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Kick in the New Year

Maui Yoga and Kickboxing challenges you to change your life.

December 24, 2009
Crissa Hiranaga

Enter the South Side’s newest fitness studio: Maui Yoga and Kickboxing (MYK) in Kīhei. If you don’t know about this place, you should. From Bikram Yoga to kickboxing to Afro-Cuban Dance with live drumming, MYK offers something for everyone.

Owners James Onnikian and Mary Grace Conti are devoted to making the oft-times seemingly impervious world of yoga accessible for everyone.

“We don’t necessarily only want people who are great at yoga to come,” said Conti, who teaches Bikram and Ashtanga yoga. “We want people who have never done it and want to try something new. We want people who want to change their lives forever.”

Article Photos

Seasoned yoga instructor Mary Grace Conti engages students in her unique approach to the practice.

Onnikian and Conti integrate yoga into all of their classes. Onnikian, Golden Gloves boxing champion and World Kickboxing champion turned yogi, finds that incorporating yoga into his kickboxing classes is highly beneficial for his students.

“A lot of my kickboxing students didn’t want to do yoga initially, but I make them do it after every class,” said Onnikian. “Yoga itself will meet you right where you’re at. It figures out where you need the work and balances strength. Now they’re like, ‘When do we get to do the yoga?’”

Although signing up for a month of hot yoga may seem counter-intuitive for us South-siders who dwell in the torridity of Maui’s famed dust bowl that is Kīhei, Conti is confident that prospective students will be up for the challenge. Not only will attending class produce the bangin’ body that fat-busting Bikram yoga is known for, but being in the heat is important for less superficial reasons as well.

 “Not everything is about comfort,” said Conti. “We believe in equanimity in the face of adversity. Then you create the capacity to deal with life on life’s terms. Plus, it’s very important to sweat. You create an artificial fever, and as you do that, a lot of bacteria vacates.”

Likewise, those who feel inclined to sign up for kickboxing or dance classes might find the prospect of knowing that they will also be doing yoga a daunting expectation. However, Onnikian and Conti, both big fans of pushing yourself into unexplored territories, know that trying something new will only bring immeasurable positive results.

“Every time you do something different, you open the neural pathways in your brain,” explained Onnikian. “[This type of exercise] actually makes you smarter.”

“A lot of what we do here is about balancing the right and left sides of your brain,” added Conti. “If you can learn to be physical and learn to use your right and left sides of your brain evenly, it helps the brain as a muscle grow better and be receptive to other learning, as well.”

Onnikian and Conti are especially excited to impart their wisdom on the island’s children.

“Kids are so great to work with because they haven’t been fully conditioned into what society creates—this disconnection with your body,” said Conti. “They’re much more open and receptive.”

Currently, MYK holds children’s class on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Onnikian, who has a background of teaching kickboxing at camps and after-school programs, leads the 45-minute sessions grounded in focus and confidence building.

“It’s important to know that we don’t teach people to hurt each other,” Onnikian pointed out. “We’re not trying to build fighters. We’re just trying to get kids comfortable in society and in their bodies.”

“We feel that children need non-mental emotional releases,” said Conti. “So many things kids do are about whether they win or lose; that’s not the case here. It’s about alignment, self-awareness, and thinking smarter so that they can make healthier choices.”

Onnikian and Conti look forward to growing their children’s program to include dance, yoga and drumming, and they urge parents to contact them to relay what days and times work best for them. They also hold private group sessions for groups of five children or more.

If you’d like to test the waters before you and/or your keiki dive into a body and mind fitness program this coming year, MYK is offering special trial rates. Just $30 will grant adults access to an unlimited week of classes. Or take advantage of a $10 single first-time trial class. Kids’ first-time trial classes are also $10.

“Our job is to challenge everybody on every level so that they can learn something new and different about themselves,” Conti said. “We have options for everybody.”



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