Nicaragua Off The Yoga Mat – a New Yoga Destination?
Yoga is spreading over the planet. People from all parts of the world have turned to yoga as an antidote to the struggles of life that we all share, regardless of their religion, sex, culture or race. In Nicaragua, the fast growing stream of yoga visitors from abroad are sewing the seeds of yoga, hopefully awakening interest and leading to the rooting of yoga in this country in a way that benefits Nicaraguans.
Centuries ago, Nicaragua was populated by pre-Colombian indigenous tribes that had migrated here from the north. When the Spanish arrived in the early 1600s, there were three tribes in Nicaragua, each with its own language and culture. The name Nicaragua is derived from the name of the dominant tribe, the Nicaraos, who lived on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, and the word water (agua) in Spanish, due to the presence of so many lakes and rivers, and the country’s location between two oceans.
The indigenous civilization was totally destroyed by the invading conquerors, and Nicaragua’s history has been characterized by instability ever since. Turbulent times of dictatorships, civil wars, corruption, natural disasters, and profound poverty… It was not until recent years that the socio-economic structure in Nicaragua has begun to stabilize and the rest of the world has turned its eye to this small beautiful country in Central America, filled with lakes and volcanoes.
Tourism is a huge industry today. Third world countries, like Nicaragua, are easy targets for exploitation and destruction by the transnational corporations that dominate global tourism businesses. As a traveler you see giant resorts that all look the same, everywhere you go in the world.
We want to travel, we want to meet and learn from each other, to broaden our horizons, our minds and become more accepting and open to people who do not look and speak like we do. Sadly, most people have forgotten this, and the negative consequences of our visits outnumber the positive ones– even though we would like to believe the opposite.
Cash starved countries see tourism as a highway to heaven – but in reality it can be a highway to hell
Tourism usually worsens poverty, destroys the environment and violates basic human rights. Problems with property rights are common, as big investors manage to steal land away from the local population.
Tourism is one of the most dynamic sectors in Nicaragua today, and is quickly becoming one of the country’s main sources of revenue. Nicaragua welcomed more than one million tourists in 2011, generating US$350 million in much needed revenues.
Despite the country’s high poverty rates, Nicaragua has one of the richest natural environments in the world, with over 22,000 square kilometers of nature reserves and 700 kilometers of coastlines with beautiful beaches on its Pacific and Atlantic sides. This makes ecotourism one of the fastest growing and most popular kinds of tourism. Eco-lodges, Yoga Retreat Centers and Surf Lodges are popping up like mushrooms. Attracting responsible travelers like yogis and nature lovers is great. But it is not always as sustainable as one would think, given the disruption of wildlife habitat and other destructive actions that are motivated by profit.
This is where we can take yoga off the mat. Like in everything else, you have power as a consumer. Be responsible. Get the facts before you buy something. Ask questions. Eat and shop locally. Check your behavior and the consequences of your actions. Raise your awareness and be as smart as you can be.
Nicaragua is an incredibly amazing place to visit, especially if you are looking for a spiritual experience. This could very well be one of the first countries on the planet that manages to “survive” tourism. But to do that, we need to attract responsible, caring visitors. People whose idea of eco-tourism is not just another gimmick, but a different approach to experiencing new places.
We believe in the power of yoga as a path to a better world – now and in the future. The transformational force of yoga can change the way we see things, the way we relate to the world—enriching our experience, broadening our minds and bringing positive ideas, support, knowledge and energy to people. It is the perfect way to get to know Nicaragua, since it allows a traveler to meet Nicaraguans on the same level, share their culture, the natural beauty of their country, and a love for yoga.
We think the Old Nicaros would have agreed!
Posted on My Yoga Online Nicaragua off the mat