One Woman’s Experience: a Look Into Costa Rican Rejuvenation
With the powerful ride of our daily lives, sometimes creating vertigo, our search for an emotional and physical break, and a combined rationalization to justify it, will continue to rise. Though the ride of life will continue, there are some things we can do to make it smoother from time to time.
For the past few years, I have had the assorted delight of exploits and objection of living in a small resort town in Costa Rican, one of foreign tourism’s most sought destinations. In my endeavors in the spa industry both here and in the US, I have found varying assumptions, real life options, along with what works for that illusory thing we call rejuvenation.
Costa Rica, a country comparable to the size of West Virginia is, in and of itself is a Mecca of natural wonders made for revivification. With my own inner desire to seek out some renewal for myself, and being right here in “Mecca land” I decided to take it upon myself to find out what is out there not only for me, but for those around me who look to me for knowledge in this area.
Hundreds of auspicious companies now acknowledge the commitment needed to redirect the unhealthy and unhappy workforce created by the demands of the job. Many are realizing that these sedentary and high pressure positions may be causing employees a loss of physical health, leading to further preoccupations and overworked psyches. The return, high cost healthcare, and less productivity. Health oriented firms are taking advantage of this shift by craftily applying well planned, results oriented programs to increase worker productivity and reduce stress, while setting markers to measure goals and savings. Firms will work one on one with your company to implement on site healthcare facilities, work out centers, meditation rooms, weekly massage, nutrition and stress management classes, among other incentives. Giving back to the employee and acknowledging they are more than a 9 to 5. This provocation of our spiritual search and looking into our own behavioral patterns and how they lock us into our external lives is increasing. Our need to reclaim our behavior is a reason to seek places of divine retreat.
We seek rejuvenation centers for solace, to manage stress, detoxify, find alternative healthcare or for motivation for a lifestyle change, all while satisfying our craving for euphoria. What if we could bring about a radical change within ourselves, and let that ebb and flow in our daily lives. What is that worth to us?
From coastal plains to rugged mountains, and over 100 volcanic cones, several that are active, the humble country of Costa Rica depends on tourism to bring in foreign income that allows them to tackle environmental and social issues. The past year has brought that tourism, and foreign direct investment, over 480 million dollars of it. It has also brought advancement, with spas popping up in rapid succession, and a seeming rush to beat out the next guy. According to the Coyle Hospitality Group, a New York based market leader in quality assurance, the average person, 57% of us in fact, have visited a resort or hotel spa 1-5 times in the past year. With spas at almost every edge of Costa Rica, from the south end of the Osa Peninsula, to the far north where you can visit a Four Seasons, I agree we will see our share of the 59% of consumers who now want more time to explore their spiritual side, according to the 2001 Leisure Travel Monitor.
R &R Resorts is the management operation of three well known and highly sought international wellness centers with spa and retreat villas. Providing the total “mind, body, spirit” connection before it was trendy to include this slogan on every youngling spa brochure. One of their three facilities, aptly named Pura Vida, or Pure Life, a national anthem and frequent greeting for the Costa Rican People, symbolizing to take it easy and enjoy life. In other words most things can wait until tomorrow, not a mentality easily ingrained into our work harder, get more, puritan roots.
I decided it was time to take advantage of my location and experience this for myself. As I passed through a small country town, they call Cerrysel, I am amazed at how much of this small country still remains for me to see. High green mountains, surrounded by coffee fields, and winding small roads that lead to a remote hilltop location, needing a little navigation, almost as if you need an exclusive password for the privilege of the location. A seeming world away from my four hour drive from the coast, with fog misted mountains and a quiet calm, I looked forward to sharing with the staff. Having previously arranged a meeting with the general manager and marketing coordinator, I knew I only had the day to enjoy this getaway, because of my schedule.
Promising myself I would make a return visit for the much talked about week of transformation.
Upon my arrival I was greeted with a warm welcome by Manrique Gomez, the GM here for the past three years with 20 years of management experience. I was immediately taken through the grounds, as we discussed the types of accommodations, classes, treatments and pricing they have to offer.
The walk was colder than I am used to, quiet, with only the wind moving the palm and almond trees with a perpetual breeze, and a refreshing clear view of the valley and surrounding hills. With a review of the 22,000 square meter grounds, of comfortable sturdy “toldos” or tents, and pagoda style villas, 53 in all, I was invited to lunch. In the Garden Restaurant a cozy cafeteria style center, I sat down with some very sincere and enthusiastic staff. More rightly referred to as part of the community, at least that is how they like to view themselves. I was pleased to find some of my favorite combinations, tofu dishes, lots of fresh vegetables, cheeses, fruit juice and salad. A light healthy fare, that blends well with a weeks retreat of healing therapies from Bioenergetics, Watsu, Inner Guidance, Thai, Reflexology, Reflective time and all other customary treatments you may think of.
Everyone I spoke with was honest and open, not at all excessively protective of their proprietary works as some who shrink from the interest of other trade professionals. Proud of their success and innovative programs they were happy to share. With members of the “community” from Israel, Australia, USA, Germany, Britain, and of course Costa Rica, they have no shortage of people who seek a chance to live and work here. Isvari, a Sanskrit word for the feminine of God, is the name the resident yoga instructor takes. Trained in Kripalu, Holistic Nutrition, Danskinetics, and Iyengar theories, she brings an open minded vision to her teaching. When I asked another member, what she enjoyed most here, the response was “touching hearts”, which is what she sees in the responsive and physical difference in her clients, at weeks end. Trained in Israel, Switzerland, and India, she has a friendly face, wide, clear eyes, and a true dedication to her work. Management, instructors, therapists, enthusiasts, solace seekers, and Pura Vida regulars all eat, live, practice, and heal together.
Built on an old coffee farm, significantly more developed than when it was purchased 20 years ago by the founding couple of R & R Resorts, Pauline and Michael Klegg.
Now a prosperous company, it is comprehensibly managed by a couple of “corporate refugees”, Rakesh and LuAnn. Based in Dahlonega, Georgia, near the Pura Vida USA wellness center, they travel monthly to their sister properties in Tulum, Mexico, and Alejuela, Costa Rica. Rakesh, a former corporate financier, and LuAnn a lawyer by training, make for a well designed management team. For two and a half years they have been behind the properties and programs you can find available. In speaking with the management team I was able to relate to the dedication and skill it takes to keep these wellness centers going. With my own recent work in boutique, and resort spa start up on the Pacific Coast, I’d had my days of rewards and set-backs. The couple, having visited the Costa Rican property three years ago on vacation, decided to modify their lives and upon their return, applied with R& R Resorts, later finding themselves heading up the project. Attracted to the wellness industry by a desire to do something more thrilling than the routine corporate world, and I’m guessing a little healthy self-interest to do something for themselves, they took it on with enthusiasm. With no misconceptions about the industry, they admit, it is just as hard, if not more, to manage these properties, as it was in high demand jobs. Travel is frequent and quality checks are consistent, along with ensuring that each property reflects and represents what they advertise, and is homogenous with the whole body connection put into place at the original MayaTulum property 20 years ago. The founding couple had some healthy discernment in bringing together yoga, and spa awareness when it was not mainstream, an became an inspiration to others.
LuAnn tells me there are no immediate plans for expansion on the Costa Rica property, but that they are always looking to improve the look and “deepen their offerings” to the guests, and leave them with something to take home. As we all know, our guests can be the greatest reward, and the greatest challenge, all at the same time. The reason they always look for staff with the ability to deal with the public, and amongst it all, smile! A pre-requisite to be a staff member, I am told, is quality training, knowledge, and of course the right attitude. As I’ve heard throughout my career from therapist, to manager, through development and consulting, people can be trained, but if they are inherently unhappy, that will reflect in their work.
It must be working, as LuAnn informs me they consistently receive compliments from clients around the world on the positive fulfillment of expectation and forceful energy of Pura Vida retreats. From experience I know how hard it can be to execute countless biddings, the feeling to out perform, and surpass your guests expectations. In this aspect LuAnn put it so objectively, “Some may have better rooms than us, others may have better treatments, but it is what we put into it, and the service and caring that our clients receive that make it an experience to remember.”
This is the attitude that has made this one of the most popular destination locations in Central America, and the management awareness is key.
With the average vacation being 10-14 days out of 365, some of us, myself included prefer a new experience during our time away, where our personal needs will be addressed, and you can really take some, YOU time. Sometimes that takes seclusion, and lifestyle change, which is part of what Pura Vida does in taking pride in raising a level of consciousness for their clients, and creating a safe space for transformation to happen. Where as one staff member put it, “giving them time to return to the beautiful person they have forgotten they are”
LuAnn maintains a belief that nature has a way of healing us, if that is the case, then this is a perfect tropical location to begin your renewal. Not only a popular spa with 9 mountain view rooms dedicated to treatments and a private Watsu pool. Their wellness center can also be reserved for yoga teacher trainings, therapist CEU’s, and seminars for all types and levels of the trade.
Destination spas are one of the things people think of when looking for a much needed escape and to allow our overworked minds to be swept away, to contemplate a recent change, a divorce, work, or life. Each of us will look to have a different expectation filled, seeking our own path, transcending age, health and circumstance. We all need, and deserve to function at our best physiologically and emotionally. Personally I look forward to taking them up on an invitation to return and participate in their wellness program and trying out the ‘Unwrap Journey Paradise” package , floating from massage to wrap to detox steam and facial. Exploring the boundries of my yoga stretches, and taking some time for introspection of my own to re-direct some goals that may have slipped off track.
Costa Rica can be a place where your daily rejuvenation rituals and healthy habits may be challenged, you certainly will be hard pressed to find a turkey burger or raw foods juice bar, especially disadvantageous to those of us living day to day lives here. Whether we are traveling or a long term guest in a foreign location, our well being is within our reach. Inside the borders of this little country I currently call home, I now have one more channel to access in my personal search for the sometimes misleading or unbridled spirit. Rejuvenation is deeply personal to each of us, as we create our rituals to get through the day, deep breaths when needed, a private minute for a mantra, or scanning trade and travel magazines for the next get away. We find our way.
I look up as I am writing this, into a tranquil ocean cove, a friends’ sloop moored below, the sun is setting, soon I will see the capricious pattern of shades on the horizon, a bird swoops in to pick up a wandering gecko, and I move to the sounds of distant titi monkeys, and a subtle background beat of a locally bought c.d., ‘Sounds of the Coffee Lands’. An echo of breaking surf moves up the hill, like a chant, a sound that has always been my soul rejuvenation, that wraps me in contentment. I guess this is the beginnings of my dream, my chance to re-invent myself and capture the empowerment to appreciate it, and what enables me to provide a center of renewal for myself and those around me. So my daily ride, once a roller coaster has slowed to a tranquil merry go round, with an exceptional view… at least for the time being. After all I am working the controls.
Lotus Effects LLC, Spa College, and Lucid Learning were founded by Liz Galloway, professional wellness consultant, speaker and spa industry trainer. With location and teams in both the US and Costa Rica she continues to provide precision business and mentoring for spa start up’s and turn arounds, while bringing new levels of patent pending training options to the healing arts industry.
How The Liver/Gallbladder Cleanse Changed My Life
“My name is Sarah, and I was a participant in the Annapurna Center for Self Healing liver gallbladder cleanse. What precipitated my journey here was a lifetime of white flour and white sugar and all that those substances and many others do to tax the body. I was a young woman in an old woman’s body and I needed some deep cleansing and healing and the knowing that that I was whole.
Doing the liver gallbladder cleanse and all the work around the mental and emotional parts of the body in unison with the mind and spirit, I came to a sense of grace and wholeness and equanimity that I heretofore had not known. I am ever so grateful for the wisdom that has been culled by the staff here. They are gracious and understanding and compassionate, real and authentic, they can go to some really deep places when you decide to release and let go and surrender to the healing process.
I also want to honor all the guests who stayed here because they had an integral role in seeing different reflections of how one can choose to heal, and what healing might mean.
I would also like to note that the food is fantastic – it is prepared fresh from the hands and the heart and the spirit of very kind and well skilled folk who have an intimate knowledge of what it is to cook in a raw food kitchen – or uncook, if you will – and there’s beautiful water that you can probably only get in a handful of places on the planet, alkaline water.
And there’s a real wonderful garden.
There’s something about being in a healing center that is surrounded by such abundant, colorful life. The seasons changing in this part of the Olympic Peninsula, its quite exquisite to go along with the seaons of health and change that manifest when you decide to really allow your body the space to expand and to find what it doesn’t need how your body can actually compost that; in unison with all the devices, both mechanical, that are available at The Annapurna Center for Self Healing.
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