One of the many things that make MoaAlm so special is yoga. Our studio with its large panoramic window invites us to begin every day on our mat, stretching with a view of the waking mountains, feeling the warm morning sun on our skin and the energy in the room. Yoga accompanies our guests on a week full of fresh air, alpine adventures, joyful togetherness and moments of silence.
Of course, the relaxed atmosphere and zen feelings experienced by our guests would not be possible were it not for our lovely yoga teachers. Sophie (36) is our yoga-teaching manager at MoaAlm Mountain Retreat. She first began practising yoga 12 years ago, and it immediately became an integral part of her life. In 2019 she completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training at Spirit Yoga in Berlin. Vinyasa Flow influences her teaching: It is precise, tailored to individual abilities and always connects power and relaxation.
“The two instructors, Kat and Sophie, were excellent, balancing energising and restorative practices wonderfully.” – Simon & Kath, April 2022, Book Yoga Retreats
In the mountains surrounding MoaAlm, Sophie found her happy place, her vocation – and a new friend for life. Kat (24) studied general biology before becoming a yoga teacher and a part of our team. Whether they are hiking together in the Hohe Tauern National Park, skiing in the nearby GG resort, cooking delicious vegan meals or building a new fence, Kat and Sophie always come back to one topic: How yoga makes life better. Before Kat’s return to her home in Canada, the two got to talking and revealed just what yoga means to them. If you’ve ever wished to be a fly on the wall for some of our staff members’ private conversations, this is the article for you!
Kat: Now, at the end of my time at MoaAlm, I often think about how it all began. I’ve always been passionate about travel. This passion first guided me onto a plane to Sint Maarten for Yoga Teacher Training after graduating with my biology degree. I’d always felt compelled to do this, though I was more interested in the spiritual aspect of yoga than in teaching. To my surprise, I fell in love with teaching. I began to search for yoga-related jobs abroad, and I found MoaAlm. As they say, the rest is history. I’ve noticed that MoaAlm’s staff always have an interesting story about how they came to be here, so far from the beaten path. What brought you to MoaAlm, Sophie?
Sophie: I was working in marketing for a German watch manufacturer when I booked a ski-touring holiday at MoaAlm. I was really looking forward to this remote, stunning location – and lots of skiing! Unfortunately, my trip was cancelled due to the pandemic, and Craig, the owner of WearActive, offered to postpone my stay for a year. Instead of agreeing, I impulsively asked if he needed help at MoaAlm when they could begin to accept travellers again. So, in June of 2021, I found myself here as MoaAlm's first volunteer. I couldn’t have imagined that I would stay and even manage the house someday. I think, Yoga has made me less anxious in my life, made me listen to my heart. Do you remember when your yoga journey began?
Kat: As a kid, I would watch my mom’s yoga VCR tapes and follow along. I must have been maybe 8 or 9 years old at the time. I didn’t begin to practice yoga consistently until I finished my teacher training, where I noticed the hugely positive effect a daily practice had on my mental and physical health. When did you first start practising yoga?
Sophie: I started with yoga 12 years ago when my boyfriend gave me a voucher for a beginners' course at Spirit Yoga in Berlin. At that time, I did many endurance sports and found yoga to be a great balance. Soon I began to realise the mental benefits you’ve mentioned. Yoga helps me to come down into my body, clear my head, and feel what is essential. A few years later, I did my teacher training because I wanted to know more. And I married my boyfriend from back then :-). In retrospect, everything seems quite logical!
Sophie: You’ve mentioned the positive influence of yoga on your life. More concretely, how did yoga change you?
Kat: On the outside, I have always seemed very put-together and relaxed. Even my closest friends have always described me as “chill”. But the truth is, I suffered from chronic anxiety and depression in university, which led to unpleasant physical symptoms such as insomnia and near-constant heartburn. As a mindfulness practice, yoga allowed me to become the observer rather than the victim of my own mind. Of course, my symptoms didn’t disappear overnight, but the more I practised, the more I could exist in the present moment. This allowed me to recognise and release the harmful thoughts when they came.
Sophie: I also think this place, high in the Austrian Alps, is healing. It’s easier to be entirely in the here and now at MoaAlm. The mere sight of the mountains, with all their power, serenity, and infinity, reminds me how small my life is. At the same time, the mountains show us that we are part of something immense – that we somehow belong in this vast wilderness. There is a song by a German musician, Andreas Bourani, that could not express my yogic MoaAlm feeling better. The song title is “Sein”, which means “to be”. I'll try to translate the first verse and chorus for you:
I have a view
That you never forget
So beautiful, words are not enough
I'm lucky because I don't have to hurry
Do nothing to be meaningful
To be meaningful
The mountains move on the horizon, like waves on the land
They take me in as if we were kin
I sit here and breathe softly, not to disturb all this
To belong to everyone, unnoticed for a while
To belong to all
Here I am connected to myself
Here I live inside myself
For a few seconds I manage
To free myself from everyone
Here my fear is gone
Here I am alone with myself
I am lost in the great green
Here just to be
Kat: Actually, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I believe that yoga is an incredible experience, no matter where in the world you happen to find yourself. However, I’ve noticed that the peaceful setting, the fresh mountain air, the incredible vegan food, and all the hiking and time spent outdoors have all done their part in improving my mental and physical health since I’ve been here. The truth is, life in the Alps, though filled to the brim with adventure and the occasional adrenaline rush, seems to exist in harmony with the yogic lifestyle at MoaAlm. I think that’s partly what makes this place so special.
“MoaAlm is the perfect place to let peace into your heart. The Yoga and Hiking week really allowed me to recharge.” – Christina, July 2022, Tripadvisor
Sophie: Sometimes, I feel like I'm living in a paradise bubble at MoaAlm. It's easy to forget to read the news and call home, but I don't want to be one of those yogis who block out everything negative. All those allowed to be here in this beautiful place for work or holidays are so lucky. When the war in Ukraine started, I thought: “Should I be at MoaAlm? Shouldn’t I be doing something else to help?”At the same time, I think places like ours are essential. They allow people to switch off, connect with nature and themselves, and enjoy adventures with like-minded people. Our guests can then return to their daily lives and jobs with a new sense of joy, mental strength, and clarity.
Sophie: I think these transitions from holidays, or your yoga mat, back to everyday life can be more challenging than the craziest asana. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by stress. What do you do in such moments?
Kat: I think most of my efforts in dealing with stressful situations happen before the crisis even occurs. My morning yoga and meditation practices set the day's emotional stability baseline. With every passing day, this unshakable foundation becomes stronger, and I can better regulate stress when it comes up. Of course, I still get stressed. When it begins to feel overwhelming, I try to use my breath to slow my heart rate and move away from the fight-or-flight state to a more calm state of mind. In yoga, the regulation of the breath is called Pranayama. This is one of the essential tools I’ve carried over into my life from my mat.
Sophie: On my mat, I experience completeness, power, balance, and peace between opposites. I try to pass this feeling on to my students when I teach. Do you have a similar goal?
Kat: Yoga was an essential tool in my mental health journey, so I’ve made it my mission to show others what it can do for them, too. I’d love for our guests to realise that they don’t need to be at a retreat in the Alps to dedicate a few precious moments to themselves each day. The things we do here - hiking, practising yoga and meditation, spending time with great people - are not exclusive to this place. I think the time spent at MoaAlm can be a great chance to develop new habits our guests can take home with them.
Sophie: Agreed! My wish is that our guests enjoy their retreat with us in body, mind, and soul, and that they leave with a new sense of connection.
Ready for a week of yoga, mountain adventures and healthy vegan food? Book here!