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 …

Inspirational

Make Your Home An Ashram

Desperate for a weekend break, a getaway, an escape from it all? Here’s how to go on a yoga retreat while you’re at home. When we asked Yogi Sivadas how to package up the peace of our yoga school and take it with us, one of his suggestions was, “Make your home an ashram.” Excellent idea! Create peace in your home and make it the sort of sanctuary that whispers words like blissful and escape – just like those tempting ads that pop up on your screen and have you salivating. Start by blocking out two to three days on your calendar, as if you were unavailable. Tell your friends and family you’ll be incommunicado.

Then, follow the guidelines below – and I know I’m at risk of falling into the category of a click-baiting yoga blogger who shouts out, “Five Tips On How to Go on a Yoga Retreat at Home!”, but c’est la vie, here they are:

Peaceful garden buddha1.  Make Your Home An Ashram. Whether you live in a tiny apartment or a luxurious mansion, you can transform your home into a peaceful refuge. Without doing a massive clear out (now’s not the time), tidy your home as if guests you love were imminent and you’d like the place to look welcoming. Hide the clutter and make a promise to do the decluttering thing later. Think of the places that make you feel most tranquil and replicate some of that, in your own home. Music, chimes, candles, flowers, incense, if that’s your thing.  Ornaments, photos, snuggly blankets – choose to be surrounded by objects of beauty and comfort, which doesn’t necessarily mean spending money.

Salad2.  Eat Well. Plan your meals ahead of time; choosing simple, fresh, organic-where-possible, preferably-vegetarian (easily digested) ingredients and menus. Go for flavor and not complexity. My yoga friend, Karen, throws together scrumptious meals quicker than you can say Namaste and it’s always about simple, fresh flavors, usually involving a handful of herbs and/or an interesting twist, like edamame beans scattered on top of a salad. If you’re no domestic goddess in the cooking department, then stock up on ready-made, healthy options – including frozen, if the food is good quality. Also eat at times that make it easier on your digestive system (here’s why), i.e. breakfast between 9am-10am, lunch 1-2pm, dinner no later than 7pm.

snore 3.  Sleep Well. Set a schedule for sleeping, and your body will thank you for it. The recommendation for a healthy sleeping pattern which has worked for me, is to be asleep by latest 10pm and wake up by 6am. If the thought of pre-birdsong-alarm-call freaks you out on your three-day home retreat, then go to bed even earlier and you’ll find it’s easier to get up and join the dawn chorus. If you need extra sleep during the day, take a little nap/s to recharge the batteries.

4.  Treats. This is a yoga retreat, remember? So scatter little pamperations (no such word, but there should be) and decadent spoil-me-please activities during your break; like an at-home massage, a DIY home facial, spending a solid two hours reading that book that’s been calling you – anything that makes you feel indulged, relaxed and fabulous. Daisies

5.  Unplug. Less technology, more nature. Repeat the mantra. Less Tech, More Trees. Sit under one, hug one, gaze at one from your apartment window, or do whatever connects you with nature – sunsets, sunrises, stargazing, butterflies, beach walks, flowers. Immerse in nature in your own back yard or local park and breathe it in, drink in the colors, enjoy the sounds. “Unplug” means disconnect from all those little white umbilical cords attached to phones, iPods, tablets, PCs, television, radio and anything else that remotely resembles something that knows how to ROFL and LMK. Yes, folks, ICW. It. Can. Wait.

The physical yoga is the obvious part of a yoga retreat, so we’ll take that as a given, assuming you’re going to slot in an hour or so of easy and gentle yoga stretches and calming breathing (perhaps one kick-butt vinyasa to begin with, if that helps you burn off some stress). See if you can use this break to be good to yourself, indulging in nourishing things, which may include a gentler yoga practice than you’re used to. Guatemala Yoga Retreat When your home is an ashram, every day of the year can be an escape from the daily grind, even if only for a few minutes at a time. Your home can become the kind of place that invites you to be reflective, to relax, to meditate.

Living in a peaceful environment makes it easy to schedule these little mini-retreats regularly and they’ll keep you going until you’re able to go on that uber-yummy yoga retreat in an exquisite location. Like the retreats I’ve been happily hosting with my yoga friend, Karen, in fabulous places like Lake Atitlán in Guatemala and Lake Arenal in Costa Rica  😉

Relax. Replenish. Rejuvenate.  =  Retreat.

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books!]