Mahalo and Aloha! With Love From Tokyo and Los Angeles

Our glorious and spirited  7-day retreat was winding down. On May 23 our sixth and last full day, a unanimous decision was made to spend the remaining time at the center: practicing yoga, swimming, strolling the property, eating, and resting. However, there was an exception to make a last-minute trip to nearby Hawi town for souvenirs! David led a tension releasing “Yin Yoga” workshop in the afternoon to encourage the final sense of “letting go.”

An orchestra of crowing roosters woke me up at sunrise, so I decided to walk the grounds before meditation class, taking in the freshness of the garden in the cool damp morning and glint of sunrise lighting up the center with dazzling rays.

After the morning practice and breakfast, the group of us hiked down to the center’s private beach.  An enormous steer emerged out of the pines and accompanied us for a while as wild hogs darted in and out of the brush. Finally arriving at the beach, we paused for a moment to look out onto the shore, and then took yoga shots on the rocks.

The afternoon was free time and many of us swam in the glassy saltwater pool, lounged, or started packing. IMG_3383Later that evening Mo made a special celebratory gourmet vegetarian dinner  including a special gluten-free chocolate cake. We dressed up in our finest tropical wear (some items purchased in Hawi or Hilo) to commemorate our adventurous week together. Friday morning, May 24 was spent squeezing in a final meditation practice and then checking out. Joyful goodbyes were exchanged and after shuttling people back and forth to the airport throughout the afternoon, a handful of us traveled down to Kona to take in a few more sights before departing later that evening.

This was my first international yoga retreat, daring and elaborate to organize, it was hard to imagine such an incredibly successful outcome. Yet, the results seemed effortless thank to David Kim my colleague, who was a seasoned pro at organizing such feats. I would learn so much from him that ultimately boosted my confidence as a teacher and retreat leader, but most of all, I learned how to appear gracious under pressure and how to be the greatest host. As yoga teachers, we not only guide and inspire people to learn, but in situations like this, we are leaders and guardians who can create a magical experience that touches people in a significant way.

Overall, our 5-day retreat—was a real Hawaiian Odyssey. We were able to merge diverse cultures from two great cities, Tokyo and Los Angeles, and share a broad range of exciting sights, delicious cuisine, myths, stories and many other cultural pleasures offered by the Big Island of Hawaii. It was also great to have the participation of the growing Japanese yoga community that David and I are part of, including our energetic translator, Yuri Nakamura Hayashi and Yoga Plus Manager, Keiko Tanaka who coordinated important details back in Tokyo.

I felt as if we had truly immersed ourselves in a healthy, balanced program of daily yoga practice, mediation, healthy food, sight-seeing excursions, to benefit tremendously from an amazing transformative experience. Yoga retreats can range from intense, challenging to relaxing and restorative, thus allowing people to create a special bond. We weren’t just traveling tourists residing at a commercial resort–our splendid and generous host, Jeannie and the HIRC provided a marvelous setting to offer something rare and exclusive.

I would later hear how many of the participants on our retreat were inspired to continue to develop their practice, pursue teacher training, or even make healthy improvements in their diet. David and I were also very pleased that lasting friendships were formed among us.

This story is dedicated to Alaric Phillips

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Day 3: An Afternoon Hike in the Pololu Valley

IMG_3084After our morning program, we decided to stay on the North Kohalo Coast and spend the afternoon hiking in the spectacular Pololu Valley. After driving north of the center on Hwy 270 through Kapa’a, we parked our vans and began our descent on the trail, taking a moment to gaze at the vista from the Pololu Overlook and take in the dramatic coastline of black sand contrasted by a lush and serene terrain.

I found out that some scenes from the movie Jurassic Park were filmed here, I can see why–the sweeping landscape, with steep sloped emerald-green valleys with misty clouds hovering above, appeared surreal: like a lost forbidden land that would most certainly reveal spectacular surprises, such as, prehistoric dinosaurs, if you were to venture into it. We continued down and lingered around the coast, walking along the rocky beach. Rough surf swept in and literally knocked Julie from her feet!

Afterwards heading back up, we made a short visit to another nearby town—Kapa’au and took a picture with the great Hawaiian Chief Kamehameha I who was born in the nearby Waipio Valley and was courageously responsible for uniting the Hawaiian Islands in 1810.   A brief time was spent walking around the few shops in tiny  and charming town of Kapa’au –but we made a unanimous decision to swing by Hawi for ice cream at Tropical Dreams.

Later on that day, I led a backbend workshop, which was followed by wonderfully delicious dinner.

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Yoga/Meditation/Hike in Solstice Canyon

 

“Yoga/Meditation/Hike” is a program that I started years ago while teaching at Santa Monica Yoga. I’ve always loved the meditative qualities of hiking and thought it would be great to create a program that would create stronger bonds between me, my students and our local community.  Over the years, I’ve hosted at least two dozen hikes throughout the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, which features varied terrain and hiking trails.   Notable outings have included: Malibu Creek State Park, Corral Canyon, Charmlee Wilderness State Park Solstice Canyon, Pt. Mugu and Topanga State Park–all uniquely different and easily accessible from the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. The images featured in this post were from a recent hike in Solstice Canyon on February 3, 2013. Students from my classes at various Yogaworks studios throughout the Los Angeles area attended with friends.

The groups have ranged in size, age and abilities with me encouraging everyone to make it to the top where we will always certainly enjoy a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, bucolic valley or a breathtaking mountain range.  Everyone always has a great sense of accomplishment when they complete the hike. In all, it’s a good time for all who participate with lots of laughs, shared stories and the opportunity to connect socially on a personal level outside of the classroom. The hikes are followed by a session of yoga, meditation, light refreshments or lunch at the Malibu Country Mart.

Inspired by the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (“Wherever You Go There You Are”),  I will occasionally hand out a flier of his essay,  “Walking Meditation” an excerpt follows:

“Try, bringing awareness to walking, wherever you find yourself.  Slow it down a bit.  Center yourself in your body and in the present moment. Appreciate the fact that you are able to walk, which many people cannot. perceive how miraculous it is, and for a moment, don’t take for granted that your body works so wonderfully. Know that you are ambulating upright on the face of Mother Earth.  Walk with dignity and confidence, and as the Navaho saying goes, walk in beauty, wherever you are.”