Santa Paula Times

Popular yoga teacher, former Marine Macias dies in Metrolink crash

September 17, 2008
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesManuel “Manny” Macias went from spit-and-polish Marine to yoga instructor, not a surprise to those who loved the free-spirited Santa Paula native, who was killed Friday on Metrolink 111. Manny was among the 25 confirmed dead in the accident that occurred about 4:30 p.m. when the Metrolink hit a Union Pacific freight train head-on in Chatsworth. More than half of the train’s 225 passengers were injured, many critically.Manny had missed his earlier train from Los Angeles - where he taught yoga to the blind and those with MS - and called his aunt to tell her he would be late. That was the last anyone heard from him.Manny’s older sister Melissa Grisales, the former assistant to City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, said her mother Cynthia Macias and several other relatives waited for word of Manny, known for his sunny personality and upbeat positive attitude, all Friday night at Chatsworth High School, where an emergency center was established shortly after the crash. It was 5 a.m. Saturday when they learned that Manny had not survived.“They stayed there all night,” said Melissa, and when Manny’s passing was confirmed, “Mom called me.” When it came to her little brother, Melissa - still speaking of him in the present tense - said, “He has a lot of energy, is very positive, infectious to anyone he came in contact with, a very giving person.”Manny was the primary caregiver to Melissa and Jackson Grisales’ first of two sons. “I always teased him, called him my nanny instead of my Manny... he was the primary caregiver for my son from the time he was six months old until about 3 years old,” taking the boy on walks every day often to Vons, making sure he ate nutritious food and had enough exercise. “I couldn’t have left him in better hands,” an attitude shared, said Melissa, by the Vons staff, who always asked the boy where his uncle was.Manny, who had been a Marine for four years, discovered yoga after he took a class. The 1994 Santa Paula High School graduate had not “been interested in yoga as a kid, and when he came out of the Marine Corps he worked several jobs, but he knew in his heart he wasn’t a 9 to 5er. He went to a yoga class and he was hooked,” later receiving his training in San Francisco.Melissa said Manny’s career “took him all over the place” as he taught students in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. “He taught for the Braille Institute, the MS Society for the seniors,” and for the Santa Paula Recreation Department and Santa Paula Health & Fitness.On Monday Manny was scheduled to take Ventura County seniors to a Santa Barbara-based open house, what Melissa said was a “mini-field trip” that included lunch and Manny walking the seniors back to the bus station because he had a later class that prevented him from accompanying them home. Many of Manny’s students have contacted the family: “They’re having a really hard time” dealing with his death.The family, said Melissa, is “just reeling from this loss, he meant a lot to us, a lot to me. I always told him we balanced each other, I was more business-like, he was more fun loving. I don’t know how I’m going to deal without his balance... it’s hard.”
The family is now trying to deal with the loss and to make arrangements. “It was very unexpected,” said Melissa, and “We’re having a hard time trying to deal with it at this point. Mom is very strong, a lot stronger than me.”A gathering will be held at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday at Santa Paula Health & Fitness for Manny’s former students, said club owner Ruth Ricards. “It will be in Studio B, the yoga room” where Manny taught for more than two years. There will be a reading, and members will be able to share their recollections of Manny, who Ricards said taught four classes a week and “had quite a following.”Ricards agreed that Manny was a “free-spirited kind of guy... his passion was yoga, and he was bound and determined to make a living off yoga” by trimming expenses. “He wore flip-flops, rode a bike and had his yoga mat on his back. You have to hand it to somebody like that who would make sacrifices on a personal level to do something he loved,” said Ricards. “His life was yoga, teaching yoga.”Manny wrote on his website, “It is well known that we are living in an ‘overtime junky’ nation. Our need for ‘more work’ and ‘less time off’ is breaking down our bodies at an all time high.”“Mind stuff or mind chatter created during stress” must be eased, and this, wrote Manny is “when my me-time begins. It’s learning how to take time out to do nothing at all but breathe. It’s learning how to create and listen to the sound of your breath, allowing the ‘mind chatter’ to slow and fade, leaving behind a calmer and happier you!”Manny also wrote he had always dreamed of studying Ashtanga Yoga. “I see it as the ‘Marines’ of the Yoga world,” the most challenging both spiritually and physically.The cause of the Metrolink crash is still being investigated, although engineer error has been cited. Metrolink contracts engineer service from Veolia Transportation.