4 Hawai‘i Wellness Experts Share Their Secrets To Success

The Editors | April 26, 2021 | Lifestyle Feature

Health is the new wealth as more and more people focus on what matters most. We polled Hawai‘i’s top experts for an inside look at how they stay in top form.



A new collaborative wellness space allows this healing arts guru to practice pain management while exploring her passions.

Having been surrounded by family in the medical field her whole life, Amy Hastanan was always drawn to medicine but “the Western approach was intimidating and never felt quite the right path for me,” she admits. As a person of mixed Puerto Rican and Thai descent, Hastanan began traveling to Thailand in her early 20s to connect with her roots and fell in love with the rhythmic dance of Thai massage. From there, she studied Thai bodywork on the island of Koh Tao and also visited China, where she experienced acupuncture for the first time. “I was completely impressed with the traditional techniques and promised one day I would learn this medicine,” she says. After moving to Hawai‘i in 2012, the dually licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist is now owner of The Manoa House (themanoahouse.com), a collaborative wellness space in a cottage on O‘ahu. “My goal was to find the right space, one I could share with clients and other professionals, so that we could mutually support each other,” she shares. Hastanan seamlessly blends her many skills throughout a session, depending on the individual’s needs—from fire cupping to facial acupuncture to aromatherapy—but is especially sought out for her proficiency in Sarga bodywork, a barefoot style of massage born in Hawai‘i. “Sarga allows the practitioner to utilize a silk fabric, secured to the table, to apply gravitational and tensional force with consistent oblique pressure via the broad surface of the foot,” she explains. “It is soothing and powerful while being ergonomic and efficient.” Though the physicality of her work keeps her in shape, Hastanan mostly stays in top form thanks to her dog, Una. “She forces me to take breaks, get outside and burn some energy as well as ground myself. We hike, swim, take sunset strolls,” she says. “I wholeheartedly believe in doing what makes you happy.”

Amy Hastanan's wellness heroes:

1. “Crème Vert by Elique Organics (eliqueorganics.com) is a beautifully crafted food-based line that I am loyal to for life. My skin craves [founder] Elisha Reverby’s quality of ingredients. I have trusted her with my skin since I was 18 years old when we met in the East Village. She spoke, then and even more now, so eloquently and passionately about skincare that I have followed her progression and company growth for the past 22 years. I am completely inspired by her dedication to ethical craftsmanship and environmental stewardship. When sourcing ingredients, Elisha’s standards are impeccable.”

2. “Mee Ra Rituals (meerarituals.com) is a skincare routine for the (thorough) minimalist that values efficiency and results. This description of MRR completely defines my ideal skincare—I don’t like too many products piling up on my counter, strong unnatural fragrances or synthetic ingredients. This line is exactly what I need to simplify my life and calm my skin so that I can glow naturally with minimal to no makeup.”


Ashley Kema of Gold Drop Society PHOTO BY PAUL KEMA

Essential oils keep this O‘ahu-born and -raised beauty thriving.

“Health is well-rounded. You can’t just address one need or concern; you have to take care of the whole you,” says Ashley Kema, founder of Gold Drop Society (golddropsociety.com). For the wellness advocate, it was her discovery of dōTERRA essential oils that helped create a sense of balance in her life. “Essential oils have opened up my emotional and mental health awareness that I wasn’t in touch with, which, in turn, contributed to the health and well-being of my physical side,” she shares. In addition to establishing a daily routine using dōTERRA oils that supports her mind, body and soul, Kema began concocting her own mists and roller blends that she says made it easier to use the oils topically and apply on her children—and that replaced toxic items in her household. “It started there, then expanded into other products that I saw missing from our market,” she says of her curated Gold Drop shop, citing collaborations with other “business mamas” including a line of diffuser jewelry with Love Me Knots, essential oil-infused bath bombs with Nohea Beauty Bar and candles with Jules + Gem Hawaii. Through her business, Kema also works one-on-one with customers to share the benefits of a natural lifestyle using dōTERRA products—lessons that trickle down to her three daughters as well. “They get to start with plant medicine first and get to be raised in a natural-solutions home. … The girls also meditate and take deep breaths with me,” Kema says. “Setting them up in this lifestyle is one of the best gifts that I can give them. How they choose to live their life after this is up to them, but at least I know that I did my part.”

Ashley Kema's wellness heroes:

1. Kema loves “Gold Drop Society x Jules Gem’s (julesandgemhawaii.com) natural essential oil candles— they’re the ultimate ‘unwind’ after a long day.”

2. Love Me Knots x Gold Drop Society diffuser jewelry and Gold Drop Society rollers and mist are all great ways for Kema to start her day.

3. Kema also relies on her “dōTERRA diffuser with oils, all day every day! Diffusing and using oils supports us with energy, balance, and calming and uplifting aromatherapy.”


Brain-based health and movement coach Alyssa Chang PHOTO BY WHEATLEY DAY

The brain-based movement coach helps women let go of perfection and embrace their bodies.

After living in California for 17 years, O‘ahu native Alyssa Chang (coachalyssachang.com) found herself “caught in ‘the grind’ and chasing happiness,” and seeking Hawai'i’s gentler pace and rich community culture once again. “I knew California would be a placeholder for part of my life, but not a place I would grow roots and be able to truly take a full-body exhale in,” she shares. “Plus, I promised my 10-year-old Labrador that I would return home so she could retire with sand between her toes and weekly beach adventures.” Back on her home soil, Chang has embarked on a new chapter as a brain-based health and movement specialist, inspired by her own healing journey as a former athlete and bodybuilder. “Both endeavors left me nursing debilitating fatigue, pain, anxiousness and depression, a leaky gut, rapid weight gain and inflammation, and ultimately feeling so far from myself,” she says, which “shed light on how many women may also struggle with feeling at home in their bodies. Health coaching has served as my vehicle to help women pause in their pursuit of perfection and relearn how to trust themselves through the lens of neuroscience.” Through her brain-based approach, Chang looks at the human body as an interwoven system that can effectively address pain, regulate against stress and reconnect you to your body: everything from teaching students to harness the power of their breath to practicing vision exercises that counter exposure to harmful blue light. “One of the biggest misconceptions in the health space is that our bodies are working against us and something to be fixed or manipulated,” she says. “But you are not broken, defective or wrong in how you exist in your body. Your nervous system and body are always working in your favor to protect you.”

Alyssa Chang's wellness heroes:

1. Some of Chang’s favorite products inlcude WILD’s (wildforces.co) sunscreen and after-sun balm. “WILD’s reefsafe sunscreen and aftersun soothing balm are both made with all-natural ingredients and produced locally in my hometown of Kailua.”

2. Another favorite? “Pualani Bee Farm’s (pualanibeefarm.com) raw Hawaiian honeycomb rounds are packed with antioxidants, which can help soothe an unsettled tummy and also fight infection!” Chang is also a fan of Green and Fit Mama’s (greenandfitmama.com) The Happy Stick: “It’s a locally sourced, toxin-free and female-owned CBD-infused salve stick that can alleviate nagging PMS period pain.”


Maen Owda, medical resident PHOTO BY HAWKOH

This Palestinian refugee-turned-professional soccer player has a unique perspective on nutrition.

For Maen Owda, nutrition has impacted him in dramatically different ways throughout different stages of his inspirational life. First, it was witnessing food insecurity while growing up as a Palestinian refugee. “I knew I wanted to do something about it,” says the longtime Hawai‘i resident, who adds that he personally resonates with the story of the islands’ Indigenous community because of his refugee background. “Whether I directly or indirectly feel it, living here makes me feel like I am fighting for something, standing in solidarity with them,” he says. Later, through playing Division I soccer at Brown University and professionally afterward, Owda recognized firsthand how what he put in his body affected his performance. “But the spark that set the fire and got me to where I am now was being diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation and every doctor telling me that I would need to be on serious medication for the rest of my life,” he reveals. “Instead, I decided to join the best clinical nutrition program in the country and learn how to naturally treat and heal myself and others along the way.” Now, Owda has traded cleats for scrubs as a resident at NYU Langone Health, where he’s combining his studies with his own experience to develop a holistic approach to wellness. “For me, it’s about helping people understand their own bodies,” he says. Once he finishes his internships and residency in New York, Owda looks forward to returning to Hawai‘i and starting his own private practice—something he’ll surely achieve with his signature positivity. “As I work with top athletes and celebrities on their complex and sophisticated goals, I realize that simplicity is what you can always rely on to achieve the most accurate personal lifestyle,” he shares. “It’s all about what you have, not about what you don’t.”

Maen Owda's wellness heroes:

1. Owda says, “Gut health is everything, literally. People swear by juice cleanses; I swear by bone broth. Chances are you would be consuming bone broth daily if you knew the benefits it carries. Few foods have the ability to remedy and strengthen your GI walls like a warm cup of good-quality bone broth at the right time of day. Kettle & Fire (kettleandfire.com) is a good way to start.”

2. “Fresh coconut water is my favorite way to hydrate and replenish after a workout or a surf. Pick a fresh coconut when you can; it is literally within reach,” Owda says.

3. He also is a fan of KOA (livingkoa.com) products: “Our skin is the only organ that is constantly in touch with the outside world. Protecting it is important, but what is just as important is mutually protecting the environment around it. This is why KOA’s anti-pollution sunscreen is a no-brainer.”

Photography by: By Jaycob Sierra; by Paul Kema; by Wheatley Day; by Hawkoh