| February 2019 Movers |
The Beauties Behind Olanani Acuoasis: Alicia Yang & Tai Hawkins
It is a great pleasure to feature two incredible women by way of the spaceship, Olanani Acuoasis, located in Kailua, Hawaii. As I write this February 2019 feature, I see so many intersections, affirming and solidifying the bonds. I met Alicia Yang while I was working with DVAC (Domestic Violence Action Center) as a Bilingual Pilipina Advocate Case Manager and she was working at HSCADV (Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence) in 2012 with a tight team of creative community educators and movers. Seeing her light shine in various environments is a joy and I am so grateful that I can also begin to witness the light works with Tai and her magic as a healer, mother and dance educator in our community. I enjoyed discovering more about Alicia and Tai through this interview and learned that I shared the same major and minor in college as Tai. As a mover with pre-existing injuries, it is vital to have access to healing through people who are able to facilitate and approach wellness practices with a global understanding of mind, body, soul, spirit and beyond.
I recall Alicia offering me sessions for an injury I developed after receiving an unexpected adjustment from a yoga teacher in my late twenties. She was a student at the time, and generous teacher to me, who shared delicious herbal remedies that lead me to exploring Honolulu's Chinatown to find the ingredients, and connecting with my Chinese culture. After the passing of my father in 2013, these connections through food, culture and especially adventuring in Chinatown became more important. I am so excited to journey these next few weeks with our guides as they share their herbal formulas and feature a handful of their signature products, while providing inspiration and insight through their process.
The following conversation took place in the waiting room of Olanani Acuoasis one overcast afternoon while sipping on wild orange tea with jujube (aka Chinese red date). Enjoy!
Alicia and Tai met and studied in Honolulu, Hawaii at the Institute of Clinical Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. While their previous lives brought them along different paths, their meeting point was natural. As a childhood cancer survivor, Chinese medicine was an integral part of how Alicia’s family confronted illnesses, and her survivorship became an inspiration for her pursuit in the study of Chinese Medicine and passion to become an acupuncturist. Alicia’s background also comes through a history of working with communities for social justice and empowering youth and women survivors of abuse and violence, both in the Bay Area of California where she is from, and in Honolulu where she made her new home after acupuncture school.
Born and raised in Kailua, Tai’s life was shaped by the multitude of lessons the ocean had to offer. Growing up next to the ocean meant finding community, paddling, connection to the earth, and honoring the power of nature. Tai paddled and danced hula starting from a young age, finding communion of spirit in both. It was this communion of energy and spirit that led her to study the healing sciences through massage and acupuncture. Within Chinese Medicine, Tai recognized a way of being and relating that reflected her own relationship to the earth and the ocean. It was a natural extension.
Alicia and Tai graduated in 2013 and remembers the community celebration they held at the Loading Zone in Chinatown, where selector Seph1 DJed, and African & lion dancers came to bless the space. That party was the first official time they collaborated in the community, and it was there they realized the epic energy they generated when they joined forces. Upon graduating, Tai and Alicia went on to practice at Kama’aina Acupuncture in Kaimuki with teacher and mentor Joe Bright, who ultimately helped them launch the sister clinic when they branched out. The two became Co-Owners and founding acupuncturists of Olanani AcuOasis, Kailua’s first open-space acupuncture health spa. Since opening, they have brought solutions for patients in pain relief, fertility, digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, depression and anxiety, sleep disorders, endocrine disorders, and a specialty of theirs, anti-aging facial rejuvenation. In addition, they have hosted numerous workshops and women’s circles promoting healing from trauma, movement, and yoga and art remedy. “Our clinic is a hub, where we can connect with the community.”
In addition to their Master’s Degrees in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, both Alicia and Tai have degrees in higher education upon which they have built their knowledge in shaping community. Alicia holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, in Political Economy of Industrial Societies and a M.Ed. from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Tai holds a B.A. from Stanford in Cultural and Social Anthropology and Minor in Dance.
What are your favorite memories of tea time?
For Tai, she recalls her parents on full hustle mode, where the regular flow of dinner then shower upon getting home from school did not leave much room. Years later, her sister made the move to California, and during a visit, Tai discovered her love for jasmine pearl tea. She enjoyed watching it steep and unfurl. Fast forward to formulas class while she was in acupuncture school, where Alicia and Tai met at the Institute of Clinical Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Tai would make it a point to arrive school early and prepare the herbal formulas. She loved the tactility of feeling the herbs, smelling the herbs, connecting with the herbs when they cooked down, and sharing the decoction practice with her classmates. As busy and tired as she was, she always made space for this ritual and it became one of her favorite memories of tea time.
For Alicia, ever since she was a child, she remembers loose leaf tea with her grandparents, lazy afternoons and Chinese opera. She grew up in South San Jose, California in a predominantly white suburb. Her home culture was very different from the culture outside. Outside, there was little sense of belonging. Coming home to grandparents who she did not need explain herself to, was always comforting. Her parents were too busy to sip on tea at home, but she remembers pouring tea for her grandparents. Her grandfather particularly enjoyed drinking tea while watching Beijing Opera nice and loud on the television. Her grandfather liked his tea very strong; half the cup was filled with unfurled tea and he would spit the tea leaves back out. There was no tea strainer; the experience was raw and interactive. Tea time with her grandparents evoked a feeling of safety, where one could connect and the outside world cannot bother you. Nowadays, sitting down to have tea always summons a feeling of safety, connection and gratitude for the present moment.
What are your thoughts on &/or relationship to earth medicine?
Alicia: Chinese medicine, earth medicine is about reclaiming our connection to the earth. Reclaiming that connection also means understanding our connection to each other. We all affect each other. “It just makes sense. It’s natural.” Instead of fighting against nature or trying to suppress symptoms or diseases that come up, it’s about understanding the root causes, it’s interconnections between systems, listening to the wisdom of the body as a microcosm of nature, rather than muting it.
What is YOUR medicine?
Tai: Dance. Tai began dancing hula at age four and later in her adult life found African dance. “It makes me feel grounded and connected to nature and humanity; much like a communion, or medicine.” Tai’s dance always came from the heart as an expression of spirit. She was not so much concerned about she looked when dancing, nor any competitive aspect of dance. Instead, it was the spirit and communion evoked by dancing that called Tai. Ultimately, having to dance in hula competitions and being judged in an arena so intimate with her spirit left her broken hearted. “It took me nearly 10 years to come back to dance.” When she did, it was through her African roots. Nowadays, Tai is known as the epicenter of a vibrant African dance community in Oahu as a teacher and community leader, inspiring people to make cultural connections across diverse ancestral lineages. To her, the connection between medicine and dancing is natural. Studies have shown the tremendous healing benefits of dance, but those who dance know this intuitively. To Tai, it is this medicine that will always stay with her. Practicing Chinese medicine, with its ancient roots in music and dance itself, is a natural combination. “Chinese medicine is all about the connectivity of our systems to nature and a constant flow of energy within these systems that make up life on this planet. Dance, especially African dance for me, embodies this philosophy in a tangible sense where the rhythm is the vibration or energy and there is a nonverbal conversation happening between drummer, dancer, and ancestor. This reminder of connectivity, intellectually through Chinese Medicine and physically through dance, is my healing.
Alicia: Meditation and breath, singing for charging, getting wild, making noises, and laughing for Alicia is all medicine. All of these help to remove obstacles, blockages in energy that are the cause of disease and illness. Her main medicine is an affirmation for self-love. Taking the time to remember that she loves herself and meditating on loving thoughts is where she begins to access this elevated state. “Whatever you do, if it comes from self-love; it is medicine. You could sing to plants, you could swim, you could protest Monsanto. You could run around town waving your arms in circles and squawk like a bird, I don’t care. If you love yourself while you are doing it, it’s medicine.” Learning to love herself took years, as it was not something taught or valued as she grew up. “Especially for girls and young women in my coming of age, loving yourself was not a social norm. We were socialized to downplay ourselves, stand in the back, stay silent, put other people’s needs in front of our own.” In addition, the balance between what she saw as a Western obsession with self-identity and ego and the Eastern irrelevance of self-identify in contrast to the family and community was one that took years of soul searching and spirit work. It helped that Chinese medicine, was all about balance. Ultimately, it was not about being entirely one or the other, but valuing both and seeing the connection. “Those who have the heart to care for others must love themselves in order to come from a place of fullness, and those who instinctively love themselves must give and care for others in order to be complete.”
Current community building projects and what sparked this interest? Products/recent releases? Vision for the next year.
Tai and Alicia work in a dynamic collaboration with Rachel Spear, Tai’s childhood friend from Kailua who is educated as an aesthetician and provides luxurious European style facials at Olanani AcuOasis. Out of their passion for facial rejuvenation the natural way, the three created Nani Herbs, which seeks to provide extraordinary skincare products that are safe, natural, effective, inspired by ancient Chinese and Western herbal wisdom, and infused with the healing energy of the islands of Hawaii. “We wanted a skincare line to use in our clinic that we could feel absolutely confident about in terms of effectiveness and care for not just the external but the internal. With our background in Chinese herbs and with Rachel being a natural alchemist and herb lover, it just made sense that we team up and make it ourselves .” -Tai
It all began with the three of them experimenting with cooking, processing and using Tremella - known as the secret beauty ingredient of China’s most beautiful woman in history, Gui Fei. They were amazed by the dramatic changes they saw in their own skin and it became an instant obsession. The soft, silky feeling Tremella gave, its quick absorption, and the almost immediate brightening effects of this ancient ingredient were absolutely captivating. In the wild, the translucent, ethereal looking Tremella grows on decaying logs and trees in tropical climates. One can find it in Hawaii on the eastern side of the island when hiking in the rainforest. Also known as the Snow Ear Mushroom, it has been time-tested throughout centuries in China as an ultimate herbal powerhouse for beauty, used by the empresses and women of the royal court to maintain flawless complexions. It was revered for enhancing elasticity, curing dryness, nourishing the yin, smoothing skin texture, and bringing a luminous glow in the complexion. Today, Tremella is found in Asia’s most luxury skincare. Studies have shown Tremella to have a better lightening effect on the skin than Vitamin C, and more hydrating effect on the skin than hyaluronic acid. It contains natural collagen, is full of antioxidants, and holds over 500 times its own weight in water. In addition to brightening and moisturizing, it speeds healing from burns, wounds, and acne lesions, combats inflammation and free radical damage to the skin from pollutants, sun exposure, and pesticides, and other chemicals.
Alicia - “I grew up eating and loving Tremella as one of my favorite Chinese herbal foods. My mom always cooked it as a nutritious dessert, with anti-cancer and skin-benefiting qualities. I never cared for the skin part when I was young. But today, as I journey into my forties I am loving it for all of that and more. It’s the perfect example of what Chinese medical nutrition is about - nourishing your beauty both within and without.”
Featured Product - TremSerum
Together, Tai, Rachel and Alicia formulated what is now their signature product - TremSerum. “TremSerum is our way of delivering the highest potency of Tremella to our customers, in the cleanest and purest way possible.” As a daily use serum, it has all the hydrating powers of Tremella, the mighty antioxidants of organic Jasmine Green Tea, and the blood moving invigoration of Frankincense. They began to share with clients, using it in the spa parties and facials. They were quickly met with rave reviews and repeat orders. Since then, they continue to experiment and perfecting products based on the foundation of this supercharged serum. Altogether now, they have nine delicious products total with TremSerum as the base - including exfoliant, cleansers, two masks, a body scrub, and a sensual personal lubricant. All of their skincare products are carefully handcrafted in small batches. No parabens, phthalates, synthetic fillers, or harmful chemicals are used as they are passionate about a lifestyle that promotes self-love, self-care, as well as love for our planet and natural surroundings.
Featured Product - Oo-La-La Sheet Mask
For those who love sheet masks, their Oo-La-La Sheet Mask, is an absolute winner. Sheet masks are all the rage in Korea, the skin care mecca of the world. Wanting to create a vehicle in which the Tremella would have maximum absorption of Tremella possible to their clients, the three formulated a sheet mask with Tremella and fresh cut Aloe Vera that Rachel harvested and hand processed. With the infusion of organic jasmine green tea, sandalwood essential oil and a hint of peppermint essential oil, this sheet mask from Nani Herbs dazzles the senses, nourishes the spirit, and provides an almost immediate and noticeable brightening and beautifying of the skin.
Featured Product - Chillax Lotus and Jojoba Roller Ball
For Nani Herbs, this last year was of significant expansion and transformation even amidst a time of turmoil and difficulty in the world. Tai felt these transformations powerfully in her own life as she went through marriage and the birthing of her second child. Before the birth, her husband and her decided to make the journey to Egypt to reconnect with ancestral roots and rejuvenate before the road of parenting ahead. There in Egypt, she discovered a distillery with the sacred Lotus Oil and purchased a jar, hand carrying it back to Hawaii to share with Rachel and Alicia. The team fell instantly in love with it. Says Alicia, “There is an ancient and divine magic in this oil, illuminating many layers of healing, powerful spiritual resonance and cultural connection.” Since the time of the ancients, Lotus has inspired humankind towards peace, compassion, tranquility, and our highest selves. Indeed, it has been one of humankind’s most precious connections to the plant world. Like a s/hero through the ages, the Lotus has the superpower of clearing and cleansing the aura of any negative energy almost immediately. This clearing and removal of negative blockage makes the lotus a “vehicle of elevation, taking you wherever you want to go”, adds Tai. They recall falling out of their seats with glee and bliss when they sampled the Lotus Oil for the first time together. Alicia - “There was an immediate shift in energy, it was like we left all our stresses behind and entered into a portal...there was a fuel for the spaceship (referring to their acupuncture clinic), it would be Lotus.” Tai and Alicia knew from their education in Chinese medicine that the Lotus has the ability to calm and clear the heart and spirit. To provide this ancient remedy to their customers, they got to work with Rachel in mastering the formulations with both Tremella and Lotus, naming the line, “Chillax.” Thus, the first line of Tremella skincare products was born with the Lotus in hand. Tai - “As Tremella was being born into Nani Herbs, Lotus was our midwife.” It was a hit and they quickly sold out.
For those who still want to experience the divine powers of the Lotus, the Chillax roller ball is still available at Olanani AcuOasis. It is a must have for day-to-day stress relief and is especially good for periods of transition, grief, anxiety, etc. It helps the wearer create a portal for the spirit, calming the heart and bringing peace and tranquility to the mind.
Featured Product - TremLube
Launched just this February, TremLube is a Nani Herb’s Tremella-based personal lubricant which can aid in the balancing of pH, help prevent urinary tract infections by boosting good bacteria, tighten the vaginal walls, and making intercourse healing for partners. TremLube features Jasmine green tea, tremella, agar and xanthan gum. Alicia calls it “The Lube that changed my life.” For those who suffer intimacy problems because of UTI’s, pain, etc., Alicia recommends the TremLube. “I have had multiple surgeries in my lower chakra because of tumors and fibroids in the past, which made me susceptible to UTI’s and pain. The TremLube not only feels good, it has given me relief and confidence that I am healing myself while sharing fun and intimacy with my husband at the same time.”
Oil and glycerin free, the TremLube is a natural winner - allowing you enjoy every delicious sensation of pleasure without worrying about chemicals or ingredients that would mess up your inner environment. Regular use of TremLube may help prevent UTI's, making it a revolutionary lube for health and sexual enjoyment!
Featured Product - Olanani Soup Herbs
The root of all external beauty is internal. When treating patients for facial rejuvenation, Tai and Alicia always use points on the body to boost and balance internal systems, in addition to points on the face. Along the same lines, it was important for them to provide not just topical herbs to beautify the skin, but herbs that could be taken internally to nourish from the inside out. Herbal soups have been tried and true for thousands of years in China as a way to maintain health, recover from mental and physical illnesses, and promote beauty and longevity. Currently, Nani Herbs offers herbal soup packets are in 3 varieties:
-Strengthen & Revitalize
-Calm & Relax
It is not uncommon for a family to have at least one herbal soup per week. Herbs that are used are known as "superior" herbs - or herbs that you can cook with. Each soup packet is good for one medium size pot of soup and contains herbs that can be added to any of the following soup bases - chicken, pork, fish, or vegetarian. To prepare, rinse the herbs and set aside in a bowl to soak in filtered water. Prepare the meat, (chicken and pork are usually blanched in a pot with boiling water and ginger, then separated out to another soup pot). Add enough filtered water to cover the blanched meat and add soaked herbs. Addition of fresh ginger slices is recommended. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 -40 min. At this point, one may remove the herbs by straining, or leave the herbs to eat around them. Variety of vegetables may be added and cooked last, for approximately 5 - 10 minutes depending on type of vegetable. Season according to the taste buds, and enjoy!
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Olanani Acuoasis supports community healing by offering sliding scale services. Peep the link to view their services and fees: