Amatierra: A Yoga Retreat Review
A Bit About My Bug
Before I tell you about Amatierra Yoga Retreat, I’d first like to mention that those of you who know me well, or even those that don’t, will know that I love to travel. I am a born explorer and intrepid globetrotter. I remember taking my first long-haul flight alone at the extraordinarily young age of 9 years old. Flying to Brazil to stay with my best friend at the time, and her family in Rio.
To some that may be slightly concerning, alarming even, especially to those who have kids of a similar age. But with my mum moving to Cape Town when I was 16, both of my parents strongly encouraged my adventurous side, even before my mum decided to relocate.
Travelling broadens the mind and allows you to experience all the fruits that life has to offer. Which is why as soon as I turned 18 I was off on my first world tour. A ‘gap yah’ that ended up lasting almost 4 years with a few breaks in between to return home to London and earn some much needed cash.
During that time I worked at a bar in Cape Town, stayed on a ski resort in the French Alps, and lived at the home of an inspiring Buddhist family, whom I’ll never forget, in a remote village in Sri Lanka. I learnt how to teach English as a foreign language, ski to a competent level, remembered the names of several South African beers and also sampled most of them too.
I went skydiving, did a glacier trek, a cage dive and saw some of the seven wonders of the world, including Machu Picchu, where I ignorantly decided to take a nap, only to be rudely awoken by a lama staring me right in the face! I even managed to travel through a good part of South East Asia, completely overland, and on a rather suffocating budget of ZAR 172 a day (that was including accommodation and travel).
Making my way down from Cambodia to Malaysia, where I took a rocky, and somewhat stomach-churning boat ride to Sumatra, to then hop on a 36-hour-long chicken bus through Jakarta. All so I could go surfing on Kuta beach in Bali.
Those that know me now, I’m sure will find all of this quite far fetched, being as “high-maintenance” as I am today. But I can assure you that the chicken bus journey wasn’t one that I’d like to repeat again any time soon, but an experience filled with life lessons nonetheless. These are the experiences that shape our futures!
Instead now, I travel mainly to pursue my new found love for yoga. Visiting wellness retreats, like Amatierra yoga retreat across the continents, predominantly in countries that I haven’t been to before. But sometimes the old favourites tend to make their way back onto my list, like Thailand. Who can resist massages-on- tap, stunning white sandy beaches and Thai green curry?
I have always toyed with the idea of travel writing, like many, but have never thought I had what it took to produce something that people would actually enjoy reading (and perhaps I still don’t have that capability). However, while I sat in the tranquil surroundings of the Amatierra Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica, the location of my latest venture, I thought, you know what? I’m going to give this a go.
Amatierra Yoga Retreat
Not only did Amatierra Yoga Retreat evoke in me a sudden urge to start writing about my travel experiences, but it
also taught me some invaluable life lessons. Mainly to enjoy life, do what you love (very important, and the premise of this piece) and to accept whatever life may bring.
Acceptance it seemed, was an intention that would be ingrained into most of our daily yoga practices at the Amatierra Yoga Retreat by our lovely teacher Mykola. Particularly when we were battling with mother nature, who seemed to want to blow us into a oblivion on four out of the eight days that I was there.
Almost toppling over while desperately trying to remain focused and balanced in a tree pose, a candle dangerously flew toward my head during – what was supposed to be – a relaxing restoration class.
Albeit the strong winds disrupting our zen, Amatierra Yoga Retreat was a most convivial place to stay. It’s my top yoga retreat for relaxing and rejuvenating, and of course for nature and scenery. Expect to see iguanas on your front doorstep and humming birds at your breakfast table.
As well as mesmerising mountainous views in every direction, that somehow managed to move your attention away from the latest page-turner.
In fact, each retreat and yoga camp that I have had the pleasure of staying at has brought with it a different kind of vibe, experience and learning curve, which is why I have decided to list my top 10 yoga retreats around the world. Starting with the subject in hand, Amatierra Yoga Retreat.
For those of you that have never been to a yoga retreat before, and want to ease your way in gently to the idea, this is the perfect place to begin. It is the first retreat I’ve encountered where you can practice yoga in the mornings and drink wine in the evenings! Organic of course.
The retreat is run by a lovely American couple, Jill and Bob, or “Baaaarrb” said in my put-on American accent. Jill is an experienced herbalist and naturopath who offers nutritional consultations on site, and tours of their impressive medicinal gardens on request. Bob is relaxed and easy-going, and can be found either manning the reception area, or trying to ply you with a recently-stocked organic Malbec, which for me, was very difficult to pass up.
The meals provided were mostly organic, with the fruit and vegetables being handpicked from the Amatierra Yoga Retreat grounds, making them fresh and full of flavour. There isn’t a choice of meal. What you get is what you’re given, but not having the option somehow takes the pressure off decision making. And as one of the other guests so rightly put it, “whatever you don’t have to cook or clean is just delicious”, which it was anyway.
Each evening we were provided with a three-course meal. The starter was either a salad or ceviche (when in Latin America). Particularly notable and unique in flavour was the watermelon ceviche which we consumed on night four. The mains were hearty but not heavy and the deserts were free-from most nasties, making them a welcome end to every meal.
The yoga itself, I felt, wasn’t ideal for beginners, but if you’re looking to challenge yourself then Mykola will certainly put you through your paces. Don’t expect inversions, but do expect to be in a plank pose for a good portion of the class. Personally, I like to feel a bit achy after a workout, it leaves me with a sense of achievement. And when you know you’ve got the rest of the day to do sweet F.A, with the prospect of drinking wine at both lunch and dinner, then it somehow makes it all the more manageable.
Despite the classes being intense, Mykola had a way of making us smile even through the gusty winds, while keeping each class varied and enjoyable.
Like most of the retreat the yoga shala was surrounded by breathtaking scenery, which made closing your eyes during the evening meditations slightly difficult. It was a sight for sore eyes indeed, and made my 14 hour plane ride over just that tad bit more palatable.
Massage, Wellness and Macaws
If you’re completely sick of doing yoga, having massages in the wellness retreat, or lounging around by the pool, then Amatierra also offers a tour of a nearby rainforest where you can see monkeys and Macaws, while finishing off your afternoon with lunch by the beach. The journey to and from each place in itself was kept fun and interesting by our driver Dixon, who wound down the windows and blared out Merengue music, a favourite genre it would seem by most of Costa Rica.
I also decided to include a tour of a nearby waterfall into my trip, costing an extra ZAR 345, and worth every cent. The whole experience was like swimming in a dream. Isn’t it strange how nature can be so captivating, especially for city-dwellers like myself?
If you’re ever at a loose end in the evenings, there is a selection of DVDs at reception that Bob will happily loan you. Classics such as Quentin Tarintino’s ‘True Romance’ are in among those listed. I watched that again for possibly the 10th time in my life. Alabama Whirly remains one of my heroes to this day.
Every minute spent at Amatierra Yoga Retreat made me feel grateful to be alive. That may sound a little bit mushy, but it really was one of those experiences that left you with a feeling of great satisfaction. The food was delicious. The scenery – out of this world! The staff friendly, and the other guests delightful. The overall experience, after four months of routine and work back home in England, as well as downright miserable weather, was just what the soul needed. Highly recommended.