Craving a connection to nature? You don’t have to be a hippie dippie or yummy mummy on a spiritual mission to listen to your body’s natural urge to relax and connect. Perhaps your life is feeling stressful? Maybe the vacant stares on your daily commute or your supermarket’s artificial lighting leave you seeking something deeper, fresher, more invigorating and more, well, natural?
Sure, yoga has a certain reputation but it is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. Its benefits are two-fold: physically, it’s great for your health and form, yet it also has tremendous healing capacities both mentally and emotionally. Could it be the two are inextricably linked or even the same thing?
So how about a holiday with a twist? You’ll arrive home looking and feeling even better than when you left. Picture this: a short break away from your daily routine, moving your body and giving yourself time to really sink into, well, you. Yoga allows us to find space and to relax all those tense muscles we carry around every day. Now pair this mind-body reboot with the mountains. Think gorgeous fresh air and beautiful surroundings that will change your state of mind even before you stretch into your first downward facing dog. And there’s something about yoga and the mountains that fits together so nicely – let’s not forget that yoga originates from the Himalayas.
You love the Alps, right? The Rockies are magical, too. And as we know, it isn’t just skiing that keeps pulling us back there time after time. It’s more about the beauty and tranquillity of our surroundings. So perhaps it’s time to meet these mountains in a different way? We’ve put together a collection of mountain yoga festivals across the Alps and Rockies that are worth checking out. That is, if it’s uber-unravelling and deep relaxation you’re after.
For me nothing quite matches the beauty and exuberance of Verbier. The resort’s Inspire Festival takes place as August flows into September, and kicks off each morning at 7am with sunrise yoga lead by experienced instructors. Expect a jam-packed holistic programme, complete with Indian-style Kirtan (ectastic devotional singing – don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!), sound-healing, and evening meditation sessions to ground in the day’s work. We dare you to sink your teeth into the authentic Swiss atmosphere, soak up the guaranteed sun rays, and let yourself fall in love with yoga and all that this ancient tradition encompasses (it’s so much more than stretching). Oh, and we hear the evening feasts are pretty spectacular.
From August 25 to 30, there is the European Congress of Yoga. There are lectures and classes available eight hours per day, with an exciting evening programme of cultural, musical and culinary pleasures to enjoy. This feels a little more serious than the others, and you are expected to commit to the full five days rather than dipping in and out.
Mountain Yoga Festival kicks off in early September, inviting the autumn in with a grounding, calming yogic experience in the gorgeous Austrian Tirol. It advertises itself as the ideal event for those seeking fresh air and wanting to plant a yogic seed in themselves – they welcome those wanting to try yoga for the first time, as well as nature lovers.
Gastein Yoga Festival is a spring happening, but it’s never too early to start planning for next year. It’s a 10-day event and offers over 300 classes across three Austrian resorts of Bad Gastein, Bad Hofgastein and Dorfgastein. The valley has its world-famous thermal springs, and there are saunas and steam rooms to soothe aching bodies between yoga sessions. Be warned that the majority of teaching is in German; however most instruction is surprisingly easy to follow despite the language barrier. Another yoga fest takes place in the area during October: the Autumn Yoga Week, where workshops includes YogAlign, where you work on a natural posture and the anatomically correct use of your spine. It is appropriate for beginners and experienced yogis alike.
The Yoga Festival takes place in late September, bringing together some world-renowned male yoga teachers – self-named ‘the Boys of Yoga’. It has something of a party ambience with its late-night electronic DJ sessions. This one seems to have a slightly less holistic and natural vibe, but still is a great workout for the body and a chance to really treat yourself by staying at the five-star A-Rosa-Resort.
This summer, the resort launches the first Avoriaz Yoga Festival at the end of July. With 11 workshops, 12 yogi masters and a reflexologist, this is a great opportunity to taste a variety of yogic practices, ranging from traditional ashtanga and vinyasa to more innovative parent-child yoga and even aqua-yoga for waterbabies. There are also lectures, for those wishing to feed their intellectual self over the weekend.
Chamonix Yoga Festival takes place early July each year. It may be over for this summer, but it’s worth keeping in mind for the future. Something of a yearly coming-together of European yogis, this unique experience takes places at the foot of Mont Blanc in the beautiful Chamonix valley. This is a great one for families with kids, as there’s plenty for budding yogis to occupy themselves with in the Kids Garden. There’s loads of opportunities for everyone, whether you’re looking for some super yin, zenned out restoration or energy. You could also try the yoga dance classes.
Banff Yoga Festival is another spring happening – a three-day wellness adventure taking place in May in Banff National Park. Expect over 90 workshops, nutritious and locally sourced food, and a general coming together of the Canadian wellness community. As well as a wide array of classes, there are speakers and self-care workshops, sure to inspire and re-energise you after a long winter.
The Arise Festival in early August is more of a music festival than a yoga one, but it incorporates a strong yogic ethos of sustainability, health, and spirituality. Perched on the hilltop overlooking the festival below you can unwind and find your inner warrior at the Yoga Sanctuary.
Yoga on the Mountain Festival is a three-day celebration of yoga and self-exploration. This year, it was musically supported by singer-songwriter Satsang. There’s a huge range of talks and workshops on the theme of yoga, meditation, hiking, and local culture.