Yoga Retreat At Mittersill, Austria

Boy did I need a vacation!

You don’t realise how much until you go on one. You think you know, but once you actually unwind, then you realise just how twisted up you actually were.

sonnberghof mittersill

I went on a wee yoga vacation with the Sivananda people, at the Sonnberghof Hotel in Mittersill, Austria. It was brilliant. I mean, for a start, just look at the view!

alpine views

And that’s just one direction. There were gorgeous views all over the place.

Normally my Austrian yoga vacations happen in Reith, but a couple of times a year the bio-hotel there closes down for holidays of their own, so some of the yogis decamp to Mittersill to run their retreats from there.

They have a nice yoga room,

yoga room at mittersill

and a nice wee meditation hall,

meditation room

for sadhana and satsang respectively. And in between the bouts of spiritual enlightenment the hotel has an outdoor pool,

outdoor pool

as well as a selection of sauna/steam rooms you can enjoy, with a nice lounge area for you to relax in.

spa lounge
 
swing chairs

The routine was the usual Sivananda one of satsang at 6:30am, yoga at 8:30am. Then lunch, followed by free time. Then yoga at 4pm, lunch at 6pm, and evening satsang at 7:30pm.

The luxury of being able to do yoga twice a day is always welcome. You really do feel the benefits of your practise that much quicker when you can dedicate your time wholly to it. Of course it helps if someone else is cooking the food and cleaning up after you.

The food was very good. The kitchen staff at the hotel seem to have really got their heads around cooking sattvic food. I had to limit myself. The tempation to eat way too much was quite high.

The teaching was awesome too. They do offer tailored yoga programs at Mittersill, but I was just there for a vacation. I learnt a lot as we did our sadhana, including some new exercises to incorporate into my yoga, and some new ways to correct people when I’m teaching too. All in all a very profitable vacation.

I even made a new friend while I was there…

making friends 2

If you’re looking for a yoga holiday I can recommend Mittersill. The combination of yoga and spa is an excellent one. I felt incredibly relaxed by the end of my stay, and of course I wish I could have stayed more.

Instead I flew back, drove to the Lake District, and did an epic hike to the top of Helvellyn, lol.

Helvellyn Headstand, Helvellyn, Cumbria, UK

Kind of undid some of my good work, but got another shot for my headstand series so, siwng and roundabouts, eh?

Back in London now, trying to keep on with my daily practise, see if I can’t keep the flexibility I earned in Austria. I also need to prepare myself for the Sadhana Intensive in August. It’s pretty full on by all accounts, and I need to be at the top of my game if I’m going to get the best out of it.

Ubud And The Sacred Monkey Forest

Ah, Bali.

I really had no idea what to expect going there. All I knew about the place is that it’s where Elizabeth Gilbert went at the end of her big spiritual journey, and you can ride elephants there. So I kind of expected it to be full or pachyderms, and middle aged women on bicycles clutching well thumbed copies of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. I was wrong on both counts.

I flew in to Denpasar airport,

denpasar airport

and paid the princely sum of 250,000 Indonesian rupiah (IDR) – about £13:80 – for the one hour taxi ride from there to Ubud, near the centre of the island.

The first thing I noticed was the Balinese love of statues. They were many and varied.

statue 1

statue 2

The second thing I noticed was the crazy random vehicles you got on the road. Never mind all the scooters, I saw a forklift heading down the main road,

forklift

and this turned out to be a police pick-up transporting prisoners.

bored copper

At one point my driver, who wasn’t the most approachable chap, announced he needed a drink. So he just pulled over, hopped out, and left me there with the engine running.

abandoned!

I was glad when the busy, warehouse lined, dual-carriageway started winding it’s way out of the city and into more open country.

countryside

a glimpse of rice paddies

rice paddy postcard

And I was very glad to finally get to my hotel in Ubud (my one hour taxi ride taking a good two hours because of all the crazy traffic).

I’d splashed out a bit, and was staying at the Casa Ganesha Hotel, for just under 3,000,000 IDR (£181) for the week. It looked very promising as I walked in,

casa ganesha

entranceway and restaurant

the pool

ganesha's courtyard

our ganesha

and I had no complaints about the room.

my room

the balcony

the view from my balcony

The main road was crazy busy with traffic (constantly) so I was happy to be at the back away from all that. The facilities were excellent – air-con, TV, free wifi – and you even got a choice of free breakfasts each morning. Check this out!

breakfast, pt 1

breakfast, pt 2

I was quite partial to the fruit salad and banana pancake combo, and had that more than once. But I wasn’t averse to the cinnamon toast as well, and both were an excellent way to start your day.

The first couple of days I just wandered about a bit, got my bearings. The pavements were a bit haphazard,

mind your step

so you had to keep your wits about you (I tripped several times as I was walking while gaping into shop windows, but thankfully I didn’t fall down any holes).

But everywhere there were glimpses of Ganesha; the Remover of Obstacles,

a glimpse of gansha

so I wasn’t too concerned.

There were also offerings everywhere – outside every shop, gateway, by every statue, and anywhere else they could think to put them;

an offering

though who they were to and what they were for I never found out.

And there was yoga. All kinds of yoga stuff all over the place.

yoga laundry

I was looking forward to some of that (though that’s a subject for a post of it’s own).

Apart from yoga and riding elephants, a little research came up with two things you could do in Ubud that were meant to be good; visit the Ubud Palace, and visit the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.

I gave the palace a go first, and was woefully disappointed. You couldn’t go inside (as far as I could see anyway), they had these ‘STOP’ signs everywhere,

stop!

so you just got to wander around a small part of the grounds a bit looking at a few stone carvings.

palace doorway

just plain weird

doorway detail

wall carving

By far the superior of the two options was the Monkey Forest.

The monkeys were awesome. Crazy, cheeky, and a little bit sneaky, you had to keep your eye on them or they’d be away with whatever you had!

popping the cap

taking a swig

The forest itself had some beautiful and unexpected architecture,

monkey forest 1

monkey forest 2

sacred spring lizard statues

moss covered lizard

as well as some less architectural man-made enhancements,

bamboo bridge

monkey forest 3

forest offering

big bamboo bridge

monkey forest 4

but of course the best bit was the monkeys. 😀

You had lone monkeys just hanging out,

feeling lazy

monkey, lion

families of monkeys just doing their thing,

monkey family

baby monkey, baby monkey...

just sittin' on a wall

tackling a banana

mum

and cheeky monkeys just being cheeky.

nyah!

A monkeys life is a simple one. When you’re not begging for bananas, or trying to steal stuff off tourist, most of your time is spent laying around grooming or being groomed (so it seems).

grooming

that's not right!

great fun!

I can’t say I don’t envy them that, lol.

The monkeys may be crazy, but what drove me nuts was I couldn’t stop singing the song from the following video as I wandered around the place. And I bet you’ll be singing it too by the end of it. 😉