I wake to the sound of a gentle breeze knocking mangoes off a tree onto the deck outside my bungalow. Its early, but it sure beats my alarm clock back home in the frigid cold of a western Washington spring. I liberally apply my pre-breakfast sunscreen because I have a unique ability to burn in the shade and under cover- especially in the hot Costa Rican sun.

Earlier this week I made friends with a bird who hangs out in the dining area- I’ve named him Eran. He’s a large Costa Rican Blue jay with a tall tuft of feathers and eyes that say, “Are you going to finish that?”. He’s back today and I watch him fly off with half of someone’s unattended empanada. The jungle is a perilous place.

After Breakfast I make my treacherous commute through the well-manicured jungle to our tree top shala overlooking the ocean to teach our Arm Balance and Inversion workshop. My co-host Haley is amazing for so many reasons, but today I’m especially grateful because she leads the group through a killer warm up and several arm balances and then leaves me to do my favorite thing-talk about going upside down. We could not ask for a better group to have with us on our first retreat. Each and every person here is brave, playful, and just as excited for this experience as we are. We have 25 incredible Spark students, and our resident Canadian Rebecca. She doesn’t know it yet, but she going to have to move to Snohomish so we don’t have to say goodbye to her.

After class I have the tough choice between lounging in the beautiful salt water pool, or reading on a swing in the juice cabana. I opt to stay out of the sun for a bit and seek some cover, along with an icy smoothie of fresh tropical fruits. My sweet husband Joe-our retreat photographer spends the time loading our pictures from the morning practice into our group album online.

Our mid-day excursion is a tour of the mangroves so just after 2 PM we all gather in the lobby-passing around room keys, water bottles, and sunscreen to prepare for the trip. After a 15-minute dust filled roller coaster of a ride we turn a corner and catch views of a glittering ocean inlet. Our tour guides Jason, Kenneth, Junior, and Alan do a quick safety training and ensure us that there are definitely crocodiles in the mangroves, but that they probably aren’t interested in eating us. Very comforting. We nervously joke and laugh when each log we pass looks suspiciously sentient, but we make it to our private beach with no incidents. Our guides pass around fresh tropical fruit and we drink straight from coconuts hacked open by machetes (which is totally safe, right?) while coconut water drips down our faces. After some swimming in the sea and the obligatory group shot we head back and finally get our close encounter with a crocodile but survive to tell the tale.

Back to the bungalow for my 3rd (but not last) shower of the day. I thought I showered a lot before, but when stepping outside immediately coats you in a layer of sticky sweat it feels like a shower is necessary every 20 minutes. Good thing the showers here are outdoor with rain shower heads and pebble floors, it feels like a spa experience every time- even when I have to share with a thirsty gecko looking for a little splash to drink.

Our group dinners have been voted everyone’s favorite part of the retreat, and for good reason. The food here is incredible, and the company and conversation even better. They serve a giant bowl of freshly made guacamole bigger than my head that I could finish all by myself, but I decide as a retreat leader I should probably share.

After dinner I lead a Yin class focused on stretching out our shoulders and back from the Arm Balance/ Inversion workshop, and our time spent paddling through the mangrove forest trying to outrun all the hungry crocodile-logs. Tonight we get to use the outdoor open air shala so we are surrounded by the sounds of Cicadas, and what Joe tells me are geckos making their nightly booty calls (those may or may not have been his words). I try to remain calm and yogic when I see my first lighting bug of the trip, but fail miserably as I excitedly show him off to the class. I think I’ll name him Pepe after our favorite waiter at the Bodhi Restaurant.

Around 9:30 I sleepily stumble the short path back to my room, quickly shower off the last sticky sweat of the day, and pass out quickly- excited to do it all again tomorrow.