Travel, Retreats, and Yoga

Author: Carrie

Free Massage at Vida Asana!

Sean, our generous host at Vida Asana, has again offered a free massage for early-bird sign-ups. Send in your deposit today for our February, 2020 retreat and secure your free massage–that added “touch” to complete your rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.

Introduction to Poetry

“Introduction to Poetry”

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.

–Billy Collins


The language of poetry is like the “language” of music or art; “Emphasize…response in terms of feeling,” says Mary Oliver.  “We give far too much focus to understanding in our educational system.  Don’t ask …what the poem is about.  As…, ‘How does it make you feel?’”


I like to incorporate poetry readings into our yoga practice to offer a “dristi”—a focal point—and theme to help center and guide our efforts and intentions.  I believe poetry is a language for and of the “soul.”


But what does “soul” mean?  Like several other words pointing to intangible realities—God, spirit, love, heart, etc.—the word soul is frequently bandied about without delineating exactly what it may “mean”.  A dictionary may define soul as, “the immaterial aspect or essence of a human being, that which confers individuality and humanity.” But the Bhagavad Gita, in contrast, defines soul as the one unchanging, indestructible, indivisible presence within everything.  In the Old Testament, the soul is sometimes referred to as breath and therefore necessary to the life of the body.  Christian writers have portrayed the body and soul as separate and at times in conflict with each other.  Plato and Socrates define the soul as the immortal essence of being.  Jungian psychologist James Hillman calls the soul, “the poetic basis of mind…the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream image, fantasy.”  Thomas Moore writes, “It is impossible to define precisely what the soul is.  Definition is an intellectual enterprise anyway; the soul prefers to imagine.  We know intuitively that soul has to do with genuineness and depth, as when we say certain music has soul or a remarkable person is soulful.”


Let us take the liberty of asking the word soul to include all of these varied and even opposing definitions.  Let it stand for all that lives in us beyond the socialized, survival-oriented self.  And let poetry be the language for and of the soul, and from below the surface of your life, let the truth of who you are call to you through the poems you love.


Spending time with a poem is a way of choosing what you’re going to do with your attention, like singing a song you love or blasting it on the stereo—it’s a choice to fill your thoughts with what you hold precious instead of electronic minuscule, self-criticisms, or anxieties about the past or future.


Filling your mind with poetry can offer a profound, paradoxical medicine.  It’s a physical event; the rhythm may quicken or slow your pulse, the flow of language expand your breathing.  It strengthens the mind and disarms it at once.  While the reality of the true self cannot fit into the borders of the mind, that same mind has one extraordinary capacity that makes it essential to the path of awakening.  The mind can use itself to shatter itself.  In the “AHA” that happens when the mind bursts open—at a breathtaking poetic metaphor or an insight or a chiming among the words—all levels of being human come into alignment.  You feel a sudden integration of body, mind, heart, and soul.  You are called into presence by the resonance of truth.  And when you are present, you are open to your feelings.  And when you feel, the rigid boundaries that divides you from others can melt.


Poetry is the language for and of the soul.

Come to attention—to detail, to nuance, to each other.  Poetry can strengthen our muscle for care, our capacity for intricate metaphoric thinking, our appreciation for ambiguity.



Arrivals, Beginnings, Homecoming

“There is nothing more miserable in the world than to arrive in paradise and look like your passport photo.”  Erma Bombeck

All trips, vacations, adventures, perhaps a first retreat:) include an arrival, a beginning, and perhaps for some of us–even if it’s in a foreign land, a place we’re never been before,–a mystical sense of homecoming that’s exciting, comforting, and maybe a little disconcerting.  Regardless, this process of arriving, beginning, homecoming–it’s all a process.  A process that can hold reflective reminders…


Hasten slowly and ye shall soon arrive.  One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things. For the poet the credo or doctrine is not the point of arrival but is, on the contrary, the point of departure for the metaphysical journey.  It is okay to be an outsider, a recent arrival, new on the scene – and not just okay, but something to be thankful for… Because being an insider can so easily mean collapsing the horizons, can so easily mean accepting the presumptions of your province.


Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.  The ultimate wisdom which deals with beginnings, remains locked in a seed. There it lies, the simplest fact of the universe and at the same time the one which calls faith rather than reason.  Beginnings, however, can be messy. Every contrivance of man, every tool, every instrument, every utensil, every article designed for use, of each and every kind, evolved from a very simple beginnings.


We learn, grow and become compassionate and generous as much through exile as homecoming, as much through loss as gain, as much through giving things away as in receiving what we believe to be our due.  The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere – in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. No one would desire not to be beautiful. When we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.

Thank you:  John GalsworthyRobert Collier–Muriel Rukeyser–Bernie SiegelAnna Quindlen–David BowieHenry MillerJoseph Brodsky–T. S. Eliot—Milarepa

A Few Thoughts On Facilitating a Retreat

As I prepare to facilitate a week’s yoga retreat here in lovely Costa Rica, I thought I’d share what I wrote my participants in an attempt to communicate how I try and go about merging yoga, vacation, and people who don’t know each coming together.  These are thoughts and principles I try and apply to all the classes and workshops I teach, hoping to encourage authentic participation with a gentle reminder that we need to be aware of all the perspectives we may be sharing space with.

Most dictionaries define yoga as a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures widely practiced for health and relaxation.  The word’s Sanskit root, “yuj”, means to join or yoke.


For most Western practitioners (including yours truly) yoga is a practical aid and NOT a religion.  Sometimes an acknowledging of yoga’s Hindu roots in terms of references to Sanskrit, mantra, and or Hindu symbolism can happen during a yoga class (including yours truly) but I see this as a gesture of respect to the source of our practice, which is an ancient art based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind, and spirit. The continued practice of yoga will lead you to a sense of peace and well-being, and also a feeling of being at one with their environment.


Swami Vivevanaka’s visit and speech to the “Parliament of World’s Religions” during the 1893 World’s Fair is considered yoga’s first major introduction to the West.  His message was about tolerance, harmony of religions, and universal love.


“As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to the same truth.”


I want this to be the heart of a practice in a retreat“sangha”—the group where we create a mutually supportive community and understand and respect each others’ beliefs and opinions.  To encourage discussions and sharing being meaningful and enriching, we must acknowledge the many different perspectives, traditions, and observances we each individually hold, practice, or honor.

Namaste, and Jai Bhagwam

A Happy Return to Greece…September 2018

I went to a Waldorf elementary school–not entirely sure why my parents made that choice, but I’m grateful they did!  My Waldorf curriculum included Greek Mythology and Classical Studies, so by middle school, I was well-versed in the shenanigans of the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus.  This bedrock of cultural literacy has always served me well.  I “get” the classical allusions in literature and the arts, and when I found myself facilitating a yoga teacher training in Epidavrous, Greece, I was able to find those subtle connections between cultures and traditions, substantiating what Jung and Joseph Campbell found in the universal motifs of adventure and transformation running through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions.  My six weeks in Greece were a confirmation of a childhood experience in imaginative education–cognitive expansion revisited decades later in a different configuration, but all the more satisfying with those added layers and levels that come along with age and maturity.

And now I have an opportunity again to share the magic of a place that transcends time, and is at the heart of our Western tradition in thought and philosophy.  I reconnected with the woman who guided us so skillfully through Olympia’s archeological site, Nicki Vlachou, and with her help, we’ve crafted a 10 day tour that includes Athens as well as major sites in the Peloponnese.  (Please check out the details on  Of course there will be some yoga and meditation available for those interested, since I think these practices help keep us clear and present to the moment–and you don’t want to miss a sensation while being in Greece!



Our 2017 Retreats

Vida Asana Yoga Retreat: Planting our Hearts in Costa Rica

Our retreat week at the Vida Asana Eco Resort was truly a unique experience for all of us.  Perhaps it was the magical ambience that Sean, Jess, Heather and the rest of the Vida Asana team created that helped facilitate our group coming together so quickly and so surely, or maybe it was the “Pura Vida” vibe that reverberates so tangibly in everything Costa Rican–or more likely it was all the above and beyond.

We had sisters in our retreat group (three pairs!), a husband and wife, friends who’d traveled before together, and participants who came knowing no one, but trusting that yoga would be a means to connect and meet other like-minded folks.  The greatest blessing of our week was the ease in which we all came together as a “sangha”–in Sanskrit, meaning “community.”

Our rooms at Vida Asana were simple, yet very comfortable and spotlessly clean.  We appreciated that our host, Sean, was a little (more like, A LOT) obsessive about things like, AC, wireless, water, and coffee.  No debate:  in the weeks I was traveling in Costa Rica, the most efficient systems, best tasting water (and consequently coffee), and fastest internet were all at Vida Asana.  But we also were charmed by the more subtle touches, like incense in our rooms, the murals on the walls, and the care Jess and Sean took to make sure there were comfortable, welcoming spaces to sit in (or lie: for example, hammocks) around the serene jungle compound that is Vida Asana.   

And while it was easy to surrender to our surroundings at Vida Asana–the lush gardens, the relaxing chaises by the pool, the serenity of the teakwood yoga shala–many of us took advantage of our location and the adventures available.  We watched the sun rise over the vast expanse of Playa Hermosa and ran along the beach.  We went zip-lining, hiked though mural covered urban ruins, and were guided through a rain-forest reserve over suspension bridges.  We walked along a tree lined road watching scarlet macaws perched on branches overhead.  We sweated in a sweat lodge and watched daily sunsets with the rest of Playa Hermosa’s locals, who showed us that the glory of a sunset is never something to take advantage of even if you live within easy proximity.  And we started each day with a yoga practice grounded in gratitude, reminding ourselves and each other of the gift we were giving ourselves:  time for reflection.                                                               

Our efforts needed fuel, of course!  And Vida Asana provided us with three amazing meals each day, mostly vegetarian, mostly vegan, gluten free and abundantly delicious.  Heather, who acted as our retreat liason, had been working tirelessly to refine and perfect their menu and food presentation, and we enjoyed the fruits of that labor.   Many of our retreat participants were and are hoping to see a Vida Asana cookbook!

For our evening satsangs, we discussed Wayne Mueller’s book, How Then Shall We Live Our Lives? and we sang songs led by Ellen on guitar.  Later, many still lingered in the comfortable, open-aired sitting area by the kitchen, sharing the doings of our day in Costa Rica.

One of the most meaningful activities we participated in was planting trees along a deforested stretch of Playa Hermosa.  It allowed us to feel that much more a part of the community, and that much more grounded in Costa Rica.  With Federico, a local biologist and guide, we got our hands dirty as we packed the soil around slender stalks…dreaming that one day we’d return to sit in the shade of a tree we had planted.

When our week ended, we left Vida Asana feeling not only a special connection with our Costa Rican hosts, but feeling as well a deeper, richer connection with new friends and old, and a deeper, richer connection with ourselves.

I thank everyone of our participants for coming, for sharing, and for trusting in what a yoga retreat can d


Playa Grande Retreat: Black Sand, Surfers, and Turtles

The vast expanse of Playa Grande (translation being”big beach” appropriately) was the centerpiece of our second retreat week in Costa Rica.  Located on the northern Pacific Coast in the Guanacaste region, Playa Grande offered miles to walk.  Turn north, and walk first to a secluded white sand cove, where beyond that was tucked a black sand beach.  Turn south, and walk to an estuary, where you can board a “water taxi” for a dollar to be transported across to the bustling seaside town of Tamarindo.

The surf and sand were a two minute walk from the family run hotel who hosted our retreat.  The Ripjack is owned and run by a friendly ex-pat couple in partnership with an Argentinian friend.  Our comfortable rooms were collected around the two pools on the property.  Above us, the “treetop” restaurant is where we met for breakfast, snacks and two of our dinners.  Our yoga shala was protected and cool with floor to ceiling glass walls.  There is where some of us started our days with yoga and meditation–for others, their day had already started with a sunrise walk on the beach.

Playa Grande was a location unto to itself, easily a place where one could spend the day watching surfers, collecting shells, reading a book, and moving one’s chair up and down the beach with the tide.  But some of us did venture out to explore–taking day trips to explore the national parks to the north, Rincon de la Vieja or Tenorio, zip-lining, white water rafting, showering under waterfalls, soaking in hotsprings and mudbaths–but we all joined in to take a catamaran trip out of Playa Flamingo to snorkel and watch the sunset from the water.  In the evenings, we tried the various restaurants within easy walking distance from the Ripjack and enjoyed our culinary excursions in Playa Grande as well as Tamarindo.

Undoubtedly, some of the most magical moments during our stay at Playa Grande were when some of our group had chance encounters with nesting turtles on the beach; Ridley turtles on one day, and a Leatherback on another.  Because of the chilliness of the water this year (due to an El Nino current) nesting turtles were less frequent.  An actual sighting was something to celebrate!

The week ended all too quickly, but our group had really bonded and connected, not only with each other, but also with the sweet serenity of our setting.

Adios, and Pura Vida Playa Grande!

Why Choose Costa Rica For Your Yoga Retreat?



When I decided to take my yoga teacher training, I have to confess that the LOCATION was paramount…I wanted to get out of New England in February and spend 30 days in a tropical paradise. Costa Rica did not disappoint.

It’s hard NOT to have a truly transformational experience while completely immersing yourself in daily, full-on yoga study and practice, but when you add on the aspect of having this being set in a rain forest with howling monkeys, fresh fruit, warm ocean waters and people so friendly and welcoming you never want to leave…well: there you go. My time in Costa Rica was “transformational”—and so it will be for anyone willing to make the time for themselves to experience, explore and be open to whatever may be.


Costa Rica occupies a privileged spot in the heart of Central America. Its territory of 19,652 square miles touches both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The variety of landscapes and microclimates that can be enjoyed in one day make this country a paradise.   Although the country is small and it covers only 0.03 % of the surface of the globe, it proudly shelters a 5% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world. 25.58 % of the country is composed of conservation and natural protected territory. Costa Rica is a democratic and peaceful country, and it has not had an army since the year 1949.


Check out some things that make Costa Rica so unique!



Welcome to my PranaWorks webpage!

I hope to use this space to be in communication with friends and friends-to-be about opportunities to share adventure, experiences and “sangha” (a Sanskrit word for “community”).

I’m excited to spread the word about two learning retreats my friend Liz Seaman and I have put together. Read on, and join us in Pranawork!


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