True Nature Travels Blog


Battling Stress with Yoga

Yoga.  The word alone conjures up all sorts of meanings and images.  I bet you are thinking of someone doing a crazy yoga asana or pose right now, like standing on their hands or putting their legs behind their head.  Yes, this is yoga, too, but in fact, the real reason humans have been practicing yoga for over 5,000 years simply reconnect with their innermost selves, or their True Nature.

We have a tendency to get caught up in looking outside ourselves for fulfillment, happiness, peace, etc.  Yet something we all know deep down is that true joy can only be found when we are completely content internally.  We get caught up in doing rather than just being.

There are many paths and definitions to yoga.  We will be exploring these here in our new blog series – The True Nature of Yoga.  One of our favorite definitions of yoga is…

True Nature Travels Blog

IMG_20140220_165023Following the 2nd Annual Rhythms of Joy Retreat with Tiina Kivinen in January 2014, one of the retreat participants, Rick, shared with us this beautiful poem that he used to reflect on his experience with True Nature Education and time in Costa Rica. He spent a week on a birding expedition following his time on the retreat with us, during which he said he had ample time to process his time with us.
Rick furthermore shared with us that, “I remember, during  one of the (many) sharing sessions, comparing our group to a 15 petal lotus.  It strikes me now just  how apt that descrption – – –  each perfect lotus petal finds even greater perfection in its place within the blossom.  You were all perfect, and it was fantastic to bloom with you. My heart was emptied and then it was filled.  Sweet blessings to all.”
A cold, dark heart, frozen by loss
Unable to grieve, unable to let go
The fragile ebb and flow of her life
The memories of her journey so new
Candlelit yoga with twelve gentle souls 
Magic Moon’s words crack the shell
The vibration of kirtan like Jericho
My soul exposed, my centre revealed
My heart now opened to strangers
The pain unleashed but so welcome
The well of tears no longer held back
The depth of acceptance enveloped me
A mother not lost but transcended
As the cross through the woods revealed 
She is with me, now a part of me
Her unconditional love surrounds me

True Nature Travels Blog

IMG_20140130_161940You know when everything feels connected?  Maybe you’ve run into a long lost friend at the grocery store who you’ve been meaning to catch up with.  Perhaps your yoga class focused on the exact part of your body that needed your attention. You feel like you are in the right place at the right time, and things are going your way.  I like to refer to this experience as “being in the flow.”

Being in the flow is when there is a sense of ease to your way of life.  You listen to the plan of the universe, and you act accordingly.  Rather than exerting a lot of energy to create what you think you want, the universe effortlessly provides you with what you really need.   The truth is that being in the flow just feels good.

IMG_20140206_093400Currently, I am living in Costa Rica on retreat with True Nature Education, and life here is different.  Conversations with people who I just met begin to feel like talks with old friends.  I practice yoga effortlessly, and my ability to listen to my body is more attuned.  My rhythms for sleep have matched those of nature; I wake up with the birds and the sun, and the stars and crickets lull me to sleep.  Life has become a living meditation, and this is what being in the flow is all about.

As I experience this way of life in Costa Rica, I aspire to create a life at home that feels as consistently connected and in the flow as I’m experiencing here.  True Nature is giving me tools to be able to tap into living with this essence of ease.  On retreat, I practice yoga, have communal meals, and spend my time outdoors in nature.  These are all meaningful ways that I will bring home with me, as a way to connect with the flow of life.

True Nature Travels Blog


Just a couple of hours ago our Chant Together: A Family Bhakti Yoga Celebration with David ‘Durga Das’ Newman, Mira Newman, and Friends departed. It was a wonderfully rich week of retreat. Bhakti Yoga is also known as the yoga of devotion and love. The essence of this week was just that.

Standing on the incredible Finca Luna Nueva Lodge property, I gaze into the distance at the vast rainforest before me. When looking with one point of view, all I observe is a sea of green; when looking closely I see the intricate web of life before me, with the vast array of flora and fauna. Trees, flowers, birds, water.

The journey of retreat reveals a similar comparison. Each retreat in a way is very similar: a group of people coming together, practicing together, residing as a community, and then journeying onward. But, when we really move into the intimate intricacy of retreat, what beholds is truly an exquisite, unique experience to live through.

This week we explored a new facet – opening to the potential of sharing the retreat experience with families. Our retreat had three families with children: a mother and daughter, and another couple, along with some single adults. In the past I have had apprehension about the potential distraction that the family element might bring into retreat. I have been familiar for many years with a paradigm of retreat that was quiet, introspective, and focused towards a sense of personal time. I was curious about how this would be impacted with the element of children and family.

photo (19)David brought forth a beautiful reflection through his teachings this week. Sharing with us the profound transformation he had experienced over the past several months, his message was that “we all have the opportunity to awaken to the perfection of our ordinary selves.

This message was a perfect teaching for this retreat, which was filled with

True Nature Travels Blog

IMG_0217We’re nearing the end of our Chant Together Kirtan yoga retreat with David Newman (“Durga Das”) and Friends, and it has been such a delightful journey!  Our group is wonderfully diverse, with participants ranging from age 2, all the way up beyond 60.  It has been so sweet to have parents and kids, husbands and wives, and friends all here to chant together.

The power of retreat is something I wish everyone could experience. Feeling the support of the community and taking part in daily practices such as yoga, satsang (“discussions of truth”), and kirtan (“chanting”) have all added the fullness and richness of this True Nature Experience.

IMG_20140126_123038It has been such a blessing to spend the week on this magical land near the Arenal Volcano at Finca Luna Nueva Lodge. Everything is so lush here.  This is a place where trees grow on trees, toucans with bright yellow beaks fly overhead, and a three-toed sloth makes an occasional appearance.  This is a place where all you have to do is sit quietly and watch, and magic will present itself.

The other day we went to a local village and worked on projects for the school’s community garden.  The school is responsible for feeding the students lunch, and it has become a necessity to grow food to support this.  It felt great to help out with the project.  We also made sugar cane juice and drank from coconuts straight off the trees.  After our work (which was mostly play!), we enjoyed a home-cooked meal where we made our own corn tortillas.

Today, we spent the morning at the Tabacon Hot Springs.  We soaked up the warmth of volcanic water, as it poured through rivers and waterfalls that meandered through the trees and vibrantly colored plants.  Our afternoon ended with a sunset horseback ride to a waterfall.

It has been a wonderful week blending lots of time relaxing, chanting, and adventuring.  It is always sweet to get to know other people (and ourselves) better.  It is a gift to be able to spend a week away from our day-to-day lives and to live in a way that more deeply connects us with our own True Nature.


Eliza Volk
Asheville, North Carolina





True Nature Travels Blog

Just for now, without asking how, let yourself sink into stillness.

Just for now, lay down the
weight you so patiently
bear upon your shoulders.
Feel the earth receive
you, and the infinite
expanse of sky grow even
wider as your awareness
reaches up to meet it.
Just for now, allow a wave of breath to enliven your experience. Breathe out whatever blocks you from the truth. Just for now, be boundless, free, awakened energy tingling in your hands and feet. Drink in the possibility of being who and what you really are so fully alive that when you open your eyes the world looks different, newly born and vibrant, just for now.
I shared this poem by Dana Faulds in class in Costa Rica, reminding the group to allow themselves time to really be in the beautiful magic of Costa Rica and use it as a space and time to take care of themselves and to get back to who they are.
Over the course of the week, we softened our grip on our lives and responsibilities and let ourselves sink into stillness (or something similar).  Staying at Finca Luna Nueva Lodge, a biodynamic farm, allowed us to have a direct connection to nature. We ate food that was grown and compassionately raised by inspiring land stewards; we practiced yoga surrounded by the cacophony of of the rainforest; we observed nature in her own pace – the sun rising, the sloths traveling up and down trees, watching the weather shifting constantly.
We explored beyond Finca Luna and our comfortable limits: stand up paddle boarding on Lake Arenal, the world’s largest man-made lake, hiking the resilient ecosystem that surrounds Arenal Volcano, rappelling down waterfalls, rafting the rapids, and sinking into the healing warmth of the hot springs.
Between our multiple yoga practices each day and our explorations, we found time to practice sinking into stillness – massages, reading, walking & running on the property, and napping in hammocks.
Throughout all of this we discovered “moments” in which we had insights into who and what we really are.  Some of these moments were in the quiet reverence of nature, and many were in the time we spent together at meals, on bus rides, on porches, and during our yoga practices.
These “moments” were revelations that we are boundless and free and that we have access to the energy within us.
These “moments” showed us that maybe we do give too much of ourselves and offer ourselves too little protection. Maybe we don’t make enough time to do the things that make us happy. Maybe we don’t step out of the cacophony of our wired trance to see, hear, and experience our lives as unique.  Maybe we don’t recognize how much energy we have to spend on our own lives and how beautiful life is.
This energy and these insights are not to be squandered – they need to be nurtured and protected. Leaving Costa Rica, we understand that this is special and belongs to us. It should not be doused by jumping back into old patterns that block us from this knowledge.
So, pardon us if we seem a bit different as we return from Costa Rica. Excuse us if we become more deliberate like the sloths. And don’t mind us if we take more risks and have different perspectives on our day to day lives. We just got back from Costa Rica – newly born and vibrant, just for now.
We send out much gratitude to the staff of Finca Luna Nueva, True Nature Education, and the dozens of Ticos that made our trip to Costa Rica so wonderful.  PURA VIDA!

True Nature Travels Blog

This was written by Tiina Kivinen, retreat leader of our first yoga retreat of the 2013 season, the Rhythms of Joy: A Costa Rica Experience, from 1/12-1/19:

Love from Nosara Costa Rica! We just completed the Rhythms of Joy Costa Rica Yoga Retreat last week, and I am basking in the afterglow. The experience brought people together from Peterborough, Bobcageon, and Thunder Bay Ontario, Alberta, Minnesota, New York City, Holland, and our beloved co-facilitators from Asheville, North Carolina. One participant, Fern, described a ‘magnetic pull’ that brought her to the retreat, and I can attest that a force of love and grace brought all these beautiful souls together at the right place and time to experience rhythms of joy, deep connection and awakening.

During the 7 days of Retreat, we rode the waves in the ocean, diving into high and low tides, and felt the healing ocean waters caress our feet during sunset. Each day, attending to the grace and epic beauty of the setting Sun reminded me of the blessing of life, another day of loving as the sun melted into the ocean and the day turned to night. The week began with the new moon, a symbol of new beginning, a time for setting intention. Throughout the week Moon grew from new to a sweet sliver and into a radiant half moon that became illuminated by the setting sun. As Moon grew more and more illuminated, so did we, and our intentions ripened as our community and experience deepened.

Our days were full of Yoga, Mindfulness Meditation, Yoga Dance, Kirtan (mantra singing) among many other experiences. Many participants also went on excursions, like zip lining, visiting the Monkey Sanctuary and rehabilitation centre, as well as an early morning journey to see mama sea turtles laying eggs and baby turtles making their first journey to the ocean… Epic!

True Nature Travels Blog

We woke up at a.m. this morning to venture to Nicoya Peninsula in Nosara, Costa Rica, to watch the amazing, inspiring voyage of the hatching of baby sea turtles crawling to their ocean plunge. We were there to help them along the way, protecting them from potential predators to scoop them up, as these vulnerable little guys met the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

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The holidays are already upon us, meaning that the commencement of the 2013 True Nature Education retreat season is almost here.

As we begin the new year, our yoga retreats lead the way. Our second retreat, the 4th Annual Karma Yoga Experience, is co-hosted by Karina Mirsky along with TNE co-owners, Joshua Canter and Kristin Luna Ray. Karina is also co-hosting our third retreat, the Rainforest Vital Health Retreat, with Dr. Claudette Baker, practitioner of Chinese Oriental Medicine of 28 years.

Karina is an internationally celebrated yoga and meditation teacher, yoga educator, and transformational coach. She is the director of Sangha Yoga in Kalamazoo, MI, and is a teaching faculty member of the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA. She is also an adjunct professor in Antioch University’s Yoga Studies program.

Karina has been teaching yoga since 1998. She was one of the first certified teachers of Rod Stryker’s ParaYoga®. Her work with both individuals and groups is informed by her experiences as a performance artist, therapist, and cancer survivor.

You can find Karina in several publications. She was recently interviewed by the Huffington Post for the Yoga, How We Serve series. She’s also a regular contributer to Yoga International and  is the cover model of the current issue, Winter 2012. In the March 2008 issue of Yoga Journal Karina was honored as one of 21 teachers under the age of 40 who is shaping the future of yoga in America.

We’re excited to have Karina returning to host retreats with us again in her 4th season with us. We caught up with her to hear more about her thoughts on TNE and intentions for her upcoming retreats.

True Nature Education:  Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Karina. Tell us, what has been your experience working with True Nature Education?
Karina:  I love working with True Nature Education. I have run retreats with them for four years, and I wouldn’t dream of working with any other organization. Participants can relax and trust that all they have to do is arrive at the San Jose airport. TNE takes care of everything else, including transport from the airport, meals, lodging, retreat activities, and excursions. The TNE staff is friendly, highly organized, and well-versed in the various regions of the country as well as in the Costa Rican language and culture. They make traveling to a foreign country an enjoyable and effortless experience.

TNE:  With your first retreat with us coming up, what is the intention of the 4th Annual Karma Yoga Experience?

Karina:  Each year Luna, Joshua, and I bring participants to a different location in Costa Rica to be immersed in the land and culture of that region [for the 4th Annual Karma Yoga Experience]. The intention is for participants to unplug from their day-to-day lives and connect with the earth and other seekers, but mostly their own core Self. During the retreat we will weave sacred music, meditation, yoga, dharma talks, and ritual into our daily activities. We eat delicious, healthy meals and spend quality time in nature. One of the highlights of the week is when we partner with CREER Service Organization to conduct a service project in the local community. This provides a very special cross-cultural experience for all involved. This retreat is truly one of the most holistic programs in my catalog. People leave feeling uplifted, inspired, and empowered. Past participants have described this retreat as a transformative, life-changing experience. Many return year-after-year and often bring their spouses and friends back with them. If you want to touch your heart and fill it with joy, then this retreat is for you!

TNE:  And with your second retreat following, what is the intention of the Rainforest Vital Health Retreat?

Karina:  With the pace of our lives and levels of stress and toxicity we face here in the US, Americans are seeing increasing numbers of cancer diagnoses. As a yoga and meditation teacher for over 15 years, and cancer survivor of 10 years, people often seek my guidance when they or a loved one is facing a cancer diagnosis. Yoga and meditation are wonderful tools to reduce stress, increase vital oxygen, and self awareness. I am overjoyed to be co-hosting the Rainforest Vital Health Retreat with Chinese Medicinal Oncologist, Dr. Claudette Baker. She is a cutting edge expert in the field of cancer prevention and holistic treatment. The jungles of Costa Rica are the perfect environment to heal and restore vital energy. This retreat is a rare opportunity to culture vibrant health in a sacred, peaceful, and oxygen-rich environment. This experience is also highly educational, making it a valuable learning opportunity for yoga teachers and other health care providers.

TNE:  What else do you want people to know about your retreats with True Nature?

Karina:  Know that you deserve a break from your daily life. Joining us for a retreat is the best kind of vacation; a true RESToration for your body mind and spirit. We have exhausted mothers, high-powered executives, people with disabilites, elders, college students, and newbies to yoga all join us and want to come back year after year. Come, you won’t regret it.

For more information contact us by email at or by phone at

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As our 2012-2013 retreat season continues into February, we will be offering one of our new yoga programs, Where Heaven Meets the Earth: A Costa Rica Yoga Experience, from February 16-23  for a week of yoga, nutrition, and music in nature.
Hosted at the Finca Luna Nueva Lodge, True Nature Education co-owners Joshua Canter and Kristin Luna Ray will be alongside yoga instructor and nutritionist, Shayna Hiller, in the mountain Costa Rica jungles with views of Mount Arenal. Within the lush surroundings of Finca Luna amidst thriving gardens, a sustainable farm, and secluded jungle hiking trails, the week-long retreat will foster an illumination of heart, mind, and soul through the practices of Hatha and Bhakti yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.
Following her yoga certification at the Nosara Yoga Institute, Shayna hosts yoga and nutrition retreats in Costa Rica each year, and we are so grateful to have her along with us for this unique program. She is also a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner through the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, with a mission to share the benefits of a steady yoga practice and healthy lifestyle with people from around the world.
We were lucky to catch up with Shayna as the momentum for the retreat builds, to tap into her thoughts, insights, and expectations for the upcoming program.
True Nature Education: Greetings, Shayna, and thank you for taking the time to interview with us. We are looking forward to this retreat and having you join us to host a new Costa Rica retreat through TNE. How did your relationship with Joshua and Luna and the inspiration for this program first arise?

Shayna:  I met Joshua and Luna in Nosara, Costa Rica, this past Winter. I was teaching yoga there