Yoga and pura vida go hand in hand. Simply put, yoga is an ancient Hindu discipline that strives to unit the mind, body, and spirit. Literally translated, pura vida means “pure life”. To Costa Ricans, “pura vida” is more than words, it is a way of life.
This way of life has many similarities to the philosophy of yoga in that it teaches us to live in the moment, be present, enjoy the simple pleasures of life, and take advantage of the abundance that our surroundings have to offer. In this hectic, modern world that we have created for ourselves, many of us have forgotten the importance of this unity and what is a pure life. Life becomes unbalanced and unnatural without these elements. I wanted to explore the idea with someone who teaches yoga and lives the pura vida, so I sat down with local expat and fellow yogi Leah MacLauchlan to talk about yoga, pura vida, and life in the “Garden of Eden”.
I am always curious as to what motivates people to make the move to Costa Rica. Leah and her husband Jim moved to Costa Rica from Canada 11 years ago and settled in the little mountain village of Atenas. I asked Leah, “Why Costa Rica?” Leah said, “My husband Jim and I liked taking exotic vacations and Costa Rica was one of those destinations.” While at the beach in Playa Ventana, Leah asked Jim, “Why don’t we create a life in a warm climate like this?” That is where it began, with a simple question. In making the final decision to move to Costa Rica, Leah continued, “We chose Costa Rica for the lifestyle, the people, flora and fauna, fresh fruit and vegetables, and spectacular scenery. There is something magical about Costa Rica. We also had started a mini storage business here that was doing well, so it made sense to be close by to run the business.” Why Atenas? She continued, “We specifically chose Atenas for its location since it is close to the city (San Jose) and beaches. Atenas has everything we need like shopping and banks, clean, pure mountain air, and great people.” Leah says Atenas is her “Garden of Eden”.
The experience of living in a foreign country and the impact that it has on lives is different for everyone. I asked Leah how living in Costa Rica changed/impacted her life. She said, “Living in Costa Rica has taught me to slow down and realize the value of what is important. Here I can watch the sunrise and enjoy it, and not feel guilty about not doing something else. Back in Canada no one has time to just watch the sunrise. When we are in that rushed lifestyle we don’t take time to see what is around us. There is beauty in simplicity. It’s a simple life here in Atenas. Costa Ricans thrive on simplicity and tranquility. They accomplish everything we do, but in their own time. They are also very peaceful and I have learned a lot from them.”
Leah is a yoga instructor and self proclaimed yogaholic, who offers local yoga classes and retreats throughout Costa Rica. I myself discovered yoga years ago and personally know the value of the practice in all its aspects. Also, I have known the privilege of a yoga session on Leah’s platform. I left completely recharged and inspired. The setting is stunning with winding trails, lush plantings, and the sounds of nature that lead you to a yoga platform set in a heavenly paradise. I wanted to know more about Leah’s experience and what she has to offer. Leah told me, “When I first came to Costa Rica I was into jogging and aerobics. I was introduced to yoga by a friend and I loved it. I tried to find a teacher here in Atenas but at the time there was not one. I met a teacher from Orotina and she came to Atenas to show me and a small group the basics of the practice. I also learned from books and like minded women. Then I decided to go for my teacher training so I could spread the good word and benefits of yoga.”
Leah is trained in hatha yoga, which is physical and focuses on the muscles, yin yoga that is a slow meditative practice where postures are often seated and held longer (3-5 minutes), and restorative yoga that is practiced with props to support the body. Restorative yoga is good for those with special needs, injuries, and illnesses. Other than the physical, what are the benefits of yoga? Leah said, “What I love about yoga is that it is personal. Your practice is your yoga, where you are at in that specific moment. There is no competition in yoga. The practice is truly in the moment. It is the mind, body and spirit in union. Once off the mat, you take that out into your community and make different choices. You become more in tune with yourself and others, sensitive, and you open your heart. That is what yoga teaches us.” Leah offers classes at her home in Atenas on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7-8:30 a.m. The price for walk-ins is 2,500 colones or 20,000 per month. She also offers classes on Tuesday and Saturday at Ana’s Place in Atenas from 8-9 a.m and on Thursday, Anna Hunt teaches a class from 8-9 a.m. Those classes are 2,000 colones each.
Self improvement retreats with an individual focus are becoming more popular everyday and yoga is no exception. The idea of a yoga retreat is very appealing to many so I asked Leah to talk about the retreats that she offers here in Costa Rica. “I have done many retreats throughout Costa Rica with our local yoga community. We try to keep the retreats to 3 days, typically in the low season (May and October) for better rates. We also try to always choose a different location for each retreat to create a new experience. Costa Rica has everything from mountains, beaches, rivers, volcanos, jungle, and hot springs. It’s important to choose a location where we can also see something in the area. We have done retreats at Rio Chirripo, the Osa peninsula, and El Silencio Lodge, to name a few. The retreats include room, healthy meals, meditations, yoga practices (5-6), and some type of tour (hiking for example) during the stay. The beauty of the retreat is that you are removing yourself from your everyday environment and discovering new places along the way. You eat, sleep, and breath yoga. It is truly beneficial because you are there on retreat and only focused on yourself. It’s your time. You are surrounded by love, and love is healing.” In addition to offering these retreats to her local yoga circle, Leah has recently partnered on a new venture with fellow yogi Anna Hunt, called Pura Vida Yoga Vacations (www.puravidayogavacations.com), where they will organize retreats for groups, taking care of all the logistics. The teacher will come to Costa Rica with their students and only focus on yoga.
I wanted to know how Leah felt about the “pura vida”, particularly in its relation to her yoga practice and experience in Costa Rica. I could see the spark in Leah’s eye when she said, “In Costa Rica we can practice yoga outside. I have a yoga platform outside (covered) so being close to nature, its sounds and vibrations, is a real privilege. Here in Costa Rica practicing in the outdoors is obtainable 365 days a year. It’s fantastic. You pick up on the energy of the surrounding environment. Now when I practice yoga in an enclosed space it is a bit difficult.” How does “pura vida” relate to yoga? Leah continued, “Pura Vida is living in the moment, not looking back at the past, or looking forward to the future. It is being in the now. Also because you are in NATURE. Completely surrounded by nature and that is PURA VIDA, pure life. There is no outside influence or the rapid pace of the external world. When you are in nature you connect because that is your true self. Nature is the natural healer. Nature heals! Costa Ricans know all these things, they are rich in knowledge with things like using natural medicine and medicinal plants. With a plant you can heal yourself. In Costa Rica we have the chance to live a pure life, PURE VIDA.”
I asked Leah if she had one thing to say to everyone, what would that be? Without hesitation Leah said, “I truly believe if everyone practiced yoga the world would be a better place.” I asked why she believes that to be true and she said, “Because it brings you peace, therefore we can share peace. It brings inner peace and compassion.” That is a sentiment that I can agree with. If we can all remember that what happened yesterday is the past and cannot be changed, that what will happen tomorrow is the future and cannot be controlled, then what we do today in the present is what matters because it is all we truly have for sure. Focus on that, live in the moment, and soak up every drop of joy and pleasure that life has to offer and then you will have discovered what Costa Rican’s have known for many years as pura vida, the pure life. Namaste.
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Tours in Costa Rica
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Retirement Living in Atenas
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