While cooking with my friend and professional chef Blakely Stein, I was invited to join her in Costa Rica and cook for a Yoga Teacher Training Retreat. So, by the end of March, I made my way to tropical Playa Dominical - a small beach and surf town approximately 3 hours from the capital San Jose.
I arrived super late at night and, even though my stone-aged and half deaf shuttle driver kept yelling information in half Spanish/half English into my ears, I could already sense that everything around me was alive. I was in the jungle and we drove deeper and deeper into it.
Coming from Telluride winter the change of scenery was a bit of a shock for my body and myself. I travelled from 10.000 feet, fresh powder, no humidity to sea level and jungle boogie humidity!
Dominical is tiny and - apart from the main dirt road, a couple of fruit stalls, one little convenience store, a few souvenir vendors, bars and a beautiful beach - there is not a whole lot to see.
But there is Bamboo Yoga Play - my place of work for the next two weeks.
Bamboo Yoga Play is a sanctuary in the tropics with beautiful accommodation, a nice kitchen and lounge area and a wonderful Yoga studio. Sofiah and Brendan Jaffer-Thom have definitely made a dream come true and I enjoyed my time there very much, slowly but surely becoming part of the community.
For me, as Ashtangi, being in contact with a completely different style of Yoga felt hugely beneficial. I believe that - even though I love my personal Ashtanga practice - you should always try out new things, explore and let your eyes and heart wander in order to grow.
I was able to join classes of “ Body Temple Yoga”, taught by Daniella Cotreau. It felt great to experience something new and I really enjoyed this new style of Yoga. Daniella is an incredible instructor and I loved her practice and the energy she created.
But all in all, I came to Costa Rica for the food, and what was created in this little jungle kitchen at Bamboo Yoga Play was beyond all my expectations. Blakely Stein is an incredible chef and foodie and anything that went into our pots was locally sourced, fresh, organic and just divine.
Together we prepared daily breakfasts and dinners for roughly 30 people.
As soon as I arrived I realized that this was nothing like cooking in Colorado - we were on a budget, a tight budget but Blakely managed to serve great creations and on top of that meet the nutritional needs of the group.
Due to the heat, a lot of the times we served raw foods, gluten free and vegan options and if fish was on the menu, we bought it from the local fisherman. It was so fresh and yummy that it even made my vegan mouth watery and I enjoyed preparing it.
Fresh green coconuts, ripe avocados, pineapples so sweet one could barely eat them, mangos ripe and juice etc etc were stable ingredients.
My personal food cravings changed from a piece of toast w/ an egg, avocado and goat cheese to a green smoothie prepared with young coconut water, kale, Spirulina, Maca, mint and tahini. My body absorbed the nutrients instantly and I could feel how energetic I became and how well I was able to deal with the heat and the humidity.
Even working in the blazing heat during the afternoon became manageable because I fueled my body with the best and most nourishing foods out there.
Once again, I realized how important food is for us and how far our society has moved from a healthy and sustainable diet.
I do not encourage anyone to follow a certain diet, as I truly believe that your body tells you what it needs, but I would like to raise people’s awareness of what they put into their mouths! Be aware where your foods come from, if they are organic and locally sourced, if the beef comes from a grass fed cow, raised by a local farmer, if your eggs come from happy chickens that can run around and lay eggs naturally...
And yes, it takes a little effort to become aware of these things but I think it is a vital move to a healthier and happier existence.
Costa Rica has definitely opened my eyes and sharpened my senses when it comes to food and the choices I make and made! I really enjoyed the abundance of fresh, ripe and yummy fruits and vegetables in Latin America and what I was able to create with them. I don’t think I could live in this climate as I would miss the mountains and the snow way too much, but Costa Rica was for sure one hell of a culinary experience!