I remember exactly how I felt when I went to my first Yoga class with Dagmar Spremberg – years ago, in Hamburg’s Yogaraum. I enjoyed her relaxed, unpretentious vibe that immediately rubbed off on me. Her simple, straightforward authenticity is remarkable. She’s warm, inspiring and courageous and is one of those who have dared to follow their dream. She leads Costa Rica’s successful Montezuma Yoga center and teaches workshops and retreats worldwide.
You’ve been living in Costa Rica for ages now – how did that happen?
I always dreamed of a life among palm trees and in the sun – I never felt like I belonged in Germany. In 1991 I travelled to Costa Rica for the first time with my former husband. We landed in Montezuma and I was deeply moved. The wild nature, monkeys, birds, the chirping of the crickets, jungle, palm trees and ocean. We stayed at a small hotel owned by a German woman and every day I though to myself ‘she’s living my dream.’ I thought it was wonderful, but probably not for me. We returned to our lives in Germany, but something in Montezuma had touched me so deeply that I knew I would return someday.
It took nine whole years, but that turned out to be perfect timing! I left Germany initially for a few years in Los Angeles and New York. When I returned to Montezuma in 2000 for vacation, I fell in love again. First with the place and then with a Greek hotelier. Opportunity knocked and so I began splitting my time between New York and Costa Rica. Until September 11th happened and I lost everything in New York.
I took that as a sign to take the leap and move to Montezuma. I chose to live my dream, despite the fact that even dreams present their challenges. Life on a tropical beach isn’t always as glamorous as it looks.
My vision was always to ultimately live an independent, sovereign and authentic life – to be my own boss and to travel the world, experiencing other cultures and philosophies. I’m happy in that context that I can now split my time between Europe and Costa Rica.
What was your first exposure to Yoga?
In 1996, I moved from Hamburg to Los Angeles, which may have been the most difficult decision of my life. I left my husband, my successful career in the music business and my roots. I followed my intuition at the age of 30, which called out ‘now or never!’ When I arrived in LA, I was sure that I had made a huge mistake!
I had no friends to speak of in this unfamiliar city, and so I discovered Yoga, which immediately touched me quite deeply. My first teacher was Christi Minavorich – still one of the most inspiring people I know, as she doesn’t just teach asana but rather truly lives her Yoga. I was hooked – she was charismatic and radiated an inner calm. I finally felt inspired again. It was like somebody opened a door inside of me, allowing me to rediscover life’s beauty.
I felt a part of something in her class, and a wonderful sense of connection to myself – something I had been searching for my whole life. I could truly be myself and my relationship to the world shifted as a result. I began to go to class 4-5 times a week. Yoga grounded and inspired me in this time of great change and new beginnings.
I’ve now been practicing for 20 years and teaching for 17 – and I still love it so much!
Which other teachers have inspired you on your spiritual journey?
After my time with Christi, I moved to New York and luckily discovered Elena Brower there, just at the start of her career and teaching small classes to five yogis – which changed quickly! I loved her classes, inspiring as they were. Her teaching was also about so much more than the asanas. Anusara Yoga touched me deeply back then – it opened my heart and gave me much inspiration for life beyond the mat.
I practiced with Elena several times per week, and when I moved to Costa Rica, she was the first teacher to offer a retreat at Montezuma. She encouraged me to become a Yoga teacher myself, and offered her support, for which I will always be grateful.
Elena is a friend and teacher and I respect her deeply and try to see her whenever I can. Other inspiring teachers these past years have been Rod Stryker and Banyan Gallagher, whom I meet yearly for retreats or workshops.
Your friend Daniel was one of the first hang drum players worldwide. He often plays in your classes – what’s so special about the sound?
The hang drum is a magical instrument because it’s played so intuitively. You can’t choose to play specific notes like you can on a guitar or violin and the original can’t simply be bought in a music store. When Daniel received his original PanArt hang drum, it was the only one of its kind and he had to travel to the producer’s in Switzerland to get it. Many people wait for years to receive a hang drum and some never get one. We were lucky! The hang creates sounds that work in a harmonizing way on the body system.
The lovely intention of the original designers (there are many copies by other producers on the market at this point) was to ‘massage the earth’s soundscape.’ Daniel is actually an artist and sculptor, not a classically trained musician, which is probably why he plays the hang drum in a really unique and intuitive way.
He picks up on the energy of the group and the space and doesn’t just play his ‘songs.’ Those who experience his sound are always very moved and impressed by the melodies that are created. It’s a wonderful complement to Yoga because it creates such a calming and meditative flow. Daniel plays for my Vinyasa and Yin classes and my students always talk about how much the music helps them to deepen their breath, find equilibrium and touches their souls.
Do you ever miss Hamburg?
Of course! Hamburg is my favorite German city. I can imagine growing old there, if I ever leave Costa Rica. All of my old friends are there, and I try to visit every year for a least a few weeks. Hamburg has wonderful Yoga studios and a lovely Yoga community.
How do you see the German Yoga scene, from the outside?
It makes me happy to see how Yoga has grown in Germany these past years. It’s great that there’s an increase in mindfulness and Yoga practice – the world needs that. I see new Yoga festivals and conferences being born and have the feeling that a beautiful community is growing. It’s probably more difficult now than it used to be to make a living as a Yoga teacher.
Years ago, the only visible workshops were given by big-name international teachers. It’s nice to see the many successful German Yoga teachers out there today, offering retreats and workshops of their own. They are more willing to share their light and have become more confident.
What does your own spiritual practice look like?
My own practice these days consists more of meditation. But I still love asana practice and enjoy taking classes with inspiring teachers. When I get lost in my anxieties and the world’s problems overwhelm, my spiritual practice supports me in staying strong, grounded and soft. A regular practice is an important way of caring for our spiritual tools.
You own the Montezuma retreat center – what do you offer there?
Montezuma is a tropical paradise where people can come together and let go deeply. It’s a powerful place, very relaxing and transformative, depending on what you need. Lots of women traveling alone come here to regenerate.
We offer a diverse program including Yoga, surfing and wellness. You can learn Spanish here as well. And we offer retreats with international guest teachers – a wide range of offerings depending on interest and available resources. My team consists of three wonderfully experienced Yoga teachers and one masseuse. I founded Montezuma as one of the first Yoga spots in Costa Rica and I think you can feel the love and good vibes that have been lived here for the past 17 years.
What makes you happy?
I love connections. Nothing makes me happier than bringing people together. It’s something I’ve always been good at, and so it delights me that I’ve built up a business that lets me do what I love and share it with others.
I am thrilled that I get to offer retreat and journeys all over the world, together with my true love Daniel who is a source of calm and gives me strength. I am also happy to share the impulse with others to live their dreams. One of my happiest moments is when I am here, in my house with my cat in my lap, gazing out into the jungle and listening to the sounds of the monkeys, crickets, and birds. All of this weaves together into the life I wished for. I am so glad that I never gave up on my dreams, even though it wasn’t always easy.
Which book has moved you recently and why?
I’ve been reading Neurosculpting* by Lisa Wimberger, a fascinating look at our brain and how we can release old patterns and belief-systems by retraining our thinking.
© Carla Montevecchi, & Julie Ansiau
*Amazon Affiliate Link