More Than a Yoga Retreat

By Stella Panagiotidis. Posted on August 30, 2018 in Stories + Recipes

“In stillness, I expand. And in this vast emptiness, I land. And with wide open eyes that beat wildly, I see the reflection of YOU everywhere.” Stella Panagiotidis

The day I set foot on Hollyhock soil, I knew intuitively that Hollyhock would be more than just a destination place. My gut feeling told me that I would be embarking on a soulful universal experience. And my gut was right. I’d been telling everyone that I was going away on holiday for a week. What I should have been announcing is that I would be going away on a life-changing adventure.

I was introduced to this internationally recognized learning centre when I relocated from Montreal to Vancouver Island. I was immediately seduced by first-hand stories from those whose lives had forever been transformed as a result of Hollyhock magic. Hollyhock rang in my ears for nearly two decades before I would attend Hollyhock’s 2018 Season Launch in Vancouver, where I would meet some of the stellar staff and world-class facilitators comprising its upcoming season.

Serendipitously, I would be selected as the lucky winner of a Hollyhock catalogue photo contest for a 2018 program of choice. My much-awaited cosmic destiny with Hollyhock would finally unravel and reveal itself to me. Engaging my body in a somatic learning experience was one of my prerequisites, which landed me in the Summer Solstice: Yoga, Ritual, Meditation retreat facilitated by Mara Branscombe. As a regular yoga practitioner, I was thrilled to further expand my practice with this world-class teacher who fuses body, mind and soul with earth-based rituals and shamanic tradition.

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Mara’s intuitive teaching style propelled me well past my comfort zone into a state of much needed growth. At times, I found myself in direct conflict with my rebellious inner voice, but I stayed committed throughout with the willingness to embrace whatever would show up for me. Her well curated program, which included Vinyasa Yoga, dance movement improvisation, journaling, and a sand mandala creation, awakened me to a new experiential understanding of my being in direct relation to self, others and my environment. Waking up to all that comprises ME, uniquely and apologetically was a rebirth anchored in the foundation of vulnerability and propelled by the velocity of courage.

Hollyhock was the safe haven and holding space for the dismantling of self and the creation of infinite new possibilities. Stories, laughter and tears expressed freely amongst my new friends bound us all together like the intricate root system of a rainforest tree. We had trekked from the far corners of the continent, all of us eagerly in search of this tucked away oasis known throughout the world as Hollyhock. Gastronomic vegetarian offerings served up daily nourished our bodies. Soulful conversations nourished our minds. Summer Solstice: Yoga, Ritual, Meditation with Mara Branscombe nourished our souls.

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When the time finally arrived for my bittersweet Hollyhock goodbye, I would be gifted with the finest souvenir takeaway. That precious keepsake would be a renewed, inspired and awakened ME that I would graciously pack into my suitcase. Thank you Hollyhock staff, facilitators, volunteers, and participants for expanding my mind, heart and cosmos! I’m forever grateful to you all!

“Your mind is the architect of your life.” Mara Branscombe