Permaculture, Pachamama, Privilege: Deep Ecology of Wellness

Getting off the boat at Deep Ecology of Wellness, we were greeted with freshly cut coconuts, a perfect beginning to what would be an immersive, insightful, and inspiring week.

Article Photography by: Ashley Drody

I was one among thirty participants and ten teachers who spent a week living out the Deep Ecology of Wellness retreat organized by Yoga Trade at Punta Mona. The Punta Mona Center for Regenerative Design and Botanical Studies is an off-the-grid permaculture farm and educational retreat center on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Launched in 1997, it is considered one of the most established and bio-diverse permaculture farms in Central America, with over 300 varieties of fruit and nut trees, as well as over 150 medicinal plants. Punta Mona’s mission is to practice and teach a simpler, regenerative way of living.

For most of us during this gathering, it was our first immersion into a permaculture-based lifestyle. As we learned during the workshops, permaculture is a holistic design system for creating sustainable human settlement and food production systems. It combines three key aspects:

1. An ethical framework
2. Understandings of how nature works
3. A design approach

Applying the permaculture principles to human relationships, communities, social systems, and networks is known as social permaculture. According to our teachers, social permaculture can be considered “the art of designing beneficial relationships” and includes the interrelationship among humans, plants, animals and the Earth. It thus comes with no surprise that permaculture stems from a strong emphasis on indigenous wisdom regarding how to live lightly on the planet.

At Punta Mona, every day began with yoga. A lovely tree-enclosed yoga shala housed our sessions allowing us to not only connect with our breath and bodies but also the natural environment around us.

In addition to fantastic yoga instructors, we were blessed with an incredible line up of passionate and wise workshop facilitators. I share a few of the highlights below:

– Founder of Punta Mona, Stephen Brooks, shared with us his excitement for fruit trees and knowledge of the jungle during tours around the land.

– Lala Palmieri, herbalist and co-leader of the Village Witches gave us an eye-opening tour of herbs, plants, flowers and their medicinal properties.

– Co-founder of the Permaculture Action Network, Ryan Rising, gave us the 101 on permaculture design, principles, and ethics. He also facilitated an “asset mapping” activity where we quickly realized how many of our needs can easily met by others in our communities and networks.

– Self-proclaimed Mother Nature representative and Village Witch, Sarah Wu, guided us on an insightful shamanic journey exploring deep ecology.

YogaSlackers power duo Sam and Raquel not only taught us how to do yoga on an inch-wide piece of fabric but also shared their tips on conscious-traveling as modern-day nomads.

Jess Taing, an experienced Kirtan teacher, facilitated a restorative mantra singing circle.

– Sustainable-surfer, yogini, and writer activist, Tara Ruttenberg, catalyzed us into deep introspection during an open dialogue on the important topic of privilege and responsibility.

Mary Tilson, an international retreat leader, helped us explore the complex topics of addiction, trauma, and ways to recovery.

– Bodyworker Lynn Alexander led us through a powerful breathwork workshop, in which many of us were able to deeply connect with our energy bodies and release old emotional experiences.

– Yoga Trade co-founder, Erica Hartnick, showered us with her love and visionary ideas, in particular during our opening and closing ceremonies.

Incredibly, the wisdom-sharing did not stop there. Mealtimes turned into fascinating discussions during which many of the participants shared their own expertise and experiences. For instance, I learned more about Ayurveda during one dinner conversation than during my entire lifetime.

In one of our final sessions, a question came up regarding how to take back and implement all that we had learned during this week into our daily lives. I share three main take-aways:

1) Privilege and Responsibility

There is no doubt that those of us lucky enough to travel for pleasure have been granted privileges in life that a majority of the world’s population does not share. The question is how do we respond to that privilege. Shame and guilt, which some privileged people often feel, are closed-hearted emotions that do not help anyone. It is okay to take time to mourn the suffering of others, but then it is critical to move into radical acceptance. It is not our fault that we have privileges, but it is our responsibility to be aware of them and use them for the betterment of the world. As Tara shared in her workshop, one way to do this is through mapping our privileges to better understand them and how they play out in our lives as travelers. You can read more about this in her recent post.

2) Asset Mapping

To improve individual and family well-being requires communities, neighborhoods and their residents to be involved as co-producers of their own well-being. Everyone has something to contribute and we need everyone’s “gifts and assets”. Using the principles of Asset-Based Community Development and asset mapping we can help create powerful community partnerships to build healthier, safer and stronger neighborhoods and communities. At the most basic level, you can carry this out in your community by bringing people together and asking them three questions: What assets do you have? What skills do you have? What do you need? Then have people share and see what needs can be met by the skills or assets of others! You can also follow a more detailed process using this toolkit.

3) Healing Through Herbs

Herbal medicine traces its roots back to earliest civilizations. While conventional medicine often treats symptoms of acute illnesses, herbalism fosters preventative health and addresses the roots of chronic health problems. With little effort, time, or money, you can grow our own herbs, make your own medicines, and care for yourselves and families. Why not start your own herbal garden today?! See a list of medicinal herbs that you can grow here.


Naima Ritter:  My mission is to help people deeply connect with themselves, with others, and with the universal flow of life. As a Conscious Living Coach, I help other people reawaken their inner sparks and embark on journeys towards tapping the full potential of their lives, in particular through seven levels of awareness and action around grounding your energy, sacred sexuality, BEing/DOing, loneliness, conscious communication, positive thinking, and spirituality/higher purpose. After completing a Masters in International Development Management at the London School of Economics, I co-founded Conscious Co-Living, a consultancy that supports the development of co-living spaces built around connection, authentic relationships, and harmony with the natural world. Born in Guatemala and raised in the USA to Costa Rican and German parents, I consider myself a multi-cultural child of the universe. When not deliberating on the state of the world, I can often be found dancing, acro-yogaing or trying to plan a much needed global drumbeat movement revolution. 


How Every Yoga Teacher Can Benefit From a Permaculture Design Course

As a student and teacher of yoga, I am consistently  called to continuing education. This January, I completed a Permaculture Design Course at Punta Mona: A Center for Regenerative Design and Botanical Studies. It is situated in a unique and remote location where the rainforest meets the Caribbean sea in Costa Rica. The property has one of the largest collections of useful plants in the country and is a beautiful place to deeply connect with nature. Besides the center and facilitators being top quality, there are also these draws: daily yoga classes, the ocean front location, and the fact it’s called “The land of freedom!”

What is Permaculture?

“Permaculture is the art of designing beneficial relationships.”  -Starhawk

“Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.”   -Wikipedia

We can create and nurture beneficial relationships many places in our lives; in our gardens, our home design, our community, our businesses, on our yoga mats, etc. Permaculture can be applied to all aspects of our lives and society. It teaches us to observe patterns so we can design our lives with a holistic mind set and return back to the basics and live simply.

Permaculture helps us gain practical life tools to see the land as a canvas for opportunity and to see the Earth with fresh eyes. Practicing this philosophy is a great step in an important life long journey to see the world in a new way.

Permaculture Ethics:

Earth Care: Cultivating a deep respect for nature.

People Care: Self care for ourselves and others.

Future Care: Living with the intention to create a positive legacy.

Fair Share: Letting go of the competitive mind set and thinking about ‘co-opertition’.

The basic curriculum in the course includes class topics such as; ethics, principles, design, soil health, water strategies, plants, energy, earth works, and social systems.

How Permaculture Compliments a Yoga Practice:

-Ignites progressive thinking and regenerative design.

-Empowers leadership and positive action.

-Encourages creative problem solving. “The problem is the solution.”

-Inspires a return to the basics. Simple living.

-Builds resiliency practices.

Participating in a Permaculture Design Course creates space for amazing potential to birth new projects and collaborations. It is a wonderful place to build lifelong friendships that have optimisitc solution based perspectives.

Grow. Expand. Take Action.

Create your guild!

Deepen your practice as a student and a teacher by blending Permacutlure Design into your life on and off the mat.

Visit this educational paradise!

Punta Mona:

FB: puntamonacenter

IG: @puntamona




Erica Hartnick grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, and enjoys all things wild and free. She teaches nature inspired yoga and leads mindful adventures in California and Costa Rica. She gets excited about; LEARNING, intense weather, glassy ocean peaks, pillows of fresh powder snow, crystal clear water, positive people, cultural travel, thriving vegetable gardens, fresh mint chip ice cream, nature’s glory, LIVING YOGA, and connecting with others. She is passionate about the collaboration with friends that led to the creation of Yoga Trade, and is devoted to connecting the yoga community with infinite opportunities!


From Here To There: A Willingness To Transform

My life in Costa Rica is magical and unique and one that even I could never could have imagined I’d be living. I receive a lot of questions about how I ended up where I am… How a life evolves isn’t always apparent; how do we go from point A to B? The truth is that transformation is within the grasp of most but we have to be willing to seize it, which actually often takes the form of letting something go.

I was living just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan where I had finally gotten a decent job out of college. I wasn’t earning a lot of money but I also was no longer stuck in a call-center with a crazy boss breathing down my neck and timing my “allotted bathroom breaks”. (Yea, no thanks… Life is more than that!)

In my small town, Lowell, I had just finished up my teacher-training program with Prairie Yoga at Cascade Yoga Studio. I had a couple of yoga teaching jobs that I did some odd evenings, but for the most part I would come home from my day-job and hang out with my cat and live-in boyfriend. We’d go to breweries, see local shows, and hang out with our close group of friends.


It was pretty much a standard city life, full of work and activity. Yet I wasn’t truly happy. Buzzing around my head was a lifelong dream to travel. I had traveled a lot as a kid, so from an early age I was bitten by the travel bug and never able to shake it.

One day, I was invited by a distant friend of mine to join her in Lake Tahoe for Wanderlust Festival and I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to go. At the festival, I was talking to a fellow yogi and explaining my plight of living a corporate life while dreaming to be out in the world and traveling. I was told about the amazing company Yoga Trade that was just starting and a listing for a job in Costa Rica that they thought I would be perfect for. I had never met this person prior to this conversation, nor have I spoken to them since. I have no idea where they came from or how we even started talking, but they planted a seed that grew an opportunity for transformation.

I took a look at the website, found the link to apply for the job and jumped at the opportunity. In my mind, I was competing for a job with other yoga teachers who had way more experience than I, as well as more traveling experience, other yoga-related skills, and so on. I truly didn’t believe that I even had a chance.


I went back to my regular job, sun-kissed from Cali and loving life. I actually forgot about the application until about a month later when I received an email back saying that they wanted to have a Skype meeting with me as soon as I was available. You can probably imagine the look on my face when I read this… I was shocked, excited and scared all at once. I hadn’t told anybody about having applied, especially my boyfriend.

Naturally, I accepted their invitation for the Skpye meeting with excitement. The call lasted an hour, talking about the position, who I am, and who they were. It went well yet I still didn’t think I would actually be asked to come to Costa Rica to teach yoga. Yet three weeks later, I got a reply asking to have another Skpye meeting, this time with the owner of the lodge.

After another successful interview, the prospect of actually leaving began to consume me. I wanted so badly to leave and travel. I wanted to see things other than my computer screen and the latest thing on Reddit; I was ready to do anything else with my life. At the same time I was reticent, unwilling to get my hopes up. I still considered this a dream for the distant future, not one that loomed on the horizon.

I received a kind email from my first interviewer, gently telling me that I didn’t get the position. It had come down to me and one other candidate; while they opted for the former, they emphasized how much they had liked me. They invited me to come down to Costa Rica to stay there for a week for free and to discuss future opportunities to work with their lodge.

I was not shocked or let down; I was actually, surprisingly, relieved. I had somehow managed to get a free week-long vacation at an eco-lodge in Costa Rica and didn’t have to make any crazy decisions to leave my whole life behind.

I was smiling and happy with the outcome, satisfied with myself for taking a chance and accepting any outcome. I sent a “thank you” email to my interviewer and, just as I was shutting my laptop, a new message suddenly popped-up. Curiously, I opened it to find out that she actually did want to offer me the job. The first candidate had suddenly been unable to commit to the full-length of the placement — knowing that I was ready to give up everything — she offered it to me instead!

I was thrilled, terrified, and so completely excited that I couldn’t express my gratitude enough. Somehow the cosmos had shifted, revealing that I was meant to leave for a metamorphic journey, not later, but now. Just how life-changing it would prove to be I could never have fathomed. I only knew that I was ready and willing to leave my old life behind.

A few short weeks later, I was giving notice to my job, buying airplane tickets, changing in bonds to pay off my credit card debt. Beyond professional and financial matters, I had to inform my friends, family, and boyfriend about the journey I was about to embark on. I was saying goodbye and leaving the solid life I had built in exchange for one full of new adventure.


My friends were happy for me and celebrated my departure as opportunity. My family was excited, albeit a bit nervous, and happy to act as cat-sitters. And my boyfriend, well, he was anything but onboard with my decision.

Unwilling to travel with me, my boyfriend was afraid to break out of the mold, too fixated on the path of a 9-5 job, a mortgage and kids. My placement in Costa Rica was only six months but he was unwilling to do long-distance, saying, “You can’t really expect me to not have sex for half-a-year.” And with that I found myself finally able to let go of the last thing holding me back. I exhaled fully, cut our lease short, gave him the furniture and helped him move it into an apartment in the city. I took the cat, my yoga mat, and my smile, bid him farewell, never looked back again.

To choose my journey over my relationship was the sacrifice that I needed to make in order to allow myself to be truly happy. Perhaps not surprisingly, it also allowed me the space to meet the amazing and truly good-hearted man who has helped me stay in Costa Rica permanently. We now own an amazing ocean-front lodge, Casa Marea Alta, where I’m able to earn my living doing something I truly love. Even though it has been difficult, alien, tiring, and frustrating at times, it also has made me happier and helped me transform into a better person. I would gladly make the decision twice; it provided me a new purpose, a love, and a home.





Elizabeth Arnold is a 200 RYT, Tai Bodyworker, and Reiki Practitioner. She is currently the resident yoga teacher at Casa Marea Alta in Costa Rica. You can find out more about her and life in Costa Rica by visiting her website

Treat Your Heart

Slow down. Listen. Breathe. Feel.

No matter how many times I say, think, or hear those words; it is never enough.
We live in this incredible world, filled with energy vibrating on all different frequencies and wavelengths. The drumming grounded beat of the earth, rhythms of cleansing rain and ocean tides mixed with car engines, radio waves, lights waves, and satellite signals. The earth’s constant rotation aligned with planets and galaxies all around. People everywhere moving twenty-four hours a day in a variety of activity with thoughts and feelings that create their own pulsation.

When you think about all this, it is no wonder we often feel disconnected from nature, from others, from ourselves. How can we hear the voice of our heart amongst our abundant surroundings?


The answers to this question are many. But for me, one answer is retreat. Finding a place of refuge to withdrawal for meditation, study and release. I take my yoga practice to Costa Rica where I can immerse my self in the beautiful tropics of jungle and ocean. Cell phones do not work and the effort to use the Internet, if it is even functioning, is hardly worth it. Retreat is not about escaping but rather reconnecting. Giving us an opportunity to pause, slow down, listen, breathe and feel. It is a nourishing gift that replenishes our soul.

All of a sudden you are waking up naturally to the sunrise and howler monkeys. Taking siesta during the late afternoon because your body is telling you, “rest, the heat is too much.” Darkness falls and it is not long before you are asleep not realizing it is not even 9pm. You have begun to attune to the pace of nature. You spend hours in a hammock listening to the jungle opera or the waves steadily flowing in and out matching your inhale and exhale. Reading books, meditating, moving on your mat, eating fresh foods and sharing your experiences with friends you have just met. But with this slow pace comes the active mind. Accustomed to full time activity, thoughts can seem louder than ever before. Now, in this amazing environment you have the opportunity to watch and learn; to go deeper, perhaps discover some of your patterns. You begin to decipher between the voice of your head and the voice of your heart.

Eventually it is time to return home. The realization occurs that you were there all along…home in your heart. You take lessons and experiences with you, back to work, back to the routine of daily life. Perhaps now, surrounded and part of this abundant world, the slowing down, the breathing, listening, feeling comes a little easier, a little lighter. Costa Rica, not just a sweet memory, it is an integral piece of your soul.

I encourage you to retreat! Whether it is getting on a plane to a tropical place, driving to a cabin in the woods, or finding a quiet place to sit in your neighborhood, treat yourself. Slow down. Listen. Breathe. Feel.

Connect to your heart.

Treat your heart.



Dana Rivkin has a passion for the outdoors, travel, breath, personal discovery and community. She shares these loves through teaching yoga classes, outdoor education and adventure guiding. Dana believes yoga is a life long practice on and off the mat. Join her for an amazing retreat in Costa Rica this February 2016!






Living Yoga Video Contest WINNER!

Congratulations to Genevieve Rojas!!!

Genevieve is the winner of the First Annual Living Yoga Video Contest at Yoga Trade! Her “personal memento” video submission really inspired us with her words, creativity, and beautiful light. For this she is receiving a one week stay at the Yoga Farm, Costa Rica; a sustainable living and yoga center. Pura Vida Genevieve! We love you!

Instagram: @gena_red

Watch her video here:


Thank YOU ALL for participating…We love you all! BE inspired and watch more Living Yoga Video entries here…Keep sharing your light!!! Namaste…








Enchanted Yoga Trade Experience

This article is shared by Yoga Trade community member, Jenna Devi about her Costa Rica yoga trade experience. Connect with Jenna here:


Enchanted Yoga Trade Experience in Paradise. Surfing it too.

I wanted to spend some time surfing and teaching yoga in the tropics but had no idea how to make it happen. It seemed like an impossible dream until I found Yoga Trade. On jenna4their website I found Encanta la Vida, an eco lodge in Costa Rica. In exchange for teaching yoga and working the front desk a few hours a week I would get a room, food and 50% earnings of the classes I taught.

I remember I had a five minute Skype interview with the Lodge’s Manager, Kate. She asked “Can you get here in two months?” and I said “Yes” before I could get in my head and make up reasons why I couldn’t. It happened so fast, I couldn’t believe it!

Two months later I boarded a plane and headed down to Costa Rica for my Yoga residency. I did as much research as I could but because it was so off the beaten path, there was not much of an internet presence so I really had no idea what I was getting into. And I truly could not have been more lucky. I literally walked into paradise.

I taught yoga on the second story of an enormous open air deck canopied by jungle and a view of Pan Dulce surf break. It wasn’t uncommon to see monkeys swing by as I walkedjenna2 down a gorgeous jungle path to get to the yoga deck, scarlet macaws were always hanging out during class, every so often I would hear a happy holler from a surfer who had just dropped in on a wave… speaking of surfing – WOW. I almost don’t want to write about it to give it away! Pan Dulce gets huge and has the slowest and most forgiving waves in the area allowing you a ton of trial and error practice without getting pounded. Be prepared to lose count on how many turns you do on a single ride and stretch out your calf muscles to prevent them from fatiguing – seriously! Backwash, another break in this area is one of my favorite right point breaks I have ever surfed. It’s faster and steeper than Pan Dulce making it more of an intermediate wave. It’s the most beautiful beach, the surf gets big and in my opinion the crowds that surfed there had the best vibe. Matapalo, the break the sits at the very end of the road, is gorgeous but challenging. Beware of the rocks during low tide. If hit you could easily say goodbye to your board – or your face. This break is dominated by locals but if you know how to play your etiquette cards right and you want to see some groms rip it better than the best surfer you know – go there.

The Encanta la Vida Lodge was such a magical place. Even though I was ‘working’ for them, I felt like a guest. Brian, the owner, is hilarious and tells some of the best stories during dinner, you meet people from all over the world and you are living on eye candy jenna5property in the middle of the jungle. And the food! I really didn’t know what to expect but I went there thinking I was going to lose a ton of weight because of all the surfing and yoga I’d be doing. Wrong! The food was so delicious and plentiful I actually gained weight and a ton of muscle.  I felt so lucky to be drinking water out of wine glasses and feasting on 3 course dinners. Chef Fabian is amazing. Every night was different and everything made from scratching, including desert.

Living in another country is the best way to experience personal growth and life learning, especially when traveling alone. Your life is put into perspective and you discover what’s really important to you. You’ll have the best and worst days and you’ll learn why which helps you get a better understand of who you are underneath it all. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to do a Yoga Trade to take it. I learned another language, found my yoga practice and teaching, met amazing people from all over the world, met one of my now best friends, some of my questions about life were answered replaced by more intriguing ones… I can go on and on.

It really was because of Yoga Trade that allowed me this life changing experience. My life has been forever changed!

jenna7Jenna is a performing artist, writer, and athlete. She has a degree in Music Performance and has been seen on numerous stage and film productions. She loves to travel, surf and meet people from all over the world. Jenna is Yoga Alliance and Thai Yoga Massage Certified and enjoys teaching Yoga to her community – wherever that is… depends on where her travels take her! Be Curious. Live, Learn, Inspire.
IG: JennasAdventures

Yoga Retreat Family

It is incredible how many yoga retreat centers are popping up worldwide. International popular hotspots include places such as, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Thailand. As the yoga community continues to build retreat centers, hotels, and sustainable living farms, there is one thing that is important to remember: the local communities! As newcomers to a setting, showing respect to the local culture is a must. Building relationships with local communities as a yoga retreat center developer, provides jobs, creates family, and in turn brings memorable experiences to many people. There are lots of people who bring the magic to yoga centers; the guests, the builders, the volunteers, the owners, the yoga teachers, the staff, etc…At Yoga Trade, we believe that “keeping it local” and daily sustainable living practices, are the foundations for yoga retreat centers. Below, Yoga Trader Sarah Barnes, writes about the inspirational Blue Osa Retreat + Spa (where she is currently volunteering), and their amazing Costa Rican staff and family.

Where Ticos Run the Show

Costa Rica is more than a tropical rainforest full of beautiful wildlife. The country is steadily becoming one of the most sought after vacation destinations for yoga retreats, workshops and teacher trainings in the world. Each yoga studio in Costa Rica has something that sets it apart, but what you won’t always come across are places staffed by local Ticos who know the lay of the land they are working in.

Take a journey down to the Osa Peninsula close to the Corcovado National Park and tucked in between the small town of Puerto Jimenez and Matapalo you’ll encounter Blue Osa—a resort and spa bursting to the brim with Tico flavor.

If you blink you might miss the entrance to Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa, with its small wooden sign. But what you won’t see from the tiny entrance is the majestic structures behind it or the amount of heart that has gone into making a safe and spiritual place for visitors, employees and volunteers alike.

You’ll most lightly be ushered in by Edgar, or Chuleta as he is nickname. You’ll find everyone here has a nickname or two as the employees are quite playful with each other. Proceed through the gate and you’ll enter the secluded world of Blue Osa, surrounded by greenery and flowers splitting into three directions.

No matter which path you take you’re likely to run into Fillo, Erick, Alex or Chindin bustling about the property fixing structures, weeding the garden or building and sanding new chairs for the front relaxation area. Although they always have something to do, any one of them would gladly stop and chat or offer a warm, “Buenas días!,” along with a kiss on the cheek, a customary traditions for Ticos.

As a volunteer here at Blue Osa, this is how I personally start my day. Walking from my room over to the office I pass the workshop, laundry room, generator and all my new found friends, the employees. Getting to know these individuals and learning about each one of their lives I think has been one of the best parts of my three month stint here in paradise.


Like everyone around the world, the employees are here to support their families, dreams and lifestyles, which vary quite a bit, but they also genuinely enjoy working with each other; I think it is part of the “Pura Vida” lifestyle. Let me introduce to you my friends, the employees and heart of Blue Osa:

Michael Melendez, 28
Blue Osa Manager


Michael, sometimes known as Puy, has been at Blue Osa for five years and is the go-to employee for anything and everything. Although his official title is manager, you can find him in the kitchen, fixing the generator, taking guests out on the ocean to kayak or hike through the forest and solving any type of situation that might arise during the work day.

Michael has lived in the Osa Peninsula his whole life. Growing up on a farm, he is very familiar with the area, the native animals and a decent botanist as well. When he isn’t here running the show, Michael enjoys lifting weights, running on the beach, fishing, hiking, dancing and pretty much anything outdoors.

Michael holds a special place in my heart particularly because he is always checking in on the volunteers who live and work here. There is no such thing as a dull day when Michael is around. He makes sure that we have what we need to be comfortable and productive and you feel welcome from the day you arrive.

Jorge Peraza Fernandez, 25
Assistant Manager


Originally from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, Jorge has only been in the Osa Peninsula for five years. His career with Blue Osa began a short four months ago, but you would never know as he is already well versed in how things work. His charismatic personality shines through each day with his coy smile and bright blue eyes, which have also afforded him his nickname, Ojos Bellos (beautiful eyes.)

On top of learning the ropes of quality customer service and management from Michael, Jorge can often be found working on the weather reports for the Blue Osa blog, posting pictures to our Instagram account or working on his English.

Jorge also has the most adorable two year old son who attends the Corcovado school, one of Blue Osa’s community initiatives.

José Marin Vargas, 30
Head Chef

blue4cheponaYou will rarely hear José called by his real name as you’ll constantly hear calls for Chepa or Chepona ringing out throughout the kitchen. As the head chef, he is in charge of not only preparing meals but also making sure that the inventory of materials is up to date and any of our visitor’s special needs or allergies are incorporated into the menu each week.

José’s career began seven years ago when his hands aided in creating the breath-taking structures here at Blue Osa. He shaped, sanded, and painted the massive wooden beams that frame the yoga deck and kitchen.

Anyone can tell that José enjoys what he does here at Blue Osa as he always has a huge smile on his face and is ready to help any guest, volunteer or employee at the drop of a hat. A guest wants cream for their coffee and we don’t have it? The next day it will be on the bar. Mention that you’re gluten-free to him? There will be a gluten-free pasta dish served just for you within hours of mentioning it.

Guest and volunteers alike will tell you José is an incredibly hard worker and most stay in contact when they leave as his smile and positive energy are inspirational.

Leonel Nena Caupos, 31

blue3cheleLeonel, better known as Chele, is probably the sweetest and hardest working person you’ll find in Costa Rica. For starters he is an incredibly talented chef, but when he isn’t cooking up a storm in the kitchen you can find him studying for this degree in hotel and restaurant management late into the night.

Another one of Chele’s many talents includes jewelry making—specifically bracelets. He originally started making these beauties while he was recovering from a motorcycle accident but now he sells them here at Blue Osa and uses the profit to help pay for his school costs.

Originally from Nicaragua, Chele has been with Blue Osa for three years and a resident of the Osa for 10 years.


Rafael (Rafa) Eduardo Fanseca Almengar, 26
Chef/Personal Trainer


If Costa Rica had its own version of The Bachelor, I am pretty sure our chef and personal trainer Rafa would have no competition getting the leading role. He is dedicated to personal fitness and has quite the chiseled physique. When he’s not in the kitchen you’ll probably find him lifting weights or surfing.

Ironically enough, the personal trainer also makes amazing deserts and smoothies. Rafa spends a good amount of time on Pinterest looking for the perfect sweet treat for our guests, including gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.

A life-long resident of the Osa, Rafa has been with Blue Osa for three years.

Andy Diaz Moraga, 29


Andy’s official nickname is Gordo, but in my mind he will always be bromista, or joker. You can be sure that if something goes missing, Andy has temporarily relocated it and will have the best poker face of them all when you ask where the item might be.

Besides all of his jokester tendencies, Andy is a great employee. He’s been with Blue Osa for three years now, but has lived in the Osa Peninsula for roughly 15 years; before that he was born and raised in the city of Alajuela.

Make sure to ask Andy about his son as you’ll never see a bigger smile on his face or more silly photos.




Olger Brenes Rodríguez, 44 (Cabezón)



Olger, pronounced Ol-hare, is another one of the busy bees in the kitchen. His career at Blue Osa began a short three years ago, but again he knows his way around the kitchen and fits in great with the rest of the staff.

A native Osa resident, Olger is a HUGE animal lover, particularly cats. He has several at his own home and gives lots of love to the four cats/kittens and two dogs that hold residence here at Blue Osa.



Ivannia Ramírez Cruz, 46 and Ñery Cerdas Ibarra, 38


Ivannia and Nery are hard workers and moms to both their families and the Blue Osa crew. Whether they are bustling around the laundry room, cleaning out cabinas (guest rooms) or mending pillows from the sofa, their useful skills are endless.

Ivannia is also known as Macha, or Blondie and Ñery is sometimes referred to as Ngaspachas. Both of these lovely ladies have worked at Blue Osa for four year and are quite the team. Although Ñery is originally from Nicaragua, like Ivannia, she has spent the majority of her life here in the Osa Peninsula.

Erick Manuel Jiménez Garbanzo, 24


Light-hearted, young and energetic Erick can also be found with a smile on his face whilst working on cleaning the guest rooms, yoga deck and various other areas. He speaks very little English but that doesn’t keep him from flashing a big grin your way and working through a conversation. Over the course of my stay here we have fumbled through conversations about fishing and his beautiful new baby girl.




José Rudecindo Lopez Jimenez, 36 (Chindin)
Gardening, Woodworking and Property Maintenance


Another strong silent type, Chindin arrives bright and early to work at 5 AM to begin his daily routines of property maintenance, woodworking and painting. After placing his cellphone on the employee shelf along with all the other colorful technology bricks, Chindin bids me a warm, “Hola guapo, como estas?” Observant and polite are two of the words I’d use to describe him. When I am having a rough day Chindin is always one of the first ones to know and offer a huge hug.

Chindin has always called the Osa Peninsula home and has made his career here at Blue Osa as he has spent the past seven years helping to create this sacred space.



Rufilio Nuñez Solis (Fillo), 55
Gardening, Woodworking and Property Maintenance


Fillo has been with Blue Osa for seven years. You can find him around the property doing maintenance on the lawn, watering the garden or working with his hands on various other tasks. A hard-worker, he won’t always have time to stop and chat, but he’ll greet you with the biggest smile and a warm hug.

Another interesting fact about Fillo is he is a nature guide and avid bird watcher. When we have groups that are early risers, he will often be their guide through a morning hike and bird watching tour, which is a wonderful way to start the day.



Geiner Rivera Venegas, 38 (Tony)
Gardening, Woodworking and Property Maintenance


I’m not exactly sure how Geiner, or Tony as we call him, got his nickname, but he is the quietest employee of them all.

Originally from Pérez Zeledón, Tony has only lived and worked in the Osa Peninsula for six months; although you’d never know that watching him interact with all the employees.

His official duties are with property maintenance like Chindin, Fillo and Alex, but true to Tico fashion, Tony will pull his weight in any other area here at the resort.



Alexander Mendez Alvarado, 45
Gardener and Project Manager


Although he has only been at Blue Osa for four years, Alex is a busy man here at the property. As a passionate environmentalist, it only makes sense that he manages our well project across the street where in the future there will be a lush garden, a water well, chickens and much more.

Alex has a way about him; he is quiet but once someone takes the time to ask questions he will open up and share his joys and concerns with you, and vice versa. Alex always reminds me that if I’m having a bad day that I can come and talk to him. This is one reason I always makes sure to give him the biggest hug and kiss in the mornings, letting him know his friendship is important to me.

Alex’s passionate feelings extend into his community as well. He coaches several football teams in Puerto Jimenez ranging from small children up into teenagers and the kids come from all different areas to play. Alex feels it is important to be a big part of your community and the children’s life because they are our future, we have to teach them to be engaged citizens and love their community.

Edgar Bernado Gutierrez Quesada, 56

blue6chuletaAh Chuleta…he always finds a way to surprise you whether its lighting the path to your destination or catching him busting a move during a rare guest dance party.

Although most guests don’t really meet Chuleta he is one of the security personnel here at the resort during the late afternoons and evenings. You’ll be able to spot him walking around the property with a humongous flashlight keeping watch around the parameter.

Born and raised in the Osa Peninsula, specifically in Golfito, Chuleta is another Blue Osa veteran. Showing true dedication to his job over the past seven years, he rides his bike an hour each way to get to and from work.



Blue Osa Journeys

Aaron and Adam, co-owners of Blue Osa, believe in and support their staff as if they were family, because they pretty much are. When they aren’t traveling the world hosting yoga retreats, scouting for new locations or looking for donors for the local school they run in Puerto Jimenez, Aaron and Adam focus on enriching their staff’s knowledge and skill base.

Back in 2013 they took head chef Jose on an adventure to see and study in some of Europe’s finest meccas. Over the course of a month Jose worked and learned in kitchens throughout Paris, Amsterdam, Biarritz and Montpellier. This was quite the experience for then 28 year old Jose as he had never been outside of Puerto Jimenez, let alone leaving the country entirely.

Chefs Chele and Rafa have also just returned from a similar journey throughout Spain. This is just another example of how Blue Osa does its best to give back to the community that supports its existence.

sarahSarah Barnes is currently a volunteer in paradise at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica where she is a blogger, photographer and yoga instructor. Sarah is a 200 level RYT, owner of Modern Warrior Yoga and alumni of Texas Tech University where she graduated with International Business and a Photo Communications degrees. She recently left her 9 to 5 job as a communications professional to explore the world.

Yoga & Art in Costa Rica

KimMichelle is an incredibly talented and inspiring woman who is thriving in the jungle as a living yogi and artist. We are grateful to be able to share her insights and spirit as a talking story with the Yoga Trade community!  (Photos by Scott Martin Images)

Tell us a little about your story…

I love my life these days. I’m inspired and free and able to work through things kim2when they come up. For a long time I’ve been working to come to this place. There has been a lot of heartbreak. That seems to be the thing that has kept me from being totally inspired and open. So healing my heart has been my biggest lesson and my greatest blessing. I have managed to start a new life in Costa Rica which I love. I didn’t even feel comfortable saying “hola” when I first moved here and now I can get along quite well. It’s taken time but all good things do, and I’m still inspired to stay on. I am painting my days away while surfers come and go to surf one of the longest left breaks in the world. I practice and teach yoga, eat as consciously as I can, go on small adventures every day, commune with nature, laugh with friends, treat everyone as family, read about the saints, pray and meditate. I’m promising myself to start surfing again, I have to! But painting fulfills me holistically, so I’m really sticking to that.

What is “living yoga” to you and how do you practice it?

Living a life with the core purpose of practicing yoga is a very interesting way to live. Keeping my heart open and gaining more and more freedom is what that means to me.art4 So wherever I am and in whatever I am doing I am always keeping these things in mind. Yoga knowledge is so accessible these days that it’s easy to find the specific practice, or tools that you need when things come up. For me it’s been a journey of change and adjustment and allowing myself that freedom to choose to go in the direction of my happiness. A few years ago I was keeping a disciplined Ashtanga practice and I realized I wasn’t doing what I truly wanted to be doing and I wasn’t happy in general so I packed my bags and moved to Costa Rica. There were so many reasons why I did this but most importantly I was following my heart, I was doing my best to break or at least breathe into those invisible boundaries, I was letting myself be free. Since then I’ve been going deeper and deeper into these practices, integrating my life, constantly questioning the “truth” of things.

Have you ever participated in any types of yoga trade and what do you think the benefits are of yoga-based exchanges?

My yoga trade experience at the Yoga Farm in Punta Banco, CR changed my life. I came art2to stay for one month and ended up moving here! The place is exquisitely beautiful and I really enjoyed meeting so many cool people and seeing a little about the way of life in the jungle. I felt so much freedom. And I saw myself really looking at those dark places within me but somehow being able to see that they were only shadows, they weren’t things I needed to hold on to or abide by, I could easily shine a light and the fear would dissipate. My teacher calls it Witness Consciousness, TM calls is Transcendence. Being present in the jungle gave me this miraculous gift of grace. Everything changed once I understood that experientially. One can always read books and stay comfortable in their dysfunction but really when you step outside the box and put yourself in a brand new environment, its amazing what can take place. I call these shifts in perception, miracles. There are so many miracles to be had when you just let yourself go.

What is your advice to how we can all bring more sustainability into our lives?

Wow, what a great thing to think about. I think enhancing one’s yogic practice, in the most sincere way possible brings consciousness. Whatever that means to you – through asana, practicng yamas and niyamas, meditation, etc.! If you love yourself you’re going art3to abide by nature’s way out of respect for yourself and your environment. So I would say keep practicing, sincerely, devotedly, passionately. Ask yourself those tough questions about what really drives you in every single decision you make, are you inline with truth, who’s truth? Your own or the universe’s? Do you love yourself enough to go against the grain and do something that others might not understand? What is “right”? What is “wrong”? Who says so? Keep it going, keep inquiring deeper. Find the source. Find your truth, the truth. You always find yourself in this way. Pattabi Jois always said, “Practice and all is coming.” I have found so much within this simple statement.

Who or what inspires you?

So many things inspire me – nature, art, people who have confidence without so much ego, inspired people, artists, yogis, natural people, crystals, rocks, waves, flowers, culture, indigenous culture, music – new music, latin music, latin dancing, India, religion, spirituality, Milarepa, rainbows, the rainbow body, light, love, peace. Color! Shapes. Saints.


kim1KimMichelle is an artist-yogini living deep in the jungle of Costa Rica. She grew up on Cape Cod, MA and went to Mass College of Art and Design. While living in Florida after finishing her Bachelors Degree she showed her art in galleries and museums and dove deeper into her yogic practice. Inspired by some Indian friends she took off to India. After six months, 25 cities, 2 YTTCs, countless Temples, Vedanta studies and Thai Massage Training, (and so much more!) she headed back west and returned to the quaint village town of Pavones in Costa Rica which she adores. Thriving in the jungle is not an easy task but one step at a time she builds her life there and continues to develop herself by sharing what she’s learned. She hopes to inspire others through art and yoga in all the myriad forms expressed uniquely every day. She values freedom and expression, truth and righteousness, peace and love, green and gold, colors! Color therapy. Light and rainbows are her driving inspiration.

The artwork of KimMichelle can be viewed and purchased here:

Carry It With You

This article is shared by our friend, Briana Valorosi. The original posting can be found on her blog here:

With me, I will carry

the energy of the hummingbirds

the grace of the butterflies

the flow of the ocean

the cooling breeze

the warmth of the sun

the cold mountain air

the power behind the storms

the sounds

the ease

the sweetness of tropical fruits

the smell and taste of humidity

the ability to flow like the ocean

the beauty that surrounds

the tastes

the happiness

the purity

the bliss.


Last Spring I went to the desert to ascend splitter cracks in the sandstone formations that line themselves up along the creek carved valley. What I gained was more than a list of accomplished climbs. I gained a sense of humility and bliss along with love and defeat. The desert taught me about myself, about the ability to endure, about harsh environments offering soft lessons.


Atop the granite domes, I once again experienced emotions that ranged the spectrum of exhaustion to joy. I wanted to sit there forever, in that moment, with the adrenaline and the bliss. Absorbing that feeling of pure life.

IMG_8465 31003682_10201489870114476_1854925647_n

In Costa Rica, last month, I experienced wholeness, as if a piece of me that I didn’t even know was missing, a piece I wasn’t yet seeking, had been found; and it fit so well. At the yoga retreat I attended, my good friend taught about carrying experiences with us. What a concept…



Once we experience these places, they are no longer separate from us. The places we visit, the people we meet, the emotions we feel become a part of our every being. Traveling and exploring brings beauty into our lives, along with self discovery and personal growth. Realizing this and appreciating the connections allow us to be full, where ever we wander and land.

Going from one place to the next can bring a sense of disconnect, a sense of loss. We experience fullness and then leave it behind…but we can learn to carry it with us. Those people we are on those deserted beaches, high peaks and towers, and in the forests, can be a part of us always. Paradise can be where ever we are. 

Yoga is a physical practice as well as a mindful practice. We learn to take our practice off of the mat and into our daily lives. In the same sense, we may weave paradise (the way we feel in certain places) from the beach-scapes and mountain tops into all of our days.


We can carry our experiences, our range of emotions, the BLISS into our everyday lives, into our lives that extend beyond vacation or relocation or paradise or a brief visit to a magical place. The practice of bringing paradise into my daily life is something I am implementing. I can still feel the happiness that I felt while riding the ocean waves.Thatfeeling on top of the Tuolumne granite domes is embedded into my soul and I will carry it with me. I am reminded about humility and peace through memory of the desert. Sure, it would be nice to just go to the desert, but sometimes life holds us in distant landscapes so that we may experience something else.

Riding the waves of fulfillment long after the trip has ended.

Take a moment to breath paradise into your day. Recall the relaxation, the openness, the freedom, the happiness.

Paradise is not just a place, but a feeling and an experience that is everlasting.


The places, the people, the feelings, near and far, I will carry them in my heart.

brianaBriana Valorosi is a writer, a beginner, one who practices yoga, a traveller, a climber, an outdoor enthusiast, a steward, a to-be gardener, a builder, a creator, a thinker and a do-er.

Instagram- bvalorosi

A Yoga Trade Success Story

I was ready to leave my life of a stressed yoga instructor in Miami. Miami is a really fun city but does not fit my taste for narrow alleys, cute cafes, farmer’s markets and nature proximity.

I was done being woken up in the middle of the night by trucks. I was done sitting in traffic praying I’d make it in time to teach my class. I was done parking through valets, B0A5269done with anonymous elevators and 30 story buildings. Most importantly, it was becoming apparent that I was trying to teach people the one thing I needed the most: how to de-stress and stay positive.

I was done.

I wanted to simplify, to shed, to revert back.

I wanted nature, deserted beaches, a simple life, wholesome foods. I did not want to carry or own more than my Hawaiians, a few pairs of shorts and bikinis.

Nor did I want to move somewhere and build a life for myself, find a home and buy a car. That would mean settling again and I wanted freedom. I wanted to go to a place that already provided the grounds for me to unplug, grow and live simply. I also wanted to challenge myself and see how I would do in an isolated, jungle-like environment.

One day I was searching on Yoga Trade, and then found Blue Osa, in Costa Rica.

I had a really good sense of what Blue Osa looked like because I had conducted plenty of research from the website and had read the Trip Advisor reviews.

I knew the beach was a few meters away from the property, which was a must for me. I also knew the property was groomed and well maintained but it preserved a rustic and genuine feel. I knew Blue Osa had a well established calendar of events which made me feel confident they were a legitimate business.

I have to admit my favorite part of the property is actually the front lawn with the big tree in the center. I grew up in a tiny apartment and I always felt really trapped and longed for grass. Since I’ve been living on my own I have always sought places that felt more like home with a big lawn. When taken out of its tropical context, the Blue Osa lawn could fit really well in front of an old Victorian house.

My favorite thing about Blue Osa is the open mindedness that pervades it. Everyone from the staff to the guests and volunteers is very accepting and at ease.

I come from a ridiculously small town in rural Italy, where I was always judged for everything I did, what I wore, said or didn’t say, and who I hung out with. At Blue Osa no one reacts weirdly to any type of human behavior. People here just don’t get worked up over unnecessary stuff. If anything is odd, they just laugh it off. There’s a disarming acceptance of all aspects of human nature that is so refreshing. It overrides any language or cultural barrier. Because let’s face it, real life isn’t about what you wear or what you look like, it’s about being human, with all your flaws and unique traits. The atmosphere in Blue Osa is also very joyful.

I often got reprehended in middle school for laughing too much. Here, there is no such thing as laughing too much! At Blue Osa I feel liberated and can embrace my laugh.

In my yoga professional volunteer position I got to teach yoga and learn about the social media and marketing aspects of running the business. I learned a lot through the completion of various projects and I was constantly feeling inspired by a bigger vision and team work with the other volunteers. I was basically learning the same if not more than if I were taking a few semesters of “marketing” or “social media” at college. With hands on experience, which is a huge plus.

The yoga aspect was also fundamental. I have met some incredible yoga retreat leaders who go to Blue Osa. Teaching week long private retreats allowed me to meet some truly cool people and watch their transformation while learning about the more intimate details of their lives.

Growth at Blue Osa happens constantly and freedom to express yourself is granted at any moment. Expressing oneself doesn’t just mean turning the volume up, but also being granted the opportunity to turn inward without being questioned.

I highly recommend Blue Osa for a vacation, a yoga retreat, or for volunteer opportunities.

Valentina_Headshot_LR-6My name is Valentina Rose and ever since I left Italy I have lived in NY, FL, and Costa Rica. I now reside in Marin County, CA. I am a yoga instructor and I host yoga retreats in Costa Rica. Some of my likes are: unicorns, 11:11 and music festivals.


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