Nature, Yoga for Everyone

Nature as Your Sacred Yoga Studio – Happy Earth Day

What do I do when I’m homesick for the call of the wild? When my South African roots have me longing for the serenity of the savanna, instead of driving south to the airport, I head west to the Everglades.

Within minutes of getting into a kayak, there’s this mushy thing that happens in my belly as my stomach muscles soften into instant Savasana. A soppy look appears on my face when I see my first Great Blue Heron of the day (for the umpteenth time, and yet I’m still captivated by the swaying S-curve of its neck in its pre-dinner dance). I’m mesmerized by the heart-shaped lily pads bobbing up and down in the water; a solitary white flower here and there, catching the light.

Loxahatchee-heron-yogaressaThe light. The cliché of the wide, open spaces and blazing sunsets. The stillness. That same sort of silence you experience in “the bush” in Africa. Quiet, but not quiet. Buzzing with the sounds of bird calls, frog croaks and insect chirps.

Sometimes I’ll add the clicking of my camera shutter to the ambient noises, in the hope of capturing some of nature’s splendor. Other times, I put away all cameras and devices and simply breathe it all in; taking a photo with my memory, able to recall it later in all its splendor, without my Instagram feed.

There are no roaring lions or prancing wildebeest out here, but an energetic bullfrog impressively impersonates a warthog. If I half close my eyes and squint a bit, the leathery gator looks like our crusty crocs of the Southern Hemisphere, except with better manners.

I’m not looking to replicate Africa out here on the “River of Grass”, because the Florida Everglades have their own magic. But I do feel the same joy of being connected to nature. I am grateful for easy access to this aquatic beauty that has earned the hefty titles of World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance.

Loxahatchee-everglades-yogaressaNot just on Earth Day, but on any day, if you ever doubted that Nature has the power to heal, simply spend some time outdoors to feel it soothe and revive you. A recent, annoying conversation suddenly doesn’t really matter that much. Maybe worries dissipate a little and life looks positively cheerful. Maybe you simply remember how to be in the present moment and breathe.

Loxahatchee-yogaressa-earth-day
Trade in Heron, Tree, and Tortoise poses for the real thing, as you bask fully in the Yoga of Nature. Per that sage, Albert Einstein,

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”.

Yoga teaches us awareness of the inner Self and awareness of our connection with, and impact on, the world around us; including its creatures and habitat.

Namaste.

[as published in Today’s Yoga Magazine]

Nature, Travel, Yoga Retreats

Muy Bien — My Top Ten (Costa Rica) continued …

(Here’s the first part of the Top Ten list in the previous post).

6.  Pipa Fria

Pipa-fria-0328iWho needs Whole Foods, when you can pick up fresh coconut water at the numerous roadside fruit stands?  Pull over immediately (smiling and pura vida-ing) and don’t be alarmed by the machete the fruit guy is holding. Watch, as within seconds, he hacks open an unripened, green coconut and transforms it into a goblet of

coconut water
Here’s how you might be used to drinking coconut water …
pipa fria
Here’s your upgrade to a whole new world of coconut

heavenly sweet water, complete with a straw he’ll pop through the top. It’s the perfect, refreshing pick-me-up; loaded with vitamins and electrolytes, and the treat continues once you’ve drunk the agua de pipa, as you use the “lid” of your coconut to scoop out the soft flesh and eat that, too. Watch the creator of coconut nirvana nifty work:

7.  Toucans

So adorable that they deserve their very own mention, even though they kind of fall under #1 Nature. These comical birds arrived in the treetops in a flashy display of color and noise, looking like they’d just rented their feathers for Halloween outfits.

toucan in flight

toucans-costa-rica

8.  Howler Monkeys

The alarm clocks of the jungle, a sound that had me smilingly coming out of sleep and ready to greet each new day. The howlers also added their grunting and calling to our outdoor yoga classes, and we’d hear them in the trees around us in the evenings, providing the perfect backdrop for a story about Hanuman.

howler monkey

9.  Fireflies

Yoga spaceYes, I know they have fireflies in other countries, but the Costa Rican fireflies were bigger than any I’ve ever seen, and seemed to have adopted the pura vida culture too, as they floated into our yoga space during Savasana; big, bright, glowing orbs of light, dipping in the air around our yoginis, adding fairy-like magic to the already idyllic surroundings.

 

10.  Yogayoga-retreat-costa-rica-0449gi

A magnificent setting like Lake Arenal in Costa Rica will heighten your experience on the yoga mat and jumpstart your prana; whether you’re rocking a joyful backbend, or you’re deep in contemplation. Eckhart Tolle describes being in nature as “a compelling portal to presence”, and it’s true. Practicing yoga in a paradise like Costa Rica will create memories you can come back to, once you’re back home and living your Other Vida.

So, there you have it. As if you ever needed any encouragement to head to “The Happiest Planet on Earth” (according to the Happy Planet Index), these ten reasons to go to Costa Rica are a mere  introduction to the beauty that awaits you in this peaceful soul of Central America. Enjoy!

Nature, Travel, Yoga Retreats

Muy Bien — My Top Ten (Costa Rica)

I tried to keep it to just Five Fab Reasons, I really did, but it was impossible. I couldn’t condense a week of immersing ourselves in the splendor of our Costa Rica yoga retreat, to just five little cameos. So, I opted for a Top Ten (out of a shortlist longlist of over thirty), and here they are, in no particular order.

iguana

1.  Nature

Magpie-jay
The cheeky magpie jay enjoys breakfast

Nature, AMPLIFIED.  Wildly-colored frogs, prehistoric-like iguanas, vibrant bird life and a stream of gigantic butterflies that look like they’ve been added by the animators at Avatar.

 

2.  Pura Vida!

Translated as “pure life”, this exclamation is used as a greeting and as a Two Thumbs Up smile of appreciation, as you acknowledge a mutual zest for life and the joy of “real living”.

Pura-Vida-5791
The always-smiling Flaco, anticipating every need on our yoga retreat

Note: You might look like a tourist, but try and sound like  a local, by pronouncing it, “poora beeda” (not pyura veeda), and feel free to adopt this as a happy mantra during your stay — I wasn’t sure if it was just a corny PR slogan whipped up by the Costa Rica Tourist Board, so I tested it the moment we landed, and received an enthusiastic pura vida! in response, from the smiling immigration tico, as he stamped my passport.

Pura-vida-0450
This gentleman, riding a horse and cart, was happy to pause and say hola to us

 

The ticos and ticas are the friendly, warmhearted Costa Ricans who echo and amplify the essence of pura vida. They’re proud of their eco-aware country, they have a great sense of humor and they seem to operate at a level of happiness that comes naturally, without trying to find it.

Their natural appreciation for people, nature and life in general, comes easily. An interesting recipe to consider, for those times when striving for happiness doesn’t work.

 

 

3.  Scenery

Arenal Volcano
Sunrise skies on fire – exactly like this, no photo enhancement required

Volcanoes and sunrises so spectacular, you’ll want to bottle them up and take them home with you. Pause long enough to take a break from the picture snapping (guilty!), and just sit and take it all in; creating an imprint on your mind of the colors and sounds around you. Costa Rica offers 20,000 square miles of abundant, unique biodiversity in a microcontinent of volcanoes, jungle, thermal springs, beaches and rainforests.

Rio Celeste waterfall
Rio Celeste waterfall

Sunrise Costa Rica

4.  Fruit

Fruit that looks, smells and tastes like real FOOD. Passionfruit, pineapple, mangoes, starfruit, papaya … they never tasted so good. A kind of juice-dribbling-down-your-chin-and-you-don’t-care good. Stop at the roadside fruit stands and indulge in fruit heaven.

Costa-Rica-fruit-stand-0678b

Papaya-web

5.  Adrenalin Rush 

This is the land that invented zip lining — because why wouldn’t you hook a pulley over a stainless steel cable and hurl yourself off a perfectly safe platform, to go whizzing through the treetops, hundreds of feet above terra firma? Pura vida, in full force.  I’d been mustering up the courage to try zip lining since my first trip to Costa Rica ten years ago, and  I kept finding (perfectly sane) excuses for not doing it.

Ziplining-costa-ricaThis time, I took the leap; inspired by our group of feisty and fun-loving yoginis, who were equally determined to try this adventure, and fortified by the very capable crew at Los Canones, who briefed us well. We listened very carefully to every instruction on how to avoid finding yourself hanging upside down, suspended above the forest, and Ziplining-costa-rica-0116how to stop in enough time to not go crashing into the next platform — all of this gave me the courage I needed to take that first step into nothingness. It’s around those few seconds that you vaguely remember reading zip lining described as “death slide”, which you then dismiss immediately, take a deep breath, an even deeper Ommmmmm, and then you’re off!Ziplining-costa-rica-0203Ziplining-costa-rica-0225

 

 

 

 

And the thrill and shriek-inducing exhilaration is immediately addictive, so that you’re eagerly looking forward to the next slide and the next one and the next one and then oh, no, you can’t believe it’s over.   Next stop: bungee jumping in New Zealand. Just kidding. Wouldn’t catch me doing that for all the pipa fria in the world.

Still need another five reasons to head to the land of pura vida? Here you go …

Life, Nature

The Turtles Went In Two By Two, Hurrah, Hurrah

Nature decided to gift my sunrise stroll this week with the magical experience of watching these little creatures on their intrepid journey to the ocean.

As if the gorgeous sunrise wasn’t already enough, suddenly there was Amanda, rescuing turtle hatchlings that hadn’t managed to climb out of their nest. (Note: she’s with Delray Beach Environmental Services and officially tasked with doing this – not something you should do without authorization, unless you want to face a hefty fine of up to $100,000 per turtle touched).

As I looked around at the faces of the beach walkers whose day, like mine, had unexpectedly begun with a turtle rescue adventure, there were smiles of delight and awe. These were the turtles that hadn’t managed the mad dash to the sea in the middle of the night, because they couldn’t – they weren’t strong enough and would die on their own. Kind humans to the rescue. Amanda carefully pulled each turtle out of the sand and the hatched-egg debris, and we watched them clamber and stumble across the beach, with a collective “Aaaaahhhh” (from us, not the turtles), when each one made it into the water.

It’s a life-affirming celebration of Nature to witness something like this. When we’re connected to Nature, we’re connected to the pulse of our planet, to ourselves, to Source.

Maybe that recent, annoying conversation doesn’t really matter that much. Maybe worries dissipate a bit and life looks more cheerful. Maybe stopping to spend fifteen minutes watching rescued turtle hatchlings scramble towards the early sunrise and surf puts a smile on my face and I experience the sheer joy of being alive.

Makes me spontaneously start singing Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic”  … “We live in a beautiful world…” Indeed, we do.  “Yeah, everybody here’s got somebody to lean on …” Even the turtles.

Have a great weekend; one that includes a happy connection with Nature.

Turtle-hatchling-Florida

sea-turtle-hatchling-eggs-florida
Amanda counts the number of hatched sea turtle eggs