Yoga in Vienna is on the rise and could just cure your winter blues.
Every day, the mat meets you where you are. Yesterday’s pestilent hangover is reduced to a mild pulse in my temple, followed by a slight twitch. My age-old ankle sprain radiates like guitar chords from hell, twanging up my leg. My fingers spread to balance the weight of my body. My first yoga pose, downward facing dog, has me on hands and feet in a wide “A” shape. As my chest expands with air, I feel my back stretch. My arms and legs are eager to slide into the day’s poses with surprising enthusiasm – yesterday, my limbs were sluggish, resenting last night’s indulgences. I flow through the “asanas,” or positions, finally ending flat on my back. Grounded. I am quiet now, watching my wandering thoughts drift by. Shavasana, the “corpse pose,” is the last and – experts agree – most important part of the sequence. As with a fine meal, you must allow yourself to rest and digest.
Body and Soul
Originating in India, yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in many different styles and schools. It makes you happier, healthier, and enables a dialogue between the mind, body, and spirit, and even reduces the symptoms of depression, according to a study by the American Psychological Association. In Vienna, as in much of the Western world, yoga is trending skyward and has become a pillar of the modern lifestyle. It has taken over the world of fashion, with yoga brands like the famous Lululemon. We think of toe socks, leggings, mindfulness, minimalism and meditation.
The world of yoga is hard to put your finger on. Yoga is translated as “union” and is a series of mental, physical and spiritual practices intended to unite mind, body and soul. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the physical poses are by far the most popular in our neck of the woods.
“Yoga is a buffet. It’s different for everyone, every day,” Viktoria Ecker, owner of the Doktor Yoga studios, explains. “Yoga’s image has changed over the years, we now see yogis and yoginis as tough and strong athletes.” Vienna’s practitioners used to favor a conservative, Eastern approach to yoga, Ecker says. But due to a massive spike in interest, more studios offer a wide range of styles, adaptable to the unique and personal nature of the practice.
So what’s the hype about? All the evidence points to yoga being a good habit, it makes you happier and healthier. Physical therapist, yoga instructor and soon-to-be osteopath Elisabeth Aue says yoga answers some of our modern problems. “Yoga is a holistic approach to health, a way to communicate with all of the cells in your body through movement and breathing,” she explained. It benefits the nervous system, reducing the fight or flight response and activating the parasympathetic nervous system – that’s the one in charge of regeneration and digestion. “With regular practice, people experience less stress, depression, and illness, and more homeostasis and happiness in their bodies and minds.”
Equilibrium in Winter
The selection of yoga styles in Vienna is vast, with different schools and philosophies to explore. Ecker’s Doktor Yoga specializes in her own brand of Vinyasa flow yoga, set to modern music in beautiful sun-drenched spaces. It’s an active and athletic form of yoga with a progressive series of postures that are aimed to strengthen body and mind.
The energetic, warming Vinyasa flow is a great choice to escape the winter blues here in Vienna. Aue teaches Hatha yoga, an all-encompassing style, focusing on breath and correct alignment. It’s great for beginners and people seeking to deepen their poses.
Another school is Iyengar yoga, named after its founder, B. K. S. Iyengar a practice that focuses on body precision when posing. It’s great for people who want to improve posture and overall health. Yin yoga is a different branch, which aims to be restorative and challenging; it promotes deep relaxation and comfort.
This winter, I choose to glow in the gloom – embrace the ominous gray blanketing this magnificent city. I’ve committed to regular yoga. It’s my survival strategy for those days when dim lights and bleak weather threaten to steal the good vibes. After all, as B.K.S. Iyengar himself said, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”
Schools of Yoga
This calm and passive style is usually performed seated or lying down. Poses are typically held for three to seven minutes with rest periods in between. This form of yoga is often used to reach a meditative state.
Ashtanga Yoga/Vinyasa Yoga
This form mainly uses poses and breathing exercises. Meditation is only rarely part of the Ashtanga/ Vinyasa teaching. In this form, poses are usually executed six at a time. Many modern Hatha yoga styles are derived from Ashtanga/Vinyasa yoga.
Descended from earlier forms, Hatha incorporates poses, breathing exercises and meditation. After quickly gaining popularity, it became its own form. Hatha, meaning “power” or “force,” symbolizes the effort needed to reach your goal. In the Western world, when someone says “yoga,” they generally mean Hatha yoga.
Founded by B. K. S. Iyengar, this form was seen as a variation of Hatha yoga in the past. Iyengar commonly uses mats, yoga bricks, straps and pillows to make certain yoga poses easier to hold.
Studios & Trainers
An Ashtanga Vinyasa flow studio catering to beginners and experienced yogis alike. Their tranquil setting offers views of a lush green courtyard. They also practice Yin, Hatha, and pregnancy yoga.
These stunning studios in the 1st and 7th district offer a more Western approach to yoga with Vinyasa flow classes set to modern music in their special signature style. English courses are available, as well as relaxing restorative sessions and acroyoga (a mix of acrobatics and yoga).
Feelgood’s classes aren’t static, instead catering to the individual needs of the student. Their beautiful studios feature exposed brick and a relaxing courtyard. They offer holistic health services as well.
Specializing in Iyengar yoga with an emphasis on correct anatomical alignment, classes in English are held on Wednesdays and Thursdays in their spacious studio.
Experience a holistic approach to Ashtanga, Mysore, and Hatha yoga at this green oasis in the city. Sunlit rooms greet you with a beautiful garden view. Beginner courses on offer.
Physiotherapist and yoga teacher at Vienna Underground