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Healing Through Movement

Evan Upchurch | March 14th, 2021

It’s 1994, and California native Nancy Goodfellow is a thriving twenty-something. Following her mother’s move to Costa Rica, she packs up her life in a van and drives south through Mexico and Central America to the land of pura vida. Twenty-six years later, the devoted yogi is more than a local in Santa Teresa. She’s a pillar of its yoga community.

Santa Teresa is home to magic – the kind that lives and breathes in and through nature’s bountiful energy. Like Nancy says, “People come here, and they feel more alive.” And that’s precisely what she felt when she arrived in the nineties. The community was small, and the beach was virgin. It was a place for people to camp, connect, and be fully present. Back then, Costa Rica was not the yoga mecca that it is today, with beautifully constructed palapa studios and world-class teachers. After leaving a flourishing yoga community in her hometown of Encinitas, California, Nancy found strength and consistency in her self-practice out in nature. Little by little, her practice began to attract like-minded individuals. People in the area started to observe and seek her out as a teacher. Soon after, she went to Bali to do a rigorous yoga teacher training, and once back in Costa Rica, Nancy got to work.

Communities grow when you give them the space and security to flourish – and the same happened in Santa Teresa. “I believe that one of my gifts is to bring people together, and yoga does that. All those years ago, we started practicing together in Santa Teresa, and it expanded over time. I was consistent for over 20 years. I always showed up in my studio, even during the most difficult moments of my life. I think that created a sense of trust and community.”

It was that same community and devotion that served as a steadfast anchor in stormy waters when tragedy struck her life. In 1999, Nancy lost her young son in a car accident, and it was then when she witnessed the true healing power of yoga. “Yoga, along with community and family, saved me during that time. I don’t know what would have happened without it. My practice and connection to spirit helped me see that he was still with me. What happened has nurtured great compassion within me.”

Those dedicated to teaching yoga partake in accompanying hundreds of healing journeys. In Nancy’s case, she sees it as a great honor to share emotions, fears, and stories. For that, it’s no surprise that her following continues to grow. “A good teacher just channels. Energy is coming through me, not from me. Letting energy and emotion move is healing. If a teacher is a good space holder, then the student feels free to allow that to happen.” 

Over the years, Nancy’s yoga practice has shifted alongside her personal growth. Today, it is principally based on tantric philosophy, which has led her to develop a teaching style rooted in empowerment. “Yoga empowers us by taking us back to ourselves and away from what the rest of the world is doing. You should always ask questions, even of the guru. In tantra, the teacher is not put on a pedestal. We’re all equal but different. We all empower each other. If I’m living in my authentic expression, I’m going to inspire others to do the same. Yoga is yours. I may be able to guide and inspire, but ultimately, it’s a way to empower your own freedom.”

Yoga is more than meditation and a physical practice. It’s about embodying its teachings in your attitude and way of being. It’s how you live. “Outside of the studio, yoga is about being self-aware. It’s about asking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ When you have an embodied practice, you become more conscious of what’s happening around you and what you’re doing. You become more sensitive to beauty and pain. Awareness permeates into all aspects of your life.”

Santa Teresa continues to be discovered and rediscovered by those seeking the magic, including us at Habitas. The town is transforming, but Nancy’s presence in the community will continue to be a constant. She will be there to accompany Santa Teresa as it morphs, helping conserve that magic. “It’s about the power to direct change. Change is always the constant, but we can affect change. And then, we can start to direct ourselves.”


Photography by: Jan Luxcey &  Liran Kalina

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