Practice, Float and Fly in the Mexican Riviera: An Interview with Whakapaingia

Can you think of one gift that you are sharing with the world?

Give a warm welcome to our new Travel Yogi, Whakapaingia (Whaka) from Koha Yoga as he helps you hone in on just that! Whether it’s on the mat, acro flying, or soaking up the Mexican sun… Whakapaingia will inspire you fully. Mark our words.

Born and raised in New Zealand, Whakapaingia has traveled all over the world and has resided in California to Wisconsin and even some places in between.  With his spirit, humor and crazy knowledge, it’s no surprise that he was destined to create Koha Yoga, a company that focuses on healing and inspiring all to play through acro, acropeutics, yoga and paddle-boarding. And, to come full circle,
“Koha” is the Maori word for gift ☺

Now, let’s get to know him a bit better…

What inspired you to blend yoga and thai massage together?

First off, it was not me who blended them together.  These are two modalities that are based in healing.  After my injuries with no medical insurance, I found that yoga and thai massage were both amazing tools to heal my body. By blending these two practices together, it didn’t take me long to realize it was an effective way to sustain my active lifestyle and to be injury free. I found healing in them and it is in my nature to want to share these gifts with everyone.

Describe yourself in 5 words…

Giving, Open, Loving, Compassionate and Fun

What do you never leave the house without?

I will say that I usually forget the typical things like keys, wallet, sunglasses BUT, we will keep it interesting… I never leave home without a good sense of humor and the underlying belief that everything will work out.

Rumor has it… you can do a mean Haka. True or false?

True.  The Haka is a traditional Maori war dance that is used to celebrate momentous occasions: birthdays, openings, closings and funerals. Originally, the Haka was a way for warriors to ignite (ka) their breath (ha) mentally and spiritually before going into battle.

You are finally settled back in Los Angeles with your wife, Sara, and your Mini Me of a daughter, Tahi. What’s the best part of being back in LA after living such a nomadic life?

The best part of being back in LA is that we have roots. After being so nomadic, LA gives us a sense of security and safety because we have our chosen family and friends here in LA.  To top it all off, Tahi gets to go to an amazing school, Citizens of the World.


If we were to yoga-it-out with you, what could we expect? Sweaty? Sweet? All the above?

You’ll be physically challenged but sweetly inspired. 

We’ve heard about this “Whaka Flow…” What is it exactly?!

The Whaka flow is a therapeutic sequence that I developed by flying thousands of people.  It is a beautiful way to align the body in a sweet and gentle manner using gravity as a friend.  The proof is in the experience!


OK, lightning round… This or that, we want to know.

Rugby or the NFL?   Rugby (New Zealand All Blacks are World Champions Again)

Ashtanga or Acro?  This is a hard one, right now, Ashtanga!

Wisconsin or California?  This is easy, California! But, Wisconsin in the summer is nice too!

Whaka or Whakapaingia (and does it have a meaning in Maori?)

Whakapaingia. Whakapai = means to set in order or put right    Pai = means good Paingia = beloved.  When you weave all these words together it means “to be blessed.” I wish everyone could call me Whakapaingia, but most folks in the States call me Whaka (WAH-KA).

Koha Yoga Whaka and Sara Venice Beach, California

Whether you now want to be Haka flowing or Whaka flowing, keep in the loop with Whakapaingia and the goodness of Koha Yoga. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram and on retreat to paradise in the Mexican Riviera.   

Get ready to deepen your practice, float, fly, and laugh.





6 Reasons to Go on an Aruba Yoga Retreat

Third Times a Charm:

What Keeps Maria Santoferraro Going Back to Manchebo?


They say you can never get enough of a good thing, and when it comes to Aruba – particularly hosting a yoga retreat there at the lovely Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa – that statement is absolutely true. I’m getting ready to pack up my yoga mat for my third (of what I hope will become annual) Beach Yoga Bliss retreat in Aruba this April 11–18, 2015.

When you work with The Travel Yogi (we love you Maria!), there are so many great travel destinations to choose from, but I fell in love with my Aruba yoga retreat. Here are six reasons why I keep going back (and why you should consider going) on one of the Travel Yogi’s retreats to Aruba:



1. The Best Beach Yoga

One of the primary reasons I first picked Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa for my first Aruba yoga retreat was for its unique beach yoga setting. I saw the pictures and dreamed for months about how lovely it would be to teach under the yoga pavilion or on the wooden yoga deck overlooking the white sand beaches and clear blue Caribbean waters. And when I arrived at the resort, I was not disappointed.


As soon as I stepped into the Manchebo Yoga Pavilion, I was overwhelmed with emotion and started to cry tears of joy. I couldn’t believe that I would get to teach yoga in such a beautiful space. Every time I come to Manchebo, I get that same exuberant feeling when I set foot in the yoga pavilion.

beachfront deck

From the pavilion you can see the incredible aqua blue waters of the Caribbean, feel the ocean breeze, and be protected from the sun. It is pure bliss for me to teach there, and I’m told it is divine to put down your mat and practice there as well.



2. A Beach Resort for Yogis

A stay at Manchebo starts with a friendly welcome and complimentary mojito at check-in, and the thoughtful amenities just keep coming – healthy smoothies for breakfast, refrigerator and microwaves in the room, waterfall shower. And the garden-view rooms really do have an actual Zen garden to hang out in!


I can’t say enough good things about Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa. The staff are so friendly and helpful, the grounds are gorgeous, and you don’t get a packed-in, claustrophobic feeling like at other resorts I’ve been to. The staff took really good care of us, and they have all the yoga props (bolsters, straps, blocks, and extra yoga mats) so you don’t have to pack extra gear. This is a beach resort that truly caters to yogis!


Every morning after our beach yoga and meditation session, the staff set up a table for all the retreat participants to gather for breakfast. It is nice to have this time to be together, share stories, and regroup after the yoga sessions. Did I mention that our breakfast table has a view of the pool and the Caribbean?!

3. The Food

It’s not just the breakfast that’s amazing. One of the nights, the resort put together our very own private beachfront dinner with Tiki torches, table decorations, and fancy decorated chairs to accompany our three-course meal. I felt like a princess! Whether you are seeking healthy food, vegetarian options, or have food allergies, the staff at Manchebo will cater to your dining needs with plenty of menu choices!

Beachfront dinner

 4. Adventure!

Some days, you just want to lay on the beach and chillax, but if you want a little island adventure, it is on the agenda in some form almost every day. Hiking, swimming in a natural pool, stand-up paddle boarding, and snorkeling are all part of the outdoor fun that you can experience on the island.

SUP (1)

One of my favorite days on the retreat is when we take a sailing cruise out to snorkel and then get to relax on the boat with refreshing drinks and catch the sunset.


And, I really love the day we hike the south side of the island along stunning rocky coastlines and beautiful beaches to the natural pool for an exhilarating dip in the waters.

island adventure


5. SUP Yoga

One afternoon of the retreat, we headed off for an afternoon of stand-up paddle boarding PLUS a yoga class atop the boards, floating out on the water. After learning the basics of maneuvering on the boards, we paddled down the shore to our yoga studio on water, anchored our boards, and busted out some downward dogs and sun salutations. The instructor’s only rule was that if we fell off the board we had to laugh, and she guaranteed that everyone falls off. Suffice it to say there were lots of smiles and giggles.


The best part of the SUP yoga class was lying in peace on the board in the middle of the Caribbean in savasana with the sun shining down on us. I’ve always loved savasana, but doing it while floating on the ocean is absolutely sublime.


6. The Gift of Peace and Solitude

With great venues to practice, a beachfront spa, and healthy food options, Manchebo really is the perfect place to give yourself a special gift: peace, restoration, and honoring your body with the practice of yoga. One of my class themes was about taking the time to give yourself the gift of solitude, to unwind, let go, and recharge. A walk alone on these beautiful beaches to breathe and meditate was my gift to myself each day, and I brought home some seashells to remind me to keep giving myself that gift even when I’m back in Ohio.



When you have the opportunity to practice yoga and meditate twice a day for a week, your practice is going to blossom. During my Beach Yoga Bliss yoga retreat, you will be surrounded by a group of fantastic yogis, experience new adventures, eat fantastic food, and enjoy all that the beautiful island of Aruba has to offer.

Why You Want to Rock Om in Aruba

We asked our newest Travel Yogi, Elizabeth Rowan, to share a little about herself and why she’s excited to “Rock Om in Aruba” October 5 – 10th. Her answer left us ready to pack our mats and bathing suits and head to Aruba to Rock Om with her! Check it out to learn more about Elizabeth, and don’t forget – early bird pricing ends on April 30th, so grab your spot now to save.

So The Travel Yogi team asked me to pen some prose about why I’m so freaking pumped about my Rock Om retreat to Aruba this October. Seriously?! Best assignment ever.

Let’s start here: You’ve just finished a yoga class, and before you’re even upright again after a crazy-good savasana, you feel it creeping in. You know, the yoga high. The all natural, no sugar added, barefoot, blissful I-don’t-even-care-that-I-faceplanted-in-crow-pose-cause-the-world’s-so-beautiful, seemingly substance-induced “I loooooove you” yoga high. That.

And then you remember that your bathing suit is nearby and the catamaran awaits, ready to depart after a mid-morning piña colada. (I know! Total yoga fantasy, right?!) You cruise around, hang out with amazing people from all around the world that are also high on yoga, travel, life, Coppertone fumes. The only “tasks” on your to-do list for the day are deciding when to swim, nap, and climb aboard a paddleboard. You know, before it’s time to replenish your high in your evening yoga class. This cycle continues for days! You feel inspired, rejuvenated, relaxed, reconnected to yourself, to others, to the world, to your practice. And no, this isn’t your third eye deceiving you!

I love how I feel after taking a yoga class, and even more how I feel after I teach one. When students either spring up with newfound energy, ready to leap into their day, or can barely peel themselves off their mat due to such a deep, thorough relaxation. Sharing the endless benefits of yoga that we feel physically, energetically, emotionally with a circle of new friends with equal lust for life in one of the most beautiful locales on the planet? Sounds like a dream. And yet.

I’ve had friends ask with skepticism, “But, can I drink?”, “Do I have to pre-train?”, “What if I like yoga but don’t sleep in mala beads?” For the love, come with me! In brief, heck yes, absolutely not and me either!

Whether or not you’re new to yoga or a lifelong practitioner, are breaking in your first passport or live to explore, consider lifting a beachside cocktail workout enough or are wild for yoga two-a-days, yoga retreats are yours. I provide the yoga and guide you toward inspiration, breakthroughs, the shopping district and the pool bar; Rachel Brathen delivers the how-to of yoga on water; the destination provides an unforgettable setting; The Travel Yogi covers all the details. The best part is that you don’t have to know Sanskrit, bust out a handstand on command or have a guru in India to attend. I hope you’ll join me in Aruba. Five days of seaside yoga, spa, beaching, boating, umbrella drinks and overall Om? All yours. I can’t wait to share it with you.