Yoga practice style:  PLAY VINYASA, YIN; YAMAS & NIYAMAS
Website: powerliving.com.au/wellington-studio
Instagram:  @warriorjase

What’s your story?  I’m from humble beginnings. I was raised with my younger bro by my paternal grandparents. My real parents split when I was 2. I only met my Mum two years ago. Not knowing your real parents creates some pretty deep Vasana/self-belief from such a young age. Nonetheless, I had the best upbringing! I was raised in both the Māori and Anglo-Saxon ways, as my grandparents were native speakers and highly steeped in the traditional ways of our indigenous people. I was encouraged to try anything and everything. My ‘A-type’ personality meant I achieved quite a lot at a young age. I represented NZ in 3 sports and won a scholarship to a prestigious Boarding School. I also got to travel the world in my 20s, training teachers for the dance-based program BodyJam for Les Mills Group Fitness classes. I also danced, sang and performed, which took me to Australia 10 years ago for touring shows.

All of those achievements left me exhausted though. I remember being at my 40th and my friend said to me, ‘what are you good at now?’ I realized I had been DOING life rather than “being” it! I’m 2 years past and enjoying life much more, having taken the foot off the peddle - more Yin and less Yang! I thankfully also have an awesome relationship with my birth Mum and Dad. Yoga has helped me re-connect in many different ways!

What did you want to be growing up?  A lawyer at first - when I was at boarding school. It took me three years of study to realise it wasn’t like ‘LA Law’ and you didn’t walk up and down the courtroom, delivering witty repartee to the jury. Rookie mistake.

How would you describe yourself?  Funny, loyal, connected, proud, childlike.

How would others describe you?  Some humorous musings from my friends… grounded, strong, loving, playful, ambitious… Brown. “Prince-like (the royal not the artist)” and “spiritual gangster” haha!

How would your mother describe you?  I asked her and (haha, she just learnt how to text) her reply – verbatim: “Priceless, dedicated, inspiring and charismatic, very smart and respectful. I could go on… I love u and am so proud of u my handsome son”… Love my Mamma!

What do you most value in others? Why?  I admire “presence” in a person. That to me is true connection, true Yoga off the mat! Please put your iPhone/iPad/laptop down before you talk to me. I will give you my FULL attention. What’s possible when we’re present with each other? Connection, engagement, clarity. If you’re disconnected, what happens to the moment we have NOW? I love one-on-one conversations for that reason! 

When did you last cry? What was it over?  I cried at the opening of my yoga studio - Power Living Wellington. I was overwhelmed by the people who came out to share in the love of Yoga! My most recent crying moment, though, was hanging out at the beach, looking at the stars with my partner. It’s humbling to realise how small we are in the greater scheme of things and also beautiful to feel connected to something way greater than us! 

Is there anything you preach but don’t practice?  My partner would say cleanliness or ‘saucha’. I’m super-organized and clean in my life, business, etc., but at home I love to throw clothes around while I’m packing for the day or trips. He stands quietly and calmly in the middle of my maelstrom. He doesn’t find it as hilarious as I do however. Change and growth comes from awareness though, right?.... Right?!

We’ve all done a few things we aren’t too proud of, care to share one?  Hmmmmmm Yes! Forcing my partner to jump off a jetty in front of our friends (quite early on, still dating) and not realizing he couldn’t swim! Woah!

Favourite meal?  Anything made by Mum and my super-chef partner.

Favourite drink?  Young coconut water smoothies. We run retreats in Bali and they have the best smoothies at ‘Kafe’ in Ubud. I could stay there all day curled up in the corner, with a good book. Coconuts are life’s elixir.

Favourite book?  ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts… Such an epic novel about survival against all odds!

Ok, let’s talk about yoga, how’d you get into it?  I ripped my achilles while dancing in South Africa 12 years ago. It ended my dance career and Yoga was the only form of exercise that satiated the pain in my heel. It was a natural, less impactful way to move my body after years of slamming it. I fell in love with the physical aspect, but then quickly realized there was much more going on!

What was the biggest challenge when you first started practicing?  Hmmmm, the practice of ‘vairagyam’ – non attachment, or letting go of expectations. I remember competing with this middle-aged lady in my first ever class. I approached the practice as I did all other athletic endeavours in my life. It literally bought me to my knees though and made me aware that Yoga is more than the physical Asana… I was hooked from then on in!

What would make you skip practice?  I keep coming back to my mat to practice being a better version of myself… Broadening consciousness and deepening my awareness hopefully changes and shifts my vibration to a higher level/frequency.
If the All Blacks are playing though, I’m out!  I’m in front of my mate’s big screen, losing my voice, yelling the house down - shameless!

Do you teach?  I teach/present at Wanderlusts (Yoga Festival) and train teachers. It’s what I feel I’ve been put on this earth to do. I’m operating at full capacity when I’m sharing and holding space for people to tap into their higher being-ness. I feel like all the things I’ve done in my life, all the achievements/experiences have culminated to set me on this path! There is no effort when you’re fully operational and living in dharma. It’s easeful and joyful.

Other than yoga, what keeps you busy?  Family, friends and food. The 3 Fs! My time is devoted to work lately. But I love to cook and eat (it’s in my blood). I’m often working out what the next meal is going to be while I’m on the present one. My perfect way to spend free time is around the dinner table with friends and family, eating good, home cooked food. Throw my bro on the guitar and my family singing? Sweet heaven!

What advice would you give to someone stepping onto the mat for the first time?  Breathe and drop the judgement. We land on our mat with so many expectations… of ourselves, of the teacher. Once we drop the judgement, we are able to be completely in body and breath. Good quality breath calms the body when under challenge. I wish I knew that when I was next to the older lady all those years ago, rather than huffing and puffing my way through the practice. Ego schooled!

Tell us about a time your yoga practice came into play off the mat?  Every day man! Being conscious, aware and present, much like in your Asana practice, allows you to be in flow off your mat. Rather than reacting to life’s challenges, like the physical challenges on your mat, you can stay and choose a more informed way of being. A lady lost it at me the other day, because I had parked in a driveway to help a guy jump start his car. I smiled calmly as she told me I was selfish parking in her way as she walked to work. She realized I was helping someone and swiftly bolted – red faced.

In the past I would have met that same fire with wilder, Māori-infused fire, which would have caused suffering for all concerned. Years of Yoga and Meditation made for a more favourable outcome, me thinks!

What challenges or issues have you experienced being a guy who teaches/practices yoga?  People think that as a guy, I’ll be less interested in the traditional philosophies and more interested in doing handstands. When I speak about the Gita or Patanjali’s Sutra, or teach a Yin class, people lean in to listen to what I have to say. There’s more to this guy than my tattoos, muscles, handstands and splits pictures.

What does the BOYS OF YOGA project mean to you?  It’s awesome to see more men doing Yoga. In NZ it’s looked upon as a female-dominated ‘pastime’. Because I’m Māori and both strong and flexible, more and more men resonate with what I have to say. BOYS OF YOGA is up to the same thing. Building the male yogi community, one soul at a time! It’s a wicked initiative. I’m fully down with that!

If you could spend some time hanging out with some of the other BOYS, who would it be, and why?  I love what the brothers Yancy, Jason and Octavio have to say. Their respective stories resonate with me. And, of course MJW, who is doing great things bringing yoga awareness to the men of the world! Booyah!

What’s your favourite pose? Why? Can you cue us into it?  
I’m loving a good rinse out at the moment… Parirvrtta Anjaneyasana – Twisted Lunge… Genius!

Step the right foot to Crescent Lunge… Hands to heart. Lean forward and lengthen the spine on an inhale breath… twist and hook left elbow over right knee. Use the elbow as leverage to press the knee and lift and draw the belly away from the front thigh. Outer right hip draws back to neutralize the pelvis… Belly button draws down as the heart spins up. Feel the rotators, deep back muscles fire to engage a counter twist and keep the spine safe…. Take 3 good, deep Ujjayi Breaths! Stay and then repeat on the second side.

What pose do you fucking hate?  Gomukasana (Cow Face Pose) ..... Trying to wrap these big Māori Rugby legs into that posture is confronting and not ideal. Ha! And then to stay… and ‘let go’? Not happening!

Fill in the below: Yoga is...  Connection… A physical pathway at first to moving beyond the ‘I’, to a more collective and conscious “WE’ and then eventually Tat or ‘THAT”… something so much bigger than us all – call it Divine, Shiva, Para Atman or Love. Simply put – YOGA is LOVE y’all!

Your quote or mantra:  “Kōtahi Aroha – One Love” – simple but sweet! Work on self love first and the rest will fall into place.

Interviewed: February 22nd, 2016

Photos by @michaeljameswong and property of BOYS OF YOGA LLC