Wondering what yoga classes at MoaAlm are like? Rosie, our lovely yoga teacher, has shared a few pearls of wisdom with us about yoga and how she teaches it... so read on and let her lovely words soothe you and inspire you to take on yoga with altitude!
Yoga in the Austrian Alps is something special. After a long stint teaching in Southeast Asia and sunny coastal Europe, where the air is warm and humid and the view is rice paddies or beaches, I've moved up in the world, quite literally, to 1800m above sea level in East Tyrol, Austria.
It can take a day or so for the body to adjust to the shift in altitude - when I arrived, it felt as though my whole body had been drained of moisture, and we also underestimate the impact of altitude on fitness; yoga is even more effective up here. Because the body requires more efficient use of oxygen at altitude, you optimise your active time, whether that’s on the mat or out on the slopes. You could argue that this leaves you with more time to enjoy those post-activity peaceful moments, sipping hot chocolate and getting lost in the pages of your book which you never usually have time to read, and resting easy in the acknowledgement that your body is tired, but happy.
The yoga studio at MoaAlm Mountain Retreat overlooks snowy mountains in the distance and thickly-padded white fields just outside the window. Waking up in the morning to the sun crawling its way up the sky, the light hitting the snow softly before anyone else in the house stirs, is a pretty special thing, and it almost feels as though you have the world to yourself for a few precious moments.
With the heater cranking, candles burning, incense wafting and yoga mats laid out facing the panoramic windows, yoga is a welcome start to the day.
The yogic focus on breath, awareness, and increasing strength and flexibility, becomes more and more complementary to the outdoor activities throughout the week. Stretching out tight hamstrings, mobilising joints, improving balance so you bend rather than break, and breathing through the challenges. Enjoying each moment for what it is, rather than thinking about the next uphill or the fear of a steep downward slope. Taking a deep breath and observing the moment with all of your senses, as we learn on the mat, can be transferred into mountain moments when you want to commit a view, a feeling, an exhilaration, to memory.
The hardest thing about choosing a yoga retreat is knowing whether or not you will resonate with or enjoy the style of the resident teacher. The surroundings can be just perfect, the accommodation cosy and luxurious, the food five star, but how can you guarantee that you’ll like the yoga classes? Well, I can’t guarantee, but I can tell you a little more about my philosophy around yoga.
At MoaAlm, I teach a Hatha Flow yoga with a focus on the breath and awareness from moment to moment. I always try to offer modifications and options for people of different experience and physical capabilities, and encourage people to listen to their own bodies, as they each know themselves better than anyone else. I balance challenging and energising flow sequences with restorative poses and longer holds, to cultivate a harmony between the yin and yang, which many of us find a challenging balance in our daily life off the mat. We need one, to enjoy the other. A rest is always available, in child’s pose or savasana (resting pose), and a challenge is always available if they’ve got more in the tank on that particular day.
I try to emphasise that you don't compare or criticize. We’re all unique; our bodies are different, and we all are working with our own strengths and limitations, so comparison is really a waste of precious energy (that could be better used in propelling you up the snowy mountains!). We each come on a retreat and to the yoga mat for a slightly different reason, whether that’s to improve sleep quality, to learn to breathe properly, to calm an anxious mind, to get stronger, become more flexible, to look better naked or simply because your partner drags you out of bed every morning.
Over time, regardless of your intention in starting yoga, you might start to notice some subtle shifts. You become more attuned to what your unique body needs as fuel, what brings you joy and feeds your soul rather than what you think you should or should not be eating because it’s deemed “healthy” or “unhealthy”. You start to look forward to the time on your mat and outside in nature as “you-time”. You start to tune in and notice the way you are breathing, and the way you are thinking. You become aware of negative thought patterns which are becoming a part of you, and by recognising those thoughts, you take away their power. You start to slow down, which is what we all need a little bit more of in our busy lives, and its exactly what we encourage at MoaAlm.
Balancing the yin with the yang, the challenge with the ease, the activity with the relaxation, the herbal tea with the wine. “Relaxingly Active” - the MoaAlm motto and the lifestyle.