Namaste at the lake
Winter yoga at the shores of Lake Zell
Yoga instructor Maria Großlercher takes guests into the world of asanas in the Zell am See Elisabeth Park every Thursday. Yoga beginners or pros relax in the open air, surrounded by lake and mountains and in delightful nature. Yoga is in vogue, and this Indian relaxation technique was recognised as intangible cultural heritage by the UNESCO on 1st December 2016.
I am not a very experienced yogi, but have always been interested in outdoor yoga. Rolling out the yoga mat far away from the stuffy rooms of crammed studios and enjoying nature as backdrop for relaxation exercises has to me, as an outdoor junkie, a very special appeal. I have already been enjoying yoga surrounded by rippling waves and blossoming fields of flowers during SUP-yoga at Lake Zell and mountain yoga on the Schmittenhöhe in summer. “Yoga at the lake”, organised by the Zell am See Tourist Association for guests from December until Easter for the first time this winter, was therefore topping my ”to-do list“.
Weekly yoga lesson at the lake
Yoga instructor Maria Großlercher offers a free of charge outdoor yoga lesson every Thursday at 1.30 pm. Meeting point is the music pavilion of the beautiful Elisabeth Park directly at the shores of Lake Zell. A mixed bunch of yoga followers have gathered already as I arrive to join the group. Wearing winter sports outfits, enthusiasts of all ages and ability levels return Maria’s yoga greeting ”Namaste“ in joyful anticipation. Maria is not only a yoga instructor, she also is a physiotherapist and mental coach, and promises from the start: “Anyone can join in here – from absolute beginner to pro! Yoga does not mean to overstrain yourself. Everyone performs the exercises at a level of intensity they feel comfortable with.“
We breathe into the buttocks
The weather is wintry today. Thick snowflakes darken the sky above Zell am See. That’s why we place our colourful yoga mats directly on the stage of the music pavilion – well-protected beneath the canopy. We start with simple breathing and stretching exercises. Seated and leaning far forwards, we listen to Maria’s instructions: “Now we all breathe into our right buttock and the mind becomes calm.“ My mind doesn’t calm initially because I look puzzled at the yoga instructor and wonder whether I heard right. She laughs and ensures me: “Just guide your breath. This will help your muscles to relax.“ So, I close my eyes and concentrate on inhaling - and there you go, it works! Our initially tense muscles become suppler and the exercises also get more demanding. A light snow breeze touches our now slightly sweaty faces and we drop the first layers of our warm clothes. We are now in the “downward facing dog“ pose – with hands and feet pressed against the floor, our pelvises point upwards to the sky. On Maria’s command, we now stretch one leg upwards. Correcting our pose, the yoga pro smiles and says: “There are no dead fish in Lake Zell! We don’t let the foot dangle like a dead fish; we stretch the toes nicely upwards.“ Now laughing, we follow this instruction. The pun with the “dead fish“ will surely make me smile when I do this pose in future.
The sun comes out with the Sun Salutation
“Our next exercise is the Sun Salutation. It’s ideal for activating body, mind and soul and awakening new vital energies“, says Maria and begins with the demonstration of the exercises. We join this smooth sequence of various poses – everyone at their ability level. And there you go, the first sunshine tickles our noses just a few minutes later. The blue sky appears and we decide to move closer to the shores of the lake for our next exercises. The amazing view across the ice-covered lake and the surrounding mountains provides relaxation on an even more intense level, and glancing around, I can see that everyone has a little smile on their face.
The lesson is finished – we are all notably more relaxed and energetic –, we sit together and enjoy a cup of steaming hot tea. Maria, the self-employed yoga instructor, says: “We have had lessons in a snow storm at minus 20 degrees or even at the completely frozen Lake Zell this winter. With yoga, you just accept the elements of nature. The yoga session at the ice was definitely a very special experience – it felt like floating. Especially our guests who are looking for a break from skiing feel how their strained muscles stretch and loosen during yoga. They go back again on the piste full of energy the next day. And with this unique view from the Elisabeth Park to the lake, everyone goes away with beautiful memories of this yoga lesson.“