Costa Rica Yoga Retreat

May 29, 2016

Good Morning and Happy Sunday All!

I have to apologize for being so MIA over the last month (couple months?). Things have been pretty nutso for me and I’ve just been otherwise occupied. If you have been following me on Instagram you know that I recently returned from a  week-long yoga retreat in Costa Rica. In reality, I think it was more of a week-long vacation, with other yogis, and some yoga sprinkled in. Either way, it was a much needed break from the real world and I thought I’d share a recap with you.

When I decided to book this trip, I did so because the universe was basically shouting at me “Woman! You have ZERO excuses! Just do it!” I often fantasize about hopping on a plane and traveling all over, but a combination of anxiety and pragmatism generally brings me back down to earth, and subsequently leaves me stuck right here in the real world. This time, the trip was in a country I’ve visited before, which means I was familiar with the culture, and having a degree in Spanish, I spoke the language. The trip fell over my birthday week – perfect excuse. All the other folks attending were traveling alone, so no risk of being the odd man out. And the kicker, the airline tickets were not only direct, but super affordable. Ok, universe – I get it! And so I signed up on the first day.

Then I had the chance to sit and stew over my decision for months. I was mostly excited. I have travelled more places outside the US, than I have in it and so I always sort of consider myself a traveler. But, it wasn’t until maybe 2 weeks before that I realized that I have really only traveled alone once before, when I left for a study abroad in Spain some 8 years ago. The anxiety began to kick in, and I wondered if I had made a mistake. Luckily there was a forum thread set up for all of the attendees, so I was able to find out that there was another person on the same flight as me – instant relief.

Day 1:

And so the day came, I drove myself to LAX at the butt crack of dawn and hopped on my flight to San Jose, CR.

Costa Rica Recap - airport
It was an easy flight and by the time we landed, it was raining and glorious. 5 of us met up outside the airport, and it was so cool to put faces to the names that I had been seeing on the forum thread. These people were real! We were picked up by the friendliest driver ever, Roy and 90 minutes later arrived at the beautiful Vida Asana Eco Retreat and Yoga Center. This place was amazing. There were snacks waiting for us when we arrived, thank goodness – talk about starving. Costa Rica Recap - Vida Asana

I had chosen to room with 2 other people in an effort to force myself out of just being a total hermit the whole trip. Thank goodness, because I had the best roommates ever! We got settled into our little apartment, complete with kitchen and sitting area, and then headed back out for dinner. After dinner, the owner, Sean gave us a run down of the activities that were available for the week. Sean’s a super passionate guy and as we listened to him talk, I found myself choking back tears, just so overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude for this opportunity to take a week just for me. Glorious. All we had to do was list all the activities we were interested in and they would schedule them. Perfect!

Day 2:

The first full day, was our first yoga class – and holy hell was it hot. I mean super hot. We’re talking g 80-90 degrees sandlike 90% humidity. I brought a Jade travel mat because I knew I was going to sweat and I didn’t wanna slip and fall in downward dog. But man, sticky as that mat is, I was slipping and sliding all over the place. I don’t think I’ve ever sweat that much in a yoga class. After breakfast, most of use walked the 1.5 miles to Playa Hermosa, the black sand beach. It was beautiful and we just soaked up the sun and chatted.

Costa Rica Recap - Playa Hermosa

The walk back was brutal as there was no breeze and no shade. I definitely got a little sunburn, but it was worth it. We were back in time for lunch and then spent some time by the pool relaxing before heading out on a local hike. It was all uphill (hello glutes!) but it concluded at an abandoned building that was going to be a restaurant/hotel. It was never completed, but the structure that was left included this huge balcony with an amazing view of the ocean!

Costa Rica Recap - Abandoned Hotel

Day 3:

Wednesday was my 29th birthday. The day started with a yoga class, and then breakfast. But the highlight of the day was getting the best massage I’ve ever experienced. I decided to treat myself to a 2-hour ‘Pure Bliss’ massage, where Jessica, the massage therapist focused on the marma points, which are like Ayurvedic pressure points. It was so much more than a standard massage, as she actually did some chanting throughout. It was concluded with what’s called Shirodara. Basically she heats oil (coconut and olive) and then it’s poured in a steady stream across the forehead, intended to open the third eye. Wow. Life changing. The only way I can describe it, I think, is that it suddenly felt like there was no more separation between my head and the entire universe. Like the universe was just an extension of me. Pretty incredible. Needless to say I came out looking super blissed out.

Costa Rica Recap - Pure Bliss Massage

After dinner, Heather, the uber-talented chef made this delicious cake to celebrate my birthday. It was a corn based cake, with a chocolate coconut sauce. A totally unexpectedly incredible mix of flavors. I should mention that Heather is currently working on a cook book and you can bet your ass I’ll be buying myself a copy of that – I’ll be sure to share when it comes out so that you, too, can experience some of the amazing recipes she has. The whole group sang Happy Birthday to me. A group of total strangers. It’s a little odd to celebrate your birthday with a group of people you just met, but in the very best way. It was the perfect birthday.

Costa Rica Recap - Birthday Cake



Day 4:

We started out the day with a 5am yoga class, which was probably my favorite class. There’s something glorious about doing yoga in an outdoor space, lit only by citronella torches and surrounded by the sound of crickets and birds, and then waking up out of savasana to daylight.

Costa Rica Recap - Yoga Shala 1

After class we scarfed down breakfast before heading out for a tour through Manuel Antonio national park, where we saw sloths, monkeys, frogs, and all kinds of wild life. We ended the walk at the most beautiful white sand beach, where we witnessed a couple raccoons steal a bag of passports from some guy on the beach – #jungleproblems.

Costa Rica Recap - Manuel Antonio

After that, we went to a restaurant called El Avion that had a plane in the entrance! I ate a whole fresh snapper and had some amazing cocktails. That might have been the highlight of the trip- just enjoying lunch with a view, with a group of new friends.

Costa Rica Recap - Fish

Day 5:

The last yoga class was focused on building strength and working on handstands, which was both fun and challenging. Then I spent most of that day lounging by the pool reading my book.

Costa Rica Recap - Pool

That afternoon 5 of us went to a Temescal Sweat Lodge. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Hot stones are loaded into a pit in a small stone building and as you sit in there the guide pours water and herbs over the stones to heat the room. It gets hot, I mean really hot. And you chant, and breathe, and sing, and even scream! I think we all let go of some stuff with a couple of those screams. I mean really – when’s the last time you let out an authentic, from the soul, uninhibited scream? You go in for a bit, then come out and cool off in n a small pool before going back in. After the last round we all walked down to the beach to watch the sunset in a blissful near silence. It was so peaceful and the perfect way to close out the trip.

Costa Rica Recap - Sunset

Day 6:

The last morning was interesting as we all started to get notifications that our flights were cancelled. I guess I hadn’t considered the possibility that a volcano eruption would close the airport that I was supposed to fly out of. A moment of panic hit and at this point I was so grateful to have one of the other girls on my flight. I was also grateful to have Sean, the owner, there to help us call the airports and coordinate changes. With his help we rebooked out of the other airport, Liberia, and hired a car to drive us the 3-3.5 hours there. We said bid farewell to each other and to the beautiful retreat center and hit the road. Costa Rica Recap - Cafe
It was a long and crazy drive with lots of illegal (at least in the US), close call passing, and no AC, and we arrived exhausted and sweaty. But we made it in enough time to grab some food and a beer in the airport, before hopping on the 6 hour flight back home. It took us over an hour to get through customs when we landed, and I didn’t get home until about midnight.  You know you’ve had a relaxing week when that kind of day doesn’t bring you down.

I’m still floating on that post-vacation high a bit, and can’t wait to plan my next adventure.

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  • Reply Fran Doublefay May 29, 2016 at 11:27 am

    What an absolutely amazing trip! So glad you got to experience all that you did!

  • Reply Lorelei Hawkins May 31, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    What a lovely recap. Grateful to have shared tha adventure with you, Brenna! Counting you as a new friend and looking forward to connecting again in the future.

    • Reply Brenna June 5, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      Right back atcha Lorelei! So grateful to have had the pleasure of spending the week with you. Hoping out paths will cross again!

  • Reply Angie June 5, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    This sounds like such a lovely experience. I am so proud of you for taking that leap outside of your comfort zone to do something good for yourself! I hope to make it to one of Candace’s retreats someday.

    • Reply Brenna June 5, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      It was s much fun, and definitely a leap outside my comfort zone. Hoping to find a more yoga-centric retreat next time to go a little deeper into the practice. If you know of any let me know!

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