We had always talked about trying yoga, but I never found myself with an opportunity worth pursuing. The activity sounded like it could be a lot of fun, but the prospect of taking a class in a boring location or trying it out with a horrible DIY yoga DVD never made a lot of sense to me.
For a while during our long-term trip, we talked about heading to a retreat in India to work on our yoga, but backed away due to the fact that we simply had no idea what we were doing (and by we, I mean me). The idea faded into memory until several months later when we were invited to Blue Osa’s Press Week to come give yoga a try in an all-levels rated course.
Not one to tempt fate too many times, we jumped on the opportunity.
How has my opinion of yoga changed since taking in my first set of classes? I now have five confessions that I have to get off my chest.
1) I Wasn’t the Only One Who Had No Idea What They Were Doing
You may be thinking, “why on Earth would you sign up for a yoga retreat if you have never done it before?”
I asked myself this many times before committing to the trip, and it was only after speaking with Yogi Aaron a few times via email that I was convinced the class would truly be for all skill levels- even mine.
When I say I had never tried yoga before, I really mean it. I don’t even think I’ve ever touched a yoga mat in person prior to taking this trip, and the closest exercise I’ve ever performed was one of Angie’s pilate tapes, for about half of the session, one time.
You can imagine my apprehension when it came to doing yoga in a retreat-like setting as I thought I’d be surrounded by others who practice every day and would not be challenged- all while I fumbled and made a fool of myself.
While there were others who had taken a significant number of classes (and even one certified teacher), the fact that the retreat was all levels meant that there were many who had only tried yoga a handful of times, and even two others who were first-timers like me. Sure, maybe the class was skewed a bit since we were on a press trip; however, it did give hope as to what other all-level classes may be like.
Even in this setting, our theme for the week of “Why Asana?” (most literal translation: “postures”) was a unique one as we spent most of the sessions focusing on postures, alignment, and other similar issues many classes breeze right on over such that everyone in the class, even the most advanced, were receiving critiques and advice for improvement. When considering the topic for an all-level yoga class, this one was perfect.
2) I Noticed Changes in My Body Immediately
Does yoga actually do anything good for your body? This was another of the many questions I had prior to taking my first retreat.
Although I am thoroughly convinced that it would take several weeks’ worth of classes to get the full benefit of yoga, both physically and spiritually, I can say that without a doubt I felt a change in my body after just 2-3 lessons.
First, let’s focus on the physical side of yoga. As our retreat focus of “Why Asana?” was along the topics of postures and alignment, I came away being more aware on how I carry my body in everyday situations. Coming from a background where I’m always on a computer, I slouched a lot and always had pretty poor posture when sitting or standing. After taking a few yoga sessions, I found myself standing taller with better posture in my back as the days after the retreat went on.
Second, there is the spiritual side of yoga. I’m not going to go on any wild tangents about what yoga does for a person spiritually as, to be quite honest, I haven’t experienced any of that yet. I suspect that this is one of the benefits that comes after practicing for a very long time. But how about after one week? Well, I can easily say that I noticed myself becoming less stressed out about pending deadlines, speaking engagements, and product launches I am working on. The simple act of sitting still and letting the mind go did help me achieve a bit of clarity in what I needed to do with my work, and helped reduce the associated stress.
Even though I was an absolute beginner, these two benefits were enough to make me happy.
3) I Would Not Want a “Bad” Instructor
Aren’t all yoga masters about pushing the body to the limits with hand-stands and other weird positions?
If there is one thing I am thankful for from my entire yoga experience, it would be that Yogi Aaron from Blue Osa was a great instructor. Not that I have any other Yogis to compare him to, but having a leader in a beginners level class who helps everyone improve is key to having an enjoyable experience and returning to try it again.
After reading stories about other yoga classes online, where instructors may not talk at all and just rapid fire through many positions, I can see how there is a lot of variation with how yoga can be taught.
But as someone who likes learning more of the background rather than just doing a pose, having added insight made the experience that much more enriching. I could pick up on all of the positions pretty quickly and was also given first hand advice on how to improve (and I have no problem in admitting that this one happened quite a bit). Swap that with another instructor who doesn’t care about beginners and you could have a very disappointing experience when trying yoga for the first time.
4) Starting With a View of the Beach Was a Great Decision
Why would anyone pay money to take yoga at a retreat when classes are cheaper at home? Out of all of the questions I had going into this experience, this one was the easiest to answer.
We could see the ocean from the studio. Not only that, we could hear the ocean from the studio.
In an earlier section I touched on the topic of the spiritual benefits of yoga and how even after a few days of trying it out I had an overall calm and clarity on what I needed to do for my work. Yes, this did come from sitting still and relaxing during the sessions, but I cannot argue the fact that having the sounds of the ocean during class helped a great deal.
At the retreat in Costa Rica I was sitting on my yoga mat looking out at the ocean, listening to the waves, and seeing scarlet macaws fly by every few minutes.
Doing yoga at home has a view of well, hmm, the parking lot? Maybe a concrete wall? A park if you’re lucky?
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I never wanted to try yoga in the first place. Something about doing it in the middle of the urban jungle of big cities makes the whole experience sound like the opposite of relaxing. If I’m going to try something out to become relaxed and achieve mental clarity, you better put me in an environment that can help with that!
5) I Want to Do It Again
Would I want to do it again, or would I run away screaming? I had my suspicions before taking my first yoga class that I was going to like doing it. I’ve rarely met anyone who practices yoga that isn’t abnormally calm and in the kind of happiness zone I would like to be in as well.
The fact of the matter is that there were two roadblocks I had to taking in this popular activity that I’ve already highlighted in this article: I wanted to do it somewhere peaceful and my skill level (or lack thereof) gave me a mental block to jumping in and doing it. By heading out to a yoga retreat on the beach in a remote corner of Costa Rica, I got everything I was looking for and more.
This is one activity I cannot wait to try again in the future!
We’d like to thank Blue Osa for inviting us down for Press Week to give yoga a try at their retreat ourselves. If you are looking for a peaceful place to take a yoga retreat, check them out as we absolutely fell in love with the property and staff during our stay! As always, all opinions are our own.
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