Yoga Summit Innsbruck: “Be love…Meditate… Be conscious… Give hugs… Create community… Dream big… Give back”
That was the message written at my wrist band, also my pass to Yoga Summit Innsbruck 2017, which I was privileged to attend during the first weekend of October for one day. A day filled with joy and spirituality, Yoga Summit Innsbruck was a perfect retreat from my busy twin mother routine. I left the festival energized, relaxed, full of vitality and ready to take on the world. Funny enough, I didn’t take that wrist band off for almost two weeks – just a reminder to myself of how good the yoga makes me feel and to keep practicing.
My Yoga Workshops. Namaste to this year’s Yoga Summit Innsbruck where over 80 workshops took place over the three-day weekend. These workshops were taught in English and German by 33 amazing yoga teachers from all over the world who worked hard to create a yogi community full of grace and dedication. The workshops were on average one and a half hours long, so I was able to attend four workshops on the Friday that I participated.
My day started with a Dynamic Thai Yoga Massage workshop with Thierry Bienfaisant. I love massage of any kind and was always fascinated by the traditional Thai massage. I fell in love with the Thai massage last year when I had problems with my shoulder that 10 sessions of therapy didn’t solve. Then I decided to get an hour of Thai massage and my pain disappeared after one session. Dynamic Thai Massage enhances the principles of Traditional Thai Massage through the use of rocking, rhythmic and oscillatory techniques. I thought I would learn more about that amazing technique and maybe score a free massage. Who knows…
Thierry Bienfaisant taught the Thai Yoga massage workshop in English. The full two hours of the workshop were spent engaging in partner work. I volunteered for a technique demonstration where I had to lay on my back in front of the class. My body was rocked back and forth and Thierry was able to determine after a few rocking moves that I had a blockage in my lower back and neck (it’s true, by the way). The rest of the class was spent learning some Thai Yoga massage techniques with different partners. The workshop ended with us taking turns in giving each other short therapeutic massages.
After a lunch break, it was time for our next workshop. I signed for a Yogaboard session on the top of the mountain with Alexandra Ruth. Yoga on the mountain was one of my high points during the Women’s Summer Festival in Ischgl (you can read more about it here) and I was excited to experience yoga high on the mountain again. It was a beautiful warm autumn day as we walked over to the Nordkette cable car which took us to 1,905 meter high above Innsbruck and the Inn Valley. During our yoga practice we were blessed with a beautiful view of surrounding mountains while deeply inhaling that fresh mountain air.
Practicing on a Yogaboard definitely was a challenge! Yogaboard was first introduced in Germany by a company called Strobel & Walter. It quickly became popular in Europe and the United States. The practice is a bit slower and some poses are modified to accommodate balancing on the Yogaboard, which is about the size of a traditional yoga mat with a curved bottom. Practicing yoga on a Yogaboard strengthens your sense of balance and brings your body control to a new level. The boards are “made in Germany” with environment-friendly glue and high-quality wood from regional and sustainable forestry.
Back from the mountain and it’s time for our next yoga session. I attended an Anusara-inspired practice with Katja Mirjam Böhm taught in German. The term “Anusara” means flowing with grace, flowing with nature, and following your heart. Katja’s motto was “breathe, move and enjoy!” We mastered some heart opening poses and learned how to perform your downward-facing dog pose with grace.
A real revelation for me was the last session of the day – Yin Yoga taught by a local Innsbruck teacher Kira Cook in English. The only thing I knew about this style of yoga is that you have to hold your poses longer than usual. This practice is designed to help you sit longer, and more comfortably, in meditation by stretching connective tissue around the joints (mainly the knees, pelvis, sacrum, and spine). A passive practice, Yin Yoga involves variations of seated and supine poses typically held for 3 to 5 minutes, accessing deeper layers of fascia. Most of our practice was laying or sitting on the floor, and we held the poses anywhere between 1 and 5 minutes. Although you won’t get sweaty with the Yin Yoga, the stretching is really taken to a new level! For me it was similar to a deep tissue massage, when a therapist is trying to release your muscle knots. First you feel uncomfortable but after some time the muscle completely relaxes. After this introductory session at the Yoga Summit Innsbruck, I now try to practice Yin yoga before going to sleep. It forces me to relax, let go, and sit still maybe for the first time during my crazy day with the twins. And I sleep a lot better after practicing!
In addition to traditional yoga classes, Yoga Summit Innsbruck offered a couple of very special classes. Some other workshops on a Friday when I attended were Acro Yoga, Hula Hoop workshop, Sound Healing session, Rock’n’Roll Vinyasa, and Aerial Yoga, just to name a few. During our Anusara practice, we could hear the LachYoga (LaughterYoga) session somewhere in the distance. Laughter yoga is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. Laughter yoga is done in groups, with eye contact, jokes and playfulness between participants. Forced laughter soon turns into real and contagious laughter. According to Laughter Yoga USA, twenty minutes of laughter is sufficient to fully reap the physiological benefits.
Kids Program. Sunday was a “bring your child to yoga” day (6-10 year olds). My daughter didn’t attend but according to the program, you could drop your kid off for a fun day filled with three yoga sessions, a dance session, and a fun class. I will definitely try it next year!
Food. There was a lunch on premises with a creative vegetarian and vegan offerings for a main course, preceded by a soup and salad buffet at a cost of 10 euros. Later in the afternoon there was a choice coffee, cakes, and fruit (2.50 euros a piece upon consumption). Vegan or vegetarian dinner could be also pre-ordered.
Location. The Yoga Summit Innsbruck took place at the Hotel AK Seehof located in one of the most picturesque parts of Innsbruck called Hungerburg, located on a hill overlooking the city and the Inn Valley. The venue itself featured intimate size rooms for the workshops that helped create a cozy atmosphere and to be close to the teachers. There were four indoor rooms and two big tents outside (wooden floor covered with a thick carpet and closed on every side).
Tips for festival attendees. Have at least basic knowledge of yoga: while the summit is officially open to all levels of yoga students, it’s not the place to try out yoga for the first time. Most people in my workshops looked like they are practicing yoga on a regular basis. Before attending the three-day festival, I would recommend some weeks of a consistent practice.
Do your research: Some workshops required pre-registration (yoga on the mountain, for example). Choose classes wisely, do your research and learn what you can about all the incredible teachers that will be at the summit. Overall, it’s best to plan ahead so you are not disappointed when you show up to a partner workshop when you wanted some focused practice alone.
Pace yourself: It’s easy to get excited and plan for everything you’re interested in, but after three in a row very involved two-hour yoga classes, the next days can leave you uncomfortable, sore, and perhaps unable to push yourself in the other classes you picked.
I am considering Yoga Summit Innsbruck as yearly investment in my self- care. The time I spend at this awe-inspiring festival reminds me to focus on what is important, be grateful, and, most importantly, do more yoga. I will definitely be back!