Wayapa Wuurrk® is the new wellness practice that is 80,000 years-old that the whole of Australia is starting to talk about! Created by Jamie Marloo Thomas, Wayapa Wuurrk means “Connect to the Earth” in the languages of Jamie’s people, the GunaiKurnai and Gunditjmara People of Victoria, respectively.
Wayapa combines ancient earth mindfulness with narrative meditation and a physical movement sequence to create mind, body and spirit wellbeing, but most importantly, it focuses on looking after the earth for intergenerational wellbeing — which is something that the First Peoples of Australia have done for thousands of generations.
Jamie says, “I believe that we are all Earth people, some are just more disconnected than others. As a First Peoples descendant, it is my responsibility to share my connection to Mother Earth and teach others how to respect and care for it, to heal it and let it heal us. So that is why I created Wayapa.”
Wayapa is based on Indigenous knowledge and thinking. It challenges participants to step out of the Self to understand they are part of the environment, whether they acknowledge this or not, so that means they just don’t pull on their Wayapa pants for a 25 minute session, it means they live a Wayapa lifestyle of taking care of the planet through their daily actions.
The Wayapa Practice can be done standing, sitting or as a visualisation which means people of all ages and capacities can do it, making it a very inclusive modality.
Wayapa Wuurrk is the only known Indigenous wellness practice certified by the International Institute for Complementary Therapists (IICT) and there are almost 80 accredited Wayapa Practitioners across Australia delivering Wayapa workshops, courses and classes.
Many of the Wayapa Practitioners also practice yoga and several are yoga instructors as they find both practices very complementary to each other. Felicia Robey and Thaedra Frangos share their thoughts on why Wayapa is so important to them as yoga teachers.
Yoga came into my life when I was a teenager. It helped me cope and taught me to go onwards and still the mind. In my early twenties I let it and myself go and it wasn’t until, hit with illness, I turned to it again in my late twenties. I’ve devoted the last 8 years of my life to yoga — learning it, practising it, living it, teaching it. No matter what is happening in my life, yoga has always been there for me.
Yet I’ve always felt a disconnection, perhaps to the practice itself or to myself or both. I grew up in the Royal National Park, just south of Sydney, so the Bush was my childhood — it’s the core of who I am. When I moved from it, the problems, both external and internal, started to happen and while I never made that connection yoga gave me a sense of purpose. The last two years I began studying Ayurveda — the sister science and medical practice of yoga, and Western herbal medicine. As I began to connect to the seasons, the emotions and to plants, I noticed the lack of relevance to Australia. I was studying an Indian modality, along with practicing yoga each day and all of its 8 limbs. And I was studying and practicing “Western herbal medicine” so there was no mention of the numerous amazing Australian herbs and plants. I felt disheartened and I went in search of Ian White or Pat Collins or Noel Butler. People that knew about this land. I started revisiting the bush areas of NSW, and every time I did no matter what yoga I did or didn’t do, I felt grounded.
I was honoured and completely blown away by the opportunity to learn Wayapa. I had always had such a deep respect for the Indigenous people of the land I felt so strongly about, but I had not had the opportunities to learn with them, from them. The first day I remember thinking, “that’s it, that’s the missing piece.” It all became so clear to me. My self journey was a journey like many others- abuse, addiction, self hate, and illness — both physical and mental. My yoga journey, as yoga states was “from the self, through the self, to the self.” Yoga’s “goal” is enlightenment. And in a world of disconnect, of little or no purpose, self enlightenment had became pressure to me — expectation and a goal I struggled with aiming towards. I felt the world as a community was too busy focusing on ourselves as it was. Wayapa brought the grounding. It re-taught me the importance of connection to the land, to earth, to each other. That we are all one. That we can’t be healthy if the land is unhealthy.
In my world of living in the wellbeing industry, teaching and preaching “Mind, Body and Soul/Spirit”, Wayapa brought “Earth” and my life has been forever changed. Connection. Purpose. Grounding. It’s all there, in this beautiful format that Jamie and Sara have developed, in these teachings of the Indigenous people of this land. In Wayapa. I truly believe this modality will make a huge difference as individuals, as a community, to the earth. And in this crazy 2019 world where everybody is in their head and the word “busy” is used instead of “hello”, being grounded is more important than ever. Yoga will always continue to serve me and help me serve others. The respect I have for its teachings and strength within the practices will leave me forever grateful. But Wayapa — which I now practice every morning and continue to try to practice in my day to day life, is the heart of who I am. It’s given me back my connection and purpose to the land I love so much and it’s traditional owners who we owe so much to. The two modalities dance and weave together on a journey for me, but Wayapa keeps my feet firmly on this magical Earth and unites me with all.
Thank you Jamie and Sara for this gift. I can’t wait to share it with others.
Yoga is a philosophy and series of practices with the aim of ultimate connection with the divine. Yoga is said to have originated in India around 5000 years ago and the birth of modern yoga in the West occurred in the late 19th century with the physical ‘asana’ practice gaining popularity and more mainstream application in the ’80s, continuing exponentially to the present time.
Yoga practices at their core, support a healthy body, healthy mind and connection to spirit. As a yoga and meditation practitioner of 20 years in depth experience, and teacher for 10 years, I have experienced yoga practices as an anchor to the moment and as a resource to connect to myself, my body and to the life that is within and without. While I have read broadly and studied yoga philosophy, learned some Sanskrit and spent many hours practicing yoga, I have often felt a dissonance between the cultural language and basis for conveying the essence of yoga and my direct, felt experience as an Australian Aboriginal woman with mixed European and American heritage, born and bred on this land, on this earth.
I have always felt a deep connection with nature, the magic of the trees, the wide-open spaces, and the deep healing of the warmth of the sun on my skin. I was a teenager when I discovered my Aboriginality, a common ignorance born of colonial impact and suppressed culture. Then, several years ago, a flame was ignited by a meeting and profound healing with Mirning (Ngargangurie — Nullabor Plains) Elder Uncle Bunna Lawrie on Dja Dja Wurrung and Wadawurrung land in Victoria. In simple language, we are of this earth, this land, and this country. We have 80,000 years of Aboriginal wisdom in reverencing and caring for this earth. Our healing, our spiritual connection as Australians is with the land.
Healing traditions and philosophies from other cultures, while incredible sources of wisdom, cannot stand in for the understanding and wisdom of our first people. Last year, after setting an intention to explore my ancestor’s healing wisdom and to bring awareness of Aboriginal healing traditions into the mainstream culture, I was guided towards Wayapa Wuurrk. It was a bolt of lightning and an incredible gift. Wayapa is a simple practice that is accessible to all. It invokes 14 elements of the earth and nature with movements that can be practiced to the individuals level and ability. Wayapa is non-denominational and non-hierarchical. It is for everyone, Indigenous and non-Indigenous and promotes reconnection with the earth as a starting point for wellness and healing based on the understanding that Aboriginal people lived in wellness and harmony with the earth for more than 80,000 years.
We all belong to the earth and we all benefit from remembering and revering our connection to it and in this way we heal the earth and heal ourselves. Practicing Wayapa supports us to feel our connection to ourselves, the earth and each other. I am astounded each time I facilitate Wayapa, and practice Wayapa, at the immediate connection that arises. People feel the energy moving through them and around them. They feel the connection with the earth, they feel the effects of the practice in the present moment. This is the essence of yoga, which is often hidden behind the cultural context for yoga practices and philosophy. The movements and narrative in Wayapa provide the same benefits as yoga asana and meditation practices and Wayapa’s absolute accessibility and connection with Indigenous wisdom makes it potent, engaging and healing. We need no special understanding or clothing or space to practice Wayapa. We all know the sun, the earth, the land, the water. We are all vibration, fluid, electricity, wind, stillness and presence. Wayapa is an incredible gift to all of us and an essential practice for yoga teachers and practitioners in Australia.
This article was originally shared on Yoga Australia