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!