My Yoga Vacation in Nicaragua

Gone are the politically turbulent days. Nicaragua has become an enticing retreat destination.

By Margot Dougherty
Photograph: Photo: Brown Cannon III

Ours turned out to be a small group—eight women—and we straggled into the country piecemeal, making the bumpy three-hour van trip from Managua airport to Morgan’s Rock in clumps of twos and threes. Set within 4,500 acres of a reforestation project, the grounds of the beachfront resort are stunning. Using hardwoods from the property, British architect Matthew Falkiner designed 15 rustic-elegant bungalows with structural beams made of polished tree trunks, outdoor showers and suspended queen-size daybeds that sway over patios facing the ocean. Wi?Fi is limited to a small area in the main lodge, in my case a 15-minute hike down a steep dirt path to a suspension bridge draped over a canyon lush with foliage.

In August, Nicaragua’s weather is hot and exceedingly humid—I was pretty much drenched the entire trip, and my laptop expired from heat exhaustion one day in the back of a van—but a sea breeze moved the air at the resort’s open-sided restaurant and lounge, and that’s where the yoga crew first met. As bartenders concocted fruit batidas made of white pineapple and bananas, a kirtan of howler monkeys—15-pound simians whose prehistoric calls seem to emanate from dinosaur-size diaphragms—resonated in the distance.

On that first afternoon, we filed down to a pair of thatch-roofed yoga platforms set up at the beach. The sand was a crustacean circus. Purple land crabs with orange eyebrows scuttled sideways and waved Day-Glo claws, like cartoon characters escaping giant aliens. Other pincered creatures popped in and out of more subtly colored shells, and tiny specks of who knows what hopped spastically through the melee. Sanskrit chants by Krishna Das wafted from portable speakers as unhurried waves rolled to shore and a pair of worn fishing boats bobbed like an old couple in the mid-distance. I’ve done yoga in some remarkable settings—the incense-stained basement of Pattabhi Jois’s home in India, a rain forest in Brazil, a former palace in Bhutan—but a remote beach at twilight with an uninterrupted horizon and softly whirling body-temperature air was a new kind of magic. The ocean swallowed an enormous orange globe of a sun as the class ended, and our final collective om was pitch-perfect.

A job layoff can inflict an abrupt and disorienting loneliness. I wasn’t ­blindsided—colleagues were let go before me, and my salary made me a likely ­candidate—but I’d enjoyed the daytime social life of an office for 30 years. Suddenly I was talking, a lot, in thoughtfully constructed complex sentences, to my dogs. Astute observations, idle musings, clever asides or merciless cracks were inevitably met by the same triptych of responses: a doleful stare from my basset hound, spontaneous rollovers from my terrier mix and misplaced excitement from my Chihuahua (“We’re going on a walk?!”). As an employee, I’d done my share of grumbling about the 30-minute commute, but I was starting to miss brushing up against humans, dissecting last night’s episode of 30 Rock or Glee. There’s a perverse kind of peace to be found in the midst of deadline-ravaged coworkers. Watching the sun drop on the Morgan’s Rock beach, I felt a similar sense of purposeful calm. It began to dawn on me that I am a writer by nature, not simply by job description. This thing I’ve been doing for decades is not, it turns out, just a career. It’s who I am. So while I’d become a lone agent on a professional level, in other parts of my life I was connecting, finding opportunities I wouldn’t likely have noticed, or taken, while drawing a steady paycheck.

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