As I sit in a hostel in Kona, alone for the first time in a few weeks, I am reflecting on the incredible journey this has been and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
I knew it would be a special experience, but I couldn't have foreseen the transforming odyssey we've all been on over the past month.
I'm going to try my best to share about what I imagine could be of interest to anyone who would like to know what a 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training might be like.
But first, I want to thank the 8 inspiring women who joined us, my dear sister Rachael for being a big hearted visionary, the 'dream team' at Earthsong (Elena, Ryan & Megan), the sacred land of Hawaii that nurtured us, and all those who have shared spiritual teachings before us, and all those who will continue after us. These gatherings fill me with trust that together we can remember who we truly are and live in harmony with one another and with the Earth.
I feel a little unsure of how I could possibly convey how magical our 31 days at Earthsong have been, but I trust that the combination of images and words will transmit a little of the alchemy that we experienced.
In case you're only interested in some aspects, you can find the fe following topics in order: Introductions, daily schedule, the topics, Earthsong, the location, the stewards, food, excursions, integration and last words.
The training started on the 19th April, one day before the Solar Eclipse portal, which set the tone for the deep dive we set out for.
As always, Rachael and I trusted that the group constellation would be perfect, as it always is, and we were very excited to meet the 8 women who answered the call to be part of this container.
The yogis arrived one after the other during the day before the training was due to start.
Until we were complete. 10 women between the ages of 21 and 68, from Canada, England, France, Mexico and the USA, reunited in Hawaii to practice and study yoga for 31 days.
From the very first opening circle there was a sense of familiarity. Even though we didn't know all the yogis and they didn't know each other, I recognised the openness that reveals itself when we sit in a circle and commit to show up authentically.
As with all trainings, we woke the yogis up at 5.30am (with a gong), for a 6am start in the temple.
Daily morning practice was from 6am to 8.30am, which may sound long but is such a blessing.
The practices are guided either by Rachael or me for the first 21 days and we include meditation, pranayama (breath work), asana (postures), mantra and other somatic practices for nervous system regulation.
Side note: The last 9 practices were guided by the other teachers (including our host Elena) as an opportunity to share their expression of Yoga with the women they connected with so deeply. This was such a gift for Rachael and I who received 9 consecutive classes so unique and beautiful that confirmed what we always say - we are all students and we are all teachers. This is so apparent when we give everyone an opportunity to share from their heart. It is clear that everyone has their own unique medicine and it's so heart warming to receive from everyone.
We enjoyed a simple breakfast of herbal tea, fruit and oats between 8.30 and 9.30am before heading back to the temple for class. See below for the many topics we covered. On permaculture days we went out to the garden after breakfast.
We took a lunch break between 2 and 3.30 and enjoyed nutritious vegan meals, intentionally cooked by Ryan, who taught us lots about nutrition through the food and with words.
In the afternoons we returned to the temple or took the class outdoors if the unpredictable and wild Big Island weather allowed it. We also regularly allowed time for teaching practice so the yogis could incorporate what we were learning together and take a chance in guiding practice differently.
We had dinner at 6pm and occasionally had evening lectures or celebrations which went on until 8pm.
We also had a 24 hour Silent Day which was wonderful, 4 days off and 2 excursions.
As you can imagine many other things happened on a daily basis, but I hope this will give you an idea of what a day may have been like. Wonderfully long and full in my opinion :)
This was our first time guiding a 300hour Yoga Teacher Training, which was particularly exciting because Yoga Alliance gives a lot more freedom to choose topics than for the 200 hour.
We love revisiting the teachings we share in the 200 hour and we both feel like we continue to understand them deeper every time we study them, but this time we were able to go deeper with the group as everyone had already completed a 200hour Yoga Teacher Training (a requisite to complete a 300hour YTT).
Some of the women completed their 200 hour online, some in person, some many years ago and others not so long ago, and it was so beautiful to see how we all interpret the core of the teachings of the yogic spiritual path as the journey to self awakening for the best of all.
Of course there are many sharing this vision who may not consider themselves yogis, and that doesn't matter, as words tend to limit our ability to recognise the inherent Oneness of being.
We spend a considerable amount of time in class exploring yogic themes: The Eight Limbed Path, The Three Jewels, Physical Anatomy, Energetic Anatomy, Circle Facilitation & The Art of Holding Space, Somatics, Embodiment, Mudra & Bandha, Five Categories of Asana, The Art of Assisting, Ayurveda, The Nervous System & Survival Responses, Yin Yoga, Feminine Cycles, Tantra, The 10 Mahavidyas, Hindu Godheads, Yantra, Naad Yoga, Sanskrit, Mantra, Death, Karma and Reincarnation and Business of Yoga AND an impromptu Enneagram workshop wonderfully guided by Emilie, one of the yogis.
We aspire to connect to each theme in a way that encourages conversation and allows participants to reflect on the teachings and how they relate to them. These conversations are enlightening for all of us. Though the theoretical approach is supportive for our spiritual endeavours, morning practice day after day is a time when we can apply these teachings and experience the bliss of being. Through committed daily practice this bliss starts to trickle into the rest of our days.
As well as the added freedom to explore themes that are not required in the 200hr syllabus, we also had an additional 10 days to be together, starting on a New Moon, a full moon in the middle of the training, Earth day, 2 birthdays (23 and 68) a 2nd new moon to end the training (a couple of small earthquakes, a few rain storms and many rainbows.)
We also had the joy of witnessing each other slow down and remember how much peace and joy we all experience when we make time to sit, move and breathe intentionally, share, chant, eat and work with the earth in community.
The space in which a retreat takes place is also of considerable importance and has an impact on the experience.
Which leads me to speak about our home for the month.
Earthsong foundation is a non for profit ecological community space. The communal spaces are agreeable and the abundant foliage throughout the property provides relaxing views wherever you look; you can even see the sea from certain points. The spaces have been lovingly decorated and you're sure to find a diety on a window seal in every room.
Accommodation options are varied, from shared rooms to private rooms, all have a homey feeling.
Located in the South Point area of the Big Island of Hawaii, Earthsong feels like it is on the edge of the World. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Earthsong is exposed to the elements. At night the stars reveal themselves as the Koki frogs sing their night serenade and at sunrise the birds sing their songs as the first rays of sun begin to warm the cool night air.
The Big Island is the youngest of the Hawaiian islands, home to active volcano goddess Pele and some of the biggest trees I've ever seen. It is a paradise with what I imagine to be some of the most astonishing landscapes on planet Earth.
Being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the southern most part of the archipelago is an experience in itself. The energy of the Hawaiian matriarchal culture contributes to that in ways I'm not sure what words to use to describe. There is a palpable sense of connection with Mother Earth. I personally also felt aware of being a foreigner, although the few Hawaiian people I interacted with were warm and welcoming. The spirit of Aloha is alive despite everything the Hawaiian people have been through over the past century.
The Hawaiian archipelago has only been inhabited by humans since Polynesians crossed in Canoes's around 1000 - 1200 AD, "only" a 1,000 years ago, whilst the Islands' ages vary between six million years old for the oldest major island in Hawaii: Kauai, and the the youngest - Big Island which is dated between 800,000 and 400,000 years - which contributes to the list of particularities about this archipelago.
An element that seems important to mention now is that we primarily chose Earthsong because it is stewarded by a dear friend, Elena and her partner Ryan.
Megan is also currently living at Earthsong and I think I wouldn't be the only one to say that her presence was a gift for us all. Thank you Megan and Anubis for taking care of us.
Elena and I met 3 years ago at Tribal Gathering in Panama and found ourselves 'confined' in the beautiful archipelago of Bocas del Toro, my old home, for a few months. In Bocas we gathered for a few moon ceremonies with other women from the community, but we had not seen each other since then, although we stayed connected and continued to support each other from afar.
Elena didn't 'just' steward the land. She joined many morning practices, came to check in on us daily, offered her own medicine with the group on multiple occasions, including a powerful cosmic breath ceremony on the full moon, a beautiful sunrise Puja, permaculture and Earth rituals + she also took many of the incredible pictures you can see throughout this blog article and so much more. Thank You sister!
When we started to speak about the possibility of hosting the training in Hawaii, Ryan and Elena kindly offered to provide some permaculture theoretical and practical sessions, which both Rachael and I were enchanted about.
We spent approx 1/2 day per week working on the land, which was educational, fun and inspiring. As a matter of fact, I think we all left determined to invest more time in our gardens, balconies and/or potted plants.
Although we had allocated permaculture talks and activities, it was really a theme in our day to day life. Considering the kind of soap we use, how much solar energy we consume and so many other things that come with living off-grid. We learnt that permaculture is so much more than 'gardening', rather about how we relate to our environment, our carbon footprint, and how we can make conscious decisions to live in harmony with nature as best as possible at any given time.
How we feel physically, emotionally and mentally is closely related to what we eat and how we eat.
With this awareness, Ryan prepared Sattvic meals for us. A sattvic diet is mostly composed of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, oats, sprouted whole grains, greens and legumes (no garlic, onion, excess salt, processed foods, gluten, chilly, coffee or alcohol of course).
Having a fresh and delicious home cooked meal waiting for us at lunch and dinner was a highlight of our time at Earthsong - Thank you Ryan.
Megan's vegan gluten free sweet treats were also truly appreciated by all of us.
One of the pleasant elements of the longer training was that we had 4 days off + 2 excursions. On days off, yogis were free to do what they wanted and everyone chose to spend their day with the group, which speaks of the connection between us all. We rented cars or got the bus and made it to breathtaking spots Every Time :)
I will be writing a blog article on The Big Island to share information on beautiful nature spots, transport and a couple of restaurants, but for now I'll say, I am in Love with the Big Island, its dramatic landscapes and warm people.
Our final night at Earthsong was a big party with Cacao, dancing, singing, plenty of hugs and certificates for everyone of course!
Something we emphasise towards the end of the training is the importance of taking time to integrate. Profound experiences like this can truly be life changing, but not without some personal effort.
During the training we have a structure and a support group and it feels somewhat easeful to show up for practice daily. The lack of distractions (no wifi, no social media, no television, no shops etc) provide a sense of clarity, intensified by being immersed in nature.
Our hope is not that the yogis who join us on these journeys choose a life of hermitage, although we would support them if they did of course. Our hope is that everyone goes home feeling calm and connected, knowing that life will continue to happen as it does, unpredictably, better equipped to ride the waves. With a remembrance of our true nature, loving awareness.
For my part...
After the training I spent 3 nights in a Hostel in Kona, the first 2 nights some of the women from the training were still around and the last night I was 'alone' and after watching the sunset I decided to start writing this blog article. So I could write about it with everything fresh in my heart and mind.
I also spent 1 night in LA (and a Magical day with Lore + her husband and doggy on her Bday), one of our students who now feels like family), 1 night in Guatemala City, where my partner came to meet me - after 40 days apart; 1 night in Antigua before finally arriving home. I am so happy to be back home, in the village of San Juan La Laguna and I am so happy to be reunited with my partner, the lake and the mountains, my bed, ninja our little cat friend, and the friends I have fortunately bumped into since returning.
So it has taken me from the New Mon to the Full Moon to complete this article and it feels right to have given myself the time to reflect, write, read, edit, smile and give thanks as I recapitulated what happened.
I went home with a full heart, 8 new sisters, a guitar and tons of inspiration.
Infinite gratitude to Elena, Ryan and Megan for Everything, words fall short to express my gratitude.
Big thank you to Destiny and Melanie who took many of the photos you see in this blog with their cameras and to all the yogis who shared their phone pics with us :)
Immense thanks to Rachael. I could write a whole blog article about her but I'll save that for another time ;)
Our next 200hour Yoga Teacher Training will take place in Guatemala in 8-28th November 2023. You can find more information here.
We have not confirmed details for the next 300 hour but please join our mailing list if you would like to be the first to know once we have dates.
Love and blessings to All,