Ana Pirih continues the tradition of healthy outdoor exercise, but brings her unique twist with Yoga Bled
For many people Lake Bled is a health destination
Interview with Ana Pirih, founder, teacher and organiser Yoga Bled Cover photo: Ana Pirih Yoga Bled – Photo Stevica Mrdja
When, more than 160 years ago a Swiss natural healer Arnold Rikli came to visit Bled for the first time he noted the curative effect of the environment; the air, the water and the climate. He may not have been the first person to appreciate the healthy surroundings – the town has a history of natural apothecaries, and there are still some who live there – but he was the first to create tourism around the idea of seeking a healthy lifestyle.
In 1895 he built a hospital and outdoor wooden “huts” exposed to the elements where people would stay to regain their health. Word spread, and people came from throughout Europe to find a cure.
Bled has a history and tradition of healthy living and people come for the air and the activities. Among them and added more recently, is outdoor yoga founded by a young woman, Ana Pirih, who is a radio presenter and TV host, journalist and freelance presenter.
“I teach vinyasa flow yoga, I meditate, I am still on stage presenting for an audience. There are so many things that I like to study or to research but every day I am a yoga teacher.”
There can be fewer places in Europe more suited to yoga in the early morning or as the sun sets than Lake Bled.
When Pop-Up Yoga Bled began in 2015, Ana was a student of the art. She had only begun practising. Now, Yoga Bled is a permanent feature of the summer at the lake. “What attracted me to yoga was the peacefulness that I got at the end of the practice.”
In the early morning, sometimes in the evening, if you are strolling around Lake Bled, you are likely to see a group of people immersed in concentration, eyes closed, bodies stretched. It is as likely as not to be a popup yoga session organised by Ana.
Not just the physical part, but the emotional
“I remember my first yoga session. I remember driving home. I usually drive with the music up loud, but this time I had such a peaceful smile on my face, and I really enjoyed the silence and everything that was happening around me. It is being in the moment – and that was the most beautiful thing that I felt. That drew me into wanting to know more about yoga and wanting to try more. So, I started practicing every day. And every day it brought me even more of that peacefulness. What was most interesting is how I slowly started to get deeper feelings about myself and how I feel inside, not just the physical part, but the emotional part and my breathing and how that is all connected.”
The pop-up sessions are open to anyone and held several times a week – check the Facebook page for details (see below). “Vinyasa is one of the many types of yoga. Vinyasa flow is a bit more dynamic. Hatha is a little slower – Vinyasa is much more connected to the integration of the breath and movement of the body. And asanas (the postures) are a bit more challenging. But it’s OK for everybody from beginners to advanced yogis.”
Trainee becomes the teacher
Ana had been practising meditation for several years and yoga for about a year before starting Yoga Bled. After first year of Yoga Bled, she applied for teacher training. “The first year Maruša thought all of the classes. I didn’t want to teach yet, before I got all the schooling needed to teach.
The project sprung from a spontaneous idea. “It was not – ‘Oh, this is what I’m going to do, and this is the plan.’” Ana was sitting at home writing in her journal. It was a habit to record her thoughts and ideas or as she calls them her intentions, “They are little wishes, manifestations of what I want to do. At that time, I was already practising yoga – just by myself. And I started writing a programme for yoga. I wrote pages and pages. I basically wrote what I wanted to create for people at Lake Bled, and how I want to connect yoga with that.”
She called her first yoga teacher Maruša to ask her if she would become involved. It was late winter when they met at a café beside the lake. Maruša greeted the idea enthusiastically. “ ‘This is crazy – yes of course.’ She said. We sat down in the café where they sell cream cake, it was late winter, we were sitting outside talking about how we could make this idea a reality. We had a little bit of money, very little though compared to what was written there in the journal. We just had this big insane wish to follow the intentions that I had written. And I said why don’t we just do yoga rather than all the other things I had written in my journal? And I said “Maruša, why not Pop Up Yoga Bled? We tell people a week before where we are going to be. Let’s do that to begin.”
“She has this amazing energy. When she is enthusiastic she is really enthusiastic, and she shouts “Yes! Let’s do this!” I started emailing people from the hotels to ask if we can practice in their parks, and everything just fell together from 2014 to 2015. I still get Goosebumps when I think about that.”
Simply forget about time
She compares the calm she got from meditation with the calm she experiences following a yoga session. “It’s like after 20 minutes of meditation when you are sitting in a forest. You don’t think about “Oh, I have this and that to do. I need to this with my project. Oh, how much money I have – I have to earn blah, blah, blah” You are just here. Or sometimes when you have so much fun with your friends, I could compare it to the feelings you have when you are with your friends or your loved ones when you simply forget about time and the spontaneity just grows.”
Ana says yoga lead her to finding who she is “But that doesn’t happen the first year, or even the second,” for her, it came after the teacher training. “When I began to realise that there were a lot of things that I have built around me that I didn’t want to show to myself or others. It was the deep practice. Now I understand the meaning of practice, practice, practice. Because if you don’t do the work of self-reflection, you don’t come to yourself.”
Yoga Bled can pop up anywhere around the lake. Ana says that she wanted to connect the whole place together. “This is not my activity, my yoga studio, the only place you can find me. We wanted to connect all of the places together and by this make people feel the presence of the location such as parks and how much the location can give you. When you are not inside a yoga studio, but outside, amazing things happen. We get animals bumping into the practice session because they somehow feel the energy. You really get to feel the life of the place. At the end of the practice when you get that feeling of peacefulness, you can really sense everything around you. When I see people sit down in a quiet place I let them be there and sometimes we stay there for an hour – even more. We talk and hang out because amazing energy gets to rise up. and that’s the most beautiful reward you can get.”
Age is of no importance
Most of the people who attend the Yoga Bled sessions are in their 20s, some are older and there are no limitations who can attend. “And this was part of my quiet wish intention. I wanted to bring yoga to young people because it can give you so much growth that you can start practicing it can help you grow from the inside. And they come from all over the world.”
She gets a lot of people on holiday and want to try something new. “Also, people who are in search of quietness, who just want to calm down, I get people who are working a lot and they contact me because their doctor told them they needed to practice, and they are on vacation and have time. I talk to them about how they can put practice into their schedule back home. They get a little bit of a souvenir here; Yoga Bled at Lake Bled, which is not something you can grab with your fingers, but you can really take that into your heart and maybe try it for yourself back home.”
Ana has also studied Arnold Rikli the Swiss natural healer. “He came here because he had problems with his health and he was searching for a place where he could get better. And he felt the energy here. And he got better and then – a little like I did – he got inspired by this and he created something for everyone. He started the Rikli Centre where he also built huts where people stayed and here he helped people get better with the sun, the water and the air.
“He treated people with what Lake Bled offers – the sunlight the fresh water the fresh air and people were sunbathing, naked if they wanted and swimming naked in the water, our natural costume. They were walking barefoot – he knew back then this was good for the body, it’s good for the posture. And people really got better when they were here at his centre. Nature healed them.”
Creative energy and growth
And to some extent that is Ana’s inspiration. “Do something different and maybe the locals or the surroundings will not understand but other people might, and you can change a little of the vibration around and bring something to the environment because of that.
“Yoga Bled is my inspiration for everything that I do now. If you really have this enthusiastic energy and if you believe from the heart you can create this.
It has changed everything in my life. How I look at myself, how I look at others, how I go through my life. I found creative energy. It brought me growth; I could never have imagined I could go that deep. It’s deep growth.”
If you want to find out when the next Yoga Bled session will be held, and where it will pop up, you can get details from their Facebook page [facebook.com/yogabled] and the website is [www.yogabled.com].
Sessions normally cost €10 and includes the use of a yoga mat. You should book ahead by phone, or contact the team on Facebook and Twitter @YogaBled
What should young people know.
“You have to hang out with the locals. Connect, talk, they will tell you where you can go to have fun, or take you to the river banks and the places we like
“In the evening we hang out in the Kult Bar very good bar, they have concerts. Our friends meet there and if you want to meet young locals that’s the place to go.
“I love the Okarina festival – I would love to see more of that here.
Go to the lake you will find locals. The lake is the connector of everything.
Ana Pirih – Yoga Bled