Woman who survived 17 days in Hawaii forest: 'It was an opportunity to overcome fear of everything'

PHOTO: Amanda Eller, the yoga teacher who survived 17 days lost in a dense Hawaii forest, speaks to reporters, May 28, 2019.PlayABC News
WATCH Hawaii hiker survivor: 'I never felt fearful'

Amanda Eller, the yoga teacher who was rescued after being lost for 17 days in a dense Hawaii forest, called her journey of survival "extremely spiritual."

"I never felt alone and I never felt fearful," Eller, 35, said at a news conference on Tuesday. "It was an opportunity to overcome fear of everything. It was an opportunity to be stripped away of all the comforts of this modern world and see what was left."

PHOTO: Amanda Eller, the yoga teacher who survived 17 days lost in a dense Hawaii forest, speaks to reporters, May 28, 2019. ABC News
Amanda Eller, the yoga teacher who survived 17 days lost in a dense Hawaii forest, speaks to reporters, May 28, 2019.

Eller said her darkest moment came on about day 14.

"I just had such hope in my heart every day," Eller said, but on that day, hearing the helicopters pass over her head, she felt invisible.

"You lose hope," she said. "As the sun starts to go down you're like, 'Another night alone. How am I gonna stay warm? How am I gonna stay alive?'"

PHOTO: Hiker Amanda Eller was found after missing for 17 days, May 24, 2019, at Makawao Forest Reserve on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Courtesy Troy Helmer
Hiker Amanda Eller was found after missing for 17 days, May 24, 2019, at Makawao Forest Reserve on the Hawaiian Island of Maui.
PHOTO: Amanda Eller, a yoga instructor who went missing while hiking in Mauis Makawao Forest Reserve, speaks from her hospital bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center in Hawaii, May 25, 2019, after she was rescued. Sarah Haynes/FINDAMANDA via Reuters
Amanda Eller, a yoga instructor who went missing while hiking in Maui's Makawao Forest Reserve, speaks from her hospital bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center in Hawaii, May 25, 2019, after she was rescued.

"I looked at the sky," she recalled. "I've had everything stripped away... I can barely move. ... And I had a moment where I was like, 'mercy.' ... I'm looking at the sky, like, 'Please pick me up. I'm ready. I've learned.'"

But, Eller continued, "You can play victim... or you can start walking down that waterfall and choose life... I had to choose life."

PHOTO: A waterfall in the area where missing hiker Amanda Eller was found on May 24, 2019, in Makawao Forest Reserve on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Javier Cantellops via AFP/Getty Images
A waterfall in the area where missing hiker Amanda Eller was found on May 24, 2019, in Makawao Forest Reserve on the Hawaiian Island of Maui.

"The first five days, you know, I just wanted to play victim and crawl into a hole and be like, 'Why me?' This is not punishment, this is a strong opportunity," Eller said. "I want to be an inspiration to others. I want to light the fire in other people. ... I'm no different than anybody else. And we all get to choose life on a daily basis."

Eller, who was rescued on Friday afternoon, suffered a tibia fracture and some severe burns, according to hospital officials. She was discharged from Maui Memorial Medical Center on Saturday night.

Eller had went for a run on May 8, but left the trail and got disoriented and lost, her father said. She was reported missing the next morning.

During her over two weeks in the wilderness, Eller drank water from a river and ate berries and plants, said hospital officials. She also used yoga and meditation to keep focus, her mother said.

One night while she was lost, after falling 20 feet, jamming her knee and screaming in pain, Eller said a flash flood hit. As rocks dug into her skin and she worried she'd be swept away to sea, Eller said, "the only thing I could do was meditate. It was the only thing that brought me peace."

Eller said her one regret is not bringing her cell phone with her on her run.

Her advice to hikers is "be overprepared no matter what."