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Mountains well-posed for yoga

A crowd of yoga fans met last summer for the first Mountain Yoga Festival in the dramatic scenery of St. Anton am Arlberg. They practiced yoga for four days under the open skies.

Author: Anne Steinbach


The laughter can be heard from far away. A small town in the mountains in western Austria is filling with people in athletic wear. For the first time, St. Anton am Arlberg is transforming into an outdoor studio for the duration of the Mountain Yoga Festival. Over the following days, downward facing dogs will salute the sun every morning, and from the get-go us yogis and yoginis feel welcome in the quiet community of 2,500 inhabitants. Nothing can keep us from enjoying what we are all here for: yoga and the mountains.
 

Slowing down the pace with yoga

The first day begins early in the morning, down by the stream. At an hour that is presumably healthy in a yogic sense, but ambitious on vacation, we march along the water like a trail of ants. The babbling of the stream has an almost meditative effect. It makes you fall into a steady stride, slower than usual, and doze off a little. “The energy of this place works wonders on its own and everything comes together clearly and harmoniously. The less one disturbs the energy, the more effective it can ultimately be,” says our yoga instructor Patricia Thielemann. We are a diverse group made up of lifestyle yoga fans, spiritual yogis and those seeking a path out of the daily grind and into a place of relaxation and serenity. The group includes the young and the young at heart, and married couples who want to spend their time together outside in the peacefulness of the mountains.


The only difficult task of the festival is choosing which yoga course to attend, as the varied programme offers a wide array of options: There is the sweat-inducing Spirit Yoga with Patricia Thielemann from Berlin, advanced Vinyasa Flow with Sigrid Pichler from New York, or quiet meditations with Sandy Duncan from St. Anton.

The Mountain Yoga Festival has something for everyone here – whether you are a beginner or a seasoned yogi.
 

Feel the spirit of the Mountains

  • Yoga on a mountain © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Yoga on a mountain © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Yoga on a mountain © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Yoga on a mountain © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Yoga on a mountain © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Yoga on a mountain © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Nature on the Alrberg © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Nature on the Alrberg © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg Mountain Yoga Festival © Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton am Arlberg

The ultimate studio: an Alpine pasture

With our yoga mats tucked firmly under our arms, we strut to the festival’s namesake - the mountains - where we practise yoga beneath the open skies, as close to nature as possible. The second day begins with relaxation in the radiant sun and a view that is second to none: from Gampen mountain you see over the flower-covered Alpine pastures far into the valley. In summer, the deep green of the mountains makes them seem almost more magical than in winter. And practicing yoga against this spectacular backdrop, with the towering peaks in front of you, makes it especially powerful. With every pose, the grass nestles closer around your body – like a natural pillow. The air is fresh, and the sun tickles the 150 noses that are stretched up to the sky in tree pose. At long last, you can trade the stuffy yoga studio with its florescent tubes and air conditioning for nature. Yoga and mountains are a perfect fit.
 

Same time, same station

The four days in St. Anton pass in a flash. Judging by our aching muscles, we did more than 500 downward facing dogs and 300 sun salutations, which we repeat one last time with all participants before the final farewell. Then the newly found yoga family of the Mountain Yoga Festival St. Anton says its good-byes and departs in all directions for home. With a broad smile on our faces, the yoga mat in our suitcase, and the mala bracelet on our wrist, we are already thinking about next year. From 31 August to 3 September 2017 St. Anton will again transform into an open-air yoga studio where the order of the day becomes “offline is the new luxury.” Namaste, St. Anton. Namaste, Mountain Yoga Festival.
 

 

So relaxing was the first Mountain-Yoga Festival

Five Questions -Five Answers

What is yoga?

Yoga means “unification” or “integration” and has its roots in India. Gentle exercise, rhythmic breathing and meditation are employed to bring body, spirit and soul into harmony. Yoga is a holistic practice and is neither a religion nor a sport.

1.: Who can practice yoga?

The great thing is: anyone can do yoga – it doesn’t matter how young, old, inexperienced or fit. Yoga can help relieve back pain, sleeping disorders and circulatory problems. Depending on the kind of yoga that is practiced and the intensity of the exercises, it can also have other benefits. Asanas, for example, promote strength, flexibility and one’s sense of balance; muscles are trained and tendons and ligaments are activated. But many people also use yoga to relieve stress after a long work day.

 

2.: How often should one practice yoga?

There is no hard and fast rule about this. You can practice yoga as often as it feels good. Some people start each day with a sun salutation and loosen up with gentle exercises. The more frequently one practises, the more one feels yoga’s benefits. It’s best to listen to your body – but please, not to your inner couch potato.

 

3.: What does one need for yoga?

Yoga wear that is stretchable and hugs the torso is ideal so that your clothing does not flutter around and distract you. Since yoga is practiced barefoot, you don’t need to wear shoes, but socks can enhance your feeling of well being. Grab a mat and a towel and you’re ready to start.
 

4.: Is this Far Eastern meditation practice even compatible with Austria?

One might think that this would be a clash of two opposing worlds. But Austria’s nature and yoga are actually a very good fit: yoga helps to find serenity, unwind, ground yourself and focus completely on the moment. Austria’s Alps offer the perfect surroundings for this. In the clear mountain air you are able to concentrate more easily on your breathing, greeting the sun under blue skies is doubly pleasurable, and the lush green alpine meadows are better than any yoga mat.
 

5.: What does "Om" mean?

Every yoga session begins and ends with the chanted Om. “O” is the first letter of the Sanskrit letter and “m” the last. It is pronounced “a-u-m” and stands for the three states of consciousness: the waking state, the dream state and the deep sleep state. The mantra Om also represents the universe, where – according to yoga philosophy – everything is in rhythmic vibration. The mantra is intended to help our consciousness focus on the fact that we, as well, are in motion and part of the greater whole.
 

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Mountains well-posed for yoga

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