Below is a series of blog entries I wrote during my recent 300-hour teacher training in Costa Rica. Enjoy!
January 9, 2015
Today begins my journey to Costa Rica, the land of Pura Vida, where I will be spending a month diving deeper into my yoga practice. It seems appropriate that I should come to a land where the motto Pura Vida runs the place; Pura Vida literally means pure life, experiencing the pure essence of living life to the fullest. What better place to delve into yoga, the purpose of which is to gain greater understanding of your self. And, isn't understanding your self the pure essence of living life to its fullest? So, at this moment, at the start of what is likely going to be a very transformative experience, I am most overcome with gratitude for having this opportunity.
January 10, 2015
Today was our first day together as a group. From the start of our van ride from San Jose to Samasati Nature Retreat Center, I knew that I was in for a global treat. As I got to know my fellow teacher trainees, it became clear that we all came from different parts of the world with the common goal and purpose of yoga. Our varying life experiences were interesting and made for delightful conversation, although ultimately we all were simply pure spirits striving to know ourselves better through this month-long yoga training intensive. And, later that day, while sitting in the meditation hall for introductions with teachers from Italy and students from the U.S., Canada, Norway, Germany, Romania, and Poland, I could not help but consider the significance of us all finding something so powerful, pure, and true in the practices of yoga that brought us all together in this experience.
January 11, 2015
While spending an hour today learning about the alignment considerations in Tadasana (mountain pose), it became apparent that we were all quite literally, and perhaps for the first time ever, really learning how to properly stand on our own two feet! It is something that we often take for granted in our daily lives, yet not understanding this basic alignment and principles of posture can lead to many physical ailments and emotional blockages. It is interesting to consider that something seemingly as basic as standing can actually be much more involved when examined closely. We could easily spend our entire lifetime simply learning how to feel and stand in our own body. And, in fact, isn't that just what we all came here to do - to learn how to more deeply feel and stand in correct alignment with our body and our purpose in this lifetime.
January 13, 2015
It is only our third day in training and things are already starting to get intense. The four hours of daily yoga practices on top of five hours of daily lecture combined with the jungle energy and the rustic lodgings are all starting to heat up our Ego bodies, giving rise to a tidal wave of emotions. Fatigue, irritability, joy, peace, and homesickness are just a few of the palpable emotions felt within the group energy already. And so, with things starting to heat up, many of decided to take advantage of an extended lunch break today to explore the nearest town, Puerto Viejo. As we explored the shops and restaurants of this classic Costa Rican beach town, we filled ourselves up with its vibrant energy. A short walk to the shoreline allowed us the much needed reprieve to sink our bare feet in the cool sand while allowing the Caribbean waters to wash over our feet. As we returned for our afternoon classes, smiling and giggling, it was clear that today our spirits were rejuvenated by our unexpected visit into town. Pura Vida!
January 15, 2015
We squeezed in another adventure during our lunch break from intense yoga practices today! A group of us headed down to the waterfalls and natural swimming hole just a short 20 minute hike from where we have been staying. On the hike down, we connected with the incredible nature around us - the trees that must be at least hundreds of years old, massive leaves, beautiful hanging vines and branches. We marveled at the intricate and efficient assembly line created by Costa Rican ants as they marched along a self-made path carrying pieces of leaves on their backs. And then, the highlight of the whole adventure - the waterfalls and swimming hole. We jumped into the swimming hole, stood under the waterfall, and simply felt alive. Standing in the swimming hole, gazing above, the lush green leaves canopying us with blue skies and sunshine peeking through. Now, this is yoga! In that space and at that moment, I was completely present, full of life, energy, and joy. I was one with myself, one with my new friends, one with the water, one with the ants and one with the trees.
January 16, 2015
As I get to know my fellow classmates better, it is becoming clear that many of us have experiences of suffering from which we are healing. Whether it be suffering in the form of divorce, the loss of a partner, or the diagnosis of a debilitating disease, we have all found yoga to be an important source of healing. I have already found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks while laying in Savasana as certain experiences have been triggered by these powerful practices. I remind myself that when these memories get triggered, it is simply a signal that I am still holding on. As I continue to release these mental and emotional burdens, I experience greater peace and joy. It is from this space that I relate to others and that others are relating to me. It is from this same space that we are starting to develop true connections with each other - in community, friendship, love, and support.
January 18, 2015
Our lesson today was on meditation. We discussed that two primary components of any meditation technique are a repetitive point of focus and the ability to return to that focus when distracted. Seen in this way, most anything can be considered a form of meditation if done with intention and awareness - walking, breathing, running, cooking, and even dancing. To complete the lesson, our teacher surprised us with a dance meditation practice! For an hour, 25 of us danced around the meditation hall to a playlist compiled by our teacher. Now, that's an experience to remember - 25 yogi's dancing around, grinning from ear to ear, in the middle of the jungle. And, you know what? It really was meditative, bringing presence and joy to all of us. We followed our meditative dance session with a closed eye asana class. During this asana portion, while holding warrior two with my eyes closed, my witnessing self observed a tiny smile forming on my lips. My spirit was pleased - I got it, a moment of complete presence, complete joy, complete bliss.
January 23, 2015
We are about midway through the program now. Fatigue is definitely setting in for all of us. The four hours of daily yoga practice is starting to wear us down physically, mentally, and emotionally. For me, this fatigue has triggered mental images of past experiences and fears about the future. In fact, just yesterday, someone commented that it looked like I was carrying the burdens of the whole world on my shoulders; this is how heavy these mental projections can be. This is the time in the program when tapas is kicking into full gear; tapas is the fire that burns us through discipline, strength, and willpower to push though the difficulties because we know that spiritual purity and reward are on the other side. And, I tell myself that this is the time, when the fatigue and intensity set in, that breakthroughs and true transformation occur. And so I barreled through the day, and somewhere in there, I released something. A burden was lifted. And this evening, when I walked to dinner after asana class, I felt lighter, like I no longer held the burden of the world on my shoulders. And, this, my friends, is just part of the magic of yoga.
January 28, 2015
Today, we had our written exam, an assessment of all that we have learned over the past 3 weeks. Of course, a written exam cannot truly capture all the gifts that we have received and lessons learned during our time together. To truly assess our time together, one only needs to observe the smiles, laughs, and tears that we have shared along the way. Our signs of progress were most evident during our evening yoga class when we had another dance meditation experience. As I danced with my new friends in the jungles of Costa Rica, all I saw was joy resonating from each individual, and I just knew that these past few weeks gave us all a taste of the healing that our spirits needed. It was evident that we were all a little bit lighter, a little bit brighter, and a little bit clearer.
February 2, 2015
There is a beautiful blue butterfly that flutters around outside our yoga practice room. Often during our lecture, at least once a day, I will catch a glimpse of this lovely creature through the window. Interestingly, I only ever see this butterfly when I am in the classroom; I have not once seen it when walking outside. This is an image and experience, like many others, that I cannot capture with my camera. Yet, it is one that lifts my spirit and lightens my heart every time that I see it. So much of life cannot be truly expressed through words or captured in images, but can only be felt through experience. And, just as the butterfly flutters from one place to another, we embrace these moments and practice allowing these experiences to touch us and then letting them go.
February 7, 2015
Today was our last full day of teacher training, and guess what? For the first and only time in these past 30 days, I saw the blue butterfly while I was outside! No longer was there a barrier of a window between me and this magnificent vision. How significant that this would occur on my last day of this intense yoga training! I was on the same side of the window as this butterfly, no longer a barrier, no longer separate; rather, I had the experience of oneness with the beauty surrounding me. The goal of yoga, the purpose of this journey - union and oneness- were all captured in this single moment, this single experience.