The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC) and Native Hawaiian Student Services (NHSS) hosted a webinar on April 4 to share ʻike (knowledge) about how the traditional art of hula can help enhance mental health and well being. Award-winning Kumu Hula William Kahakuleilehua Haunuʻu Sonny Ching discussed both spiritual and physical aspects and how they interconnect. Throughout the webinar, Ching, who founded Hālau Nā Mamo O Puʻuanahulu, featured some of his dancers who demonstrated hula movements and shared personal experiences of how hula has contributed to their wellness and connection to culture.

Kyle Help, who is a student service specialist at NHSSKuaʻana Native Hawaiian Student Development Services, was one of the dancers featured at the livestream event. He describes its healing benefits and how mele (songs) whisk him through time.

Three people practicing hula

“I don’t know what you call it, bliss, enlightenment, transcending moment,” said Help. “You are bringing time back to present to other people and when you connect spiritually like that you connect to your kūpuna, you connect to your ancestors. You connect to everything Hawaiian.”

NHSS and CSDC have partnered to provide resources in connecting holistic practices to Native Hawaiian culture to help address COVID-19-induced stress and anxiety. This month’s webinar was partially funded by the SEED Initiative for Diversity, Equity, Access and Success grant awarded to three CSDC doctoral interns in health service psychology.

This event is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Becoming a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning (PDF) and Enhancing Student Success (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.