After a 10 hour drive South of the city, the local bus crept along the dusty dirt roads through Pavones. It eventually turned off the engine at the end of the dark road and the driver smiled and told me I had reached my destination: Punta Banco. Through the darkness I heard the waves crashing beside the slightly raised road. As my eyes adjusted to the night I could barely make out the 'steep hill' (the website does not lie!) which is the only route to The Yoga Farm.
20 minutes later, after a sweaty hike up the hill, I saw the glow from the kitchen and recognized the familiar sounds of eating, laughter backed by a symphony of forks and knives. I emerged out of the darkness to a group of people sitting together at the two communal tables as they shared stories from the day and devoured the colorful foods on their plates. I was so exhausted I passed on dinner and was guided up (another very steep) stone pathway to the main house. Few times in my life has bed felt this good...so I let my bones and muscles sink deep into the mattress and closed my eyes.
I rose with the darkness and the sounds of the jungle: lively birds, fierce howler monkeys and a soft rainfall. Minutes later the sky transformed and light enveloped the dense clouds covering the rainforest. My eyes absorbed all the green that surrounded me as I glanced outside through the open walls. It took me a moment to remember where I was and realize that I wasn't deep in a dream: I was in Punta Banco, at The Yoga Farm, teaching yoga for the next 10 days. I felt extremely privileged and sat for a moment in bed taking in all the new smells, colors and sounds.
Over the next 10 days I grew very accustomed to jungle life at The Yoga Farm. Mornings began with the sunrise and a yoga session from 6:30 - 8. Days were spent on the empty beaches of Punta Banco, exploring nearby waterfalls and getting involved in kitchen projects...peeling cacao beans, preparing meals or simply entertaining the chef of the day (volunteers rotate cooking for the entire group).
Breakfast, lunch & dinner were always the best times of the day...not just for the vibrant, homemade vegetarian meals, but for the chance to spend time with other guests & volunteers that make up this very special community.
Life on the farm is a kula or family where everyone shares responsibilities that help to create a self-sustaining atmosphere. Seasoned volunteers/guests become friends instantly with new arrivals and take them under their wing; explaining daily routine, offering insight on using compost toilets or sharing the best swimming/surfing spots.
The Yoga Farm is a collective project which has been thriving for nearly a decade. Pat & Christie, a lovely couple from Florida have been living onsite for the last 7 years. They are avid surfers and are the backbone of the farm. They organize bookings, create projects for volunteers onsite (and are also very involved in them) and have an honest passion for living a healthy, happy and alternative lifestyle. Collectively, Pat, Christie and the volunteers from around the world (travelers from Sweden to New Zealand!) are a huge part of bringing this retreat center to life.
The Yoga Farm is 100% off the grid which means they use solar power for the few lights in the kitchen/main house, and oven. The farm has rain-water and spring-fed water systems, composting for kitchen & human wastes, a flock of free range chickens which provide eggs and on site gardens which grow beautiful fruits and vegetables. The main house is dorm style, although most nights everyone opted to set up their mattress & mozzy net upstairs on the yoga deck in slumber party fashion to enjoy the breeze and an awakening to the Pacific. Compost toilets and an outdoor shower are immersed between birds of paradise, pineapple bushes and 2 meter high ginger plants. The land is both physically and energetically rich.
The farm overlooks the black sands and blue waters of Golfo Dulce, an area abundant with land and sea creatures, probably due to the unspoiled environment. The beaches from Pavones to Punta Banco (about 6 km of coastline) are open and empty. I shared the beach with a few locals who would spearfish, the occasional tourist who set up their hammock under a swaying palm or surfers embracing the clean water and rolling waves. The beach is a maze of perfectly molded and eroded drift wood, just waiting to be taken home as abstract art. The land off the beach is very underdeveloped with a few local houses, cabinas for rent, a mini-super (with the freshest ceviche I have ever tasted), a small church and a few restaurants.
The busiest day within the 6km range is on Saturdays when a small organic market is held in Pavones with about 8 tables set up to display the baked goods and food from expats (banana bread, carrot ginger muffins, shaved coconut vegan chocolate cupcakes) and local made coconut oil, honey and crafts from the indigenous community. The market is a great way to meet other travelers or locals and is the perfect amount of indulgence for your tastebuds and wallet.
From the people I met in this area it is obvious that most are like-minded and have immense respect for the land and culture. Being back in nature and embracing the 'glamping' (glamorous camping) lifestyle was a gentle reminder of how powerful, therapeutic and energizing the Earth can be. My body quickly slipped into sync with the solar and lunar cycles, rising early with the light and sleeping soon after darkness approached. These natural cycles are imperative for proper health...allowing the Earth and our physical/mental bodies to shut down for restorative sleep. The continual sound of the surf matched the flow of my breath, reminding me to slow down, breathe deeply and relish in the beauty all around me.
Throughout my travels in Costa Rica, I have not encountered many places that are still this pristine and rustic. If the idea of washing your clothes by hand, sleeping in an open air house and using a compost toilet is too basic, then this may not be the destination for you. However, if homemade food prepared with intention and love, practicing yoga daily, observing wildlife from your mattress, and becoming a part of this unique community in the jungle sound like the adventure you have always been waiting for, then get involved today! I truly believe that new experiences (especially ones out of our comfort zone and daily routine) while challenging, will always benefit us by uncovering new layers of ourselves on all levels: physically, mentally and spiritually. I would highly recommend a trip to The Yoga Farm, for any amount of time...one week to one month. Give yourself a chance to cleanse and heal naturally: log off and learn to live more simply in harmony with nature.
LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here