THE SPIRITUAL MASTER Dr Amit Ray said, “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” And there are few places better to
embrace this than in the mountains of Austria.
Breathing in the air, you immediately notice the contrast to the City: it’s fresh, clean, and Alpine – just about the opposite to London. High-altitude air is proven to be better for you: because it’s thinner, your body has to work harder to transport oxygen through the blood. This in turn creates lots of new red blood cells. The result is a decreased susceptibility to stroke, heart disease, and many other common ailments. Centuries ago the air was already appreciated for its healing powers – even if they didn’t understand how or why. As London’s pollution levels continue to rise, Austria’s mountain air – free from pollutants and allergens – is just what your body needs.
But of course, the escape here is not just physical, it’s mental. When it comes to letting go of anxiety, there are few holidays that can beat a trip to the Austrian mountains.
THE WALK OF LIFE
The idea of mindfulness is still a relatively new phenomenon. And it’s only something that is really talked about to any significant degree in cities. In the Arlberg, for example, the idea of a meditation app or a smartphone fitness tracker is risible. Holistic wellbeing just happens here naturally – with an emphasis on nature.
There’s no need for a fitness tracker to clock your roundtrips to the office water cooler. Instead, locals can take a walk through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Europe, and if they want a drink of water, there’s plenty of fresh glacier water in the nearby lakes.
Formarinsee lake – west of Lech Zürs am Arlberg in Vorarlberg – is a great example. Voted Austria’s most beautiful place in 2015, it fills with crystal-clear melt water in Spring.
When it comes to letting go of anxiety, there are few holidays that can beat a trip to the Austrian mountains
The area is also famous for its traditional mountain huts, always located in pristine surroundings. The Sennhütte hut near St Anton am Arlberg is a typical Alpine establishment – with views that will warm your soul and food that will fill your belly. To walk off your lunch, there are a number of gentle walking trails including one that takes you to the world’s largest Edelweiss flower arrangement,
made up of more than 100,000 blossoms.
As well as stretching your legs, you can also stretch your mind at Lech Zürs’ Cultural Summer. This is a programme of festivals spread across the season from July to September. It kicks off with the Lech Medicincium, dedicated to providing scientifically based advice on living a healthy lifestyle – and ends with the internationally renowned Lech Philosophicum, dealing with the urgent issues of our time. In between there’s a heady combination of classical music, jazz, art installations and literature.
Sometimes you have to go outdoors to find inner peace. When a yoga teacher asks you to ‘reach down to the earth’ or ‘look up to the sky’, it makes a real difference if you can actually do those things. Of course, many yoga poses take their names from the plant or animal kingdom – for example, you’ll never feel so grounded doing the vrksasana (tree pose) as when you’re among real-life trees. Yoga in the amazing mountain region of Zell am See-Kaprun is difficult to beat, connecting you with the landscape in both a physical and spiritual way:
Lake Zell YachtClub Swimming Beach
On the northern shore of Lake Zell, a manicured lawn attracts plenty of bathers – of both sun and water. A floating platform juts into the water providing a perfect escape – the ideal location for practising yoga: a serene breeze, undulating waves, and warming sunshine are sure to get you into the zone.
Lake Plettsaukopf is well set for country walks, with plenty of benches along the way for sitting back and enjoying the view. For a yoga session, head up the mountain early to avoid the crowds. You can either hike up there, or if you haven’t woken up quite yet, grab the gondola. The area’s natural tranquillity will ease you into both the day and a refreshing yoga session.
The picturesque Klammsee reservoir in Kaprun is a popular stop after a walk through the magnificent Siegmund Thun Gorge. Filled by the meltwater of the glacier, the reservoir ripples with azure shades – a beautiful complement to the emerald forests at its side and the cobalt blue sky beyond. There are many tranquil sites surrounding the reservoir for your asanas – and the views alone are enough to calm your spirit.
SUP board on Lake Zell
Want to take your yoga to the next level? Head to the SUP Center just south of Zell am See, and hire yourself a SUP board. This is a unique way to take yoga to a new plain –literally. Opt for a wide and bulky board to help with your stability. And make sure you’re wearing your swimmers – especially if you’re going to attempt a stretched headstand.
Mitterberg in Thumersbach
Halfway up to the Mitterberg in Thumersbach, only a few metres away from the mountain road, you’ll find dream-like places for yoga. You’ll be accompanied by magnificent views to the glacier of the Kitzsteinhorn with Lake Zell glistening quietly below.
THE MEANING OF LIFE
Soul Trader author Rasheed Ogunlaru suggests four simple tips for life: “Feet on the ground; head to the skies; heart open; quiet mind.” Head to the mountains of Austria and you’ll find all four – and then some.
For more info, see austria.info