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The Experience of a Lifetime

After twenty-four days of soul searching in Costa Rica, I was on an empty shuttle on my way to Liberia airport to catch my red-eye flight to head back home to the United States. I had completed my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and I was leaving with my Yoga Teacher certification in hand. It was much more than a course on how to teach yoga, this experience was an alchemy of transformation. The driver did not speak English very well and despite my efforts of trying to improve my Spanish in my month in Costa Rica (I really had high hopes for this) I could not speak much Spanish. However, he was extremely kind and we did our best to keep up conversation, both of us trying to speak the other’s language with little success. It was almost a blessing that I was given this hour to reflect on this journey I had just taken with my heart, my body and my soul. I started this adventure on my own. I finished it on my own. But in between I shared it with enriching souls that have left a mark on who I am as a human being.

If you know me, you know I am never at a loss of words to write. Although I consider myself a listener and not much of a talker, I could write about anything, anytime. I pulled out my journal ready to fill up each page with insightful words of my experience. I wrote the date on the right hand corner feverishly ready to unleash this new found wisdom and then… nothing. I didn’t know where to begin. You could say it was the affects of a complimentary “goodbye” pina colada from the restaurant (shoutout to you, Eric, I miss you!) and a month without alcohol, but if I’m being honest… it was much more than that. For the first time in my life, I was at a loss of words for my experience. All I could do on that entire journey from Costa Rica to home was feel. I felt the affects of my new friendships, my new meditation practice, my new outlook on yoga, my feelings toward what I needed to change back home. For the time being, words were not necessary. Although I tried I could not put this life changing experience into words, I will sum up the major points below in hopes this holistic and positive lifestyle is for everyone who seeks to find more joy in their heart. You don’t need to travel across the world by yourself, live in Central America for a month and get a certification to make a positive change in your life. I would definitely recommend it all day long but it’s more than possible to do it right here, right now.

In order to make space for positive change it’s essential to rid of toxic behavior. It’s important to be renewed physically in order for this alchemy of transformation to take place. For the time of the training we abstained from drinking alcohol, eating meat and consuming caffeine. Certain days we would even take vows of silence which proved to be much more challenging for me than I had expected. Of course these behaviors in life are not bad but in order to learn not to rely on these substances it’s important to take time without these pleasures to encourage moderation and balance in our lives. By far the most challenging for me was giving up coffee. I would drink at least four cups a day back home! Let’s be realistic here… I was a true addict. If I was tired, coffee was the solution. If I was craving sweets, coffee was the answer. If I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, coffee. I even relied on it to get me in a good mood or make it through a class! Guess what? I don’t need coffee. If I’m tired during the afternoon instead of reaching for a cup of coffee I will go to a healthier alternative like practicing a few energizing yoga poses or doing a round of Kapalabati Pranayama (we’ll discuss this at a later date). The point being, I relied on coffee because I decided at some point in the past I couldn’t rely on myself. I looked for something outside when everything I had ever needed was within. So now, I enjoy and I am grateful for a delicious cup of coffee before I start my day and I’m satisfied. Moderation and balance.

“I woke up every morning bright eyed and bushy tailed hungry to keep practicing and learning. However, to say this journey was a walk in the park would be a lie. When you strip away the extra layers, the distractions and the band-aids there are shadows within that come to the surface you would rather not see.”

We woke up at 6 am each morning to meditate, practice yoga and begin our classes for the day. Despite a four hour break in the afternoon, we were living, speaking and breathing yoga from dawn to dusk. My body, my mind and my spirit were relishing in it and proved to be thankful from the break I gave it from the stresses of everyday life. I was sleeping like a baby each night which has always been unheard of for me, I was dreaming wildly, symbolically and vividly. I woke up every morning bright eyed and bushy tailed hungry to keep practicing and learning. However, to say this journey was a walk in the park would be a lie. When you strip away the extra layers, the distractions and the band-aids there are shadows within that come to the surface you would rather not see. Fears, resentment, hurt, betrayal from the past. These shadows have been swept under the rug, put away a long time ago, saved to be dealt with at a later date. Later is now. The only way to let the light in is to become aware of the dark. We all have scars, but it’s the people who have the courage to face these scars that are the ones who can find lightness in their hearts. All of us did just that together through each discussion, each pose, each breath.

“I found a true family in my Yoga Teacher Training group in Costa Rica. A tribe, as we liked to call it. Each of us came alone to this program to live in a foreign country with strangers for almost an entire month. Everyone was from all over the world; the West Coast, the East Coast, the South, Canada, China. We all came to this experience from different backgrounds, different professions, different stages of life… but the same passion for this practice that had clearly touched our lives.”

I cannot stress the importance of community in any process of transformation. I found a true family in my Yoga Teacher Training group in Costa Rica. A tribe, as we liked to call it. Each of us came alone to this program to live in a foreign country with strangers for almost an entire month. Everyone was from all over the world; the West Coast, the East Coast, the South, Canada, China. We all came to this experience from different backgrounds, different professions, different stages of life… but the same passion for this practice that had clearly touched our lives. I cannot describe the amount respect and support I felt in this group of people. I felt safe sharing my heart even after only knowing these people for a short while. The excitement every person felt when another would succeed was unbelievably beautiful and the wisdom I received whenever I needed advice was unfailing. It made me realize who I want to spend my time with when I returned home to my reality. Life is too short to spend time with people who do not want to see you succeed. It is too short to waste your energy on people who don’t respect you. It’s too precious to befriend people who don’t embrace all that is uniquely, beautifully you. These good hearted people showed me the true meaning of friendship without expecting anything in return. The gratitude I have for each one of them will live in my heart for the rest of my days and I will think of them each time I unroll my mat. Moral of the story, find people that make you light up and make you believe you are unstoppable. Quality over quantity. Be kind always and spread positivity to everyone you meet in your life (even the people that hurt you, you never know the battle they may be facing!) but be selective with who you share your heart and time with.

“…find people that make you light up and make you believe you are unstoppable.”

For now, this is all I have to share about my Costa Rican adventure. I wish I could describe all of it, but it was beyond words. I came home feeling lighter, stronger and kinder. The power of yoga and meditation is extraordinary and if you are looking to transform your life I can’t recommend it enough. You don’t need to go to Costa Rica to practice yoga and meditation for hours on end and learn about the origin of yoga to make a transformation in your life. Start by meditating even five minutes a day, going to a yoga class or even skipping that necessary cup of coffee for the day if you are an addict like I was. Small changes add up, too. Be kind to others but never forget to be kind to yourself. I would like to thank everyone that supported me to accomplish this dream of mine and followed me on my journey. I know this is just the beginning, there’s so much more to come and I am grateful. Namaste.

Shauna Topian, SYS Alumni, Costa Rica 2016

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