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Yoga can lead people towards many different discoveries. Combining yoga with other forms of exploration often brings new insights and experiences.

Karuna Yoga School run Yoga and Walking holidays in beautiful places with wild spaces. One of the group shares her memories of stepping back in time, and experiencing yoga whilst staying in the wild and beautiful scenery of Translyvania.

Yoga and walking in Romania

tree posture, Piatra Craiului in the backgroundYoga is about creating a special space. The holiday that we have just spent, created a truly memorable space, sandwiched into a busy working life.

The decision to go to Romania presented a challenge on several fronts: from the unstable political climate and the poverty of the people leading to possible security problems, to the unknown yoga teacher and my dreadful apprehensions of the sanitary arrangements! We had never visited an Eastern Bloc country and I wanted to see at first hand how the people lived and the problems that they face.

That special space began as we were carried by the flow down the concourse of Bucharest Airport and spied, poking out head and shoulders above the rest, a large notice reading 'Alison and Ken' topped by a beaming face. Its name, we soon discovered, was Colin and the (only slightly) lower beaming face beside it belonged to Paul, our Viniyoga teacher for the week. We were escorted outside to where our transport awaited: a beautifully conditioned British landrover - Colin's pride and joy.

Soon we were rolling smoothly over wide plains with mountains on the horizon. As well as conventional (albeit slightly kamikaze) traffic, we were passing horses with wagons piled high with hay. We stopped to buy cherries from fruit pickers at the side of the road and, as the mountains drew closer, four hours passed without us being aware of time, so engrossed were we in plumbing the depths of our escorts' extensive knowledge about the countryside and people. As the sun sparkled its last rays we realised we were climbing fast, the roads were getting smaller, pot holes becoming more prevalent and just as the tarmac turned into dirt we arrived. A beautiful wooden house, warm and sweet smelling , was our base for the week (and yes … it was complete with flushing loos). A warm welcome also from our young hosts, Natalie and Mihai, who are endeavoring to set up the Buchege National Park in their area of the Carparthian Mountains.

The week was a little bit like stepping back in time. There is no agricultural machinery in the mountain valleys of Transylvania and very little money to buy pesticides and herbicides. Consequently the people appear to be very fit (as you would be if you had to climb half a mile up a virtually sheer slope to collect the carrots for lunch, let alone hoe, weed, scythe, rake and collect your water while you were at it). The poultry are genuine free range, the vegetables virtually all organic. We ate simple vegetarian meals that tasted simply fantastic and the air we breathed was truly fresh.

After Lincolnshire the scenery of Transylvania is somewhat dramatic. The villages are situated in the valleys, one house deep either side of the road with a stream winding its way sometimes through gardens, sometimes by the side of the road. The wooden architecture is delightfully individual with quirky decorative touches. At the end of the plots or holdings, the alpine meadows rise steeply. Most of our walks began with at least an hour's stiff climb but we were soon rewarded with terrific views, traversing through meadows full of flowers or dipping into the forests which are still home to wild bears, wolves, boar and the rare lynx.

Both of us found the unaccustomed indulgence of personal yoga tuition extremely stimulating and rewarding. Paul proved to have lots of experience and unlimited patience (which he definitely needed to put over the mathematics of counting breaths to Ken!). He and Colin are dedicated to helping Romania gain some much needed foreign currency through responsible eco-tourism. At present all most Romanians can see in Western style development is the attractive glitter. It may sound trite and idealistic but it would be wonderful if they could be helped to take that which is of long term value from our life style while keeping what we can identify as so precious in their own.

Alison Bell

Karuna Yoga School and Roving Romania

For details of Romanian yoga holidays contact Paul Riddy at the Karuna Yoga School, 79 Clarendon Road, Shirley, Southmapton, SO16 4GD. Tel: 023 80773987

Colin Shaw lives full time in Romania and offers an enterprising and informative range of itineraries, many of them tailor made and all fun. Find out about 'Roving Romania' either through Paul or e.mail Colin at

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