The Power of Yoga

Yoga is the modern day equivalent of aerobics. The wooly leg warmers and headbands of the eighties have given way to stylish exercise pants, crop tops and fancy mat bags. But, what’s all the fuss about?

The exact origins of Yoga are debated, but general consensus suggests it began in India some 5000 years ago. Throughout its history, yoga traditions and styles have evolved and changed and been practiced by Hindus, Buddhists, Sufis and other religious denominations.

“While the focus of each yoga style differs, yoga’s purpose has, throughout history, remained the same: helping humans become aware of their deepest nature,” says Andrea Jain, assistant professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University.

“Yoga is a path to enlightenment,” Ganesh Das, managing director of Jivamukti Yoga School in New York, wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times. “It diminishes self-centeredness, allowing us to become more aware of our responsibilities toward the larger community – the other people, animals and environment that we all share.”

But, in recent times, this deep meaning has taken somewhat of a backseat to a more widely used relevance – to get people fit and healthy. Whatever the motivation, the simple practice of breathing combined with physical exertion reduces stress and anxiety and is good for the body and spirit and the development of a positive outlook on life. And, there’s literally a style to suit just about everyone.

Below are the 5 most popularly practiced forms of Yoga and their benefits.

Hatha

The most widely practiced form of yoga in the United States today, Hatha yoga focuses on breathing, holding the pose and quieting the mind, all of which are the basic building blocks to any yoga practice. Hatha is perfect for beginners.

Vinyasa

Vinyasa is similar to Hatha but is faster-paced and more fitness-oriented. The poses are linked together in a series of movements that are synchronized with the breath. Emphasis is placed on the breath and the transition in and out of the poses.

Bikram

Bikram yoga is a form of hot yoga performed in a series of 26 postures done in a heated environment, which is meant to mimic the climate of the birthplace of yoga: India. The heated environment naturally promotes more flexibility, detoxification and the prevention of injuries.

Ashtanga

Ashtanga is based on six series of poses that increase in difficulty, allowing you to work at your own pace. Also known as power yoga, you’ll be kept on the move, flowing through one pose to the next in a constant cycle throughout your practice.

Kundalini

This ancient form of yoga is challenging both physically and mentally. Kundalini incorporates the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of yoga, focusing on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward. In addition to postures, expect to do some chanting, meditation and breathing exercises.

So, if you’re looking for a way to exercise mindfulness and get a full body workout at the same time, select a style and search for a Shala (studio) – there’s bound to be any number somewhere near you.

The Relaxing Power of Nature

The relaxing power of nature has been well documented for hundreds of years – there’s something primal about reconnecting with the Earth and more recently studies have confirmed the effect of nature on productivity and happiness.

But, regularly finding time to be in nature isn’t just good for the soul, but for the body too.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk in nature. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”

So, where should we be headed to get our dose?

Well, there are few more tranquil places on Earth than Austria. Little wonder when you consider that only a third of the country is less than 500metres above sea level; I guess you could say that the majority of Austrians are breathing rarified air!

But, it’s not just the height of the place that makes it so peaceful. It’s one of the most mountainous regions in Europe and is home to some of the most incredible lakes and natural wonders in the world – and, as we no doubt all know by now, the hills are literally alive with music!

So, if you’re in need for some serious R&R, finding a way to make it to Austria is probably just the medicine. To help you plan, below are five of Austria’s most wonderful natural attractions.

Donau – Auen National Park

Donau – Auen National Park lies a short distance outside of Vienna. It’s the last surviving large wetland area in Central Europe, a place where the iconic Danube River still flows freely. The river still regularly floods the surrounding flatlands, which is a major habitat for birds and other fauna and flora. This beautifully tranquil national park is best explored on foot, by bicycle or on a boat.

Seegrotte Hinterbrühl

The Seegrotte, meaning Lake Cave in English, in Hinterbrühl is Europe’s largest underground lake. Although it’s technically not a natural cave, but a manmade gypsum mine, the Seegrotte is an impressive natural highlight in Austria. After the ceiling of the mine collapsed in 1912, it partially filled up with water, creating a huge underground lake that can be explored by boat.

Lake Hallstatt

Lake Hallstatt is one of many stunning mountain lakes in Austria. The town of Hallstatt and the lake are, in fact, one of the most photographed destinations in the world. The lake and surrounds are perfect for boating, fishing, hiking, mountaineering and cycling.

Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave

The Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave, conveniently located a short trip south of Salzburg, is the world’s largest ice cave. Its name means World of Ice Giants in English. There are more than 40 kilometers of caves in this icy labyrinth. The ice cave is home to enormous stalactites and stalagmites of ice, vast halls and stunning ice formations.

Thayatal National Park

Thayatal National Park lies on the border between Austria and the Czech Republic and boasts a landscape of castle ruins, gorgeous valleys, wildflowers and woods. Home to large numbers of wildlife, including some very rare species, this peaceful national park invites visitors to strap on their hiking boots, throw a backpack on their backs and head out into nature.

If Austria is a little too far off the beaten track for you, just find a local park or go out in your backyard, take your shoes off and feel the earth beneath your feet – you’ll thank yourself for it later.

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The MindBody Festival is an international event offering three days of discovery about wellbeing, health and nutrition. The Festival, held in Istanbul, gave visitors the opportunity to listen to renowned experts who advocate Happy and Healthy Living, meet friends who share similar lifestyle beliefs and create a personalized program from all that was on offer: Yoga, pilates, tai chi, dance, reflexology, tantra, biotherapy and more. Continue reading “Tranquini at Turkey's MindBody Festival”