Once upon a time, a young Toronto-born girl found herself living in a paradise. In this paradise she ate sweet and heavy fruit, ripened in the full sun. She smelled the heat in the scent of the grasses beneath her warm feet as she ran into the dazzling embrace of a crystalline sea. Birds called to her in lazy conversation from their roostings in brilliant and lush lattice-works of foliage. Until she was thirteen years old, her world and her home was in Trinidad, and everyday life was filled with an abundance of tranquillity.
Things changed when her mother and part of the family moved back to Toronto and young Kavita Maharaj found herself growing up and learning about an entirely new kind of life; one where every minute of every day is filled with haste and purpose. She didn’t hear many birds, and the air smelled of hot exhaust in the summer and salty, grey snow in the winter.
Her father, having remained in Trinidad, had earlier sought serenity in his life and turned to yoga and its practices for attaining bodily and mental control and ultimate well-being. He became a certified Yogi, a spiritual instructor, and taught his young daughter who began to follow along this same pathway. Kavita became infused with a passion to learn and embrace the deeper understanding and contentment found in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. She formulated a dream for her future whereby she would pass on the knowledge she was gaining and inspire others to know their inner selves through her teaching. She attained her own certification as a teacher in 2000.
With her natural intelligence and sensitivity to beauty, it was logical when the time came for Kavita to pursue higher education, and she graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Toronto’s Queen’s University. Once completed, and on her own then, Kavita threw herself into the frenetic pace of big-city life headfirst: she began a gruelling lifestyle as a personal trainer.
A typical day found her up at 3:45 a.m. to practice her yoga, followed by a twenty-minute bike ride through downtown Toronto to her gym, where she trained with weights from 5:15 to 6:00 a.m. She then began her sessions of personal training from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Teaching yoga classes and then another twenty-minute cycle home through the rush-hour traffic followed these. After supper at home, Kavita would begin a marathon food preparation and packing operation to fuel and sustain her for the next day ahead. Bedtime was early and non-negotiable: it was 8:00 p.m., sharp.
The relentless pace kept her locked in its rhythm for two years. Then she knew that her choice of lifestyle had turned in upon itself, and although she was relatively happy each day, (she’d already met the man who would soon be her husband), her world felt bleak and exhausting and she needed to find out how to live life through her senses again. Kavita needed sustenance. She took some time out and reconnected with the colours and peace of her Caribbean childhood. She returned to her father to learn Kriya Yoga, a discipline involving breath work (Pranayama) and meditation.
By the time she returned to Toronto, Kavita and her fiancé had decided it was time for a change of pace and a moderation in living with climate extremes. She needed a more natural and balanced existence. A friend’s wedding in B.C. offered itself as a catalyst – for four days they revelled in the beauty and the contrasts of the West Coast. They soaked up the deep vastness of the mountains and felt the pull of a fresh ocean shore. They enjoyed the clean sharpness of the September sunshine and marvelled at the space in which they felt they could breathe. In Nanaimo, they found an appealing small-town atmosphere in a city with big-time opportunities: Kavita found herself offered a job and a home for them to live in.
With auspicious signs clearly being posted by the Universe, they made the move two months later and found everything fall into place. Kavita was immediately taken on by a gym needing teachers and resumed her personal training programs in a managerial capacity. Slowed down, refocused and re-energized, their new life was what they had both been looking for.
Kavita and Daniel were married in July of 2004. Upon returning from their honeymoon, they learned that the gym had been sold, and the atmosphere and focus changed rapidly under the new ownership. It was time, once again, to reassess the angle of the sun.
Krishna Maharaj Sharma, Kavita’s father, had long ago taught her one of the many basic but illuminative teachings of yoga: the practice of learning how to live "in the Marketplace and on the Mountain” at the same time. To live a balanced life, one must understand and accept both worlds and their respective demands. With an awareness of the shifting sands beneath her feet, Kavita decided to open a teacher-training centre and begin the fulfilling of her life’s dream. Her plan was to facilitate the certification process of yoga instructors, (yogis) in B.C.
To be certified means that teachers are trained to an internationally recognized set of standards and subject to quality control. They learn the background of yoga and meditation, its history, the anatomy of the body, and about energy systems and chakras. They learn how to teach (or what not to) with regard to specific injuries and conditions. The teachers learn how to instruct and guide in personalized meditation techniques. Once certified, a yoga teacher has a deep and extensive background.
From the posters she distributed advertising the Teacher Certification, she was soon deluged with requests for additional classes in yoga and meditation. Once again, the need for balance was forefront: she couldn’t continue on with her work at the gym and meet the time requirements necessary to accommodate all her students. The basis for another new beginning was being supplied: she opened a studio in her home as ‘Red Door Yoga’. With this facility, Kavita could now offer classes to the public in a peaceful, completely personalized way, giving students the full benefits of her energies and passion for teaching, helping them find their own inner strengths and balance through her deepening knowledge and commitment.
In teaching the philosophy of balance to her students, Kavita uses a circular approach. Whether one begins with the inner work of traditional meditation and Pranayama (breath work) or an external approach based on pure types of yoga bodywork, (Classical Hatha and Power Yoga), the results lead to a holistic oneness, naturally encompassing both the mind and the body.
Through the holistic approach, mental, physical and emotional states can be assessed and specific issues addressed. Panic attacks are one such example where individuals can receive enormous benefits from guided meditation. Kavita teaches Vipassana, the observation of one’s subconscious thoughts to discover the root of emotional issues and prevent the triggers that cause anxiety and attacks.
Many students seek Kavita’s training through the physical approach of the yoga exercises. She offers Classical Hatha yoga to teach the basic and essential poses and alignment of the body, and Power Yoga, geared for athletes and especially good for runners, as it has a strong cardio component and helps strengthen the core while offering fantastic flexibility gains. Her classes are kept small, her energy is focused and her training provides a definite and noticeable workout.
However students find their way to her Red Door yoga studio, and whatever the reason they come for, once they begin to seek the balance in their own lives, they experience an inner change that transcends and expands the boundaries of their previous limitations. Kavita teaches them to hear peace within themselves and to begin anew the experience of living, with each day, each thought and each breath.
Once upon a time, a little girl lived in a Caribbean paradise. Now here in Nanaimo, Kavita finds her paradise is ever within herself, in a balance of mountaintop and marketplace; in an understanding of acceptance and tranquillity with all new beginnings; in the tangible fulfillment of a passionate lifelong dream. And just once in a while, she remembers contentedly that endless stretch of warm, white sands that sift through her toes, where the calls of the seabirds, drifting and gliding above her, sing to the waves, and the fruit tastes like the sun. Paradise – life forever balanced through new beginnings.
Janelle Hoddevik is a freelance writer in Nanaimo.