For the past few years I have been exploring yoga on a deeper level, becoming certified to teach and deepening my own practice, mainly ashtanga and more recently balancing the yang of ashtanga with a nurturing yin practice. My teachers for ashtanga have been based out the Downwarddog Studio in Toronto and I feel fortunate to have been so close to a studio of really great, dedicated teachers, including Ron Reid and his partner Marla Meenakhi Joy, Diane Bruni (who has now moved to open up a great studio based on exploring movement) , Cecily Milne and Amica Hilton.
This february I was fortunate to be able to journey down to the remote and beautiful Pavones, Costa Rica (known for a super long left point break made for those of use with a goofy foot stance on a surf board, and one day I hope to be able to be good enough at surfing to ride it through!)
Ron and Marla presented the Art of Vinyasa as a part of our 500hr TT in this incredible paradise that they now get to call their part time home. The training provided us with an opportunity to have an early morning mysore practice in Amy Khoo’s studio, Shooting Star, a yoga palapa with the most beautiful wind chimes and overlooking the ocean, with Ron and Marla evolving our practice each day with their gentle guidance. After Mysore we were hosted in Ron and Marls’s beautiful home next door( Casa Swaha) to a breakfast feast made with love and care by Rondalynn, who went over and above the call of duty each time, chia seed puddings, gluten free baked delicacies, fresh fruits and more, smoothies and powerballs.
Breakfast was followed by Ron’s teachings in the Art of Vinyasa. In this his approach was to teach us the vinyasa of each pose, breaking down the mysterious art of working with a student to build their practice into one that would grow into a full expression of an asana(pose) in the safest way for the longevity of their body and practice. His years of experience, brought to us in an engaging and thoughtful way. This experience has allowed him the time to observe what works, what doesn’t, what to do to avoid long term and short term injury, but also has given him the time to truly observe and explore each asana and then share the beauty of its potential in an accessible way. And as an added bonus it is always interesting to hear his stories of when he first started studying with Pattabhi Jois in India way back when Ashtanga at Mysore was a small room of students, who are now the original teachers of Ashtanga here in North America.
When this class let out, we crossed the jungle street to the ocean and had a wonderful dip in the Ocean, bliss to float under the beautiful sky in the warm bath of the ocean after 5 hours of working on our bodies and minds, to be held and suspended effortlessly, such a great way to have a break.
If I had my way, all learning would take place in paradise, what a great balance! Then we once again would head up to Casa Swaha for a divine lunch by Rondalynn….she liked to base each day on a different countries cuisine, and I can tell you, good thing it was all super healthy, because it was so good, I ate more then I needed every time. This woman needs to put out a recipe book! Oh and by the way she also flies helicopters, surfs and restores century homes… What! Wow.
After lunch we continued the day with Marla, who guided us through further breakdowns of the asanas, as well as sequencing to build up to a particular asana or focus of the body, i.e. hip opening, which is really helpful in learning how to sequence a class. Marla is really great at getting people into challenging poses before they even know they are there and then having a good sense of humor about it. One day we were even treated to Yoga Nidra, a guided yoga in which you enter lucid sleep like state and a deep level of relaxation, and another day we explored some restorative/yin like yoga.
As usual, I feel like I have walked away with so much from their training, and I look forward to being able to bring this to my own practice and to share it as a teacher with my own students.
Our second night in Pavones, Amy Khoo, invited us to a Jungle Soul Kitchen! So off we went in the back of a truck up the jungle mountain about 20 minutes to a woman, who happens to be the best surfer in Pavones we are told, Laura’s house. She built this amazing house herself, its big open, overlooks the mountainside to a full view of the ocean. Here local friends and expat’s living in Pavones gathered for an incredible evening of music and food. Two local guys who had organic farms supplied the produce and Laura and 2 of her friends prepared the feast. Following dinner Laura and 2 friends, one from Rising Apalachia, treated us to some beautiful music on her stage.
On my day off, I took a surfing lesson with Amy and her husband Alex. Yay! up on my first wave, so fun! But let me tell you paddling out to the waves is super hard on the arms, I was exhilarated and exhausted. Finding the right balance on the wave to jump up on your board and ride it out is challenging and fun. Waiting for the right wave is magical and takes patience.
My favorite restaurant in Pavones was Ronitals, a local place where he had an outdoor kitchen and grill, very latin american rustic, cooked up rice and beans, served a delicious plate of perfectly sautéed vegetables, and patacones…. oh patacones , so good, basically they are fried smashed plantain. $6 wow!
For lunch or breakfast there was Tico Mex, filling a good mexican style fair, and Cafe de Suerte….awesome smoothies.
But the man who probably got the most hunted down, was Beto the Caoco guy, he would walk into town with his freshly made from scratch caoco rolls with middles of ginger or sesame seed or nuts or honey. We were all addicted, throwing our colones at him, stocking up on many rolls at a time, because you never new when you would see him next. I was lucky enough to get an order in to bring home, not sure what I am going to do when I run out!
Not only does Pavones have an incredible ocean with a left point break, and great temperatures, and no biting bugs, but there is the best river going through it. I was staying at this beautiful place, Riviera, during the retreat which had access to a part of the river where no one else was and was a perfect escape from the hot mid day sun, or an afternoon after training. It was cool, fresh, peaceful and magical. I could site a meditate on a rock, sink into the coolness of the river bed or just witness the harmonious chaos of nature. The leaves rustling, sunlight beaming through cracks in the trees, reflecting off of falling leaves, patterns on the surface of the water, cicadas humming, birds, river rocks creating mini water falls, so much happening yet so peaceful, natures orchestra.
My last day I was lucky enough to go to a spa that organic farmer Jonnie, had built on one of his properties after spending years touring spas in Thailand and Bali. Definitely not something you would know even exsisted if you were just passing through the rustic town of Pavones. There are people who have come here and build their own private paradises and hidden treasures at the end of the road. He had a steam room that released the scent of his own grown lemon grass, a beautiful wooden dry sauna, a water fall dip bath, and an igloo covered cold dip bath, all served up with the good company of Robin and Craig, Ron and Marla, Amy, Jonnie and a tall glass of fresh cane juice and a sky full of beautiful stars.
If you would like to go on your own Costa Rica Yoga Retreat join Sonja for the Zen Nomad Yoga Retreat in Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, right across the gulf from Pavonnes on March 28- April 4 2015. Click here