Yoga, Alajuela-Style — By Jennifer Shipp
Central America Costa Rica North America

Yoga, Alajuela-Style — By Jennifer Shipp

Walking Calle Vargus in Alajuela Costa Rica with an assortment of yoga mats
John and Lydian walking along the shoulder of Calle Vargus in Alajuela, Costa Rica on our way to the bus station.

In Costa Rica, yoga is a big deal. Apparently, because Costa Rica is a mecca for surfing, yoga has taken hold. The connection between these two sports only makes sense after seeing a few photos of people doing yoga on surf boards on the sand. Apparently, surfers do yoga to get better at surfing, which is what has brought the practice to Costa Rica, even in the Central Valley, which is where we’ll be stationed for the next 10 weeks or so.

We take classes in foreign countries for a lot of reasons. The main ones being to practice the language and get to meet people at the same time. Often, we get to learn new skills too. In Mexico, for example, Lydian took a bellydancing class. Enrolling in classes is infinitely more interesting to me than doing the traditional tourist activities. Not to say that I don’t end up seeing the major sights, but top priority is getting into some community-type activity that allows us to meet people and practice learning the language of the place where we’re living.

I was glad to see that there was a man teaching the yoga class at the MindBody Zone because I figured it would make things more fair for John, at least psychologically. There were perhaps five other students in the class and amazingly, one of them was male. The classroom itself was beautifully decorated with bamboo all over the place, on the walls and ceilings, a Ganesh statue and other Hindu artifacts, and a little fountain in the background trickling happily.  The floors were wooden, but the lady out front offered us free use of some yoga mats for the night (there were some for sale as well in the front lobby). I provide directions to the school here.

I have studied yoga for many years on my own and even taught yoga for a period of time in our small Nebraskan community, but I have never had the opportunity to actually take a yoga class in person. I always viewed the lack of a hands-on instructor as a major shortcoming in my own practice, despite the fact that I have a lot of knowledge about human anatomy (I taught human anatomy lab at the University of Nebraska) and a lot of experience doing yoga personally. I was a little nervous about taking the class just because I was afraid that I would discover that perhaps I have been doing everything wrong for the past ten years or so, but luckily this was not the case.

Obviously, I don’t have a lot of experience with other yoga schools in Costa Rica, or anywhere else in the world (yet), but I was able to follow along pretty easily with my rudimentary understanding of yoga and the instructor’s mostly Spanish instruction. I spent the first half of the class trying with all my might figure out what “despiraciones” were. He kept saying the word and it didn’t make sense to me. In fact, none of his words made sense to me. They all ran together. My inner child started to get frustrated.

Then it dawned on me: “respiraciones” (respirations). He would tell us to count for a certain number of breaths as we held a pose. SCORE! I had figured out ONE word! What was sad was that I’d had what seemed like a really good conversation with “Francisco”, a guy who drives us around when we can’t find any other form of transportation, on our way to the MindBody Zone. Now, as we were doing the motions in the class, I realized again just how little Spanish I actually knew. I recognized the words “izquierda” (left) and “derecha” (right) if I listened really closely, but if I spaced off even for a moment, I’d miss even these words.

The man teaching the class was incredibly flexible. A gentle soul. He knew some English and helped us out by speaking a bit of it when we seemed really lost. He had Lydian demonstrate a handstand which generated some applause. Then we all had to do handstands (with other people spotting us, of course). I was glad we went because frankly it was more interesting that sitting in our little yellow house watching Baby First TV in Spanish (this is the only channel we can all watch and understand).

Since this was only our first class, all of my generalizations are based on a small sample set, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Costa Rica yoga could do for me. Perhaps I’ll become enlightened. Or at least more flexible.

Related Posts:

First Yoga Class for All — By Lydian Shipp

Finding the Alajuela Yoga Studio — By Jennifer Shipp

Look at that Guy Carrying All Those Yoga Mats — By Jennifer Shipp

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