Redefining vacation the Pura Vida way

Very rarely as adults do we include the word “magical” in a sentence and literally mean it. Magic is for children, not grown-ups. I guess if I had to use a grown-up synonym, I would have to go with “transformational”. That is exactly what my vacation earlier this month was – transformational, on so many levels and transcending all previous definitions of the “taking time off”.

So I’ve recently started practicing yoga and have been amazed by how it has helped my mind connect with my body. Yoga allows you to challenge yourself while also using that quiet time to introspect. It puts you in the “right now”, forces you to focus on breathing while clearing your mind of all distractions. For the duration of the practice, you are one with your body and nothing else matters. I’m usually easily distracted and at any given time, I have 20 odd thoughts running through my mind. Yoga has helped narrow it down to maybe 7 thoughts now. 🙂 I also like to push myself past comfort just to make something happen. Yoga has also come handy in addressing this by training myself to only go as far as my body will allow me and not fight it.

I’ve finally begun to enjoy that time with myself and figured what better way to take it to the next level than to attend a yoga retreat. It started off as an innocuous mention during a conversation with my husband, also a new yoga student and culminated into a “let’s do it”,  followed by a zealous search for just the right place to go to. That right place turned out to be this yoga school in Costa Rica. There were a few other promising options in Mexico and Thailand but those will have to wait for another day. We signed up for a 5 day retreat and then stay on for another 4 days after. Not knowing what to expect, the assumption was that we would be able to get 2 classes a day, with the rest of the day assigned to checking out the neighboring towns and places to see. I must say, it was a pleasant surprise to get more than we bargained for!

For one, the group we were with at the retreat was as eclectic as they come. There was a trio of girlfriends who were also colleagues, 3 other ladies on a girls’ getaway away from the daily grind, 2 cousins and a personal trainer from UK. The teacher for the retreat was there with her boyfriend and her friend from high school. Including us, it was a healthy 13 people group and extraordinarily, one that gelled effortlessly. The couple that owns the resort and the staff made the trip worth it. They went the extra mile and made sure all our needs were catered to. Once those 2 big ticket items were ticked off our list, it was easier to focus on the yoga and actually begin to enjoy the experience.

Ideally, the next 4-5 days would have felt like a blur on our usual vacation but I can oddly remember every single day and the highlights.

The early AM yoga class allowed me to begin the day by centering myself and being thankful for this process. Day 1, we signed up for a wide variety of daytime activities. One day it was hiking through a rainforest, another it was ziplining. One day a whole bunch of us went to a sweat lodge while a few others went surfing. While neither of us had any epiphanies at the sweat lodge (we had heard about some previous attendees who had a pretty profound experience), it probably served as a good detox. It didn’t help that we were giggling and having too much fun while in the hot clay igloo. 😉 The evenings were spent practicing yoga for another hour if the day wasn’t too tedious or just hanging around the cafeteria swapping stories and talking about our lives.

Every single day, I took 20 minutes to write in my journal. For those 20 minutes, I disconnected from everything around me and simply poured my mind out, filling pages. I wrote anything and everything that came to mind. Some days I wrote 4 pages, somedays just 1. It was cathartic on so many levels. I might have to burn that journal at some point in time given how candid I’ve been in it (hah) but for now it will serve as a guiding light. Day 5, when the rest of the retreat was ready to go back home, we still had 4 days left. I’ve never felt this sad watching people leave. Fortunately the teacher had a brilliant idea to create a Whatsapp group. Originally designed to share pictures, it has now become a means to stay in touch.

If I thought days 1-5 were magical, days 6-9 were phenomenal! They coincided with the 200-hour/21-day teacher training course and we had the privilege of meeting and practicing with some of the best teachers in town. Every class challenged you to push yourself just a little more, every person in attendance wanting the same thing – to hit the reset button and realign with their mind and body. This was a more mature group and discussions delved into philosophy and the meaning of life.I enjoyed every minute of it, keeping an open mind and absorbing whatever I could. I have to say, the sweat lodge didn’t help me but my epiphanies came crashing in during these last 4 days. My very own lightbulb moments! This is probably why I need to rank this vacation as my top 1! I came home sated, calmer and more aware of myself than I have ever been.

From here on out, the challenge will be to keep my focus. Yes, I may sway from time to time but I’m hoping then that I can relive this experience in my mind and get myself back on track. The one thing I know with certainty is that yoga as a practice, is definitely here to stay! It has offered far too many benefits to ignore. In fact, I’m trying to sign more people up for it. If nothing else, it will provide each of them 60 minutes of quiet and a damn good workout!

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