who was my teacher then, as now.
In 2011, she started Shivatree Yoga, a yoga school offering retreats, workshops, private lessons, and teacher training courses. I was part of her first teacher training class, which started in April 2015 and ended in March 2016.
Amanda named it Shivatree as a nod to a Hindu legend. Lord Shiva is one of the main deities of Hinduism, and one legend says that Lord Shiva opened his eyes after a long meditation directed towards the good of humanity, and he felt so fulfilled, he shed a tear. This single tear from Shiva's eye grew into the rudraksha tree which is known for its healing properties.
Teaching, at first, was "very hard. I don't like to speak in front of people. At all." The irony of a person who doesn't like heading a classroom, yet feels compelled to shine the light of yoga on the rest of the world.
She is, actually, a born leader. "I've always been involved in some kind of leadership role, even if I didn't seek it out. I taught Sunday School in my hometown of Indiana, I led a church youth group, and in every other job I've had, I've always been promoted to a management position," she tells me.
It's not surprising to her students. She has a light, a quiet strength, a peaceful glow that is magnetic. She is a beautiful woman, but so much of that beauty is amplified by her personality and her inner radiance. She inspires me.
Amanda juggles her role as mother of two boys (Connor was born in 2009) and a wife with her duties as a yoga teacher. Her formal background is in child development, and she worked for many years in Los Angeles and Honolulu as a behavioral therapist for autistic children.
In 2007, she moved to Kailua "on a lark" because she had fallen in love with Hawaii during a vacation, though last year she and her family moved to Mountain View on Hawaii Island to establish a better work-life balance.
Though she's spent the last five years as a yoga teacher, Amanda says she, too, keeps learning. "I'm more aware and more compassionate, and of course, through regular practice and study, my own skills evolve."
She enjoys creating yoga communities of like-minded people, and watching her students' evolutionary process. "I like giving them a practice they can turn to when they feel unsettled; something that will center them, ground them, give them perspective."
"Her Ayurvedic-based training is very different from anyone else's I've ever heard of. I'd never been exposed to that before and it's made a change in my life: How I eat, how I sleep, how I wake up, how I care for myself. I'm in balance," says Nana Kawasaki-Jones, a longtime student. "She made a big difference in my life."
Another faithful student, Debbie Miranda, adds, "I love her knowledge and everything she can share with us. Everything about her is special, totally special."
Yoga means "to yoke," and it was created by the ancients as a system of yoking the thoughts of the mind. The poses help still the body and prepare it for meditation.
For some, yoga's gift is the physical release. For others, it's the spiritual guidance. For Amanda, it's both, and she plans to continue helping others find what meaning it can bring to them.
Reach Amanda Webster at shivatreeyoga.com. She leads monthly workshops and classes on Oahu and weekly classes on Hawaii Island. Group and 1:1 teacher trainings are available. You can still join the current 200-hour Oahu teacher training by emailing email@example.com before April 15th! More retreats will be posted soon.