What is a luxury eco resort without a world-renowned natural healer on staff? At Kasiiya, Yamuna Jivana Juan Carlos Fonseca Schmidt created the best spa in Costa Rica by drawing divine inspiration from Mother Nature’s bounty all around.

In an interview (edited for clarity) with travel and wellness journalist Kathryn Romeyn, Yamuna along with Kasiiya owner and creator Mehdi Rheljari share knowledge from the famed Blue Zone and reveal plans to open a healing school that very well may set off a domino effect of success throughout the entire region.

If you prefer, you can listen to the interview, if full below: Kathryn: Yamuna, I know your background is incredibly interesting. Could you share with us how you became a healer and where in the world you’ve practiced?   Yamuna: I have practiced healing for 25 years. I started when my grandma retired—she’s from Canton, China, and she is the one who taught me how to do it. After all these years I am still learning around the world, new techniques and new practices.   Kathryn: So you grew up in Costa Rica? Yamuna: Yes, I grew up here in Costa Rica and for my first 10 years I practiced here. After that I moved to India and began traveling to practice and learn more in South America, Europe and Indonesia. Now I am completely in Costa Rica, full time. Kathryn: You’ve hit a lot of continents! Mehdi, I think for you nature is the most powerful part of Costa Rica’s culture. What about Yamuna’s natural approach to wellness made you feel he was the person to create for Kasiiya the best spa in Costa Rica? And how is his work in harmony with your vision for the eco-resort? Mehdi: Yamuna’s was probably the best interview I’ve ever had. Recruiting a therapist, you lay down and get the massage. So that was amazing. I understood he had a very high emotional intelligence, he was clever, and he had a lot of knowledge. At the end of it I said, “I think you’re the right person for us.” He said, “Well, give me a couple of days.” I was surprised! But he said, “I just need to wait for the moon.” Because he had these sort of jokes all along when he was doing the massage I thought it was a joke, but no, actually he was waiting for something with the moon. So I said, “Okay, that’s cool.” In my country we wait at the end of Ramadan for the moon. It’s his curiosity, the fact that his name comes from the river in India, that his father is German, he’s born in Costa Rica, and his grandmother is Chinese. He keeps traveling, and he wanted to come back to his country where he knows the nature. Yamuna always tries to bring nature close to the guests, which is exactly what all of us at Kasiiya want to do, from the housekeeping staff to the cook to the design. We believe that when nature and a person meet their way at their pace, they feel great about themselves and they have fantastic holidays. And this is what he does, the way he says it is that he brings the energy from nature to the people who are coming to visit him. Kathryn: How beautiful. So Yamuna, you studied with your grandmother and in India, China, Europe and South America. What have you learned in those places and how has that influenced how you treat Kasiiya’s guests? Yamuna: Every person is completely different, and the more you learn and the more you know people you can draw from so many techniques. I am still learning; I am not the same person who gave my first massages 25 years ago. Every country I visit, they use different oils, different techniques, and I use all of it depending on the person. When you are a healer you need to work on your energy every day. I know how to heal people, and it can be through a massage or only talking or a chakra balancing. Here in Costa Rica it’s very easy because we have everything, and if we don’t have the plant, we bring the seed, plant it, and in a couple months that plant is going to give us some very special oils to use on guests. It’s one of the magic things in Costa Rica: Everything you put in the ground grows. That is fantastic energy, because in some places it’s hard to find a tree or plant. Here in Costa Rica all the birds and monkeys are around you telling you things. That’s the magic of Kasiiya: it’s in the jungle, and we can practice all the insight I learned in another countries right here. Kathryn: That’s amazing. And you source the natural elements for the oils and scrubs you make on Kasiiya’s property? Yamuna: Yes. And the chef is going to give you the plants to eat after the spa, too, so you get all the benefits inside and outside. You know arnica? Here in Costa Rica we have mango leaf, and if you put your feet in it for 20 minutes they won’t be sore for the rest of the day. Only grandfather will tell you that. The new generation doesn’t know about that—that’s why we’re going to teach them. Kathryn: You managed one of the best spas in Mexico called Chablé, and also the best spa in Nicaragua, Mukul. In what ways do Kasiiya’s spa and wellness programming differ or stand out amongst some of these other destination spas? Yamuna: It’s about energy. Here in Kasiiya we have only one room, but you don’t need anything else. It’s completely natural, no chemical ingredients, and that makes the difference, because you are connecting to the Mother Earth, Pachamama. In other places they need to build a pool, put in plants and trees. Here it’s like camping in the forest. Everything gives you energy. We have the real river—in other places they need to play music. We have the real eagles, the real deer jumping, and howler monkeys talking to you. Kathryn: Kasiiya is situated very close to one of the world’s few Blue Zones, where people live extraordinarily long lives due to having healthy diets and practices. Your non-intrusive healing is pure and free of any substances. Have you found the local community open to it? Yamuna: The Blue Zone is 20 miles away, where the grandpas and grandmas are 95 or over 100 years. How is that? They are still working. They wake up at 4:30 every morning, drink a little coffee and have something to eat, and go to the field to do physical work. They go to sleep at six o’clock after the sunset. They are doing activities and eating healthy—eating all the produce grown in their backyard and nothing extra, no sugar and only sometimes meat.    They are moving, and when they feel sick they don’t go to the pharmacy or a hospital, they go to their backyard where they have mint, rosemary, or juanilama, and all the medicinal plants we have here in Costa Rica—more than 200. If you have a pain in your stomach or teeth or head, you only use plants. It’s hard to get sick if you are healthy. That’s the reason we want to teach the community, because they forget what grandpa and grandma told them. Connecting to technology is disconnecting them from Mother Earth. Kathryn: So when you have guests do you educate them on the power of these natural antidotes and ingredients and the lifestyle that is celebrated in the Blue Zone? Yamuna: We try to tell everybody how to do this and how simple it can be. And it’s free! Just one therapy can change everything, if you have come for vacation to be relaxed but are holding onto something. I help guests let them go, all these things they are carrying. Imagine, you’re gonna feel light! We also give information on how to eat, how to process the stress of regular life. Kathryn: So you already mentioned it briefly, but can you tell me a little bit about the venture you’ve started with Kasiiya Foundation in a village near the property? Yamuna: Yes. Everybody needs to be healed, and everybody is looking for healing, more in these moments. In all the communities around here, women are the bosses. They have power and we can teach how to do therapies and to heal themselves first so they can heal family and others. We want to teach the people how to eat, how to heal, how to connect again to the Blue Zone. If you are healthy, your immune system will be so strong. Kathryn: Mehdi, you and your staff have been working with Yamuna to establish this healing school. How did you convince him that he needed to teach his healing methods to a new generation of Ticos, and what is it going to look like? Mehdi: Convincing him was not really a problem. The thing is, Yamuna is an amazing healer as well as an amazing therapist. He has all the techniques and he doesn’t need to teach anyone. Yamuna is very young, but still, when you treat people and you heal people it takes a lot out of you. I told him, “It looks like we are quite successful. You will have to take care of a lot of people, so you have to start thinking of the future, when you are 70.” I thought it would be amazing if in Costa Rica, Yamuna started teaching others. To do what he does is a long and difficult journey requiring a lot of commitment and sacrifice actually, diets and all sorts of different things. It’s not for everyone. But he can teach people how to heal themselves, heal their family, heal their community. Our dream in a way is that at one stage down the line, many years from now, the school will have taught many people and we’ll have many healers from Costa Rica from the Yamuna School all around the country and maybe all around the region and the world. I think you should dream when you start any business. Yamuna said, “Why not? Let’s try it.” So now we are looking for the right place to open by the end of 2021. And that will be our second Entrepreneurship Foundation project. We’re going to basically train the people for free-ish until the business can sustain itself. That’s the whole point of the Entrepreneurship Foundation: helping our staff build their own businesses that help the community surrounding us. Kathryn: Wonderful! Yamuna, what value do you see in passing on your knowledge and investing in the local community? Yamuna: I know I need to continue learning; I don’t know everything. But I know for sure that a woman in this community doesn’t have the chance to go to the capitol, San Jose, three or four hours away, to learn how to manipulate her energy. So if I teach her how to meditate and use all that energy to end her mental problems, and she helps her cousin or her husband, too, that’s going to give me a lot of satisfaction. After teaching me, my guru pushed me to go practice in other places. When I talk with these ladies and help them, it makes me very, very, very happy. The idea is to help everybody with natural ingredients. Everybody needs healing; we need to have a lot of meditations. Try to meditate two minutes every day. It’s very important because everything starts in the mind, and all the systems and energies need to be in balance. Kathryn: You’ll be passing on so much knowledge and leaving such a legacy in the community —also a way for people to make a living by healing others. What do you personally feel most inspired or excited about this new healing center? Yamuna: If we had this kind of healing place on every corner in every town, Costa Rica would be so different. No more pharmacies, no more hospitals, because we have everything in the backyard, in the house. If we can spread the knowledge, it will be very wonderful and successful. Mehdi: I’d like to add that this is a complete alignment of what we do at Kasiiya. In the hotel industry, as a host, we call it duty of care. In Africa, where I come from, it’s a very important thing. Sometimes it costs you a fortune because you end up giving away all the meat you have because you should treat your guests as best as you can. Sharing, I think, is one of the things that actually feeds you. It’s not something you lose, it’s something you gain, every time you share a knowledge. That’s what we believe. You make some people proud, those people will keep on this duty of care. They will themselves be proud to see that they’re being taken care of by someone local, with local ingredients from nature. And if that happens then you are in this perfect circle where everything is aligned, the nature is around you, protecting you. You know how to use it and to help people around you, and then suddenly more and more people will do it. Exactly as Yamuna said, success is when people start to copy or emulate you. We hope for that, but we’re going to start. The first person, the lady he mentioned earlier, would have no chance at all to learn those skills from different parts of the world, but she will now because of this center. That’s already one, and we start with one. Kathryn: And it branches off from there, if each person touches one more person. Everyone there who comes into contact with you, Yamuna, is very fortunate, both learning from you and also guests who are getting treated by you. Thank you for sharing so much from your heart.