Monday, May 7, 2012

Yoga by the sea

The highlight of being in Costa Rica on this yoga retreat was the fact that I was able to practice yoga twice a day with my mentors and my two favorite yoga teachers. It was amazing being able to look out from the yoga deck and see the ocean and feel the breeze on my face. I was worried that it might be too hot to practice but since we were scheduled in the morning and evening it was perfect. The only bad thing about the evenings were they seemed to attract sand fleas and mosquitos. You might be laying in savasana at night and have a hard time laying still because your arms and legs were being eaten alive. There were also a few wasp nests in there so several people got stung by them during the week. Part of the trade off for practicing outside I suppose!

View of the yoga deck

alter when you entered the room

Being able to practice twice a day took my practice to a whole new level. I was able to work on some advanced asanas that I had never had a chance to work on before as well as revisit some old "friends" that I haven't done since an arm balancing workshop I took.

partner work - melting the heart to prepare for Scorpion pose

dragon fly

yogi dandasana aka flying squirrel or pidgeon

sun dial - never done this one before!

what week wouldn't be complete without window L-sits

Naturally I practiced on the beach in my free time. The sunrise made for lovely photos:

Side plank on a tree
dancer's at sunrise

side plank tree on a tree

dancing with the ocean

opening to the sun

This retreat was also the first time I held hand stand on my own. I don't know if it was all the strength and flexibility from yoga or the environment but my fear was gone and I just went for it:
This trip not only gave me the opportunity to take my yoga practice to the next level but allowed me to build on what I already knew and opened me up to possibility. I realized I had a lot of lingering fear and self doubt as a student and a teacher and I needed to leave that behind. I also came to terms with the fact that while I am strong in some areas I need to soften in others. My legs and thighs tend to be very strong but my heart needs to soften in poses. The strength and flexibility go hand in hand. It was amazing to learn so many new things and new flows and to be able to bring this home and share with my students. I know I'm only scratching the tip of the surface here but I feel like I will only continue to build as a teacher as long as I allow myself to be a student first. And being a student in costa rica, well that isn't half bad...

When you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun.....

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Yogi Magee goes Costa Rica

If one is lucky enough they will get to visit Costa Rica at least once in their life. If one is extremely fortunate, she will get to visit it twice. This past week I was that fortunate one.

The first time I went to Costa Rica was about five years ago. It was the first place I had ever been internationally outside of Mexico and Cananda and the first time Chad and I had ever left the country together. We went with my friends Jason, Casey, and Brandy and we all flew standby down to San Jose then took a five hour shuttle and ferry ride to Santa Theresa. I celebrated my birthday there. When I left I was devastated. I did not want to leave and felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart behind. I promised I would be back and I truly felt I would return that fall. But the years went by and I traveled other places and though Costa Rica never stayed far from my heart, how do you go back when there’s so much else in the world to see?

 Then the opportunity to return presented itself in such a way I could not say no. Qi, the gym I teach yoga at announced last October that they were planning a yoga retreat there. Not only was a yoga retreat to be held there in April but my absolute two favorite teachers and my inspirations were leading the retreat. I put it out to the universe that I wanted to go. I needed to be there. So right before Christmas, I got an email from Chad asking if I would like to go to Costa Rica as my Christmas present. I nearly melted I was so thrilled at the prospect. It is by far the most unselfish gift I have ever been given in my life and I could not be more grateful to my husband. He knew how much it meant to me so he signed me up and just like that, I was headed back “home.”
flying on Nature Air from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez

I tried not to think about the trip to much ahead of time. I tried not to let myself get excited until I was on the plane and taxing away from the gate. I flew to Newark solo and it didn’t really hit me that I was traveling alone until I arrived there at 1am. I slept in the airport because the flight was so early. At about 7:30am I was on my way down to San Jose and so thankful that the standby God’s were with me and allowed me to get on the flight. I had a confirmed ticket from San Jose down to Puerto Jimenez where the retreat was being held and I had drank a few too many cocktails on the plane which gave me a renewed confidence when I arrived in San Jose. I barely remember picking a taxi driver or the drive to the Nature air airport. I do remember being extremely hung over and tired sitting in that little airport with nothing to do for three hours while I waited for my flight. Lesson learned – do not drink so much at the start of your vacation.

The flight from San Jose down to Puerto Jimenez was a little intimidating in that it was via a small 12 person plane on Nature Air. I had never been on a plane so small that there wasn’t a flight attendant so I said a silent prayer that everything would go ok. It was only about a 45 minute flight and there was no turbulence. Had I to do it over again I would suggest taking Sansa because those flights leave from the San Jose airport and then it won’t cost an extra $50 in cab fare roundtrip.

I was arriving a day earlier than most of the other yogis coming on the trip so I got to stay with some of the girls in a cabina that they rented called Cabinas Jimenez. From the airport in Puerto Jimenez (which really isn’t an airport at all, just a small building outside of an air strip) there were some vans lined up waiting to take people to where they were staying. Now it really hit me that I was alone because all these groups were going off together and here I was on my own. Luckily I was approached by someone who spoke limited English and between that and my limited Spanish I arrived at the Cabinas Jimenez. It really was not a long walk to the place at all as it was right off the water so if I stayed again I would have walked the next time.

fresh coconut water cut right from the trees at the cabinas
The Cabinas Jimenez was right on the water but had a swimming pool as well which was great because at low tide there wasn’t much of a beach to swim in. We could walk the length of the town which was a dirt road and there were a few restaurants, a grocery store, a liquor store and some bars. The Cabina’s had bikes we could use for free which made walking into town during the hot afternoon hours easier.

Typical Food in downtown Puerto Jimenez.
Getting into town a day earlier gave us an advantage in that we weren’t nearly as tired as those who had taken the red eye flight in. A shuttle from the Blue Osa where we were staying for the retreat came and picked us up at the Cabina’s and we were on our way to paradise for the week.
sunrise that woke me up at 5:15 daily

It was surreal for me to be surrounded by everyone I see at the gym and teach with and talk to here in a foreign country. When we arrived we were greeted by Aaron, one of the owners of Blue Osa and given our room assignments. Robyn and I had chosen to room together and we had a third roommate, Lisa. I must say we had the best room I believe. It was room six, right under the yoga deck and it faced the ocean. Each morning at 5 I would awaken to the sunrise and there was always a steady ocean breeze. The rooms had two double beds and a single with one bathroom. Our bathroom had no door to where the toilet was and no shower curtain. So if you have a shared room get comfortable because at some point someone will see you naked some way some how.
Our home away from home for the week

Upon our arrival we were also introduced to our schedule which they had on a white board outside the office each day. At 6am they would put out fruit, granola and yogurt but we were to eat and drink in silence. In fact quiet time ran from 10pm until 7:30am each day. After a lite snack we could go place our mats on the yoga deck and were given the opportunity to meditate from 7-7:30 after which we would have a yoga class led by Dawnelle. This class would last until about 10am, at 10:30 brunch was served then we had a snack time at 2pm and the next yoga class, taught by Alex was at 4pm. This lasted until 6pm or so then cocktail hour started at 6:30 and dinner was ready at 7. They had a bell in the main dining area that they would ring to alert us when the food was ready which was a good thing considering no one wore a watch or really knew what time it was!

Blue Osa had tours available to us to take but most of us stayed “on campus” as it were. Between the ocean and the pool and our imaginations there was never really a time to be bored. There was also an extensive spa list although those that got massages in the afternoon were subjected to us yelling and carrying on at the pool because the massage hut was right beside the pool. I had an aloe wrap on the last day which was perfect for my sunburnt skin as well as a way to have not been around when half the group left to go home. I’m not one for saying good-byes…they make me too sad.
The pool was excellent for swimming and relaxing

or leisure diving

lots and lots of leisure diving

The beach had just the right amount of shade and waves

great fallen trees for a little yoga
 One of the highlights of the trip was the deep sea fishing we did on Wednesday. My friend Sherry invited a few of us to join her on the trip to Marlin fish. I was sad to miss two yoga practices but it was good to get away from the group for a day and get out on the ocean. I admit, I was terrified to deep sea fish. Last time I did, well the last two times I went I vomited the whole day. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin Sherry’s fishing trip by being sick. Marlin fishing, however, is a whole different ball game. You go about 30 miles offshore and throw six lines in and troll for them until you can catch one on the line. Then whoever is up first has to run down and sit in a chair and start reeling as fast as she can. I decided to go first since I was afraid I would be sick later in the trip and I wanted to get a turn in. Sherry, in actuality should have been first but she immediately starting vomiting as soon as we were about 5 miles offshore. She stayed sea sick for about 5 of the 8 hour trip which was a big bummer for her but, as she says, also a learning lesson in surrendering control.
Boats and beers what more could you want?
My fish was about 110lbs (estimated by the captain) and let me tell you reeling one of those guys in is a ton of work. The deck hands were great though and tell you exactly what to do. Sport fishing is a dance of letting the line out and reeling in. You have to hold the rod tight so that it doesn’t go flying into the water but you also have to relinquish control so you can tire the fish out. It seemed like I fought with the fish for half an hour although in reality it was only about 10 minutes and then he got away. Apparently they use these circular hooks now that biodegrade and are better for the fish but they are also easier for the fish to come off of. Next up was Robyn and Brandi and Brandi ended up being the only one who got the fish into the boat for us to take a picture with. Although it wasn’t a Marlin but a sailfish, I couldn’t have been prouder of my friend for catching the fastest fish in the ocean. We released the fish after taking a picture and it reminded me a lot of what this trip was all about – us to enjoy but ultimately something we had to let go of. 

sitting in nervous anticipation

Me vs. the sea

catch of the day

you can't tame this

There are lots of things I will miss about Costa Rica and this trip- the morning meditation and the yoga with the ocean breeze in my face, the snack times and the group swims in the ocean, the afternoon leisure diving and reading, the evening yoga with torrential downpours, the frogs in front of our rooms at night and the late night swims, the dinners with different people every night, the fishing and the cold beer after, the watermelon from panama and the best pineapple I’ve ever tasted, add-on and catchetones, the chocolate ice cream donuts and the salsa, the conversations and the whispering, the tears we all shed when we left. I know that even though I will go back next year it won’t be the same because we will all be different. And maybe that’s what makes returning to the same place over again, not such a bad thing. You see or learn something new each time….just like every experience I have on the yoga mat is different.
our last yoga class together in paradise
 I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know better these people. I braved many obstacles to come down there and in return I left my worry and self doubt behind. I took home with me a courageous spirit and a melted heart and I learned much about myself. To the husband that made this all possible I cannot express enough gratitude. To the teachers who led the retreat I cannot thank them enough for their wisdom and knowledge. To the friends that I got to know better I cannot thank them enough for the laughter and the energy. And to Costa Rica for offering me a new insight I say Pura Vida. Until we meet again….