Forest Family

Saraswati - Hayley Tennyson, Founder

A devoted yogi, permaculture activist, and idea alchemist, Saraswati dreamed up The Yoga Forest in early 2009. Her passion for wellness paired with her vision of sustainable living led to the development of the retreat community and transformational learning centre called The Yoga Forest in San Marcos la Laguna on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. Permies and yogis come from all over the world, and devote time to learning and exploring yoga and Permaculture practices in conscious community. When she gets a break from teaching and overseeing the operations of the retreat community, she loves to sing, dance and create ceremony in every moment as an expression of the heart. She loves to spending time in the forest, contemplating oneness within nature as well reading in her hammock looking out over the mountains to the volcanoes of Lake Atitlán.

Saraswati's deep passion for conscious green living and yogic lifestyle practices, led her to study Permaculture with founders Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton and continues to leave her fascinated by the similar concepts fundamental to yoga philosophy and Permaculture practices. In 2011, she began studying yoga with Yogrishi Vishvketu in Rishkesh, India, and since then has been diving into yoga philosophy and practice all over the world. Exploring playful connections with others in yoga practice, she traveled to Montreal to study with AcroYoga Montreal. Following a deep connection for nature and the elements she traveled to Peru to complete a RYT300 with a focus in Shamanic and Ayurvedic cleansing where she discovered her Kula - a spiritual community of the heart. One of 8 co-founding members of the Kula Collective, Saraswati leads various Yoga Teacher Trainings and retreats at The Yoga Forest and throughout the world.


Niss Bach,  Creative Director

After continuing his studies with Thai massage and water treatments in Mexico Laos and Thailand, Niss has returned back to his home in San Marcos with The Yoga Forest. Niss is a world traveler since the age of 20. Originally from Jerusalem, he has been exploring different communities and experiences in order to decide what kind of community he would like to be involved in and help create. He became involved with The Yoga Forest in 2011 and his investments of energy have helped create the beautiful Yoga Shala.

Niss is an artist. He began studying dance in high school and moved into Circus Arts in 2003, where he studied in Israel and Madrid. After 8 years of performing on stage, on the streets and in festivals, he fused his knowledge of movement into the healing arts of Thai Massage and Yoga Therapy. Niss has many gifts to share: he speaks four languages and is a dynamic problem solver within communities; he offers group forming camps and workshops as well as astrology readings.

Niss is currently practicing a Tibetan practice called Dzogchen or “Great Perfection”, it is the highest and most definitive path to enlightenment.


Jonas Freers, Resident Manager

Spending most of his childhood in the proximity of nature, animals, and plants, Jonas had from an early age onwards the privilege of developing a deep appreciation for organic ways of living. His passion has also encouraged him to leave his home country Germany, in order to live, study, and travel for several years in different parts of the world.

After graduating in International Relations and International Organization he started looking for his true passion by working in diverse fields and projects primarily in Asia, Latin America, and Europe. In 2016 he eventually found his way to the Yoga Forest where he encountered the perfect balance to put his diplomatic skills into practice as well as his interests and personal talents.

Now he is a Yogi in the making, facilitator, student, builder, gardener and teacher. Moreover, he strives to build more local integration, develop the Yoga Forest’s vision of conscious living, and further indulge on his physical and mental practices in and around the lake.

Pamela Arreaga, Administrative Manager

Born and raised in Guatemala City, Pamela relocated to San Marcos la Laguna in 2013, seeking balance and reconnection with nature. Pamela has a background of experience in customer service, quality assurance, organising and managing small projects that involved cultural exchange and traveling around Guatemala.

She strongly believes in creating communities that are environmentally and spirituality conscious, for this is the only way to a better world.

Pamela joined The Yoga Forest in April 2015 and has become an asset to The Yoga Forest team, helping manage the office, guests and the functioning of a busy retreat center.


Forest Friends

hoto Credit: dimnikolov

Charlie Rendall, Sustainable Building Project Manager

Charlie has been building houses and landscaping in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala since 2003. He tried just about every natural building method he could before settling on bamboo and earth as his favorites. In 2008 Charlie founded The Natural Building School and has been hosting a variety of popular courses on Natural Building, Permaculture/Forest Gardening, and Appropriate Technologies. Return to the Forest strives to educate the world on sustainable building practices to complement the global movement in ecological living. Connecting participants with Mayan building experts, the school also holds space for sharing and applying indigenous knowledge to natural building. Originally from London, England, Charlie holds a Masters in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh, and has studied Buddhism, Yoga and social development in India. For several years he taught transferable skills development to postgraduates at University College London before meeting his wife and becoming Technical Director at her arts education project, La Cambalacha. He also loves tinkering with machines and appropriate technology, and has done several solar electricity installations around the lake. Charlie and Hayley worked closely together for four years designing and implementing natural building techniques to create the magical Forest as it is today.

photography by bradley thomas-4312-2.jpg

Jeremy Fellows, Permaculture Consultant & Teacher

Jeremy grew up with a fascination for the workings of nature. Enchanted by plants and their relationships with the soil, Jeremy took many classes on horticulture and plant identification in the Northeast US. Beginning work in landscaping, he soon learned about the great Permaculture gurus like Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton, Sepp Holzer, and David Holmgren. This revelation created a new dimension in his love of botany; function and plant relationships, mycoculture, animal husbandry, agriculture and a study of natural and sustainable building. While completing a degree in Sustainable Food and Farming at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Mount Holyoke College, Jeremy worked as a horticultural specialist. He began working with farms and independent projects in design, constructing of green roof systems, creating business plans for orchards and vineyards, and implementing a mushroom log operation. Jeremy ran the Permaculture project at The Yoga Forest since 2013 and is now taking a break to pursue other interesting opporuntities in St Lucia and the US. 

Catherine Griggs, Permaculture Consultant & Teacher

Cat holds a degree in  Zoology with Conservation and is an international permaculture consultant and education facilitator, she was one of the original permaculture teachers and directors in the yoga forest co creating many of the existing systems such as the aquaculture and green house.  A born naturalist she has spent her life studying flora and fauna, environmental ecology and animal behaviour. She formally qualified in permaculture in 2010, since then has been consulting, developing projects and teaching around the world. She has experience working in temperate, semi desert, Mediterranean and sub-tropical climates where her focus has mainly been around animal integrated systems such as grassland management, soil establishment and remediation, aquaculture, wetlands, wildlife conservation, forest gardening and also social permaculture.

Shad Qudsi, Co-Founder of Atitlán Organics

Shad Qudsi has 15 years experience in organic and commercial gardening and farming. He is certified in Permaculture Design and has over 6 years experience in holistic site development and homesteading. Shad originally set out to study mathematics and work in big business, but long ago had a change of heart. He can now be found dancing in his garden in Tzununa. Aside from all of this, Shad is an enthusiastic teacher who truly believes in the work he is doing. Human resiliency cannot be erased from the landscape and now, it is coming back with a gentle loving caress.

We are grateful to have collaborated with Shad since the beginning at The Yoga Forest for various Permaculture consultations since 2009, and in yearly PDC Courses taught at The Yoga Forest and at his farm in Tzununá.