By Genna Marie Robustelli
Namaste: Recognizing Light & Divinity in Each Other
Perched over the edge of a cliff with water running through my toes before spilling into the swimming hole below, my heart is beating like a jackhammer on overdrive. Although the drop seems about 100 feet down, it is probably only a quarter of that in reality. Everyone else is already at the bottom, waiting for me to jump. Is it too late to mention that I am afraid of heights?
SPLASH! The cold water and a strong sense of pride rush over me. I had faced my fears - and somehow managed not to smash into the rocks while I was at it.
This was the first of many excursions on Lisa Mesinna’s week-long yoga retreat at the Anamaya Resort that were designed to unify our eclectic group of singles and couples, who ranged from age 21 to 70.
Our family of 19 yogis spent Semana Santa – Costa Rica’s busiest tourism week, with hotel occupancy pushing 90% across the country – hidden high in the hills above the small beach town of Montezuma on Costa Ria’s Nicoya Peninsula. There we were far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown, with no crowds, no reservations and no worries.
Saluting the Sun: A Typical Day
Each morning began with rays of Costa Rican sunlight peeking through my window, calling me out of bed at daybreak. At 8 a.m. sharp everyone met on the deck for an hour and a half of yoga, with the occasional visit from a curious coatimundi or troupe of howler monkeys stopping by to watch. During these sessions I hardly noticed the unexpected onlookers because I was so engulfed in the present moment, lost in Lisa’s soothing voice and anticipating the cue for the next pose.
Her Vinyasa flow-style classes linked movement to breath, with each encounter building upon the next in the perfect balance between challenging and relaxing. Lessons were a creative mix of Ashtanga (classical) yoga and elements from Lisa’s background in Canadian Dance Theater. “I like to just go with what inspires me spontaneously,” she explained. “I read my class, I see what’s happening and can simply feel what comes next.”
Between morning class and the evening seminar, we all went off in different directions – indulging in an optional canopy tour, horseback riding excursion, spa treatment, or a stroll to the center of Montezuma - a colorful oceanfront town set on a quite cove that has become a haven for international artists.
Back at the hotel, the sun set each night at 6 p.m., like clockwork. Dinners were based solely upon the whims of the chef and the freshest ingredients he could find - a typical meal might entail black bean soup followed by baked sea bass and carob ice cream for dessert. Each night we went to bed early, reconditioning our bodies to fall asleep at a reasonable hour and to wake up with the sun.
Pranayama: Breath Carries Prana, Which Is the Essence of All Living Things
This 7-day retreat offered the same perks of your average vacation to Costa Rica – great food, a beautiful boutique hotel, adventure excursions and massages. However, the true beauty is in what we were able to take home with us. Not only did we fine-tune the physical yoga poses through guided practice and Lisa’s gentle adjustments, but we were also able to reflect upon the important principles learned – bits of wisdom accumulated through time to teach us how to better live our lives, both on and off the mat.
We talked about karma yoga and the other three paths to reaching enlightenment; we practiced pranayama, how to maximize and control breath; we reviewed the seven energy shakras along the spine and how to energize them. We left Montezuma with new friends and relaxed spirits, inspired to revamp our personal yoga practices at home. And most importantly, we left Montezuma with the unanimous conclusion that it was all definitely worth that first exhilarating leap of faith.
Yoga retreat in the mountains near Orotina