Heritage / 19 January, 2017

Whakapapa Fridays: How the Pōhutukawa tree can improve your recovery time

“Koia moenga kura, koia moenga toto.”

Written by Te Miri Rangi

When the Pōhutukawa blooms fade, the body is at rest. But when the blooms grow red and bright, the body begins to move.

Like the Pōhutukawa tree, there were many environmental indicators that helped our tūpuna identify the right time of the year for certain activities. There were no calendars or iPhone reminders in those days, only tohu (signs) from our environment. Moving with nature and aligning our activities to our surroundings can have a great impact on our productivity and performance. But how can the Pōhutukawa tree help you with your recovery time?

The origin of the blooming periods of the Pōhutukawa take us back to a time following the separation of Rangi and Papa when a great war took place between atua. Tāwhirimātea who opposed the separation attacked Tāne, Tangaroa and his other brothers for separating his parents. However, with his experience in the art of war, Tūmatauenga stood strong and defied Tāwhiri. Tū grew angry at his brothers for not supporting him against Tāwhiri, and what followed is the origin of fishing and bird hunting practices. Tūmatauenga took to making nets and consuming the fish of Tangaroa, while setting traps to snare the birds of Tāne.

Tū then turned his attention towards Rongo and began to battle with him at a place called Pōhutukawa. During this battle both Tū and Rongo would out-power one another in a constant exchange of control. This continues today as we experience times of peace and war. Hence, the flowering of the Pōhutukawa tree symbolises this constant struggle between these two atua. As the Pōhutukawa blooms, the red flowers symbolise the power that Tū has as conflict and war rules over man. But when the weather cools, the blooms fall to the ground, and Rongo brings peace to the land.

An extension from this kōrero is one that brings a connection to the availability of kai, as Rongo is also the atua of the kūmara. During winter, the kūmara is harvested and food for the hapū is plentiful. However, in the summer months the winter stores can become depleted which ignites the flame for conflict. Summer then becomes a time of activity, a time for planting, a time for being prepared to protect the whānau. Meanwhile the winter is a time for celebration, for harvest, and for the recovery of the body following an active summer.

Today we can get tied in to our day to day schedules so deeply that we can walk straight past the tohu that indicate otherwise, like that of the Pōhutukawa tree. To top it all off we have created man-made technologies that keep us removed from our environment. We were not intended to do the same thing for 50-odd weeks of the year while working to a schedule. Our tinana works optimally when it is in sync with the world around us.  So, when the Pōhutukawa blooms we should maximise our physical activity—get out and work hard. But, don’t forget that Rongo takes control over the winter months, so do let your body recover. By aligning physical activity to time periods of the year that best suit our performance, we can maximise our own potential. So think about how you are scheduling Rongo in to your year, because we all could do with a little recovery time now and then.



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