About 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to lead a trip in Costa Rica. Beach, jungle, animals, where else would I want to go? Of course back then my kids were little and there was no way I could get away for a week. Plus, I had never done anything like this before and didn’t really know how to start planning.
I poked around on the internet at the time and Googled “yoga retreats in Costa Rica.” There were beautiful retreat centers that boasted how monkeys just hang around and the beach is a short walk, but I knew it wasn’t yet time. I wasn’t ready and I didn’t believe that I could. The dream needed to be just a dream for awhile.
In May 2018, after a weekend spent at my old summer camp, someone I was with suggested “hey, this would be a great place for a yoga retreat.” Seed planted. I led my first yoga retreat in October 2018 at my old camp in Western Massachusetts, and we had a stellar time. We practiced yoga, meditation, did nature walks (including one at night. Ask me what Rhodopsin is), kayaked, and did archery. It was the perfect toe-dip into hosting yoga and meditation retreats.
I did another retreat in 2019, but in early September so it was just slightly warmer. Then Covid hit and 2020 never happened. When I was ready again in 2021, the previous location wasn’t open to the public, so I searched the internet for another place. While the location I chose was beautiful and had a gorgeous lake, the food was gawd awful and I wasn’t going to go back.
In 2022 I discovered an incredible location, also in Western Massachusetts, that ticked all the boxes. Comfortable beds, incredible home cooked foods, plus an energy that induced deep calm and relaxation. I have been going back ever since.
In February 2023 I ran my first Yoga and Book Club retreat. I came up with the idea of discussing a book over the course of a weekend, with yoga and meditation interspersed. The perfect way to spend a Winter weekend: yoga, book discussions, hot tea, and wonderful community. It was a big hit! So much so that I am repeating the retreat with a different book in March 2024. Clickhereto learn more!
After I posted about my book club retreat on “the ‘Gram,” a tour company reached out to me about possibly running one of my retreats internationally. Costa Rica was calling me again, and they could help me set up my retreat. They sent me information about 7 or 8 retreat centers and I chose the Goddess Garden. The beach was a short walk away and they were immersed in many acres of jungle. Check and check.
I couldn’t believe that this just fell into my lap like this. It was meant to be.
They also organized daily tours, like kayaking, hiking, animal sightings (so many animals), visiting the Sloth Sanctuary, and spending the day with the indigenous Bri Bri people. Once I chose the tours I wanted I was ready for sign ups. I overfilled the retreat. How could that be?! I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t wait to go and I was able to bring my 17 year old son with me as well.
Dream comes true
On January 19, 2024 I set off for Costa Rica. I was excited to spend my 52nd birthday there and it was a truly special week. We practiced yoga and meditation daily, saw animals, both on tours and at the Goddess Garden, and were able to reset our minds and bodies to be fully present and at peace. The food was incredible vegetarian fare, made lovingly every day. I’d never had papaya or bananas this fresh before, and my birthday cake was incredible.
Our tour guides had a deep passion for the land and the animals that was contagious. They helped us spot sloths, howler and capuchin monkeys, iguanas in the trees, frogs, both poisonous and not, and the beautiful and highly venomous eyelash viper. We saw birds, spiders, and small lizards all over. We never would have seen these amazing creatures without the support of these incredible men.
The day at the beach at Punta Uva was just what we needed. After kayaking and spotting more wildlife, including tons of black river turtles sunning themselves, we spent an hour in warm, blue ocean water that is nothing like the beaches in the Northeast US. A mama and baby sloth hung out nearby (in the trees) and completed the day.
It’s hard to put into words how I feel now that I am home. This retreat is now just a memory for me to hold and cherish. But I am definitely taking “pura vida” with me into my life. Pura vida is a vibe, a mindset of going with the flow. It means that all is joyful, peaceful, and good. Pura vida, pure life.
It was a special experience to teach yoga in such a beautiful space with incredible, open-minded students, both new and old. Some people have been practicing yoga with me for 20+ years, some were new to me on this retreat. There were many times during yoga and meditation that we had the soundscape of frogs singing, rain falling on the roof of the yoga shala, and howler monkeys howling in the area. No recorded music could ever compare to the music of the surrounding jungle.
To be able to share this week with my teen son was many steps above what it could have been. He was kind and supportive to my retreatants, and engaged in all that we did (except the yoga–he was the photographer). We shared the joy of a unique experience that filled the heart and soul in a way that I had never thought possible. My dream of running a retreat in Costa Rica was made so much better by being able to share it with my younger boy. It was so special. I can’t wait to do it again!
Join Janine on Retreat!
Janine runs retreats of various types 2-3 times per year. If you want to get on the retreat email list, click here! You’ll never miss an announcement!
August 9-12, Summer Yoga and Meditation Retreat with Sound Healing: Vicky Rutkowski is joining Janine for a special retreat! In addition to Yoga, meditation, nature walks, and more, Vicky is bringing her singing bowls to create a truly special weekend of community and healing. Click here to learn more!