The following reflection was first published on Sangha Yoga Shala’s blog.
July, 2009: I wake up to the sound of howler monkeys in the branches above my cabina. This is the morning’s singsong: creatures great and small roaring and chirping and chattering, the whole Costa Rican jungle humming with energy. Every day for the past week has begun this way. No alarm clock needed when your internal clock syncs to nature.
I head out to the yoga deck to lead our daily practice and after a requisite café con leche, and my students meet me on the mat for a vigorous morning vinyasa flow. We begin in stillness, seated in sukhasana, and I implore them to turn inward. Our external offerings are only as good as what we first offer ourselves: a little softness, kindness, understanding. Compassion begets compassion. As our practice begins and the internal heat starts to build, so does the heat of the morning sun as it climbs up the sky.
When the morning practice is over, a spread of fresh fruit and homemade granola awaits us, and we head down to Playa Guiones, a two-mile stretch of pristine, white sand beach, for our surf lesson. Yoga and surfing practically exist to complement each other: they are both distinctly different disciplines, and yet also perfectly alike. After you’ve schlepped your longboard awkwardly down to the beach, slathered on your SPF 50, and hesitantly stepped into the saltwater, you arrive at a point where nothing else seems to register as important: it’s just you, a board, and the entire ocean pushing back at you.
The euphoric experience of standing up on my surfboard reminds me of the first time that I was able to balance in Sirsasana A (headstand) without the support of a wall: equally empowering and humbling. This seems to become the natural theme of the retreat as our experience plays out: finding that place between powerfully and consciously making our efforts with strength and grace, and then surrendering the results of those efforts with humility and compassion.
Everyday begins with yoga and is followed by surfing, relaxation and reflection, and then more yoga in the afternoon. On our last morning, we arise together and practice Sun Salutations facing the ocean as our final offering. The challenge that now faces us is how to maintain this inner softness and peace as we go back out into the world. That’s often the heart of any yoga retreat: to remove ourselves from our day-to-day lives and rediscover inspiration and perception, and then to figure out how to carry that with us into our routines. Bring the extraordinary to the ordinary.
Costa Rica was an extraordinary experience, and we’ll be returning in the winter for another yoga/surf retreat. Join Alana and I for the week of February 6-12, 2010. More details at www.nosarayogaretreat.com.
More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/yogasara07/