How has Hula in Hawaii changed me and my life?

Hula wahine with a Pau skirt.

This post will be about my journey to Hula and with Hula here in Hawaii. 

Many of you know that I have lived in Hawaii for now for almost 2 years. In April this year I am also celebrating my 10 year anniversary since I came to Hawaii for the first time. On the picture on the most right you see me – the lady in the pink dress and no hair and this is where we danced our dances today. How amazing! What a journey it has been since then!

Most people living outside of Hawaii have often times also no idea that Hawaii has many islands and the island I am on is called the Big Island. There has been times when people say they come to visit me and then end up on another island. Most people think Hawaii is Waikiki and Oahu. But Hawaii is so much more. Not only because it has many different islands, but it is more than just a physical place.

When I started to come here I was so fascinated by the Polynesian and Hawaiian culture. It is so deep, so holistic and special. I almost could not believe how captivating it was for me, especially as someone with the social and visual anthropology background. I should have picked this place for my field work back then … I wonder where I would be today if I had done that…

I came to Hawaii frequently from 2009 till 2011 almost twice a year with some years break in between. I had many adventures myself and I also often times brought a little retreat group with me, mostly from Estonia. My love for this island, people, aloha and culture has grown with every second on this island no matter for how short or long. This is a true love story and it is continuing even when we physically will leave the island.

In 2017 spring we finally moved to Hawaii with Michael and we got married here in August the same year. I was in seventh heaven! One of the first things I wanted to do was to find a Hula group I can dance with. I tried out 4-5 different teachers for over a year and basically gave up. I did not really feel like I fit in any of these groups and I knew that Hula is so much more than just gymnastics where you just focus on the moves and angles of the body.

As my cry for the Hula group was so loud, spirit organized one for me. So since 10.10.2018 I have been part of the Kaleilaniakealii Hula Studio with Alii Keanaaina and other Hula sisters.

The true Hula Halau is like a Hula School where you have a Hula Kumu (teacher) who will pass on the knowledge of Hula, but not only, true Hula classes include breath work, movements, chanting, storytelling, cultural knowledge, Hawaiian language, the basic Hula knowledge and steps, the explanation behind the Hula and so much more. That is why I love it – I never get bored – as  there is always something new popping up and to learn.

Celebrating my 10 years of connection with Hawaii.

We have learned how to make our own Pau skirt and we will learn many more things – like how to make your Hula performance hairstyle as well hairpieces of flowers, how to create more Hula artifacts with our own hands. This has been the best anthropology class ever!!! More than I even asked for!

We have our weekly meetings, which consist of double classes at Mermaid Dreams and Breakfast and I also joined an advanced group for another day of the week at Cirque Hale with our Kumu Alii.

These classes are my highlights of my week as it so nourishes my spirit! I have got to know myself so much better and I am now using some tools from the classes in my everyday life.

I am also much more observant in how and what people around me do – but not only – I am also observant what the nature and animals do. I have also understood even more that here in Hawaii respect and humbleness are two things which get you further faster. You can not push or put pressure to anything or anyone here. When the time is right it happens.

Hula Kumu Alii and me

Our Hula Kumu Alii Keanaaina is an amazing person. He has a powerful mana (power and life force) and he can be very firm, but also soft and nurturing at the same time. I have really enjoyed learning from him and I think I have become a better person in so many ways because of the mana and knowledge he has shared with us all.

He is a true facilitator of the heart. The way he holds space, the way he understands what is going on, the way he sees people. He is a true Hula Kumu for me. I am so grateful to be part of his Halau.

But before I get back to the present moment and share what we did today, I will share a little additional story about Hula.

Like a bit over a year ago I met a Hawaiian lady doctor, who checked my body and organs and said that she is going to prescribe Hula for me as it is my love medicine and help with my organs.

I namely had very often UTIs and it was not fun at all. She explained why this is happening and told me also that Hula will help. When I started Hula I did not have any UTIs any more till just recently when I had one outbreak and I know that the reason for that one was not me dancing Hula enough, but something else.

Meet my Hawaiian me – Wailani.

What has changed since I started to dance Hula in the Hula Halau? 

I think everything. I understand the Hawaiian culture much more as well Hawaiians. There is no rational logic to many things as well words and that is how it is. I love it. It is out of this world.

Hawaiian is one of the most difficult language I have ever tried to learn so far (I speak Estonian, English and Norwegian – understand Swedish, Danish, Russian. A bit of German and Finnish and Spanish).  I also realized I can not learn Hawaiian language the traditional way in a classroom.

In our Hula classes I understood that I needed more ‘hands on learning’ – so to say – we are learning Hawaiian words while we dance – as we are telling the story with our bodies.

This totally makes sense and it makes it so much easier to remember. This way my Hawaiian vocabulary has really increased a lot and I am having fun with it!

Our Hula Halau has at the moment 3 different groups – beginners, advanced and men.

I am a much more feminine woman or wahine now. I thought I was pretty good already before, but even more so now. It is amazing how much it changes – in your posture, the way you move your hands, where you look, how you use your eyes, how you feel the spirit moving through you even when you just walk! I am so much more connected to my inner core and I am so much calmer. When I get really upset I know I should dance Hula and when I do – the skies are clear again.

This last Saturday I performed with my very first Hula dance. It was really challenging, but I did it. It is super important to me to challenge myself at all times.

Another Kumu Keala Ching has said that when we dance hula, we start to move our inner ocean.

It is so true. I feel that all the inner body liquids get so activated and flowing inside of me. It also activates the elements, as most dances tell a story about the nature. I have started to observe the nature differently and also when I dance I can feel that I am one with it even if I am not dancing in the nature.

Michael’s time in the Halau was fun!

I was very happy when Michael decided to join the group as well. It was very special. He was part of the group for some time and now as we are preparing to leave – he stopped. I will continue till the last minute we leave the island if I can.

I think that this was also a spiritual time we spent together. It was so much fun. I find it so sexy when men dance hula. Many have no idea that originally men were the ones who danced hula mostly, only later women started as well.

Check out one video about Hula warriors here: 

Check out a video about a Hula Wahine Champion here: 

What is Hula for me? 

For me Hula is a science, lifestyle, a knowledge passed on from one generation to the other. It is a way to embody stories and tell these stories with your body.

Hula is a way to move your inner waters and all of you and your life. 

If you would love to read more about the topic I would recommend to read the book – Kumu Hula – Roots and Branches. 

Hula Halau field trip to Honaunau – City of Refuge

Today we had a field trip and went to Honaunau National Park or City of Refuge. In the old Hawaiian times this was a place of refuge for those who made it in there after they had done something forbidden or wrong. It was their way to give a person a possibility to understand their own wrongdoing and then correct themselves. Instead of prisons – this is what they had.

Imagine what would the world be like if we would have that everywhere in the world instead of prisons?

When you swim in these waters you can actually feel while in the water – how many people died in there in their struggle to be saved and how many made it. This is a place of hope.

Today we had many spiritual rituals in the park and thereafter danced our Honaunau Paka dance.

Then it happened – suddenly I became the yellow eyed fish, or the palm tree moving in the wind, or the rolling waves or the mountain. I became one with the aina (land). Tears were falling down my cheeks and I had a deep happiness inside my heart. This brought up peace and contentment. I also felt a lot of gratitude for the possibility to be there, to enjoy it and really be in the moment. 

The mana and the spirits of the land were very present, very activated and very happy that finally someone had come to do the rituals and talk to them in their language.

I am very sad to leave my Hula Halau for an unknown time, but I know as our Hula Kumu has said – that Hula will never leave you as you will never leave Hula. They say the same thing about Hawaii. It will always be with me. I have a long way to go but it was a definitely good start for a new journey with Hula.

I am so grateful for the invite from Wailele in our group for this new Hula Halau and to all the Hula Halau sisters. I have never ever felt so included and so accepted as I am. It feels so good!

May aloha always be with us wherever we take life or life takes us and may Hula be part of it too!

Share with me what are your experiences with Hula? Have you experienced a true Hula? Would you like to experience it?

With aloha love – Wailani/Crystal Ra

Our Hula Halau at Honaunau Park

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