Costa Rica Yoga JournalMark Goldstein

Giving in, not giving up


By Mark Goldstein

There’s a huge difference, right? As a yoga instructor, I can’t imagine that I would ever advise a student to give up, on the other hand, I whole heartedly encourage them to give in every once in a while.

This month we will be focusing on forward bends. In yoga, a forward bend can be seen as a pose of submission. Conversely, a pose like Warrior is seen as an aggressive posture. Both concepts are important aspects of life, but I imagine that many of us may have a harder problem with the submission aspect.

I think that I speak for many of us living here in Costa Rica as expats when I say that our expectations of how things can be done, are often met with challenges, that our usual way of going about achieving things here in Coat Rica can be a very different experience from what we have been used to most of our lives.
Playa Yoga

Whether we are building a house, running a business, or trying to obtain a required document from a government office, many of us end up declaring; “wouldn’t it make more sense if they just did it this way? Or wouldn’t it be ten times easier if they just did it that way?”

So when we go to the bank in Quepos, we stand in a long line, shifting our weight from one leg to the other, rolling our eyes as every discussion between the bank teller and a customer never seems to have anything to do with banking. Why don’t they have numbers that we can take? Why don’t they have more chairs? Wouldn’t it make more sense if……….?

We can give up, leave the bank in a huff, and accomplish nothing, or, we can give in, opening the book we brought to read, or practicing our Spanish with the people around us, and go with the flow.

Forward bends are just like that; submitting, giving in, letting go, and just hanging out. Did I forget to mention that they are great for increasing the flexibility in our hamstrings, stretching our lower backs and opening up our entire spinal column?

Pictured are two of the many forward bend poses that we practice in yoga.

The standing pose, or Uttanasana, and a seated pose named Paschimottasana.

 I will be offering both as these as our Pose of the Month in each of my classes this July. Both poses rely on our skeletal systems to keep us in place and balanced. I mention this because it is very important that we completely let go of all of our muscles when in a forward bend, to completely submit, to give in totally.

When practicing a standing forward bend, it is pretty straight forward. Find a comfortable distance for your feet, wider is easier, and closer is a bit more challenging. If you need to, allow a slight bend in your knees, otherwise keep your knees straight. Once you are in your bend, just release. Either allow your arms to hang, or fold your arms into each other. Let the weight of your head go completely. I often suggest that you imagine your head hanging heavy, like a ripe mango, just about to fall from it’s stem.


When doing a seated forward bend, it is important to position yourself correctly. Sit with your legs straight out in front. If you can sit up nice and straight, do so. If not, use a cushion or towel to sit on. It is important that you bend forward with a straight spine. There are various ways to lower yourself. For most methods, we lower ourselves with an exhale, leading with our chests or bellies, while extending the crown of our heads, therefore extending our spines. Use one or more breaths to lower yourself. We try to not lower our heads until we have lowered ourselves to our full expression. In other words, lower yourself with a straight spine before lowering your head completely. If you are using your arms in any way to pull yourself into your forward bend, make sure that your elbows stay bent, otherwise you risk pulling your shoulders up towards your ears. Once you have attained your full expression, then let go and breathe.

We can hold these poses for quite a long time. Some like to do so for five minutes or more. I usually ask for at least ten nice deep breaths. Your pose can become deeper and deeper as you breathe, and your practice will become fuller and more complete as time goes on and you continue to include forward bends in your routine.

Mark Goldstein lives in Manuel Antonio, and is originally from the United States. He is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Instructor of Thai Massage and a Yoga Instructor. Mark is the owner of PranaVida Wellness and Playa Yoga Costa Rica here in Manuel Antonio. For information call 88-38-69-60 or, or see my ad here at