Yoga Enterprise

Why Wellington yoga studio Awhi embraced te reo Māori

When Jase Te Patu held a special yoga class in Te Reo Māori as part of the Te Wiki o te Reo Māori in 2018, more than 100 people came and filled the central Wellington studio with capacities.

“I was thrilled,” said Te Patu (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Apa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa).

“It really got me thinking, ‘There are people who are not in the room.’ What if we spoke to them in our language? “

The words on the main studio wall were,

ROSA WOODS / things

The words on the main studio wall were, “My friends, this is the essence of life.”

At the time the studio was called Power Living NZ, an offshoot of an Australian yoga business. But in November of this year the co-owners Te Patu and Justine Hamill started again as Awhi Yoga & Wellbeing with a distinct Aotearoa identity and Kaupapa.

* Don’t just change your email unsubscription: cover te ao Māori more than a week a year
* Te reo Māori should be part of every New Zealander’s identity
* The best te reo Māori books for children

They are known for their bilingual approach of offering basic instructions and names of postures in English and Māori during class.

Awhi Yoga & Wellbeing co-owners Jase Te Patu and Justine Hamill.

ROSA WOODS / things

Awhi Yoga & Wellbeing co-owners Jase Te Patu and Justine Hamill.

It was Hamill who invented the name Awhi, which means to support and embrace te reo Māori.

“I don’t even like to call it a brand – it’s like a marae to us,” she said.

“Once we got the name, it just evolved from there.”

Te Patu and Hamill say yoga blends perfectly with the Māori world.

Her teachings include hauora, the Māori philosophy of health, and te whare tapa whā or the four pillars – tinana (physical), atine (mental), wairua (spiritual) and whānau (family).

“When I started studying yoga, I said, ‘Whoa – I learned that from my Nan and my Koro,'” said Te Patu, who has been teaching yoga for 11 years.

“It’s about taking care of Mother Earth, Papatūānuku. Teaching about a connection to something greater than ourselves – atua [gods], our ancestors, everything. It’s the same teachings. “

Awhi Yoga & Wellbeing encourages students taking their classes to use Te Reo.

ROSA WOODS / things

Awhi Yoga & Wellbeing encourages students taking their classes to use Te Reo.

For Te Patu, this first yoga course, which he taught entirely in Te Reo Māori, inspired him to take courses at Te Whare Wānanga to improve his language skills.

“I would say I am competent – I can do conversational reo, but I just wanted to move up,” he said.

“There is a difference. For a long time I was the only Māori in yoga – and male. Yoga is represented quite often by white women. I really feel empowered to be able to express yoga in my own reo so that I feel more at home. “

Te Patu created a series of yoga teaching cards in Māori last year that work with Te Reo experts to find the right words for each pose.

Jase Te Patu worked with language experts to create Te Reo yoga cards.

ROSA WOODS / things

Jase Te Patu worked with language experts to create Te Reo yoga cards.

Some were relatively straightforward – the downward facing dog is kurī whakamuri and the pigeon keeping is kererū. But others were more complicated.

“We had a full-day workshop where we went through all the yoga postures and said, ‘That means this in Sanskrit, this is the mana it contains” – there is a story behind every Sanskrit posture, “explained Te Patu.

“So Virabhadrasana or warrior – it means hero friend. We came up with the word toa, which in Māori is warrior, but in our culture it means so many things. It means someone who is both powerful and peaceful – they have to be super focused if they want to go into battle. But also someone who is wild as a friend. “

It is not just Te Patu who speaks Te Reo during the yoga class – the entire Awhi team, including instructors from Scotland, England and America, is committed.

“Jase speaks more than the rest of us, but we’ve learned to incorporate little sayings, names of postures, and Whakataukī [proverbs] that we can thematize and really contribute, ”said Hamill.

“That was a cool thing for our team too. It’s not about pronouncing it really well, it’s about trying it out. That makes it accessible. Then we notice that our students start trying, even if it just comes into the studio and says, “Kia ora.”

“And it just sounds so beautiful,” she added.

“You don’t even have to know what it means, but you can get the essence of it with the movements.”

Related Articles