I have always acted like an athletic person, even though I was not. I am a pretty lazy person who can continue watching movies all day long and use my bed as my office and a dining space. I was also very overweight when I was a teenager till mid 20’s. But I have always been curious and want to try many things; yoga was one of the subjects I wanted to try. When I was in college in 1981, I tried yoga for the first time at Harriman Studio on Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles.
Yoga was different from anything I knew, and after I tried it, something changed. It was not like other exercises I’d tried, but it stretched my body and made me feel lighter. At that time, I did not know why I liked it so much, other than it just made me feel good. I do not want to say “natural high,” but a feeling of highness comes from inside of me.
I really enjoyed how I felt, and how my body felt after practice. But I continued for only a short time back then, because I did not feel comfortable in a dark room (maybe it would be different if I’d gone to morning classes, but I went only in the late afternoons), with the carpeted floors and the smell of too much incense. Also, the people practicing yoga there looked very different from me, and I did not understand many things that they and the teacher were saying. I was just faking and trying to fit in, but I did not feel that I fit there.
I never forgot how I felt from the yoga practice I did, so I was always seeking a different yoga studio ( I wish Goggle existed that time…hahaha), but there was nothing that close to where I lived. In 1987, I found a new studio in Santa Monica, called Yoga Works. I was so happy and loved their bright studio, with its natural light and wood floor. I really enjoyed it and knew yoga was helping me so much—not just physically, but mentally and emotionally—because I was going through a very tough time with the separation from my first husband, as well as the passing of my father and one of my dogs. If I had not practiced yoga regularly, I am not sure how I would have survived. I did not think very deeply; I just practiced and practiced.
That’s what I did till I started feeling tired in 1992 and, gradually, became unable to do much yoga practice. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1993. It was a hard time for me when I was not able to do yoga; I had to rest a lot and accept that I had cancer. I was scared and depressed. I did not know what to do. Then I found macrobiotics, and my focus changed to learn more and more about that. I did not forget yoga, but I had to focus and heal through the nourishing food.
I started yoga again in 1994 when I went to a macrobiotic conference and took yoga classes there. I felt so good, and I knew I needed to practice again. I went back to Yoga Works and took many different workshops. I was enjoying practicing yoga once again, and now I also had macrobiotics.
In 2001, I was feeling good. I had just put together my cooking studio in Santa Monica, called Studio Mugen. (Mugen means “infinity” in Japanese. My macrobiotic teacher, Michio Kushi, said we all came from infinity and will go back to it. So, I wanted to call our life here “infinity,” because everything changes.) Around the same time, I took a macrobiotic counselor training with Michio Kushi at Kushi Institute in Becket, MA.
But on the way back from the training, I had a nearly fatal car accident in the Arizona desert. I was driving with my three dogs and one cat; two of the dogs died in the crash, and I was in a coma for three days. I was later told that my heart stopped a few times, once for 12 minutes. My heart and lungs were injured badly by the accident they were not able to function without mechanically and all the ribs on the left side were broken, and my both legs and ankles sustained compound fractures. The doctor said unfortunately, I may never walk again. I was so shocked, I resented that I did not die from the car accident. It took me a long time to feel that I wanted to live again. All I knew was the love of my best friend at that time—Eric, who is my husband now; and my dog Kin and cat Mai, who survived the car accident; and other friends, and my family in Japan, who supported me so much.
It took a long time, but in 2003, I found a yoga class that I could go to with my wheelchair; I started to go, taking special transportation for a disabled person. I was back to practicing yoga, even though I was in a wheelchair. I am very proud of myself for continuing my practice and making my goal to walk again for my wedding with Eric on June 20, 2004. Everyone was so happy to see me walk “the virgin road” (what we call the aisle in Japan) with my brother’s support and the cane, which was decollated with satin ribbons to match my wedding dress. Of course, eating healthy and nutritious foods has helped me a lot, but yoga has helped with my physical movement, as well as relaxing my mind. I also got much more strength from practicing yoga, so I have less leg and ankle pain, and I sleep better.
It was a long detour, but when my 60th birthday came last year, I decided to take yoga teacher training—which I’d first thought about 20 years ago. I was concerned about whether I’d be able to complete the training and pass the test now, given my injured legs and ankles. So, I carefully planned a one-year mission.
Finding the right yoga studio was very important for me, so I checked many places around Santa Monica and found Santa Monica Yoga Studio. I was grateful to find a studio near my house, so I could walk or bike there to practice. I also found knowledgeable and kind teachers: Nancy Goodstein, Kyra Haglund, Jamie Elmer and Luke Ketterhagen. It was one of my best years physically since the car accident when I was able to practice yoga regularly and feel good about myself. I am so thankful that I did not give up yoga because of my serious injuries and instead kept practicing whatever I could, even when I was in my wheelchair. Yoga has been helping me every day; yoga is for my life.
My yoga teacher training main teacher, Nancy Goodstein wrote for me…
I have a saying about Sanae, “Do not underestimate Sanae.” She is quite petite, but crazy strong. She is deeply passionate and serious about all her undertakings, but she almost always makes me laugh. I am her teacher, but I consistently learn from her. Sanae has an ability to articulate both the physical and emotional world and make one feel that the healing that needs to be done is possible and that the route need not be painful. That her patience, wisdom and strength will lead you to heal in a beautiful and peaceful way.”
I am very happy to announce that I have completed yoga teacher training and passed the test. My official yoga class starts Thursday, September 1, from 12:15–1:15 pm. Then Thursday, September 22, from 12:15–1:15 pm and also Sunday, October 2, from 2:30–3:45 pm. The classes will be at Santa Monica Yoga Studio, 1640 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, 90405. The fee is $5/person to cover the studio space. I hope you will join. I also want to offer a donation-based class in the park near my house soon.
Love, Sanae 💖