By Emma Darragh
“It felt like coming home,” was how Elle Pier described the first time she set sights on Pauanui mountain.
A California native, she discovered yoga as a student at University of Santa Cruz and in 2005 completed her teacher training at the Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica. It taught an interdisciplinary style, which she teaches in her new hometown, Pauanui Beach.
Elle has worked with bodies throughout her life, braiding together three professions as a post-anesthesia surgery nurse, massage therapist and yoga teacher. She has seen several people avoid surgery because of yoga, and has witnessed the healing aspects of yoga contribute to the longevity and quality of life of many recovering patients. She combines her knowledge of body mechanics with her complete joy for the practise, to deliver yoga to locals and holidaymakers at Puka Park Resort; Pauanui’s luxury mountain-side retreat. And the people come. Both women and men and certainly the biggest span of ages I have ever seen gathered together in one room at Pauanui. Her biggest class had 35 participants.
Pauanui resident Paula Leen is one of Elle’s regular students. She says;
“To me Elle’s yoga classes are a ‘treat’. Her unique, caring persona encourages me to slow down and get in touch with my mind and body. I carry the benefits of Elle’s yoga, relaxation and breathing techniques through to my everyday life.”
So how did a California surfer hear the call of the Coromandel, and choose to make the tiny beachside hamlet of Pauanui home?
She visited New Zealand on holiday with a friend. “We’d heard all about the surf in New Zealand, and of course, the South Island, for the nature and hiking.” They hired a campervan and traveled the length of the country, Coromandel Peninsula their first destination. “We drove in and our jaws were dropping." The two surfers stumbled upon Pauanui by taking a rest stop in Tairua, enroute to Cathedral Cove. “We looked out across the harbour to the sea and saw waves. We had to go there.”
“After traveling all around NZ I kept thinking about Pauanui,” Elle said. Her friend eventually returned home and Elle found herself revisiting Pauanui, drawn to the beauty of the mountain and the ocean combined. She paddled out for a surf and met Derek, her now-fiancé, in the water. They started a conversation that has grown into a loving, committed relationship, and are now parents to six month old Joshie.
“I’ve brought a lot of Happy Baby (a yoga pose) into my practise these days,” laughs Elle. “Becoming a mum has taught me so much. Just watching our little baby and his natural abilities - feet to the mouth, rolling over into cobra pose, effortlessly! The pure love and joy is what amazes me and teaches me there is no limit to love.”
Elle is committed to her yoga classes, teaching up to the day her water broke when pregnant with Joshie. “I teach because I love being able to share the joy and benefits of yoga,” she says. Her classes are indeed transformative experiences. People leave the room looking lighter, more relaxed, more fluid in their movement. She doesn’t plan her classes pose for pose, instead offering herself up as a vessel to demonstrate yoga’s teachings. What makes her classes so popular? She is quiet, taking a moment to recognise her gratitude. “I think yoga speaks for itself,” she says, smiling.
Elle’s life and yoga practice has been influenced by extensive travels throughout South America and Europe. She attended a yoga class in Santiago which taught her the power of the practise. “Even in the chaotic city you can find so much peace.” In the serene hamlet of Pauanui, she brings a sense of light and playfulness to her class and is convinced yoga is for anyone, regardless of age, fitness or flexibility.
“What is it I want to evoke through yoga?” considers Elle. “More love, more kindness. New opportunities to be at peace with ourselves.” She also wants to be like the woman she saw in the film 'Surfing for Life'. “I want to be on my board when I’m 70 plus. I know yoga will help me do it.”
Elle’s Yoga is on Sundays at 10am-11am and Thursdays at 9:30-10:30am at Puka Park Resort in Pauanui. Anyone is welcome. She also offers Massage Therapy at the resort as part of their day spa services. Contact Elle - firstname.lastname@example.org or Puka Park Resort 07 864 8088 for more information.