Costa Rica was never a place that I had planned on traveling to. In fact, I really didn’t know much about the country, other than it was supposed to be beautiful and natural. Without much knowledge or preparation, I soon found myself traveling deep into the mysteries of the Costa Rican rainforest for a week-long yoga retreat.
I have traveled extensively throughout my life, backpacking through Europe, hiking mountains, swimming in oceans, walking in deserts, but never did I ever want to go to the rainforest. I visualized poisonous snakes, flying bats, and large insects. The rainforest, no thanks, not for me…
Then one day I decided to attend a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. After a long and stressful winter, I felt emotionally and mentally exhausted and knew that I needed to practice self-care, something that I often teach clients to do, so without delay, I signed up, not really knowing what I was getting myself into, nor did I have any expectations, but I packed my bags and headed for the airport.
For some unknown reason, I assumed we were heading towards the coast, and when I found out that I wasn’t going to be anywhere near the ocean, my brain went amuck and I visualized being claustrophobic and trapped inside the rainforest. I even started to think, “How do I get out of this?” I had never wanted to go to the rainforest in the first place. Why was I going? Why didn’t I read the itinerary? Panic sunk it, I tried to rationalize the situation and knew that I had to move through the fear. I just needed to take one day at a time and remember that it was a new adventure.
I invited a good friend to come along on the retreat. She had never been to the rainforest or Costa Rica either, and also had a fear of insects and snakes. We both were excited and fearful at the same time. The day of our flight, we knew that we would be stranded in Houston overnight, so to save money, we decided to sleep in the airport. Huge mistake! We couldn’t find anywhere that was even remotely secluded. We had to sleep on the floor on our yoga mats under bright lights, blasting televisions, floor sweepers, and ongoing noise and chatter from passing travelers and airport workers. Needless to say, neither one of us slept at all that night. At 5am we dragged ourselves to our gate and boarded our plane.
We were the first to arrive at SJO Airport, so we hung out at an outside café taking in the warm Costa Rican sunshine. Eventually, we all met up and crammed ourselves into a small shuttle and drove four hours to Finca Luna Nueva, an organic farm and eco-lodge. The city was full of people, cars, and traffic going in all directions. Eventually, we left the city and drove through green lush mountains and countryside and passed colorful villages where people sold fruit and veggies on the roadside. My friend pointed out that we were driving out of the sunshine and into thick dark clouds. I later came to fully understand the meaning of the word “rainforest”, as the rain truly became a part of me. It cleansed my body, my mind, and my spirit. I had never loved the rain so much as I did in Costa Rica.
After a four-hour drive, we arrived at Finca Luna Nueva, the place was breathtaking, set deep within the heart of the rainforest. The farm had private cabins and bungalows, a beautiful wooden pavilion for yoga, a swimming pool, hot tub, and outside kitchen and dining room. My fears quickly diminished and were overtaken by the healing forces of nature, as I felt truly alive and completely at home within the womb-like confines of the Costa Rican rainforest.
My travel companion and I quickly found our cabin, unpacked our bags, and excitedly went exploring our beautiful new world which in comparison to the snowy white and gray landscape of Wisconsin we had left behind, was now alive, colorful and green.
Dinner time was always a wonderful experience with healthy food and great company. Our meals were eaten outside in the dining room where we ate vibrant, delicious, organic meals grown directly on the farm. Meals consisted of a beautiful variety of colorful fruits and vegetables including a staple protein and dessert. Fresh fruit juices and smoothies were also available along with Costa Rican grown organic coffee. Sauces and salad dressings were made of turmeric and other healthy spices. The food was fresh, full of life and about as healthy as you can get. After dinner, we sat in the hot tub unwinding after a long sleepless night in the airport, excitedly chatting about our upcoming adventures for the rest of the week.
The clouds that we saw and drove into on our first day of travel remained and for the rest of the week at Finca Luna Nueva, and we experienced nonstop rain. Normally I would have been upset about the rain, but somehow the magic of the rainforest captured my spirit and the rain washed away thoughts and worries from the past. After a few days of hiking and living in the rain, it felt like the rain was a cocoon. We simply became a part of the rainforest. We practiced yoga in the rain, hiked the trails of the rainforest, went to the hot springs in the rain and even zip-lined over the rainforest canopy as we flew high and fast from tree to tree. We even hiked up a volcano in the rain. None of us knew at the time that we were going to Costa Rica during the rainy season, but it didn’t matter as the rain seemed to enrich our experience and created a sacred space that could not be found anywhere else.
Costa Rica breathed life into my depleted soul, giving me energy and passion again. Through the beauty of the rainforest, mountains, and volcanoes, to the simplicity and minimalism of the local people who offered to share their homes and their meals with us, the country offered me adventure, excitement, and spiritual nurturance, that I so desperately needed at the time. This yoga retreat turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. My roommate and I spent a week laughing together, I met and formed new friendships with a great group of people and experienced things I had never done before, including white water rafting, climbing a volcano, hiking in the rainforest, swimming in hot springs and ziplining above the rainforest canopy.
Whitewater rafting was an exciting new adventure for me. Although fearful, I moved through the fear and jumped into the raft. From the first moment that we paddled off, the excitement created a spark in my soul and I once again felt fully alive! We rode over huge waves and dodged large submerged rocks, and hung on for dear life at times, but I loved every moment of it. Halfway through our trip, we stopped at a sandy beach and ate fresh native grown watermelon and pineapples. We then jumped back into the raft and continued our journey down the river.
As we paddled, our rafting guide pointed out a beautiful large tree on the river’s bank and said that it was the Ceiba tree and said that it meant, “Hand of God” reaching up into the sky. The Ceiba tree is sacred. My spirit was touched. Costa Rica turned out to be, “the hand of God,” for me in a way that it provided me with passion, excitement, and exploration into unknown territories again.
In the beginning, I had no expectations about Costa Rica, but it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. Like the hand of God, Costa Rica lifted my body and soul up in a way that I will never forget.