August 21, 2012 by Nancy Noonan

Five Lessons from a Costa Rica Yoga Retreat . . . from Diane Sieg

For the last two years, I have facilitated a yoga retreat on the Osa Peninsula at Boca Sombrero Resort. The unspoiled Osa is a remote area on the south Pacific side of Costa Rica where the rainforest meets the sea. On my first trip to Costa Rica, I was so impressed with the beauty of the jungle and ocean, the wildlife, and the people, I am returning for a third time in 2013! It is difficult to capture the full impact of our rich and colorful experience, but I wanted to share a few of the lessons learned.

1. Practice Pura Vida

Pura Vida literally translated means “Pure Life.” Costa Ricans use the phrase to express a philosophy of perseverance, good spirits, enjoying life slowly, and celebrating good fortune, whether small or large. One of our retreaters had the chance to put the concept into practice immediately when she got to the airport and realized she’d somehow failed to book her flight! All the details of arranging child care, organizing work responsibilities and carefully packing for a week in the jungle had taken precedence over actually buying her ticket. Fortunately, she was able to get on a flight that same night and arrive only a few hours later than the rest of us. And more importantly, she was able to practice pura vida and recognize the whole incident just validated how much she really needed a vacation!
The next time you make an honest mistake that proves your humanness, can you practice pura vida?

2. Open to Grace

With the overall theme of the retreat being Discover Your Inner Grace, we had ample opportunity to practice it all week. Opening to grace is a softening, allowing, and opening to the possibilities of what is, versus what you want something to be. Living in yurt huts for a week with outdoor showers, bathrooms, and the call of the wild reminding you where you are requires a softening to what is. Probably the biggest opening we had to make was getting up in the middle of the pitch dark night to go to the bathroom. With all the animal noises and (falsely) perceived threats from the jungle habitat, it was even more scary after one of our retreaters found a scorpion waiting for her in the bathroom!
Where in your life could you open to grace, to soften, allow, and open to the possibilities instead of struggling and fighting?

3. Have a Beginner’s Mind

Beginner’s mind is about approaching things with the gentle curiosity of a child instead of the harsh judgment of an adult. We all had new experiences on the Osa, whether is was surfing, river trekking, or performing handstands. With a beginner’s mind, we open up and expand our horizons without getting so frustrated about doing something we might not be very good at initially. I definitely had to use my beginner’s mind with my surfing lesson. Paddling out to beyond where the waves were breaking was exhausting, but getting up–even for a nano-second was well worth it!
Is there an activity you have been wanting to try that you could practice beginner’s mind with, even if you aren’t very good at it?

4. Flow with Nature

Whether we were planning our surfing and beach walks around the high tides, sunscreen according to the day’s rain or shine, or using headlamps when the sun went down, we flowed with nature on the Osa. We were in the rainforest, so of course it was going to rain everyday (usually less than an hour), the ocean ebbs and flows with high tide and low tide every day, and when it got dark, we went to bed after enjoying a fabulous gourmet meal. Even the howler monkeys who woke us up with their loud roars every 5 a.m. became part of that natural flow. (Well, at least once I was convinced that one hadn’t made it’s way into our tent, which I thought initially). Howler monkeys are the LOUDEST mammals on the planet and to give you an idea, they used them for the sound effects in the movie, Jurassic Park.
How different would your life be if instead of fighting and complaining about the weather or the lack of sunlight in winter, you just flowed with it?

5. Embrace your Kula

The meaning of kula is “family”, “group” or “self-contained unit”. While on the Osa, we had opportunities for endless activities from surfing to river trekking, massages, spa treatments and day trips–plus plenty of pool chairs and beach vistas to enjoy doing nothing at all. We all chose various levels of involvement from socializing to solitude, but came together for our twice daily yoga classes and four meals a day. We celebrated (3 birthdays) and we consoled (a misplaced passport, luckily found in a couple of hours). The kula held such a strong connection for us, providing a sense of support, commitment, and safety—reminding me how important it is for us all to feel like we are part of something bigger, no matter where we are.
Do you have a kula in your life you are currently embracing?
I know the 18 of us are all different people leaving the Osa than when we came. We grew, expanded, and strengthened not only in our bodies from our yoga practice but also in our minds and hearts from this rich experience. We leave with lessons from the Osa, where the rainforest meets the sea.
For more pictures, please click here to go to my Facebook album of Costa Rica.

Same time, next year? You bet! We are going back January 26-February 2, 2013. Register by August 31st and you can save $100!


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