The Design and Construction of our New Yoga Deck

The Most Beautiful Yoga Shala - 1200px

Many people have expressed interest in knowing more about our yoga deck, because of it’s unusual and spectacular design, certainly one of the most unique and beautiful in Costa Rica, if not the world.

The creation of this work of usable art, involved three main people:

    Design, Architecture, Ideation: Geoff McCabe, CEO and Co-Owner of Anamaya
    Construction Team Led by: Malachias Calderon Obando, Local Costa Rican Builder
    Temple Backdrop Sculpture: Daniel Gautschi, Artist/Musician living in Montezuma

Concept and Design

Geoff McCabeWe have set the bar for design very high at Anamaya, and needed to continue with that level of quality and innovation. I wanted to make something so striking, that not only would our guests love it and want to visit Anamaya to practice yoga, but it would be very attractive to potential new teachers, as we hope to entice the best teachers in the world to visit us and bring their students. The goal is for top teachers to say “Wow, I want to teach yoga THERE.” And of course, I hoped that every guest who comes to Anamaya would take photos of themselves to post on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc, and that would generate free word-of-mouth, viral advertising for us. I designed it using Google’s free Sketch-Up software, and you can see a few still shots from the design below.

Yoga Shala Design

So, the first innovation was to make it like a stage, with a raised, circular platform for the teacher to sit upon. The secondary benefit is that I hoped that our students would pose there for photos, so I wanted a great backdrop of some kind. The back wall is curved, to help amplify the voice of the teacher, and to break up the normal boring, rectangular structure. If you look closely at the design, you’ll notice that there are few standard design details. Nearly every feature is something extra-ordinary and unusual. These include:

    The back wall has a long, curved section.
    The front of the yoga deck isn’t straight across, but has a slight curve.
    There’s no railing, but instead there’s a roof to catch anyone who happened to stumble over the edge.
    The columns are huge and look like ancient solid wood pillars. In fact they are conrete and steel inside and locally, sustainably-harvested Melina wood on the outside. The giant cross beams are welded-steel with the same wood outside.
    The roof ends are angled outward like Anamaya, in a typical Asian temple style.
    There are no cross bars in the structure on the two ends, but instead the two ends are left open and the support is built into the angles.
    All the exposed steel beams are painted and dry-brushed to look nearly identical to wood.

Another interesting thing about the yoga deck, is that it’s also designed for aerial silk workshops. There are eight aerial silk, or aerial yoga stations spread evenly with it, and the large hanging lamp over the teacher’s platform can be easily moved to hang inside the bathroom, so that a silk can be suspended directly over the platform for teaching or for shows. I also have stage lighting set up to illuminate the performer, or for taking great photos.

The Mayan Yoga Temple

Montezuma Artist Daniel GautschiThe structure itself, while innovative, is something that works more on a subconscious level. People find its unusual form very exciting, but to really be great, the design had to be taken to the next level. The idea I came up with was to do a “Mayan Yoga Temple.” I postulated the question, “What if we discovered, sitting here in the jungle, a ruin of an ancient Mayan temple, where the priests who ran the temple practiced yoga? What would it look like? How could we combine the design and culture of ancient India with that of the Mayans of Central America?” With this idea in mind, I contracted local Swiss artist Daniel Gautschi, an extremely talented painter and sculptor, and who has completed many amazing concrete sculpture projects in towns of Montezuma and Santa Teresa, for a variety of hotels, restaurants and villa owners. He loved the idea immediately and was very excited to take on the project.

Daniel drew up a sketch, shown below, which he used as he worked. Not shown are two follow-up sketches showing the two figures on the left and right. The center we left more empty, to “frame” a standing or sitting teacher. You can see from this that although the general idea is here, much of what he did he created on the spot, and he had to do it quickly before the cement dried too much and became unworkable.

Yoga Temple Design

Daniel’s work, amazingly, only took him three weeks or so to complete. Each morning, the workers of Malachias would build a mold and pour a vertical cement slab for him. In the afternoon, after the cement had hardened enough, Daniel would begin to carve, using a variety of hand tools, many of his own design. While not as difficult as carving real rock, the work is still extremely strenuous and messy. Each day, Daniel was covered with grey powder, and with his wrists wrapped for support, looked just like the mad genius artist one might expect would create a work of this caliber.

Construction Process

Malachias CalderonOur builder, Malachias, is also the original builder for Anamaya, and has been working on our projects on and off for nine years before this. He has built many of the beautiful villas in the Montezuma and Mal Pais areas. Malachias comes from a family of Costa Rican builders, most of whom live in the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area. Construction is very difficult in Costa Rica, especially in a remote, rural, jungle-covered area like Montezuma, and we couldn’t have done this without Malachias, who is not only a great guy, but gracefully navigates his way through the difficulties of the building process and governmental red tape.

The project was started in mid September, 2013, and finished in mid December, so it took only 5 months to complete, with between 12 and 20 workers at any one time. It’s build on steep slope of nearly 45 degrees, so we had to start with a very strong retaining wall, which alone cost US$10,000 to build. Like an iceberg, much of this wall is underground, to make sure it can withstand any earthquake and still hold the heavy slope above, even during a rainstorm when all that earth is heavily saturated with water.

Much of the structure itself is also invisible. Concrete columns, with wide feet, are underground, and all connected to each other in a grid pattern, to hold everything together and stabilize it during any tremors. Costa Rica, like the entire Pacific Rim, is an earthquake zone, so we needed to be prepared for anything.

In addition to the yoga deck itself, there is a bathroom, shower, and storage room behind the temple, and two apartments build below, for interns and special guests who wouldn’t object to having the noise of people dancing or chanting right above them.

Future Plans

As nice as this is, it was actually designed to be converted into two future cabinas for Anamaya’s guests, with a wall in the middle. One side would use the back, curved concrete-floor section as its bathroom, and the second would use the existing bathroom. The circular stage will hold a custom made canopy bed, also a round shape. Why would we make this change to such a beautiful yoga deck? Because I have an even better design planned for another spot, closer to the ocean, lower on our property, which will be a similar style but at least double in size, and with which we hope to use as a public yoga and gathering space, and perhaps a healthy-food restaurant that’s also open to the public.

Additional Photos

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