We baby boomers like to think we don’t need role models … because we are the role models. But when we hear from fellow boomers doing things that we might like to do ourselves, we think it’s worth sharing. And that’s the story from writer Joyce Zonana of Brooklyn, New York, who went with her husband to a Yoga Paradise.
We’ve come, my husband and I, to a small yoga retreat, Panacea de la Montana, high atop a mountain on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. From our simply furnished cabana, we have a view of the Pacific, less than ten miles away, where myriad, diverse beaches beckon. We are here for a three week yoga teacher training, led by Mary E. Byerly, a meticulous, dedicated teacher, who twelve years ago joined with two friends to create this magical retreat.
Mike and I, at 66 and 67, are the oldest students, but — most of the time — there is no distinction between us and the 25-year-old just-starting-out New York lawyer, the 35-year-old expat French surfer, and the 45-year-old Canadian personal trainer, each of whom, just like us, has gathered here for these three weeks of intensive yoga practice and study.
Mike came to yoga six years ago after the death of his previous wife. For me, it has been an on-again, off-again practice that began in the late 1960s when I first glimpsed my guru, Swami Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga. I’ve done teacher trainings before, and have even been teaching some yoga recently at a local studio, but I am here this time to strengthen and deepen practice. Mike is here for the same reason.
Our days begin each morning at 6 a.m. with a three hour practice in an open-air, circular rancho: nearly two hours of asana, the yoga poses developed over thousands of years to bring alignment and peace to the body and mind; then another hour or so of deep relaxation, followed by breathing practices (pranayama) and meditation. As I breathe here, I am at each moment astonished by the sweet softness of the air. I inhale fully and slowly, expanding my lungs, gratefully opening to what William Wordsworth celebrated two hundred years ago: “the blessing in this gentle breeze.” And then I exhale slowly again, releasing that blessing.
After morning practice, we enjoy a simple but delicious breakfast (huevos rancheros perhaps, or home-made granola with yogurt and mango) prepared by Debbie and served beside a sparkling pool that overlooks an expansive mountain vista. A great calm envelops us as we prepare for the rest of the day: three hours of study and discussion in the morning, then another four hours of practice teaching and discussion in the afternoon and evening. By nine o’clock, most of us are fast asleep.
And so the time glides along. We are already in our last week, and I am imagining the return to New York City, where I will resume my college teaching position for one more semester. This is how I am preparing for “retirement,” that transition into more conscious living. I savor each moment here, dedicating myself to taking this peace back with me into my life, into the world. Namaste.