Il Respiro della Montagna,"The Breath of the Mountain" comes from the desire to make people feel the peace that you can breathe in front of the peaks. Combining yoga practices with the mountains is an idea of Alice Lazzaro and Giorgia Costenaro to bring people closer to the wide spaces of nature, to the slow rhythms of the mountains, to the balance between active and contemplative life.
We are Alice and Giorgia, and we came up with the project Respiro della montagna [the breath of the mountain] during the pandemic and lockdown of 2020.
We found ourselves living in a place we loved, the Dolomites, for a long time, and this made us look at them with new eyes and perspectives.
We continued to practice yoga, but surrounded by mountains and nature, living with a slower pace of life.
In September 2020 we organized the first yoga retreat in Misurina. The location is famous all over the world, thanks to the lake of the same name, that makes the air so fresh and pure, that the place is thought to be therapeutic for patients with asthma and other respiratory problems, and thanks to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the distinctive battlement-like peaks.
Over time, Misurina transformed itself in an accommodation facility, that hosts thousands of tourists in summer and winter. Our events are planned in the so-called "half seasons" (April, June, September, October), to promote a more diluted, more environmentally friendly and unconventional tourism. The project also wishes to involve local entrepreneurs, like, for example, a young professional specialized in holistic massage therapy, and some mountain guides that make us explore the most hidden places of the valley. We organize several outdoor activities, depending on the season: snowshoeing, trekking at sunset, yoga in the rain, in the snow or with the early morning freeze, barefoot meditative strolls in the woods and in natural reserves. We also like to offer readings, reflections, moments of sharing and creative activities.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
We aim to educate ourselves and our participants in the study, knowledge, awareness and divulgation of sustainability.
The topics addressed are mountain ecosystems and habitats, biodiversity, water, the forest in its various facets, migratory birds and other local fauna, seasons and climate change.
We strongly believe that knowledge leads to respect. Through direct contact and concrete experience each of us can feel actively involved and part of a change. The current difficulty of traveling to the other side of the world has made us reflect on the possibility of experiencing great adventures close to home, and rediscovering the beauty of our mountains. The post-pandemic reborn contributed to create a more local and slower tourism.
As organizers, we have promoted and encouraged car-sharing among the participants to reach our location, and structured the activities in order to be able to move on site mainly on foot.
Even if small and recently born, our reality has tried to get in touch with other realities and companies, to start collaborations and support each other, because we believe in the idea of network and cooperation. All our collaborators have our same values and principles.
The Friendly Shop, a lighting shop in Padua, supported us with some of its products, and we also started a collaboration with Bonel Misurina. The owner of this company is a holistic specialist, and in addition to accompanying us in a massage practice, she inspired us with her example of true circularity. In fact, Chiara uses the active principle contained in the excess algae that grow in the depths of Lake Misurina, to produce a face cream.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
We care a lot about how things are done, about the process and the result, so we immediately decided that the number of participants in the events would be limited, in order to be able to quickly create an atmosphere of sharing and listening. Participants say that they have found a group open to dialogue and ready to listen, that they learnt new things about the nature around them, yoga and themselves. Many of them decided to come back 2 or 3 more times, to repeat the experience and refresh those feelings of peace and essentiality. Two young friends, who work in the field of photography, video making, and graphic design, were involved in the project. The photographer dedicated herself to an on-site photoshoot and to the creation of a presentation with the shots she took during the autumn 2021 event. The designers regularly collaborate with us, helping us to outline our concepts and transforming them into logos, flyers, promotional posts. Beauty has a great value for us and we like to try to grasp its infinite variations both in the natural world and in the human universe, sometimes making them meet. During our retreats, we always include an activity that aims to stimulate the imagination and creativity of the participants, without artistic ambitions of any kind. It can be collective painting, the creation of mandalas with flour and legumes, the construction of a table of intertwined nails and threads, land art sculptures.
We like to experiment with handmade creations, and the end of the retreat, we give the participants something made by us, e.g. St. John's wort oil, glass jars with flower seeds, wax candles of soy in recycled cans, bookmarks with autumn leaves.
We are aware that we have created a group and are in a certain sense responsible for it. Therefore, we like to maintain relationships through social networks, and through traditional mail, which can fuel the charm of waiting and the beauty of receiving a piece of paper that can recall a tangible memory.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
Our events are open to people with any kind of background and preparation. Therefore, the program is designed and adapted from the yogic point of view and from the exploration of nature. We have had with us people who were trying yoga for the first time, as well as highly qualified teachers. From people who normally go to the sea to expert mountaineers, men and women, from infants to people in their sixties. The small number of participants allows for greater attention to all and greater participation.
We do not have a precise target, nor a rigid format and this gives us the possibility to adapt ourselves every time to the participants, to seasonal conditions, to the weather.
The number of participants is up to 8, in order to allow people to know each other and enjoy the practice. We like to keep in touch with participants, offering some online courses, gathering suggestions, and sharing thoughts about the experience.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary
In our project, the individual and their well-being are the most important things. But people are not islands, instead, they are stars that are part of constellations immersed in certain and immense galaxies. In considering every detail, therefore, we try to take into account how a person lives within his network of relationships, the worlds he brings with him, his needs, his fears, his desires.
In the short but intense time of the retreat we try to bring out issues that link our daily life and personal experiences to the ones of the group, of the territory that surrounds us up to the natural systems that govern our Earth and then return from the macro to the micro, and make real changes in the little things of everyday life. Opening our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us, and think of ourselves as part of it, is a practice that may seem trivial, but which is increasingly difficult nowadays. The intimate and personal relationship that is established with nature through the practices and activities proposed, are the basis for the establishment of a new simpler, more essential, inclusive, sustainable and beautiful thought. We believe that a real and strong change starts from the roots, as for the trees, and that it starts from the little things that we can observe and then do. A true peace can only start from a peace within us.
Each retreat is thought to be similar to the season during which it takes place. Through yoga practices, outdoor activities and the other experiences that are offered to the participants, we try to match our time to the time that the environment around us is experiencing. Little by little, we try to live according to the time of Nature: the rising and setting of the sun, or focusing on letting things go in autumn, or on the sprouting of spring. In order to embrace this connection, most of the activities are experienced outdoor, welcoming and experiencing the uncomfortable conditions that the environment offers us and trying to find our place in a greater order. So far, we can say that the participants have accepted the proposal and have progressively internalized it. On the first day, we still see some resistance, a sort of difficulty in accepting the most unfavorable conditions, such as wind or cold. But as hours go by, perhaps observing the adaptability and serenity of the teacher, they embrace the first difficulty to enjoy full contact with Nature: whether it is the sun or a light rain, the rough terrain or the essentiality of the days. We also think that what we offer has a great impact on everyday life.
Even if time is short, the moments of sharing are many: participants share rooms and meals, to rediscover an ancient sociality, that takes us back to one of humans’ basic needs, which is living in a community. Once recognized, all of this can no longer be ignored. Our hypotheses are perhaps confirmed by the fact that we have had several cases of returning participants: 15% of those who participated then chose to repeat the experience by registering for another retreat.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.
Citizens, as participants in the event, are actively involved in the implementation of the project, but to a small extent (unconsciously, rather than passively) also in the design phase.
Involvement in Design:
We ask participants to fill in a participant form a few weeks before their arrival at the retreat. We ask them for some objective data, such as age or origin, and ask them questions about their expectations of the event as well as their skills in the field of yoga and mountain experience. In this way we can shape the activities according to the needs expressed by the participants themselves, starting to get to know the group well before it is formed and trying to create the right environment in which quality relationships can flourish. Participants are also asked to prepare a homework assignment: this ensures that they begin to enter the retreat mentality well before they get there and immediately provokes a high focus of concentration: a light but constant thought that prepares and makes you happy. accompanies you to experience the event. A moment is dedicated to this sharing of the work done at home: this ensures that the participants become protagonists and that they have the reins in the hands of the activity itself that is in fact created and conducted by them in autonomy.
Involvement in Implementation:
The days as we structure them are full of ideas and stimuli of various kinds. Not only Yoga practices, but also meditative walks, massages or self-massages guided by a holistic technician, experiences in nature, short hikes to reach special destinations where to practice, artistic activities that stimulate manual skills, interaction and self-narration in indirect way.
The whole event is a proposal that is made to the group, everyone chooses to what extent to participate and how much to get involved.
We address the loss of the natural ability of modern man to know how to read Nature, the loss of consciousness of that intrinsic connection that binds every living being to planet Earth, being no longer able to support his body which also responds to a global order.
A man who lives in a city, far from nature, feels some needs that can’t be satisfied nor fully comprehended. The challenge brings a man back this awareness, to cultivate his relationship with what surrounds him and to try to live the rhythms of the earth even while living in the city.
Our proposal has the ambition to bring out this need, to listen to a need that is buried within us and that strongly needs to align with the natural rhythms and the profound well-being it generates in a man living according to Nature.
Our project aims to:
- ensure health and well-being for everyone, no matter how old they are.
Yoga teaches how to listen your body through breath. You realize that you own a body and you have to take care of it, living a healthy and aware life.
- protect, restore and promote a sustainable use of the terrestrial ecosystem.
During the three days we spend together, we live with nature, outdoor most of the time, accepting the environment and finding our space. Even when uncomfortable, we learn how to live with the environment, creating an empathic relationship with it, making it the perfect place.
Practicing yoga at sunrise and sunset reconciles the light-dark cycle in us, teaching us to live the time of day in a natural way.
Staying indoors is comfortable, but it makes the body lazy. Living outdoors allows us to discover the great potential of our body, a perfect machine that knows how to adapt, that creates heat, finds solutions. Learning this awareness teaches us to love Nature, to perceive it as a fundamental resource to our life and makes us recognize part of a whole: once we have learned this important teaching, back home, it will be easier to apply sustainable behaviors to daily life.
The innovative character is the strong and intimate contact that we create with nature.
“Taking your breath to that of the mountains” means living life respecting your cycles and not forcing yourself to go at a fast, stressful pace, dictated by the logic of productivity; discover that you are much more productive when you are well, when you are able to face the challenges of life with the right perspective. Like a mountain, be strong in your posture, determined and calm.
The retreat takes place 5/6 times a year, and every time is unique, depending on the season.
The activities offered aim to highlight the link between our needs and the ones of the environment.
Some examples: in autumn, the trees lose their leaves, concentrating energy and strengthening the trunk that will have to face the winter; we propose to abandon everything we carry with us, but which in reality no longer matters and only ends up weighing us down. Through yoga practices, we strengthen our spine to prepare ourselves for winter too.
We partner with a small local company that produces cosmetics and essences starting from herbs and local products: an innovative project that enhances the special characteristics of Misurina and its lake: here, the air and water; algae from the lake, in a waste recovery project that embodies a circular economy and a policy of reusing natural resources.
During the massage sessions we use products such as creams created by this company with herbs from mountain meadows and algae.
For the stay, we choose a small, family-run location, where it is easy to find true hospitality. Food is simple and essential, bringing back to the genuine and humble flavors of home cooking, mostly offering local dishes faithful to the mountain culinary tradition.
The hotel is located in a bend of the lake, where traffic stops and a pedestrian area begins.
Yoga practices are held on a terrace in front of the lake or in the fields nearby, enjoying an almost unreal calm.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.
We think most of our method can also be applied to projects with a focus other than yoga.
Our key points are:
- contact with nature: outdoor activities are fundamental.
- Different activities that have the same aim: yoga practices, walks and excursions, specific activities related to the season we are experiencing, self-massages, experiences and activities to stimulate sharing and reflection on oneself through manual skills and the use of imagination.
- Personal communication, that inspires trust between us.
- sensory and emotional communication: with photos and videos we try to communicate emotions
- each retreat is new and different from the others, supports the season we are going through and exploits what the territory is experiencing at that moment
- our method is strengthened by the fact that we creators embrace it deeply and live it in our daily life. To us, more than a method, it is a personal attitude that we are happy to pass on to other people who start a project in other fields.