On November 9-16, my friend and fellow Yoga Therapist and teacher Lucy Lomax and I led a true Yoga Indulgence at Pura Vida Retreat and Spa outside of San José, Costa Rica. This was an amazing week of yoga, adventure, and spa treatments. Oh and, of course the food was excellent.
Each morning, I led meditation and yoga classes based around the idea of creating sacred space for yourself. A ritual is an act one engages in with awareness, thoughtfulness, and intention. Yoga practice, and meditation, pranayama, or yoga nidra, is a ritual act, and it can provide a sense of place, connection, and belonging. Our 15 yogis and yoginis formed a bond during our week together: “One striking aspect of this event was the absolute cordiality of the yogis. It was as though we had known and loved each other for years.” Lucy led the afternoon yoga practice and yoga nidra, also based on this idea of sacred space for oneself, and Susanna Harwood Rubin’s book Yoga 365, as seen below with Julia, the retreat cat, provided wise words for our exploration together.
During yoga practice, we worked with flexibility and adaptability, strength, balance, and how a ritual of regular yoga practice can support our lives through the challenging times and the good. In between the daily bookends of yoga practice, there was time for adventure! Ziplining, hiking in the rainforest, boating with the crocodiles, visiting a toucan and sloth rescue. Some pics:
We had so much fun, we plan to do it again next year. If you are interested in joining us, please contact me!
It’s been two weeks since we returned from Costa Rica, but I am still living in the afterglow. There were so many great things about our visit — 16 of us yogis both teachers and students, all with a connection to Yoga Center of Columbia — so I will try to hit on some of my highlights.
The first day we had some free time, so we got to tour and hike around Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfalls. This was a great introduction to the country. Colder than I expected because we were up high in altitude. This volcano is active… in fact it was active just one week before we arrived! It was only gurgling on the day we were there, which was fascinating because the sound was such a low frequency that you felt the sound more in your body then you actually heard it.
We spent the first half of the week in Grecia, a suburb of San Jose, at Villas Azaleas, and each day we visited a senior center nearby. We were there to plant a butterfly and hummingbird garden, do arts and crafts, and practice gentle yoga. I was in the yoga group. Kath had prepared a sequence and there were several of us assisting. These seniors were so open and joyous and wanting to practice, at the end of the first day they were asking when would we be back and for how long. It was really a rewarding treat to be so warmly received. After yoga was over, the seniors would usually break out their vinyl and start dancing. So elegant and dignified. Hener, who walked with a cane, came over to my wallflower seat, promptly hooked is cane over the back of my chair and asked me to dance. This man had a hip replacement (as near as we could tell with what pokito Espanol any of us spoke) and had the gumption to lay it out on the dance floor. Inspiring.
While in Grecia we also visited a women’s co-op that produces cosmetics, hair care and soaps, and coffee — a great combination. These women fought through many hardships to make there business survive. It seemed the government and everyone was against their success, and many people just did not think they could pull it off. But the women persisted and now it brings meaningful sustainable work to good people, they grow many herbs in their own greenhouses and gardens. Xavier was our host and interpreter that day as La Presidenta told us her story. And the coffee is delicious.
Our group was both yoga teachers and students, so we took turns leading each other in yoga class in the mornings before we went off to the senior center. It was an opportunity to stretch and center before facing the day. On days that we did not return too late, Lucy offered excellent and relaxing yoga nidra sessions outdoors before sleep. For the two mornings that I taught, we chanted Om Mata Kali, Kali Durge Ma to the land and to nature and to our good fortune for being able to share in the bounty of our Earth Mother in such a verdant and beautiful place. The sheer variety of birds, even in the city of Grecia, was a sight to behold. The blue crowned motmot joined us for several mornings. Oh yes, and the fruits — lime, mango, banana, star fruit, and sour orange were in our secret garden behind the concrete wall. Just walk outside and pick one. The mangoes were not quite ripe yet, but green mango, sliced in long french fry shape, with a squeeze of lime and sprinkle of salt is a tasty Costa Rican dish. When it is fresh from the tree, you can taste the vitality. Costa Rica is home to nearly 4% of the worlds diversity in flora and fauna. Many of which are insects.
For the second portion of our trip we visited Hacienda Baru on the southern Pacific coast. This national wildlife refuge is the heart of a rainforest teeming with life. Our cabinas were less than half a mile from the ocean so you bet we did some yoga there. The water was warm, but had the potential for riptides so not many people swim. It was okay though because the abundant hermit crabs (in the wild!) were fascinating to watch as they lumbered about with their homes on their backs. There were so many opportunities to commune with nature. I chose hiking and kayaking. One hike took us up the side of a mountain with birds, frogs, monkeys, even a two-toed sloth. They call the capuchin monkeys “cappuchino monkeys” because they are dark brown with milky faces. One afternoon I went walking by myself. Of course that is when a snake chose to show up. There are two types of poisonous snakes in that area of the country. I found out later the one I came across was not poisonous, but a little “shoo… shoo” was enough to make him turn around back into his foliage so I could quickly pass. My favorites were the afternoon monkeys feeding up in the fruit tree. It was just me and the monkeys. There were about three cappuchinos that I could see at first, so standing still, I just watched. They saw me, but they also saw the fruit. Soon others were joining them, including two mothers with babies on their backs. I counted at least 22, but they were moving around pretty quickly, it was hard to get a good count. At that point, I felt completely immersed in nature as I watched them have their afternoon meal.
There are challenges in traveling to another country when one does not have the conveniences of home, like a warm shower or an air conditioned room, or the proper shoes for the task, or dirt under your toenails due to a lack of the proper shoes. But the Earth is abundant and beautiful and wild. On this trip, whenever I would slow down and simply be, simply allow nature to flow around me and in me and through me, I was uplifted beyond words.
Om Mata Kali, Kali Durge Ma
Did I mention the humidity? It felt like a Washington DC summer. Our guide kept telling us that it was not humid. I think I believe him.