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Founders of local business, Hiva Fitness, use Polynesian dance to create a unique workout

two women stand smiling together in workout shirts that say "HIVA Fitness" with the beach in the background.
Siona Tejada is pictured with sister-in-law Kaahu Tejada modeling their Hiva Fitness merchandise.

Laie local and entrepreneur Penny Toilolo officially launched her workout business, Hiva Fitness, through Zoom in June 2020, alongside her two co-founders, Siona Tejada and Juaul Aukusitino. Due to the coronavirus pandemic causing extended lockdowns, the desire for accessible at-home workouts increased. Toilolo said Hiva Fitness seemed like the perfect solution.

Inspired by Polynesian dance, Hiva Fitness uses the natural toning and cardio aspects of Polynesian dance to create a unique full-body workout experience. Toilolo said their mantra is to share Polynesian culture and help people get healthy while they do it.

According to Toilolo, the purpose of Hiva Fitness was to share the importance of fitness and getting healthy. “We hadn’t launched officially, but when the pandemic hit, we felt it was the perfect time to reach out to so many people because they couldn’t really go outside and exercise. It motivated us even more to finally launch.” She said Zoom provided the perfect platform.

The Hiva Fitness website says anyone can participate. “It doesn’t matter where you are on your fitness journey. Whether you’re just starting or just looking to add a new flavor to your daily workout routine, Hiva Fitness is the right fit for you.”

Hiva Fitness member, Wendy Sanchez, said, “As a mom of four, finding the time to invest in my health can be a challenge.” Sanchez said the Hiva Fitness workouts are easy to follow and have motivated her to make time for fitness.

“You’ll be so focused on shaking your hips, you don’t even realize what a workout you’re getting,” she said.

Both Toilolo and Tejada have backgrounds in Polynesian dance. In fact, the two met while dancing at the Polynesian Cultural Center Night Show in 1998.

Growing up in Laie, Toilolo said she began dancing at the PCC when she was 7. Toilolo worked a total of 20 years at the PCC, she said, and spent the last 15 of those years as the cultural specialist for the hamata section at the Night Show. As the cultural specialist, Toilolo said she also choreographed the Tahitian section of the Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant.

Raised in Canada, Tejada said she began dancing at 7 years old. At the age of 17, she said she was drawn to BYUH because of the PCC. “It was my dream to dance there, so I moved here in 1998 and danced at the PCC. That’s where I met Penny. She was the lead for Tahiti, and we developed a friendship.”

Tejada expressed gratitude for Hiva Fitness because it allows her to continue dancing. Hiva Fitness offers five unique classes each week. Their main class, Power Hiva, is a 45-minute, full-body workout.

Hiva Strong is a fast-paced class designed to build strength and is patterned after the male Polynesian dance movements.

Hiva Pearl is their low-impact, 30-minute-long class designed for all body types at any age. If you are injured, confined to a wheelchair or even a hospital bed, Hiva Pearl was designed to be done either standing or sitting. Tejada said, “We have a lot of fun with Hiva Pearl. We dance to the oldies like Tina Turner and Whitney Houston, so it’s fun for the older generations.”

The Hiva Basics class is offered seven days a week and helps members learn the basics of Hiva Fitness. The fifth class they offer, Shake Evolution, focuses on the fa’arapu, the fast Tahitian hip shake. Tejada said, “We go through different ways to build stamina, strengthen and tone while breaking down the fa’arapu.”

As a busy mom herself, Toilolo said her favorite part about Hiva Fitness is seeing other moms having fun while getting active. “This is something everybody can do, so my favorite thing is seeing other moms come together and share their energy through Zoom and enjoy this fitness we’ve created. That’s what keeps us going.”

Tejada said connecting with people is the highlight of her job as a fitness instructor. “My favorite thing is seeing the difference we’re making in people’s lives for good. This is not just a business, it’s a lifestyle.”

To become a Hiva Fitness member, contact @hivafitnessofficial on Instagram, the Hiva Fitness page on Facebook, or email them at Hivafitness@gmail.com. Membership costs $25 a month or there is a $5 drop-in fee. The first class is always free.