San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

National Festival Offers ‘Yoga for Everyone’

It’s yoga class at Kapoli studio in the western San José suburb of Escazú, and instructor Vanessa Cavallini’s mother and grandmother are taking part in the session.

At 93, my mother-in-law is still doing shoulder stands. So there’s no reason to assume age is a limitation to enjoying the benefits of the ancient Indian physical and mental practice.

And now’s your chance to try. Costa Rica’s first national yoga festival will take place Sept. 20 to 22. Coinciding with the International Day of Peace Sept. 21, the Yoga Para Todos (Yoga for Everyone) festival hopes to demystify remaining misconceptions surrounding yoga and meditation.

Appropriately linked to peace day, the festival aims to show that yoga can offer practitioners long-term physical and mental wellness, internal peace and true relaxation.

“Many people think yoga is just a series of stretching exercises,” says Gerardo Chávez, president of the Costa Rican Association of Yoga Teachers (ASOYOGA), organizer of the event. “A few think it’s a weird sect to avoid, while others have no clear idea what yoga is about. But it is a highly effective universal science for personal improvement, and we are convinced that bringing yoga into Costa Rica is of great social worth.”

When ASOYOGA Vice President Edgar Ortiz’s father returned from California to Costa Rica 20 years ago and set up yoga classes, he had to call them “psycho-physical gym sessions” – the term “yoga” was simply too alien to accept. Fortunately, things have changed, and today there are yoga centers all over the country with experienced instructors teaching the many disciplines of yoga and meditation.

The festival’s main aim is to give everyone the chance to take part in classes, talk to teachers and watch the experts.

“We want to reach out to everyone from every social level,” Ortiz says. “Yoga has existed quietly in Costa Rica for 30 years, but recently it has jumped onto a trampoline and will bounce right up. The festival will help make sure yoga bounces really high.”

Tomorrow, Sept. 20, free beginner yoga classes will be offered at nearly 20 participating yoga centers around the country (see sidebar).

Sunday, Sept. 21, will see a veritable “yogathon” at the National Culture Center (CENAC) in San José’s Barrio Otoya from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

During the day, 12 classes will invite beginners, intermediate practitioners, children and the elderly to discover the benefits of yoga. Meditation sessions will also be held in the quiet of CENAC’s tower area, and a tai chi class will glide around the old Customs Hall. Stands will offer information on nationwide yoga institutes, yoga-related items such as mats, blocks and clothing, and massage oils and natural toiletries. Healthy vegetarian lunches will be offered at various points around CENAC.

At 4:30 p.m., “Yoga for All” will up the tempo with shows of live music, belly dancing, aerial dance, a yoga documentary in English and a demonstration of AcroYoga, advanced acrobatic yoga moves that would make any Olympian gymnast proud.

Monday’s objective is for yoga instructors to visit schools and San José prisons to give demonstration classes.

Admission to the festival costs ¢1,000 ($1.80) for all-day participation; lunch is extra. Bring a mat, if you have one, for the classes, and wear comfortable clothing.

For more information, contact Ortiz at or 8333-7002, or visit

Free Yoga

The following yoga centers will offer free introductory classes tomorrow, the first day of the festival:

Bikram Yoga, San Pedro, 2253-2806, 10:30 a.m.

Casa Ames, Los Yoses, 2224-3678, 9 a.m.

Casa Lamat, Curridabat, 8381-3019, 10 a.m.

Casa Shiri, Santa Teresa, NicoyaPeninsula, 2640-0223, 9 a.m.

Centro Gaia, Puerto Viejo de Limón, 8877-1449, 10 a.m.

Hotel Trópico Latino, Santa Teresa, NicoyaPeninsula, 8302-9442, 10 a.m.

Instituto Vida Pura, San Francisco de Dos Ríos, 8875-3762, 10 a.m.

Kapoli, Escazú, 2228-1350, 10 a.m.

Kasasana, Barrio Dent, 2253-8322, 10 a.m.

Krama, Guachipelín, 2215-3535, 10 a.m.

Lung Ta, Heredia, 8369-5295, 10 a.m.

Multi Spa Cipreses, Curridabat, 8894-5881, 1 p.m.

Namaste, Hospital México, 2232-2464, 10 a.m.

Sat Yoga Institute, Escazú, 2288-3294, 10 a.m.

Ser Om Shanti, Playa Tamarindo, Guanacaste, 8344-6805, 10 a.m.

Shanti Sadhana, Santa Ana, 8836-7307, 10 a.m.

TeaLand, Rohrmoser, 2232-2464, 10:30 a.m.

VidAsana, Playa Hermosa, Central Pacific, 2643-7108, 10 a.m.

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