Yoga Farm

»Costa Rica's answer to The Beach«

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In the sweltering Costa Rican tropics is a little-known dot on the map called Punto Banco, lying easily between the jungle and the Pacific Ocean. At the end of a dusty road which turns into a track which turns into a path is the Yoga Farm. This is a small community dedicated to yogic living, in harmony with each other and the natural environment. Bring a loving attitude and an open mind, especially if you've never seen a composting toilet.

  • What we love
  • Tropical setting, complete with gorgeous beach
  • Laid-back atmosphere
  • The airy open yoga shala
  • What to know
  • Most residents leave in winter
  • No air-con or flushing toilets
  • Extremely remote
  • No Internet, so be patient if waiting for an email reply from the Yoga Farm
  • Why go
  • Rediscover living in harmony with nature
  • A hidden jungle gem
  • Unique community philosophy

Anyone who travels with a backpack and high hopes has read or seen The Beach. A group of idealistic souls attempt to build a small community based on ecological harmony, personal peace, and natural living. Of course it all goes terribly wrong, but if fiction didn't demand drama, if the community had lived peacefully-ever-after, it might look a little like the Yoga Farm. Primarily designed as a sustainable community, the Yoga Farm is open to all who strive to live consciously. This means caring about the environment - including oneself - both in body and spirit.

Simply getting to the center is no mean feat. A rattling bus to Punta Banco followed by a seemingly endless walk along increasingly narrow jungle paths leads, at last, to a simple encouraging sign: Yoga Farm, 100 metres. For those arriving on the last bus of the day, a torch or flashlight is recommended. Dark falls quickly here and wandering around a pitch-black forest is not most people's idea of an ideal start to a yoga retreat. Breaking out of the forest and into the compound is a little like stumbling into a hidden oasis. The folk who already live here will likely be gathered on the lower terrace, sharing stories of their day and easing into the peaceful night. Fellow yogis here tend to be young, from the US or Europe, and idealistic in that gently hippie way. Bikinis and sarongs pass for uniforms, a good antidote to the humid heat of Costa Rica.

The Yoga Farm's retreat structure is straight-forward. There is a nightly or weekly fee to be paid, which drops much lower for those who are staying a month or more and are willing to volunteer their time towards the upkeep of the center and gardens. The fee includes one guided yoga session per day, three mostly-vegetarian meals, accommodation, and free run of the center's advantages. These advantages are plentiful - access to the forest and beach, use of the laundry facilities, any-time use of the yoga space for personal practice, hammocks, conversation, peace and tranquility. The guided yoga session is normally general Hatha, conducted by one of the Yoga Farm's core residents. This may occasionally vary though, if one of the residents is suitably skilled in another style. Like everything here, the classes are flexible and often end up being a non-hierarchical experience. Anyone with strong yoga skills may contribute their knowledge to the group – a delightful blend of teacher-led and self-practice classes.

Although the center is open year-round, during the winter (October – December) it has only a skeleton staff. Ana and Jesus, the resident care-taking couple, are on-hand to welcome guests and prepare their meals but the long-term inhabitants of the Yoga Farm leave for drier parts of the world and no yoga classes run. During the year, there are only up to 20 people here at any one time. This kind of intimacy is rare in yoga retreats, and creates a family atmosphere which counterbalances the geographical isolation.

The rest of the year is business as usual. Business here means tending the organic food garden, hiking through the jungle, swaying gently in a hammock, participating in a yoga class, gathering around the fire at night, or taking part in the extracurricular activities offered by the Yoga Farm. These can range from an indulgent massage to horseback riding, or even a homestay with a local family to get a further insight into the Costa Rican brand of hospitality and living.

Noise pollution is just as unwelcome here as any other kind. There are enough solar panels to allow cameras and mp3-players to be charged, but there are no thumping bass-lines to be found at the Yoga Farm, despite the youthful age of the average guest. Grey water is recycled, human waste is turned into fertilizer via the composting toilet, and large loads are hauled in via horse rather than Co2-producing car. Human labor is important as well, and the average day commands good fitness, not only for the morning yoga class but also for the extensive list of tasks to be completed for simple survival. Life off the grid is physically taxing but spiritually rewarding, and a night's sleep is deep, peaceful, and well-earned.

Accommodation is in one of three options. A dorm-style room - a shared but large and beautifully airy space – is the least expensive choice, while private rooms and private cabins are further up the price scale. All are clean, comfortable, and tranquil – a far cry from the cramped and airless hostel dorm-rooms found elsewhere in the world.

The Yoga Farm is a dynamic experiment in an ancient way of living. Harmony with nature, harmony with your fellow human being, a slower pace of life. Blending the yogic principles of the East with the eco-friendly accoutrements of the modern West, this open-minded and open-hearted community offers a yoga retreat like no other.

About the area: Punta Banco

Punta Banco is a small village on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The region is one of the most biodiverse on the planet, and wildlife is plentiful, thriving in the lush tropical environment. This means anyone visiting here will need to be watchful for snakes and spiders, which can give nasty bites, but this is well made up for with the colorful bird-life, brilliantly green plant-life and abundant ocean-life. The surf along this coast is the biggest drawcard for those intrepid souls who are unafraid of getting off the beaten path. The waves along this stretch are clean curls that arc hugely out of the sea. Punta Banco has a population of just over 200. That's not a typo, or short-hand for 200,000. It's a really small village, perfect for anyone who is tired of shuffling along behind thousands of other tourists. Spanish-speaking is essential and the willingness to part with the Internet and cellphones as reception is dubious at best. Climate-wise, this is the tropics, so expect soaring temperatures (up to 40 degrees C, 100+ degrees F) in the mid-July summer. The springtime (April/May) can bring monsoon-like rains, sometimes for hours at a time. This is not cold rain though – the opposite, humidity can be crippling here – and when the sun breaks through, the jungle once again comes to life.

Image credit: Yoga Farm

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