Indigeneity and Yoga

Image by Trinity Thomson-Browne

Image by Trinity Thomson-Browne

Being of Māori descent, the indigenous people of New Zealand, spirituality is embedded in our culture and a huge part of my life. Through my own language, te reo Māori, I practice karakia (prayers) in many different situations. This could be to bless our food, thank the cooks, thank or ask permission of our gods for their gifts like flax for weaving or the rain from the sky. I use karakia (prayers) to clear the energy of a space or begin and end the day in a positive way. We have many different aspects of tikanga (protocols) in our culture that are essential to my spiritual practice and to me as a Māori woman.

Yoga has initiated an awakening that has also connected to me the practices of my people as I have never realised how powerful our teachings were. Through yoga I connect to our Earth Mother, Papatūānuku. When I land on my mat I can connect to Tāne Mahuta, the God of the forest and the animals in the forest through different asana.

Yoga has strengthened my love of nature and constantly reminds me that all our spirits are connected - people, animals, the birds and trees, ocean and sky.

In Māori culture, giving back to your people is embedded in our upbringing. Our ancestors, grandparents, parents and wider whānau (family) nurture us as children, so that when we are of age we can give back to our whānau (family) and iwi (tribe). As a primary school teacher, we are encouraged to teach a skill that they are passionate in. Three years ago I started teaching 6 - 11 year olds yoga each afternoon. I would begin with breathing and helping the children to connect to their physical bodies. It has since developed to a space called ‘The Mindful Moment Room’, a dedicated space for our children to come and find a moment of peace through yoga and meditation.

As I am still early on in my yoga teaching journey, I have remained focused on encouraging my children to connect their breath with their body. Because we are a school that is based in the indigenous culture of New Zealand, the Māori people, I use the traditional Māori gods to help the children connect with Mother Nature or Papatūānuku through our practice. I have found this resonates with the children as they rediscover the power of breathing as a powerful conduit to connect to their body, mind and spirit.