Costa Rica Yoga Bliss…. part 2

Part 2: Some Impressions from our Costa Rica Yoga Retreat, Feb 26 – March 5.

Here in the jungle, we’re constantly adjusting to the temperature, the abundance of oxygen, to being in yet another yoga class. With a class at 6:30 am and another at 4 pm, muscles are lengthening, joints lubricating, breath coming more an more easily.

Pre total relaxation

When we arrived, people’s faces were tight and drawn, tired from travel but also tired from the responsibilities of work and daily life.

After a few days people’s faces begin to look relaxed and then something magical starts to happen. Their faces start to glow, they start to look younger, more open, and more enthusiastic about the smallest things–a delicious taste, a warm breeze, an interesting thought.

To me, this is evidence of prana, the life force that gives vitality, rising and flourishing, bringing clarity to the skin, friendliness to dispositions and peace to people’s minds.


As the stress of city life washes off it’s easy to see the toll it takes—bad sleep, rough digestion, low energy and poor mental functioning.

In the jungle, we’re just a short walk from balmy tropical waters. We lounge in a luxurious lodge built from local materials and staffed by local characters, some of whom have been walking this jungle their whole lives.

Slowed down, with relaxation a part of our daily routine, we begin to feel the spark of life pulsing again, that unexstinguished flame flare up more brightly.

And at the same time, immersed in teeming wilderness, we see ourselves in the context of all life, the constant movement and change of all natural forms.

Our hikes in the jungle show us snakes, spiders, monkeys, pixotes (a racoon-like animal wiht a long tail), pecaries (stinky wild pigs), and huge gloriously blue morpho butterflies.

Life is all around whether or not we check our email, return phone calls, ride subways, acquire or lose status or money, no matter who we know or are related to.

This is a visceral yoga lesson. Prana has many expressions—animal, vegetable, mineral, cognating, non-cognating—and a fierce intelligence. Nature, the material world, is more than just how much we weigh, how we style our hair, how we look in our yoga pants, how flexible we are, what we do, what we own.

Consciousness is sometimes valued higher than nature, but here it’s impossible to ignore nature’s power. Aside from the annoyance of bug bites (mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums etc) this nature is marvelous:  fecund, generous, majestic, strong, eye-opening.

It makes us revel in our own nature. And as Mr. Iyengar says, we notice, attend to, and love the body, as we would care for a child. It is a vehicle to all knowledge.

At the end of morning yoga practice, we have a sweet final relaxation serenaded by the tide going out, cooing mourning doves, seeds dropping on the clear roof over the deck, the low rumbling of nearby howler monkeys.

Back at the lodge, we breakfast on eggs, pancakes, fruit sauce, fresh juices (mango, sour-sop, tamarind, orange, pineapple etc), tortillas, tomato slices with fresh cheese, and of course lots of fruit.

Then it’s time to decide on the rest of the morning’s activities—a quick sweaty hike up to a platform that overlooks our cove? A cooling swim? Both? A tour of the botanical garden a short kayak away? A knowledgeable guide will take us and tell us more and more and more interesting things about this incredible place we have landed in.

We can also just take an hour or two on the seaside lounge chair under the almond tree chatting with whoever happens to be there–hanging out can also feel like a real indulgence.

We’re here for a week. No electricity, no phone, no money, no shops, no roads, nothing but yoga, the lodge, the jungle, the sea and the elements, the staff and each other. The rhythm of our days is simple and sweet, a luxury we all need.

This is what I wish I could give all my students–not to mention friends and family. Life pared down to extremely simple is what we’re dying for.  Beauty mixed with simplicity–and relaxation mixed with asana, meditation, and breathing–helps connect us to ourselves, see us in context of the greater life. It helps us remember who we truly are, and what it is that really matters.

2 Responses to “Costa Rica Yoga Bliss…. part 2”

  1. 1 Erika

    YOu hit the nail on the head – that nature and simplicity helps us to remember what truly matters. I believe in that fully. I sometimes volunteer at the Queens Botanical Garden and have to miss yoga but then realize being among the flower the trees, the dirt, the birds and my little favorite guys the worms is my yoga for the day. You are so lucky to have had that experience – keep it close to your heart.

  2. 2 admin

    You’re smart for seeking that experience in the city and you’re right–it is a kind of yoga, especially for us urban dwellers. We are starved for contact with the natural world. It makes such a big difference.

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