The Best-Kept Secret in Playa del Carmen, Mexico [My Mini Yoga Retreat]
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A few dozen palm trees north of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, there is a well-kept secret: fine white sand, lush tropical vegetation and turquoise water all coexist in the same paradise to shape one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean: Playa del Secreto.
Far away from the crowds of Mamitas or Playacar, this secret beach is home to Hana and her lovely yoga retreat. During her 5-day program, her guests practice Vinyasa, Yin and Nidra Yoga feeling the gentle sea breeze in their faces; they do meditation with the sound of the waves crashing a few meters away; they learn about the yogic and shamanic philosophy immersed in a relaxing atmosphere; and treat their taste buds to the delicious plant-based meals prepared at the villa.
I have to admit that I haven’t gone to her retreat yet, but I was lucky enough to get a sample of this little heaven just a few weeks ago. I became friends with Hana not long ago when we shared her story about how she won an Ironman competition thanks to Yin Yoga. Well, it seems like the world isn’t too big anymore and when we realized that we both lived in Playa del Carmen, we knew we had to meet up.
And we did!
Hana organized a private yoga session that I like to think of as my mini-retreat experience. If you don’t believe that Playa del Secreto is a truly well-kept secret, you should know that I’ve lived in Playa del Carmen for over a year and I had never heard of it before. So, the few of us who were invited to this mini-retreat were really blessed to see this magical place.
She welcomed us with a nice cup of hibiscus tea while we got to know each other. That’s when I realized how true it is when people say that yoga means union, and not only of our body, mind and soul, but it also unites us with our fellow human beings no matter where we’re from. We were speaking a combination of English, Spanish and Czech at the table; it didn’t matter, yoga was the best translator.
The four lucky ones + Hana
Once we were all set, we went to the yoga deck on the beach to get ready for the Yin Yoga session. It was going to be my very first time practicing this yoga style, which had me quite excited and curious about it. Hana explained to us how good it is for athletes to restore their muscles after strenuous physical sessions. Naïve me, being an advocate of more dynamic styles like Vinyasa or Ashtanga, thought that I was about to start a gentle sequence that my body would barely feel the effects afterward. Boy, was I wrong!
Our Yin Yoga Session
Even the Supine Twist can be challenging after a couple of minutes
It was a 60-minute session and we started with a Supine Spinal Twist, one of my favorite yoga poses. I normally do it without much effort, but after 2-3 minutes in the same position, I started to feel a deeper stretch that I normally don’t feel in this posture. We continued with a series of hip openers; I used to think I was pretty good at those, especially for a man. But as you might have guessed, Yin Yoga showed me how much work I still need there. My hips were hurting really bad!
Every single pose we did that morning made me feel as if I had been doing everything wrong all this time. It’s amazing how much you can learn from your body by just holding the same posture for 5 minutes. Yin Yoga was a great discovery that served me as a reminder to be more careful with my alignment when I practice other styles.
You can tell by the empty purple mat that I was trying to escape the last hip opener... OK, I was just taking the picture.
(Fast-forward 7 hours later) I also play tennis and I thought Yin Yoga was going to help me warm up for my practice at night. Honestly, that was not the case. When I grabbed my racquet, my body felt the effects of the early exercise in areas that I had never experienced. Thus, I decided to make it a gentle tennis session.
The Best Vegan Tacos Ever!
(Rewind 6:30 hours) After Yin Yoga, Hana gave us refreshing coconut water from the palm trees outside the house. She invited us for lunch and served the most delicious vegan tacos I’ve ever eaten. I’m a proud Mexican who doesn’t believe that such thing as “meat-less” tacos can be considered Mexican food. However, if they’re all as delightful as these cranberry/ beans/ cabbage tacos I ate during my mini-retreat, I wouldn’t mind adopting this healthier alternative to our cuisine.
We also had ceviche and, as dessert, the most delicious rice pudding I’ve tried. Hana’s recipe has this fabulous idea of using coconut water instead of condensed milk, which makes it more refreshing and not as sweet. All in all, the perfect way to finish an incredible morning.
Arroz con leche or rice pudding
The after-lunch conversation lasted for at least one hour until it was, unfortunately, time to leave paradise to go back to earth. What a secret Playa had kept from me! The company, the atmosphere, the yoga practice, the place… Hana’s invitation was the best sample of a yoga retreat I could ever ask for.
You won’t find a better host than smiling Hana
I know, I know. You’re probably super jealous that I had the chance to live this experience just because I happened to become friends with Hana. Don’t be! The good news is you can join her in February to enjoy this secret paradise too. And you don’t have to settle for the mini-version of my retreat, she’ll be happy to host you for up to 5 days.
I know I would love to come back and get the full experience. The only risk will be that I’ll be too excited to keep the secret.