Mystica Lodge & Retreat Center, a retreat center in the Bliss Without Bother network, is set on a lush jungle hilltop overlooking Lake Arenal and an impressive active volcano in Costa Rica. The Lodge offers a variety of accommodations, including rustic rooms with expansive views, cabins with private terraces, and villas with full kitchens. A full restaurant on site offers complimentary breakfast and home-cooked meals with a touch of Mediterranean flavors. A variety of healing and massage treatment sessions are available in a tree-house sanctuary overlooking the waterfall pool. Since 1993, Mystica has offered comfort for travelers and retreat participants alike.
It was February, in the depths of a Northeastern winter. I landed in Costa Rica and could already feel the weight of winter shed its layers. I had registered to attend Into the Essence: De-Stress & Reset Yoga Retreat at Mystica Lodge & Retreat Center with Lori Myles-Carullo. I was excited about the prospect of spending a week in the sun and getting a much-needed reset. My flight was the last to arrive, so when I walked out of the airport to meet the driver I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by smiles from the group, many of whom hailed from frigid Canada.
The drive was about an hour to the retreat center and on the way there we saw monkeys hanging from trees, exotic birds, and the verdant landscape that makes Costa Rica so beautiful. Mystica Retreat Center is located near Lake Arenal, atop a hillside offering spectacular views of the lake. One of the reasons I chose to participate on this retreat was because I was feeling worn out from the winter in New York City and life had been exceptionally stressful the past few months. Naturally, a de-stress retreat sounded appropriate. Plus, I was especially excited to meet Lori, a multi-talented woman who is certified as a yoga instructor, psychotherapy counsellor, Reiki master, and aromatherapy health practitioner. We had been in touch many times before and her generous and lively spirit in her emails had me wondering how to feel the same magical way. I knew I needed a boost of sunshine and warmth, both from being in the sun and from surrounding myself with kindred spirits. My intuition had told me that this was the retreat to join.
As I expected from having participated on numerous retreats, our schedule included a variety of wellness modalities with several unexpected surprises. We kicked off the week with a welcome circle where we shared our intentions and learned more about each other. We were all women from different stages in life, but who all needed this week to rejuvenate our physical bodies, strengthen our spirits, let go of unhealthy habits, and connect with the elements.
Our days started with a bountiful breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, and local eggs made to order. We often sat together on the patio soaking in the views and listening to the birds while slowly forgetting the hurried lives we led back home. After breakfast, Lori led us through combination yoga and meditation sessions, complete with mantras and music alongside the stream that ran below the yoga platform.
Although I struggled with fatigue back at home during the dark winter mornings, I seemed to have no problem waking up early to streaks of sunrise painted across the blue sky. After only a few days, my roommate – an inspiring woman who serves as a police officer in Toronto – and I naturally started waking up with the sun to take long walks down the road. Having my body sync with the sun felt magical and helped me recover from the physical drain I had felt all season.
On the second day, I learned that there was an ancient Ceiba tree a short hike away. As an herbalist, I am naturally intrigued by plants and trees, especially when they have survived for hundreds of years. The Ceiba tree is considered sacred in many Central and South American countries. Several Amazonian tribes, for example, believe that deities live in the trees, while the Mayans believed that the tree connected both the underworld and celestial planes with the earthly, terrestrial realm.
In addition to feeling grounded through our daily practices, we took several off-site group trips, including to Ecotermales Hot Springs followed by a beach day at Playa Hermosa.
During free time one quiet afternoon at Mystica a neighbor who is a practicing nun stopped by for a visit. Her kindness and grace were uplifting, and she readily agreed to lead a short prayer for our journeys ahead. I was most excited by her home-grown and lovingly-made hemp products, including a hemp oil used to help with sleep and a hemp salve helpful for sore muscles. Hemp contains no psychoactive properties and is found in many beauty products, as well as clothing and household goods. The medicinal benefits are plentiful – from supporting healthy hair, skin, and nails to improving brain and heart health to uplifting mood – I was delighted to purchase her high-quality medicinal products at a very reasonable cost.
It was by the fourth day that I finally, much to my relief, felt my physical and emotional body reap the benefits of consistent mindfulness practices, nourishing homemade meals from the restaurant at Mystica, and the company of amazing women. Additionally, Lori had introduced us to several different Sanskrit mantras that we recited together at the end of each yoga session. One in particular that stood out for me was the Blessing Chant:
May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on
By the end of the week, I was feeling immensely better with a clearer mind, lighter spirit, and improved wellbeing. Time and again, I have found that the best adventures are those that are guided by the intention to be open, learn, and let go. Although the winter season still awaited me back home, a week in Costa Rica was the rejuvenation that I needed – and Lori’s retreat was the blessing.
For your own adventures of wellness in Costa Rica, visit Mystica Lodge & Retreat Center for information on upcoming retreats. Let us know when you've registered and Bliss Without Bother will send you a complimentary Bliss Box, curated with select products to support you on your wellness journey!
Maria Christodoulou | Founder