By Lauren Eckstrom
If you love both yoga and travel, yoga retreats and destination trainings provide unique opportunities to delve into local culture, experience healthy cuisine and expand your awareness of world culture. The Costa Rica Yoga Resort and Spa, where we are currently hosting our 200 hour Holistic Yoga Flow international teacher training, employs local chefs, organic farmers, retreat hosts and full time staff.
In the last year, Fabian, an organic farmer with a background in perma culture and garden design, created a stunning, expansive garden complete with healing herbs, luscious greens, healthy soil and a composting area. Fabian was born in the highlands of Costa Rica where the soil is rich and growing just about anything comes with ease. But here on the coast in Nosara, the soil was not prepared for such abundant growth. Fabian worked hard to cultivate the perfect combination of horse manure and active, healthy bacteria until the soil was ready for planting. As he prepared the soil he simultaneously worked with a team of local gardeners to build the square mandala shape of the garden outlined with rocks for wide planting beds. Using zero chemicals and only natural pest repellent created with ingredients such as hot pepper oil and cayenne, anyone visiting the retreat center can now enjoy a plentiful, organic garden. Salads with fresh arugula, green chard or kale decorate the tables daily. Fabian added beautiful flowering plants throughout the garden to attract pollinators, which are critical to the success of flourishing plant life. A tour through the garden gives you aromatic experiences of lavender, coriander and more. As he teaches you to gently run your fingers across the leaves, almost caressing their fragile frames, stunning scents waft across your fingertips. Fabian delicately hands visitors leaves pulled straight from the plants to taste, chew and experience each plants’ full flavor and possibility. Many of the plants he tends possess powerful healing properties to ease the pain of ear aches, calm the discomfort of urinary tract infections and eliminate the pangs of digestive issues that visitors might face while away from home. Fabian’s desire is to inspire visitors to return home ready to plant their own garden because as he passionately explains, “nothing tastes better than food from your own backyard.”
Many of the hosts at the retreat center were born and raised in the bustling capital city of San Jose. Eduardo passionately gazes into your eyes with a warm greeting upon arrival and without hesitation tells you “we are already family.” Each morning he greets everyone with a hug and warm embrace, ready to make their day reminiscent of home. Eduardo left a high paying job in the field of electric energy design to pursue life closer to nature. He reflects on days spent in front of four large computers where the only sense of the outdoors came from screen savers of the ocean. He became wildly disenchanted with the illusion, or what in yoga we call maya, of the San Jose party scene, materialistic accumulation and a life of indulgence so he headed to Nosara with the intention of reclaiming the human need for connection to nature and simplicity. Daily he prepares magical tumeric and ginger teas for helping worn yogis decrease bodily inflammation and energetically rejuvenate. Eduardo’s love of yoga, healing arts and being of service to others gives each person visiting a sense of being fully taken care of, seen and loved. He hopes visitors leave inspired to care for nature through energy conservation, recycling and sustainable living.
Luxurious yoga retreat centers can sometimes take us further away from local culture rather than closer to it. Working with retreat centers that invest in the local community, employ locals and empower the surrounding area is both inspiring and positive. Making sure that our visits help to keep the local economy healthy and vibrant is part of our responsibility as traveling yoga teachers and students. As you take your practice on the road, make sure to visit local craftsmen and women, restaurants, healers and cultural centers. If the retreat you are on is separate from the local community, make time in your schedule to explore the beautiful people around you. Even if you do not speak the local language well (or at all) learn a few key words such as a warm greeting and please or thank you. Every effort to be part of the community is noticed and appreciated.
Travel. Without question experiences are the best spent money in the world. Travel with care, a desire to learn and grow, a passion to serve and an understanding that we are a very small part of this wide, incredible and amazing world. There is so much the world community has to offer, so many diverse people and places; do not hesitate to step outside of your comfort zone. What you will find is that we are on the same journey, we are one human family and if you let yourself, people all over the world will welcome you with open arms.