It’s funny when I look back on it because on the first day everyone had that same mix of anxiety and excitement. It became clear very fast that many of us were in a similar spot. I mean, you gotta be, right? We all decided we would spend a good chunk of cash to travel from all over the world: Morocco, South Korea, Canada, China, and everywhere in the US to delve into yogic study. We all wanted a change. From that commonality sprouted a community of mutual support and trust just as intense as our “intensive” style training. The image that I had of a class full of know-it-all front row arm-balance superstars couldn’t have been further from reality. There was very little ego, and no one was trying to out-yoga anyone. Everyone wanted to help each other out in any way they could. It was OK to ask questions, and OK to fail. The training became emotional for everyone at some point, and we all were able embrace our experiences within a safe and supportive atmosphere. This wasn’t just a coincidentally really nice group of people- this was the community that Liz and Molly actively created.
In the same way, my doubts about the yoga teacher training course were shut down immediately. Right at sign-in everyone was given a phone-book sized textbook from Integrative Yoga Therapy. The thing was HUGE and just packed with information. It should have been an omen for the amount of stuff I was about to cram into my skull. There was so much to get through in such a short time that the course was meticulously organized out of necessity. There was no time for the unorganized hippy budget class shenanigans I dreaded.
I had never been to Big Island before and imagined it to be you know, kinda like Oahu. Again: wrong. Out of the 13 global climate zones, Big Island has 8. The top of Mauna Kea is considered some of the best star gazing on earth, it also snows there. Less than a two hour drive from that is Kilauea: an active volcano. There are beaches with white, green, and black sands. When you snorkel you can see dolphins, manta rays and sea turtles in bright turquoise water. Not to mention the best Natural foods store this vegan vagabond has ever encountered: Island Naturals. The Big Island is incredible and Kalani Oceanside Retreat is located in the middle of a rainforest across the street from one of the most gorgeous coastlines imaginable.
Unlike most of the participants at the Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training, I wasn’t staying at Kalani. I had been in Puna for about a month before visiting Kalani for the first time. I wanted to right after my plane landed in Kona- I just kept getting distracted by the beauty and awesomeness of the Island. Despite how incredible Hawaii had been to me, Kalani made my jaw drop. The place was gorgeous. A wide open landscape with avocado, lime, guava, starfruit, and every other tropical fruit you can think of. And right in the middle of it was this gorgeous pool- with two hot tubs, a watsu pool, and a sauna. The Hale where everyone stayed was meticulously clean while feeling very comfortable. Every day I peaked at what was up at the dining hall and got a little more than envious. Especially the desserts. Kalani host's a ton of events to bring guests, volunteers, and locals together. Kalani does a lot to make everyone feel included in the community.
My drooling over desserts or evening events wasn’t the only way that staying off-site made my experience different. All of my cohort except two of us were on-site, and for good reason. Kalani Retreat is located in Puna, south of Hilo in a very remote area of Hawaii. There are no hotels within any logical distance of the 6:30AM call time. There is no public transportation down the rural roads and pretty much everything is far away. Including where I stayed. The time spent on commuting, meal prep, groceries, and extra human interaction was gruelling on top of 12 hour days in class. It meant that I had no time for domestic goddess duties, personal time, or the truest luxury: sleep. I was stretched super thin and falling asleep all over the place. It was ridiculous. Take the on-site option.
Thankfully Liz Heffernan and Molly Masaoka are incredibly supportive people who helped me out even through the stress of off-site living. The two of them are totally adorable and wonderful but in very different ways. Liz has a soft and sweet vibe and has a crazy amount of experience as a teacher and student. In perfect compliment to Liz’s flow is Molly’s teaching style. She’s more direct, extremely organized, and thorough. Both were clearly invested in all of the student’s success- answering every question, and going above and beyond to make everyone feel supported. Molly even enlisted her parents to bring extra solar lamps when they power went out. The two have wildly different approaches to teaching that work in dynamic cooperation to help every student learn.