Day 1 Yoga Teacher Training
The jungle is humming and thrumming with the life voices of birds, insects, frogs, monkeys and other unknown creatures as the sun slips away beyond the horizon obscured by thick trees and all manner of flora and fauna as the sky remains light and blue for a few moments longer punctuated by a half-risen, nearly full moon and the silhouette of a bat flitting by.
I am in Costa Rica, on the Oso peninsula between the gulf and the Pacific Ocean. I am here to practice acceptance of my new post-cancer body, mind and spirit as I study to become a yoga instructor.
Ever since the small plane I took from San Jose touched down in Puerto Jiminez I have felt the peace of a return and arrival. The winding, bumping taxi ride along a rutted, winding road to the lodge I will call home for three weeks felt familiar despite its newness. I reflected upon the energy, vigor and fear I experienced my first (and the last) time I was in Costa Rica ten years, almost to the day, in my past. How I spent my first day lost and bewildered with my lack of Spanish speaking skills and the cancellation of a flight that landed me on a local 6-hour bus ride that has left me with a great love for the people of this country. I recalled my time more recently in Panama, just down the Pacific coast line where I spent 6 challenging yet happy days living in a tent where the jungle meets the ocean on a strip of beach with a new friend who became a sister and 4 strangers who became friends. I smiled at the memory of that time Erin and I were in Guatemala and were stuck on a chicken bus for hours that left us bruised and cranky but filled with a memory to last all of our lives. I have been privileged to experience various jungles in my life in Central and South America so I was prepared for the open air layout of our lodge with single beds beneath mosquito netting with open walls to the jungle similar to the place Erin and I stayed in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.
I accepted the day without skipping ahead in my mind or dwelling on the oppressive feel of thick humidity in February. One by one I met my fellow students as each arrived at the lodge with a name followed by an embrace. I allowed myself to listen more than I spoke, to let others share themselves before I rushed to spell out my story. I went to bed happy with wet hair from a cold shower to prepare me for my first jungle sleep with a fan buzzing above my head.
I listened to the howler monkeys throwing their deep throaty call into the darkness at dawn and accepted that sleep was coming to a close even as I closed my eyes for another 30 minutes before rising. I cannot believe how lucky I am to be here.
At 7 am I joined my fellow students in the yoga deck a short path across the property to unfurl my mat for our first practice. I paced myself and surprised myself with my own stamina even as sweat dripped from the top of my head and down my nose and in streams off my arms and pooling in my shirt. I stepped away from poses when they were too much but challenged myself to hold on when I knew it was in me.
We were fed a delicious and hearty breakfast before applying sunscreen and swimming suits and a walk to the beach down the road. We sat in a circle around one of our teachers as she conducted a ceremony to open our studies. At the end of the ceremony we walked in pairs to another beach with still blue water. I walked into the ocean with the intention for myself of acceptance. I have spent the last two years battling the changes cancer and depression have wrought upon my body, my mind, my spirit and now I am shifting that focus to acceptance. I do not want to spend more time fighting and resisting the change.
I floated on my back in the salty sea and felt light and buoyant. I need to carry that buoyancy with me, that easiness is what I want to internalize. The gentleness. The mantra that came to me just a few short days ago before I flew south and was gliding through snow on a snowboard was "open heart and gentle mind". If I speak to myself as I would speak to a dear friend, I will be better equipped to accept who am I today rather than who I once was or who I would like to become.
The afternoon was spent discussing the yoga sutras and the religious and philosophical history of yoga as it evolved into a western practice. I appreciate the history and the challenge of considering the philosophies as I contemplate what type of yoga teacher I want to be.
The sky has completely darkened to black and the fireflies that flitted around me at dusk were replaced by mosquitos nipping at my feet. As this first day closes I keep reminding myself this is only day one, there are 20 more to come.