Amba's Story of Finding Nosara


One of the first things people often want to know about us is how Don and I landed in Costa Rica. Well, let me tell you a little story. Nosara Yoga Institute would never have been born in Central America had the Henderson family, (my parents) not decided to take a summer vacation “somewhere different.” Mom was the advanced scout and located a perfect destination.

As a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of the Florida Keys, my mother and her friends made a fateful decision. The year was 1967. Instead of staying at home and making apple pie, these moms packed their Samsonite bags, left their kids and husbands at home to fend for themselves and split town as diplomats to a developing country.

The lucky country was Costa Rica. How much time could the kids and Dad be without Mom? One week was the maximum. So they spent just one short week visiting San Jose, the capital city and some surrounding villages. Her little excursion was to influence the rest my life. Mom came back all excited about this beautiful little country that all of us just had to see.

So we bought a used Avion travel trailer. This is the one that looks like an Airstream but is not as expensive. We hooked it up to our 1967 white Tornado that had the automatic headlights that went up and down. Traveling from the Florida Keys, we headed north through Florida, west across the U.S. to Texas, and, finally, due south, crossing the border into Mexico. We are talking no man’s land! (At least not sane land for our middle class family with four kids and a dog.) None of us spoke a word of Spanish. Back then gas stations were few and far between. There were no campgrounds or trailer parks. Campgrounds? Please understand the picture. The local people were fully extended just to get a roof over their heads. We were a spectacle in the little villages, as we drove through in what appeared to be our silver spaceship. But eyes popped out and jaws dropped open when the headlights would magically pop out of nowhere.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to leave the comfort of their secure home and intentionally subject themselves to the hardships of such wild country? Well hardships are relative, and we were enjoying a vacation from our own. This journey gave us a legacy of experiences that wrenched us from our comfortable yet predictable lives.

Costa Rica was known as “the little Switzerland of the Americas” because of their democratic government and peaceful citizens. They abolished their army in 1947. But before arriving to the Garden of Eden there were countries we had to drive through that were not friendly, democratic or peaceful. We found ourselves in a good adventure.

For example, there was the phony traffic cop in Guatemala who was stopping all the foreigners. First he would give you a bogus traffic ticket. Then he would convince you that you could pay him right there on the road and save yourself the 4-hour drive into the capital. We had been warned about this guy with a pistol on his hip.

Sure enough, one afternoon, about 50 feet ahead of us, in the middle of the road, is this cop. He was waving us over to stop on the side of the road. At the time, I was back in the trailer playing cards with my brother. All we could see were arms waving and attempts at sign language. Then my mother, who was in the front seat, moved over towards the driver’s side and signaled for him to get in the car, pistol and all.

I could not believe it! My poor dad! We knew who was going to have to defend this crazy woman. She’s telling the cop to get into the car. She’s telling him that we will all drive to the Capital to speak to the judge. Well, that did it. Before Dad could shift into forward and gun it, the cop had changed his story and took off. Mom did not put us at risk just to save a good twenty dollars! You must understand-- it comes down to the principal of the thing. And as long as she is accompanied with a guy like Dad, my mother’s pioneering spirit can accomplish anything. That was their relationship. He was a strong protector with calluses on his hands from miles of pulling electrical wires. With their teamwork we Henderson children would get the “exposure” we needed for our betterment. As an electrical contractor he could fix anything. So if the car broke down or anything else for that matter, mom felt safe Dad could fix it, so off we were roaming the back roads of Central America.

With most of us riding in the trailer, playing cards or eating, we headed out of Guatemala. To facilitate communication, between the car and trailer, Dad had installed an intercom so that we could talk back and forth. He also made sure that we had plenty of music and entertainment. There was always a tape playing on the new stereo. This was the summer that eight tracks came out. Before our trip we drove to Miami, to a special warehouse that was the first to carry them. We stocked up on everything from the Mamas and the Pappas, to Eddy Arnold and Chopin. Dad had hooked up the tape player in the car with speakers feeding directly into the trailer. I’d sing as often as I could until my brother, Earl, demanded that I shut up. We looked like a cross between the “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Starship Enterprise.”

Without one case of Montezuma’s Revenge, we did arrive into Costa Rica six weeks later. Miraculously, we were still a family unit. We followed ox carts into the Central Plaza of San Jose where we parked for the night. As we had already grown accustomed, by dusk our little home would be surrounded by children of all ages looking into the windows at this strange vehicle of alien creation. Mom would get out her paper cups and serve cool-aide. There was just one traffic light in San Jose at that time.

From the magical feeling of being so welcomed on that first night of our arrival, Costa Rica became our home away from home. Every summer, as soon as school let out, the Hendersons would be seen flying off to the “islands.” No one back then could get it into his or her heads that Costa Rica was not an island. They thought it sounded like Puerto Rico. Wouldn’t the islands be more like it, anyway? Why would anyone go to Central America, full of guerrillas, and not the ape type? In the beginning, I didn’t really like Costa Rica. I was in puberty. The last thing I wanted was concentrated family time and to hang out in nature without all the conveniences of America. My biggest worry was having to get my unloved curly hair straight. We were always out exploring the jungles and remote beaches of the country. We’d never know what kind of accommodations we would find, so around dark, we had to accept whatever we came upon. How I hated it when there was no electricity for blow-drying!

But as life unfolded and my personal horizons expanded Costa Rica began to grow on me. It was not until I started practicing yoga that I fully appreciated what Costa Rica had to offer. Along my journey, I discovered the power of yoga as a way to awaken consciousness. During a yoga class that Don was teaching, I had a vivid experience, revealing to me that the energy talked about in yoga is not a myth. I experienced for myself a current of electricity moving from the base of my spine to the crown of my head.

I was very impressed when I witnessed Don’s teacher, Yogi Desai, demonstrate his unique form of yoga he called, “meditation-in-motion.” In that experience were seeds that would affect my understanding and practice of yoga for a lifetime. I moved to Kripalu ashram to focus on my yoga education. I studied with many yoga teachers, experiencing a diversity of styles and intentions for practice. I taught yoga to hundreds of guests in a full spectrum of Kripalu’s programs. I began to realize that my education was not going to be fulfilled in the wall’s of an ashram and I made the decision to leave.

Leaving Kripalu had been an easy decision. What was not so easy was deciding where I wanted to be next. Somewhere in the recesses of my heart was the urge to open my own healing retreat. But I needed some practical experience before tackling the big dream. I gained practical experience as a fulltime yoga teacher on Nantucket Island, but started to feel drawn to Costa Rica. My parents had semi-retired to their farm in the lush green mountains above San Jose. I started a fitness vacation business. Choosing picturesque settings in both the mountains and the beaches, I booked halls and pavilions in various hotels and resorts, but early on, I realized that in order to offer a fully satisfying experience, I needed to have greater control of the overall environment. I tucked away the idea that someday I would want to return to Costa Rica to create the ultimate environment for the yoga I wanted to offer.

I returned to the states, eventually settling in Los Angeles where I knew I could combine my love for teaching yoga with the creativity and resources available to keep working toward my dream. Many doorways opened for offering private yoga instruction, but I found the structure of a formal yoga class to be inadequate in the private setting. I invented Pranassage as a way to more directly assist my clients in opening more fully to the capabilities of their bodies and become more sensitive to the movements of prana within them.

After eight years of managing my business as a private yoga instructor, I started to feel the desire to create an environment for my 5-year-old son that was less hectic and included a closer relationship to nature. I also wanted to provide an environment for my clients that would allow them to fully relax into their own sense of being. One Thanksgiving day, after having jogged 3 miles in the heat of the day, followed by my yoga practice and then a dive in the ocean, I realized this was the perfect setting for a “Yoga Retreat.” My body and soul never felt better and I knew it was a combination of my practice and this place on the planet. I sat on the deck of my family’s home in Nosara and had a flash of overwhelming confidence that now was the time in my life to move to Costa Rica and get on with my dream of opening a yoga center.

Six months later, having clarified my intention and commitment by actually receiving the money from my clients to start out, I returned to Costa Rica with full support to open Nosara Retreat—including having established my relationship with Don who was coming as my life partner and co-creator. Since Don tells that part of our story in full detail in his book, Self-Awakening Yoga, I am going to end my story at this point by simply saying that for me, the journey of yoga is truly a journey of learning to trust my intuition. I’m not saying that things have happened in the timing or the sequence in which I first picture, but that by learning to listen to the wisdom of prana that comes through yoga practice, there comes a trust in making choices that support my continuing growth. The pleasure of sharing the beauty and serenity of Nosara Yoga Institute with you is a gift of the universe to me. Seeing our students and guests receive from the healing power of nature here in Nosara carries me deeper into the gratitude I have for discovering yoga in my life.

Read more as the journey continues


© Self-Awakening Yoga | |
Self-Awakening Yoga®, Pranassage®, YogaGuide® and Nosara Yoga® are registered trademarks of Don & Amba Stapleton