This was my missing piece. And I knew that. I knew how much I needed this. This month long getaway and learning experience, alone, to a different country that I had never even been to before had been screaming my name for two years now. How’s my Spanish? you might be wondering. Mucho bueno! Well, good enough.
My trip was sectioned off into three parts:
Part One: Tamarindo
Part Two: Cabuya
Part Three: Santa Teresa
I would be in Costa Rica for a full 29 days. My longest trip yet. For the first four days I would be completely on my own. Based on my research, I chose to fly into Liberia. I arrived late and stayed at Las Espuelas Hotel. Actually, pretty decent spot with free breakfast! The next day, the real fun began. And so we dive into Tamarindo..
Side note; If you're reading this now and you're thinking about checking out Costa Rica, keep the following in mind.. 1) Don’t trust any cab that isn’t red with a yellow triangle on it, this goes for anywhere in Costa Rica 2) Buy a freshly machete trimmed coconut as often as possible 3) Do not flash things you don’t want to get stolen 4) Do not leave your belongings on the beach unattended EVER unless you want them to get stolen. Trust me on this one. I got my Havanas stolen while surfing, Costa Ricans love them things 5) Colones > US dollars/credit 6) Drink bottled. Local markets will always be cheapest 7) Chill out on a hammock at least once, it is necessary 8) While walking around, I almost always kept a pocketknife on me. If you are going to be traveling alone, it is absolutely necessary. Not to freak any of you out but it is better to be safe than sorry. Dress lax, it helps. Be mindful and just enjoy! 9) You don’t need to know Spanish, but you most likely will be taken advantage of if you don’t. It helps to practice at least the basics. I have a few apps that are super helpful. Ask me for more details! Moving on now..
The beach is amazing here. Great for surf. Great for sunsets.. Actually, some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life, so far. My first time hanging out at the beach in Tamarindo, my ass hadn't felt the sand or hot sun in several months so I was on cloud 9. I laid my yoga towel down on the wet sand close to shore, laid back, and soaked in ever ray the sun was offering me. I vividly remember lying there, with my head on the ground, eyes closed, mind drifting. I wanted to take in every moment and every beautiful sound. I listened as the waves crashed inches away from my feet. And I swear, I could hear the jungle. I could hear the trees. The animals. As if they were right behind me. It was the strangest thing. Considering I was not in the jungle (yet). That'd be in Cabuya. But before we get to the jungle, let me do some well deserved shout outs..
2) Dragonfly Bar & Grill: This spot was right behind my hotel. They have live music every Saturday night by two of the most amazing talented musicians I had the pleasure of meeting. If you get the chance to see Tony and Johan play live, do not miss out on this opportunity. Their story is inspirational and their passion shines from their heart through their fingertips. Mesmerizing, I tell ya. Almost as magical as Harry Potter.
This was it! My jungle fever was real; my curiosity was boiling. I had been waiting for this moment for what felt like all of my life. From Tamarindo, I took a shuttle to the point of no turning back. Off the beaten path and about a 20-minute hike into the jungle and past the two rivers, was my new home for the next 21 days: The Sanctuary At Two Rivers. For 21 days I would be sharing space with a bunch of people I had never met before and rooming with a complete stranger. I would be eating an all vegan/vegetarian diet, which is the complete opposite of my, at the time, meat loving one. Waking up every morning, no later than 530, and starting my day with 2 hours of yoga.. every-single-day. And shortly after, 7 hours of class time. Yes, 9 hours of practice every day, excluding our 2 Saturdays off and our ritual sessions, which included things like intense moonlight guided mediation dances and waterfall rituals. Yes, the most hippy shit I personally had ever participated in. And I loved every second of it. I could write a whole book on these 3 weeks alone but the point of this was not to share all . So, we’ll save the pages, cut this short, and skip to a few specific things I’d like to share with you right……. Now, I want to fill you in on why I needed this experience more than ever.
Get comfy, shit is about to get real.
I wasn’t in the best place in my life.. My heart was still healing, body was out of shape, and my mind was all over the damn place. I was on edge almost always. Miserable at work. Miserable with my life choices and recycled bad habits. I just couldn’t continue living life this way. I needed more of a reason to want to live, to want to feel, to want to change. I was in the slumps, itching to escape from reality, not fully realizing how powerful this jungle oasis was about to be. Layers of emotions would be oozing out from every inch of me. Little did I know, I wasn’t going to be completely alone with my feelings. 15 beautiful women, including me, all set out to the middle of nowhere to push our selves against our limits in this intensive 200-hour course. I 100% believe we were all meant to be there together at that moment.
We needed each other. We needed this.
It was time to break myself out of my comfort zone and explore my thoughts and emotions and desires and everything in between. So stuck in the middle and I was tired of it. I knew how beneficial yoga was based on my on and off practice with it over the past several years. I knew yoga was something I wanted to better understand. I wanted to incorporate more of it into my life, not necessarily on a teaching aspect, but the certification certainly was a plus.
I remember upon my arrival to The Sanctuary being welcomed by all of the different forms of life: birds flew over head while they sang their different songs, monkeys howled from tree to tree and watched in curiosity, reptiles inched through the lush gardens.. All of this natural wild life and us; It was the most beautiful earthly experience. Feeling and being so close to nature on such a personal level was so fresh and inviting.
Honestly, despite the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not that monkey walking through the trees at 10 o' clock at night was going to try to throw bows, or if you were going to step on a boa constrictor accidently, or be eaten alive by ants in the middle of the night… I had never felt safer in my life. After awhile you get used to the thousands of sounds and creatures. With a mutual exchange of space and respect you just.. live. They become your sanity. Well, at least they became mine.
I connected with Mother Nature on the most personal level. With so much beauty to admire it was hard not to get lost whilst gazing into this luscious life. There is nothing like being surrounded by a family of monkeys while drifting between yoga poses. Watching the sun rise, feeling its rays kiss your skin gently at first and then in all its raging glory as it peeks through the trees. Appreciating each hummingbird’s dance from flower to flower. Feeling the vibration from the bats diving in and out of the pagoda so fast and precisely, it was hard not to admire their agility.
I was in love.
We were blessed with some of the best food I’ve personally ever eaten in my life. All cooked with love, sweat, and tears by our kitchen angels, aka “residents”: some were natives to Costa Rica and living on or around the territory, others whom had just completed their YTT journey or were about to. Breakfast, lunch (plus dessert), and dinner. A different meal every-freaking-day. All Vegan or Vegetarian. All local. Organic ingredients were a plus. Lots of lemon water, tea and of course that addicting Costa Rican coffee. Let me tell you, I don’t even drink coffee. Tea > Coffee. BUT, I had to give this shit a try because everyone was talking so highly about it. Welp, I started drinking it everyday after the first try. It was a drug, I tell ya. If I didn’t have coffee after breakfast, I was nodding off in class shortly after.
The first week was the most challenging. I got comfortable real quick. However, I had energy boiling inside of me that was dying to be released. I remember being an hour into our morning practice a few days into the first week. Liz, our yoga teacher, was, to put it nicely, kicking our asses. Inca Yuyo blasted through the speakers as we continuously jumped in and out of a squatting position, aka “chair pose”. This is one pose I personally do not particularly enjoy. “Notice your patterns!” Liz’s voice battled over the music; my heart felt every vibration. “What do you do when it gets hard, when you get tired..” I panted in long pauses as sweat dripped from my forehead while my thighs began to tremble and burn, “Do you give up? Do you keep pushing?” I felt the energy rushing through me. My breath was uneven and heavy. “Fuck this.. No I can do this.. Ugh.. Maybe I cant” She had planted a seed.. “Most likely, how you react and what you decide to do in this moment relates to the decisions you make with other things in your life when things get hard”. Four minutes in and I wanted to burst into tears. But I didn’t. I held back. Because I knew in that moment if I let it all go I was going to have a mental breakdown. I choked back the tears but it only became more difficult once the tempo changed and we found ourselves standing in exhaustion swinging our arms around like empty coat sleeves. The music spoke to me as if I was sitting on a psychologists’ couch in the midst of a really deep personal session, “ We can live in fear / Extend our selves to love / We can fall below / Or lift our selves above / Fear can stop you loving / Love can stop your fear / But it’s not always that clear “ The lump in my chest was being rung out with each twist of my torso. I wasn’t ready to fully release, but I knew I was going to have a break through soon.
“Just let it all go. Don’t hold back. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to scream, scream.” Liz said after I brought to her and everyone’s attention during our class later that evening that I was so very close to falling to my knees in tears during our practice. I made it a point, after that moment, I would let whatever feelings I felt go. I would not hold back. This would be the theme to my journey. I already knew how to feel. Now was the time to learn how to let go.
Six days in, I found my first moment of release during our first jungle dance. What a freaking psychedelic trip. Talk about a natural high. Through guided mediation I found my first tears while Liz helped paint these vivid personal images of our family and the waves of pain, negativity and bad karma that we’ve obtained over the past seven generations without even knowing. As the theory goes, we harbor as much as seven generations of baggage from our family’s pasts. This jungle dance was dedicated to finding our release. Release of any pain we might be avoiding, to free our families, our future children and our selves of any negative karma. I could feel the weight being lifted off my body through my different motions, as my spine and steps became liquid, as I drifted in a subtle dance in and out of each song. I felt each energy float through the thick hot air. We effortlessly glided our way around the pagoda in the darkness. That night I had a life changing experience, a moment of pure and utter bliss: The ultimate high. Weightless. Free. Exposed. Raw. Real. It was as if I was flying. It was as if butterflies were fluttering against every inch of my skin. I grinned from ear to ear. I had never felt this way sober. It was incredible. And I knew I wanted to better understand this feeling. I knew I had to feel it again. I cried several times that night. I remember at the end of our jungle dance, leaning over the railing, breathing deeply, and just crying. I didn’t know what I was feeling exactly I just knew it felt so good to let it go. My body vibrated with energy. Between my energy and the energy I was receiving from these women I just shared this extremely personal moment with, it was overwhelming, but incredibly beautiful.
Over the next two weeks, we’d become even more vulnerable and exposed to our selves and each other. We were no longer strangers, no. We were sisters. Jungle sisters. After our first week, any and all judgment quickly dissipated. Unbiased and free, I could be 100% myself. The more I learned, the more I fell in love with yoga and The Sanctuary. There were many times of uncertainty, confusion, frustration, and exhaustion. We never had a day to ourselves to process everything. It was the most extreme but also the most eye opening 3 weeks of my life.
Freedom Outside of Cabuya
Our days off were extremely necessary and a bit odd. After spending every day rotating around the same routine around the same people in the middle of nowhere, you get a little stir crazy and forget what reality is like. First day out of the jungle was to Santa Teresa. Our second, Montezuma. We were free to explore, drink, lounge on the beach all day and eat whatever the hell we wanted.
In Santa Teresa, 5 of us took a surfing lesson. Best decision I could have made. With some of the best surf in the country, we were blessed with having a couple awesome and yes, sexy, instructors from Nala. I know what you’re thinking, did I get up on the board….. YUP. But not the first time. The first time I ate complete shit. Thankfully I listened when we were told to cover our heads at all times when crashing.
I didn’t anticipate the power of the wave, “Pop up! Pop up!” God, I can be slow.. My late reaction resulted in me tumbling face first and getting smacked and dragged by my board and the waves instantaneously, like I was in the washing machine during a “heavy” load. The moment I caught my footing, I gasped for air, coughing out the sand as I quickly came back to life. “Alright then” I said out loud, “Lets try this again” I remember thinking later that day how I probably would have gave up if that happened to me in the past. Something inside me was changing. I was battling my fears, and I was winning.
Montezuma was nice; quaint and a little less touristy. My body had been aching since before I arrived in Costa Rica so a massage was at the top of my list when visiting. We were told of this little, kinda sketchy, hotel along the beach that offered full body one hour massages for $35. This lady’s hands were worth at least $100. Perfect massage, cheap booze, beautiful beaches, breathtaking views and good company.
When it came to our final days, I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to leave. I was aware of how hard it was going to be for me going back to reality now knowing everything I knew. But I had three more days in Costa Rica. Three more days to explore, unwind, and just think alone for once. Since I hadn’t had a day to myself for 3 weeks.
I wanted so much from this and I got so much more than I could have ever imagined and I will forever be eternally grateful for everyone who had contributed to my YTT experience. If you were one of those beautiful souls who joined me on this journey, I personally thank you right now. Each one of you left an individual mark on my heart. And that, I could never forget.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And a very special thank you to our yoga teacher, Liz. And our assistant yoga teacher, Lena. These women are incredible beings. I couldn’t have asked for a better duo.
"The world really doesn't need a bunch of new yoga teachers. What the world needs are strong, fearless, healthy, whole women who support each other and who can stand tall in their own power. That's what makes you a teacher, and thats what makes you a healer."
I was diving out of the outskirts and into the final part of my trip. After careful research and meditation on where I wanted to end this journey, I decided on Santa Teresa.
Costa Rica was truly an Incredible, unforgettable experience. One that I would relive and do over in a heartbeat.
Costa Rica, you will always have a piece of my heart. Thank you.
Until we see each other again, adiós!