Yoga in Austria:
Warning: This is super long.
The vacation in Austria was just what I needed. And you know what? I finally feel back to my normal self and boy oh boy does that feel wonderful. I find myself smiling all the time just to myself and to strangers. That may get me into trouble when I get back to school but you know what? It's ok. I think the students respect me and I am pretty sure they will be happy to see me smiling again and bringing energy back to the classroom because it sure has been missing lately.
Oh, I suppose I should get back to talking about the Sivananda Seminarhaus in Austria.
When I first arrived in Munich I had to go from one end of Terminal 1 to the complete opposite end of Terminal 2 in order to meet up with my friend Isabelle (who I met when I studied abroad in France, and who I also visited in Portugal during that summer of traveling!) the weather was beautiful and the sky was clear during the whole flight. I had a beautiful view of the mountains from my window seat (the best seat, unless you're in First Class, that is... But of course I don't know what that is like). Anyways... It was beautiful until we began to land and then there was cloud cover... I mean, seriously?! But it was ok because as soon as we started going up in the mountains of Austria it cleared up and it stayed that way the WHOLE 4 days we stayed there.
The yoga retreat wasn't what I thought it was going to be, but is anything these days? I thought it would literally be in the middle of nowhere and they would make us give them our cell phones and there wouldn't be Internet (you can't believe wavering you see on a tav and in the movies). Well, it wasn't like that at all. The hotel and the yoga house are two totally different businesses although they kind of work together (even though they didn't really seem to know what was going on with the other one except for the rules of what we could and could not eat and what time the meals were).
Speaking of what we could and could not eat.... This gets interesting (so interesting, in fact, that I bought a cookbook). The people that practice this kind of yoga follow a very strict vegetarian diet. The reason for the vegetarian diet is due to the slaughtering of animals, and of course there is nothing humane about slaughtering (they kept using this term and would say it with absolute disgust) animals... So, they said that even if we raised our own animals and slaughter them we would probably not eat meat ever again (I think Moldovans would easily disagree with this). Regardless, it was interesting to hear their opinion (in which everyone is entitled to their own opinion). So we didn't eat meat, garlic, onions, or mushrooms (mushrooms grow in the dark so that's why they don't eat them). We did eat a lot of food that was cooked with Indian spices and, when we took the cooking class, it was quite interesting to see what spices they put in the food (curry and cinnamon together in the same rice dish? Who knew!?). The cooking in itself is really an art and a science. They know how all of the spices are good for the body and what spices should go with which food in order to aid with digestion. I even ate a TON of a banana yogurt and didn't have any digestive problems. Maybe if I only cook these foods then I will be cured of my lactose intolerance that usually gives me so many problems... Wouldn't that be amazing?! I think that will have to wait until I get back to America, though, because it is difficult to find everything I would need in Moldova, and especially in the village. Good think my host mom cooks yummy food (even if it doesn't agree with my stomach all the time or with the yogic diet).
So enough about the food. Now let's talk about what I learned on this vacation in a semi-bullet format to keep it short (since I have already written a novel and if you're like me, you haven't even made it this far because you probably got bored.)
What I learned:
There is something about flying in an airplane that makes me so happy. Maybe its the freedom. Maybe its the view. Maybe its the destination. I don't know.... But it gets my heart racing and this time it is a good thing.
I really do travel by the seat of my pants... But I like that. It makes for a great adventure especially when I don't speak the language because there can be some things that are lost in translation (such as when I told the shuttle driver today that he did not have my flight information but he kept insisting that he did... But he didn't because Isabelle only gave them company her flight information)
I'm not an organized person. I never put the documents I need in an accessible place, nor do I always know where they are. Oops.
A yogic diet (mentioned above) is actually really really good. And I was surprised that we only ate at 10 and 6 and I really wasn't hungry between then. Maybe that's because of all of the food I ate at those times. ha!
My next getaway-and-recollect myself vacation will be alone. While it was so great to be with a good friend who I hadn't seen in a long time, I wasn't able to relax quite as much as I would have liked. We did have great conversations, though, and I am very thankful for that. I also prefer to do silent walks alone so I can take my time and take in all that is around me. It does help having a guide who knows the area, though.
Put your hands on your abdomen. Now take a deep breath. Did you abdomen move or only your chest? Most likely it was only your chest. Now take a deep breath beginning with your abdomen and then fill your lungs with air. How did that feel? Did you get more air? I sure hope so. That is how you should always breathe.... And do it through your nose! There is a reason we have one of those.
I. Love. Yoga. And apparently I'm a natural (although I would disagree). Bikram (hot yoga) is still my favorite but I did enjoy this kind because it was really relaxing and it focused a lot on breathing, which was great for me.
There is so much more to yoga than just practicing flexibility and strength, which is something I didn't realize until going to this retreat. It is actually very spiritual, which I found out by attending the meditation and chanting sessions. It is also based a lot on mythology which to me seems like it is based on Christianity. It is interesting t study different forms of spirituality and I was definitely able to appreciate it and the lifestyle the yogis have decided to live. They really seem at peace.
The first day of yoga class the instructor had us do one of two poses: the dolphin or the head stand. The dolphin is more about strength in the arms and the abs, and the headstand is about balance (a wall cannot be used). They told us not to do the headstand unless we had previously been taught how to do it. Well, this made me want to do it so I made my goal to do it before I left. So the first days I took it easy and stuck to the dolphin but every time I saw people doing the headstand I got antsy and wanted to it so bad (patience young grasshopper). Then one morning I think the instructor could tell I wanted to try, so she came up to me and helped me get to. The basic position. Then in my last class she came up to me again and helped me get to the full position. It felt so great to achieve that goal and it showed me that patience, persistence, and determination are a big part of who I am and sometimes I lose sight of that, but it sure doe feel great when I find it again.
A man who we usually sat and had dinner/brunch with gave me some good advice. I am usually an open book (um, obviously. I have a blog.) but that can tend to get me into trouble. Sometimes I trust people too easily and tell them information that would have been better if I had kept it to myself. But he made a good point. He said, "A best friend is a best friend." What that means is your best friend is usually also a best friend to someone else. So you know when you tell our best friend, "don't tell anyone this, ok?" Well, most likely they will tell their other best friend the same thing and before you now it, your secret is out. He is so right. And I have done that before. With Peace Corps being such a small community, you really do have to watch what you tell others. It is a HUGE rumor mill and full of gossip (sometimes true, sometimes not). So, just remember: a best friend is a best friend.
When the opportunity for technology is put in front of me, I cant help but use it. My next getaway vacation really will be technology free.
Europe is SO expensive!!! It will be nice to have a paid job after the Peace Corps.
The Austrian winter/spring sun is more powerful than one would think. My face is now a nice shade of pink and my nose is like Ruldolph's after sitting outside for a couple of hours yesterday. It felt so great though!
I'm really really happy. And I love it! This vacation reminded me how powerful thoughts are and that it is important to remain as positive as possible in all situations. After a yoga class you can really feel happy... And it seems like the happiness is magnified. That also means that you are more susceptible to ALL emotions so anger can also be triggered easily... So it is important to recognize those emotions and keep taking deep breaths and remain calm. The little things in life that can upset and anger you really aren't as bad as you think (usually) and will eventually diminish after time (for example, one morning I was told to take my yoga mat out of e room because it was meditation time and not yoga time, but being as it was 6am, I wasnt really oaying attention. So I took it out. Then the instructor that told me to take the mat out stopped me again when I entered the room and said my blanket smelled too strong and I couldn't bring it in to the class (it smelled like laundry detergent or softener), and when I said it was theirs, she replaced it. Then when it came time for yoga class, she approached me again saying I couldn't use my mat because others were complaining that it smelled too strong... It smelled like rubber perhaps because it was brand new and also maybe because it was cheap, but i don't know the price because someone was very nice and gave it to me as a gift. So it was just me being ridiculous and I felt myself getting angry at this woman... But why? She didn't do anything wrong, and neither did I. After the class I calmed down... Because that was stupid I got upset).
I am just like my sister and my dad. I now have a (hopefully healthy-ish) addiction to peanut M&Ms. Thankfully I can get them un Moldova.... Although peanut butter M&Ms are still my favorite.
I love it.
(pictures coming on Sunday)