Pole dancing, meditation and morning raves: Kaan Hiini’s wellness routine brings him joy

Auckland Pride Board Co-Chairman Kaan Hiini also works as a design director at creative agency Curative, which, as he says, “uses the tools of creativity to address complex social issues to… Aotearoa for the betterment of our people.”

Between the two roles, and the emotional investment each requires, Kaan is aware that self-care structures are at the forefront of everything he’s involved in. Sometimes this looks like a team lunch or meditation (“we used to start every week with a ten-minute meditation as a team”), sometimes a pole dance class. But it’s always about a mutually supportive network of colleagues and friends.

More insight here:

What hours do you work per day?

In general, the work at Curative is flexible, but runs from 9am to 5:30pm around a day. We have an established habit of eating our lunch away from our desk and tend to do it all together so we can do kata (laughter) and kōrero together. Pride mahi is a little more irregular depending on needs, but adds some time each week for meetings, discussions, reading, and feedback for collective decision-making.

Have you set work/life boundaries or do they overlap?

I’ve been pretty bad with boundaries in my work life – classic millennial habit of associating my self-worth with my productivity. But I’m making a conscious effort right now to set clearer boundaries, prompted by need. I just don’t have the energy to continue right now, so I’m learning the importance of boundaries and self-care. I still have a way to go, but I feel like I’m making progress.

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What do you have for breakfast?

Most mornings are pretty light, some fruit or fruit smoothie and black coffee, or if I’m really hungry some peanut butter bird toast. Occasionally when I have a breakfast meeting, a brioche or cheese scone.

Do you have an exercise routine?

Exercise is a major stress relief for me. I’m aiming [work out] four times a week and prefer evenings after work to act as a release and stimulant. I prefer classes with intense workouts at Les Mills – so BodyPump or Ceremony, sometimes cycling classes like The Trip.

I want something that doesn’t occupy my brain too much. Recently I started pole dancing, which is more of a hobby. I try to build in more time for joyful experiences. It is physically intensive and there is a fear barrier. Getting through it is just the kind of challenge I need. And there is a body positivity [angle] also – it’s all about being sexy and that’s pretty cool.


“I rely a lot on my friends to give advice, act as my guides, or just be there for a tirade.”

Do you use supplements?

No supplements here unless you count metamucil. I used to take protein powder with my breakfast smoothie, but I have now withdrawn from that and just go for a healthy range of food.

Whose advice/influence do you really value and listen to when it comes to well-being and self-care?

Being cut off from the social support I grew up with taught me the importance of social support; I have tried to build strong friendships to help. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and didn’t come out until I was in my late twenties. The structure I grew up in was a very supportive community in some ways. The value of community was made clear, which I appreciated, but I knew being gay was not okay in that space.

And I knew that if I came out, I would be cut off from friends and family who were part of the church. It underlined the importance of connection for me. I was able to determine that [the church community] was an instrument of control and [recognise] the importance of building that social support outside of that religious structure. I rely a lot on my friends to give advice, act as my guides, or just be there for a tirade. They are a smart bunch and I trust them to get me when I need them or tell me to get it together. That has become very clear lately and I can’t thank them enough.

What time do you go to bed at night? Are you sleeping well?

I usually sleep at midnight; preferring a later schedule means I don’t switch off until later, but I do sleep. In my early twenties my anxiety was really a sleep problem, but lately I manage to fall asleep very easily. And when I can’t switch off, I use mediation apps or sleep stories through apps like Calm to help.

What do you do in the last hour before going to bed?

I use TV shows to unwind and turn off my brain. Books seem to wake me up more, so I’ve backed off a bit. My bad habit right now is scrolling through TikTok – It’s pretty addictive to be served exactly what you want, and just before bedtime is a disaster.

What do you spend on your well-being?

The gym costs about $99 a month and the pole dance class is currently on trial. I’d also include catching up with friends as an essential part of well-being, so dinners, coffee talks, drinks, walks, all that… hard to put a number on.

Tell me about your poop…

As a gay man, let’s just say I’m watching this closely. And make sure that a high-fiber diet is on a very healthy and regular schedule.

How do you deal with the stress of failure?

As a virgin probably not so good. I tend to be avoidant and I try to channel that into a healthier response, giving time to pause and think and gain perspective while still working to respect everyone’s needs. Again, I think this comes back to creating strong support networks to help you navigate these tensions. I’m definitely still learning the best processes with this one, but the bottom line is I have to rely on people for help.

And how do you deal with stressed employees, colleagues?

Same deal really, allowing room for imperfection and venting, building relationships that can bend when one party is stressed and giving permission to express stress in a respectful way. I think Eddy Royal, director of Curative, has been such a great role model at Curative over the years, always checking in with us as a group and looking out for our well-being.

What do you do for fun?

Events give me a lot of fun, so things like live theatre, art exhibitions, dance and drag, concerts… All of these refresh me, especially with creatively experimental and challenging pieces. But lately, this can often feel like work, so I’m looking for new outlets — hiking, morning raves, swimming at the beach, or just walking solo and hanging out with friends. Sometimes it is enough to have new experiences to immerse myself.

Favorite free stress buster?

A walk apart from anything other than my own brain is best. No social media, no podcast, just a stroll along the waterfront at sunset is simple and effective.

What’s the biggest change you’ve made when it comes to taking care of your health and mental health and wellness?

Boundaries – Giving myself permission to step back and switch off is important and a big learning curve for me.

Pole dancing, meditation and morning raves: Kaan Hiini’s wellness routine brings him joy

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