Social Encore: Poses that ‘emPOWER’
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
The holidays are coming soon and I’m starting to feel the pressure to meet my end of year deadlines. For me, working out has been a big stress reliever. One type of workout that gives me a good sweat and is also therapeutic has been yoga.
Whether you have never tried yoga before or are in search for your latest challenge, the state’s largest yoga festival, “Poses emPOWER,” will take place this weekend, benefiting the educational initiatives of Mental Health America of Hawaii. The yoga festival will transform the decks of the Sunset Pool at the Modern Honolulu into a place of zen on Saturday, Oct. 26th from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“Poses emPOWER” organizer Lehua Wright had a personal experience dealing with suicide and wanted to share the positive perspectives of yoga and how it had helped her cope with her life’s challenges. Born and raised on Kauai, she was 19 years old when her father died from a heart attack. As hard as it was on her family, she noticed it took a heavy toll on her mother.
Wright knew that her mother wasn’t in the right state of mind and was depressed when she started isolating herself. In hopes to help her mother, Wright’s aunt sent a counselor to their home but Wright said her mother was afraid of what people would think about her if she started to talk about how she was dealing with her husband’s death.
“She was neglecting what was happening inside of her to improve anything in her life,” said Wright.
On Christmas Eve that year, her mother committed suicide. Wright admitted when people ask about her mother’s death, she often avoids giving a direct answer. When she moved to Los Angeles, she started practicing yoga. It made such an impact on her lifestyle, for her 30th birthday she wanted to spread the art of yoga with others and started training to become an instructor with power yoga guru Bryan Kest.
Since yoga helps center your body and especially mind, she noticed a lot of people were opening up about their lives and challenges. Wright however, remained reserved in revealing intimate details about her life and withheld sharing her mother’s story. After 200 hours of meditation and yoga, Wright finally opened up about her mother’s death and said it helped her face it head on after keeping it bottled up all those years.
“On the last day of training, I opened up and finally let it go,” she said. “It was a huge relief; it was weight off of my shoulders. With yoga, you are really focusing on what is inside of you and I was able to deal with that with the help of yoga.”
When Wright and her husband, Dorian, moved back to Honolulu in 2005, keeping yoga as an integral part of their lives. Teaching at several places around Oahu, they decided to open their own studio in 2011. PowerYoga Hawaii teaches a blend of both Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga and is strictly funded by donations made by particpants who take their classes. Wanting to give back to the community through Yoga, Wright did some research and learned about Mental Health America of Hawaii.
“If I knew that there was something like this when my mom was dealing with her situation, I think that things would have happened differently,” said Wright.
Mental Health America of Hawaii executive director Marya Grambs said Hawaii has high numbers when it comes to bullying and suicide, especially for Hawaii’s youth. The organization has special campaigns to help stop suicide and bullying and has trained about 12,000 people, including youth leaders, teaches, judges and foster family members. The organization hopes to help educate people on the signs of depression and suicide so that they can ask the right questions in order to get those individuals help.
Grambs said Hawaii has the highest rate of suicide in middle school children, with high school students having similar statistics. Hawaii’s number of suicides has doubled over the past five years and is the leading cause of injury-related death in Hawaii.
According to Grambs, a lot of these children think of suicide because they are bullied in school. These days, there are several different types of bullying, including physical, emotional, social and cyber-bullying.
Grambs said kids who are at high risk are usually thoselive in rural areas, are of Native Hawaiian ancestry, are part of a military family, are foster kids or are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual).
“Our statistics show that 40 percent of middle school kids are bullied. Cyber-bullying can go as high as 50 percent,” she said. “Statistics show that two kids out of every classroom, missed a day of school in the previous month because they were scared of being bullied.”
She hoped people help break the silence of those hurting from bullying so they too don’t think of taking their own life.
“We want adults to understand how upset our teenagers can get and that so many are suffering ins silence,” she said. “Many are not telling that they are being bullied.
“I hope that people feel okay with talking things that bother them. Especially in Hawaii, you don’t really talk about ot and just you just sweep it under the rug and let it build up.”
Wright said yoga believes your body stores your past. Often times people hold on to the past and let it manifest inside, allowing the body to be more prone to illness. She hopes people can start looking at alternative ways to help release their negative past and energy through yoga.
“We want to build awareness around the topic of bullying, suicide and mental health in general,” said Wright. “We hope that that people can use yoga as they build not just the physical body but what is going on inside of you.”
For more information on how you can get tickets to the event, visit their website.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.