I heard a fellow yogi say retreats aren’t a privilege, nor a luxury. They’re a necessity. I get that. I feel it in my core. And, I’m making it a mantra. Here’s why.
Momming, emailing, driving, cooking, laundry and dishes, walking the dog, all of the loving tasks that make up life — I can happily say I did zero of those things in Costa Rica. And when I returned at the end of January from a week-long retreat with Minturn, Colorado-based Anahata Yoga, I fell back into step with brighter-eyed gratitude.
I’d been craving a retreat for years, and I’d placated that hunger with a steady feed of mountain town yoga classes, energy work, women’s circles and epically rewarding journaling workshops I’d recently started leading. I am fortunate to have a malleable, freelancer’s work-from-anywhere schedule, able to pop into a noon vinyasa class, a weekend meditation circle or a Thursday sound healing. That’s non-negotiable me-time, and I prioritize it.
But, the full immersion was missing.
I have a son who’s now 7 and, for his first five years, I was the main person in his every day. The thought of leaving him for a week and breaking that bond of stability — him knowing I’d be there, dropping him off and picking him up from school, packing his snacks, tucking him in at night and sewing legs back on his favorite lovie when the dog chewed one off again — was hard to embrace. My husband’s high-demand administrative role keeps him away 60 to 70 hours a week; he pitches in every minute he can, but logistically for me to leave for a week, back-up troops would need to be called in.
So, that’s what we did. Nana came to live with my husband and son for a week, and I grabbed a direct flight to Liberia, Costa Rica to take a pause from the race to be productive.
What I expected was a lot more do and go. What I got was glorious free time to roam and rest and reconnect with myself. Encantada (literal translation: enchanting) brought the pura vida pace of life to 18 of us retreating souls. The beach cottage destination had everything we needed: hammocks, a pool, an open-air yoga shala, a full-service restaurant serving three locally sourced, healthy meals a day, cruiser bikes, miles of sandy beach to walk, surf lessons and massage offerings.
A daily itinerary wasn’t sent out pre-travel. The retreat organizer and Anahata studio owner Chelsea Winters planned each of the seven days out with a beautiful blend of mindful precision and flowing free time. I loved that.
I knew that morning yoga would begin at 7:30 a.m. next to the warm, salty ocean and that rich Costa Rican coffee and fresh plucked bananas would be waiting in the open-air restaurant where the house cats lounged and occasionally lifted their heads to watch tiny lizards flick by. I knew that after a breakfast of fresh juice (passion fruit and mango was a crowd pleaser), chia, eggs, gallo pinto and sticky sweet grilled plantains, I could read a book (I finished three books that week! Unheard of at home) or take a barefoot beach walk, lounge on an oceanside bed or doze off by the pool and sneak in a nap (also unheard of). I knew that we’d reconvene late afternoon for an intentional shala workshop on meditation, mantras, cacao or mala-making and that I’d learn something new from a sun-kissed retreater that night over our woodfire-grilled dinner. I treasured the fact that I’d probably go to bed by 9 p.m. and relish in my nine hours of slumber before rising with the sun to journal and breathe by the water in the 72-degree morning light.
We were 30 minutes south of Jaco on the Pacific coast and in a radiant zone of positive energy, deep peace and slower, simple living. After a day or two of feeling a little off kilter — like I should be doing something, right? — the zen seeped into my pores and bones, and I felt that full alignment with my true essence, connected to source energy and fully embracing the joyful wholeness of just being.
Retreat time reinforced those hometown rituals I’ve come to grow quite fond of (okay, borderline addicted to) in daily life. My yoga, meditation and journaling practice is strong and a crucial anchor. I left Costa Rica feeling truly present and tapped into myself. I think that’s the most coveted retreat gift — that time we don’t or won’t take for ourselves when we’re blindingly deep in the grind to be present and listen to that inner voice.
It’s an introspective gift, one that I plan on giving myself at least once a year.
YOGA RETREAT TIPS FOR FIRST-TIMERS
1. Yoga pants are great for airport travel, not so great for humid Central America al fresco yoga practices. Pack yoga shorts and tanks or athletic bras.
2. Take the time to journal and reflect while you’re there.
3. Read books. Lots of books. The ones you’ve been wanting to finish for years. There’s a great sense of accomplishment there.
4. Go on an excursion. Just choose one or two. No need to spend the whole time seeing the sloths, hiking, ziplining, riding in shuttles to and fro. But maybe try a surf lesson one morning or get a massage.
5. Drink a ton of water. Hydrated bodies and minds perform better. Bring travel Pepto and Imodium. Just in case.
6. Try the local fish. Don’t be scared if its head is still on or you don’t know what that green sauce is (it’s probably chimichurri, and it’s delicious).
7. Unplug. There will likely be Wi-Fi access, but other than checking in with my husband and son once and snapping a few pics, I found great benefit from being away from my phone. The weight of it, the temptation and addiction of a quick Instagram scroll — there’s no need.
Originally published in Summer + Fall 2023 issue of Colorado YOGA + life.