Waking up is accompanied by a sharp, tiny bite from my hungry fat old cat, Mr Belvedere. If he can see the bottom of his bowl then it’s like he’s experiencing the famine. If it’s not him waking me up, it’s my partner snuggling in before he heads off to work, usually with a coffee he made me. We often switch the role of ‘who makes coffee,’ but he has done it more than I lately and certainly reminds me of it…. although his bite isn’t as sharp as the cat’s. If there’s time, we all stay in bed and invite our border collie, Sailor, into the cuddle puddle. You can here his excitement in the pitter patter of him racing up the stairs to jump in bed. For this moment, the earth is still and we appreciate our little family.
After coffee n cuddles, most of my day is rather uneventful. I’m supposed to say that every morning I do yoga sun salutations, meditate on world peace, pray to the gods of organic kale, wear lycra tops with statements like ‘all is full of love’ or some other nonsense, but to be honest… I don’t.
Usually my day starts with social media and the internet while drowning in coffee. I’ve just set up my website, theyogaroot.org, and am still getting my head around all the tech; trying to keep it updated with my current classes, fundraising events and retreats. Every month I do a fundraiser for a local charity and am always looking for new venues from which to teach.
Then I start planning out my classes; what sequence of poses to go through, what ethical messages to discuss and what playlist best matches. Eventually I pull myself away from the computer to grab some lunch, and it’s around this time my partner’s mother Marie Wilson pops her head through the kitchen door asking for coffee and rashers. In fairness, her and Tom will take our dog for a walk when we are too busy so a spot of coffee is a small payment.
If we both have time, we take Sailor to Raccoon Woods (Brackloon), Old Head or Bertra Beach – because Sailor is a border collie, and while my cat looks like a sheep he’s not, and Sailor needs the time outside to run off the herding instinct. The walks we have are sweet because we both are quite busy and it’s sometimes the only ‘us’ time we get before bed. Usually on these walks we’ll talk about our jobs, and support each other with ideas.
Yoga, like all practices, must consider the community and culture that it’s being taught in so I’m constantly looking for feedback on how to improve my work.
Most people only know me as a yoga instructor, and even though I teach five times a week, do charity work and retreats… it’s only part-time. I’m also pursuing a PhD in cognitive science (1.5 years in), practice tai chi and I’m starting a songwriting circle and open mic (for original music)… all the while making sure my cat is fed and I can get to McGing’s on Friday’s to get the free sandwiches served with a side of slag from Marie Gibbons.
After lunch and a walk, I retire back into my office and take a few hours doing my PhD research. Occasionally I’ll break up the monotony of reading about things written by old dead white men and watch an episode of the Great British Bake Off. I love that show … now when I pick up bread, I poke the inside and say, “See that there? that’s under proved, you didn’t work the dough enough.” Honestly, I’m such a terrible cook that I can barely melt butter. Seriously, when I cook dinner, it looks like Fifty Shades of Chicken… disastrous, nonconsensual and it may need a therapist. Fortunately, around dinner time Conor finally gives in and asks what ‘we’ (optimistic) should make… which means he makes dinner and I do the cleaning, which is fair enough.
So how did this Californian end up in Westport?! Well I fell in love … a few times.
I studied abroad at UCD for a semester of my undergrad, and I fell in love with Ireland (typical yank) and decided to to a PhD. After a year of living here, I met my now partner who is from Westport. We had a trans-coastal relationship for a while, and then decided to live together at his house here. So I flew back to California, picked up the fat cat and got him his own EU Feline Passport (a real thing), and we began our happy furry family in the West.
I decided to start teaching yoga because it changed my life, and I wanted to help other people. Witnessing people get stronger physically, emotionally and mentally is a very rewarding experience. Since I got a lot of positive feedback and requests for more classes, I decided to open my own business.
I think the reason people enjoy my classes is because I take a serious, yet light-hearted approach to yoga and incorporate all I’ve learned along my travels. I bring in elements of tai chi, neuroscience, philosophy and personal experiences into the yoga class. To me, yoga is not something sacred and stale; it’s a living, breathing practice that changes lives because it takes the shape that people need.
People ask me, “Ah sure you must miss it back home,” and of course I do. But Westport has the things I most cherish; community, laughter and peace. Every night we get to watch the sun set on Clew Bay (cloud depending), and see the stars light up the night sky as we eat dinner.
Then, it’s silence; no cars, alarms, sirens… just the sound of pitter-pattering feet of the animals running up and down the stairs. Sometimes we light the fire and watch a movie before sleep. And even though I’m prepared to be woken up by a furry bite, I can’t explain in words how happy I am to call Westport home because it’s bigger than words. But I think that people who live in the west know what I mean.
For more on Derrick’s yoga classes and fundraisers, visit The Yoga Root’s website, theyogaroot.org.
In conversation with Ciara Moynihan
Yoga for charity
Derrick from The Yoga Root, Westport, and Gina Corbett are teaming up for a yoga fundraiser for Nurture Africa. This 1.5-hour donation-only class will take place at 7pm this evening (Tuesday), September 18, in Newport NS Gym. Tea and cookies will be served 15 minutes before and after event. People need to bring mats and a small blanket. Wear loose comfy clothing.
Nurture Africa is an Irish-founded, internationally registered NGO that works in Uganda with a targeted focus upon healthcare, education, child protection and gender equality and economic empowerment through business training and micro-finance projects. It is a non-denominational and non-political organisation.
All donations goes directly to the charity. Donations by cash only, and completely anonymous. All bodies and yoga levels welcome – even brand new beginners.
See The Yoga Root’s website, theyogaroot.org, for more information.
Name: Derrick Dark
Occupation: Yoga instructor and PhD Student
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
I didn’t start drinking until I was 26, and only tried alcohol after living on a hippie commune (of sorts). My family has struggled with many addictions, so I avoided it until I felt like I was strong enough to not end up like them. Being around supportive people helps.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Chocolate covered grasshoppers in Culture Anthropology class. Insects are very sustainable and nutrient dense.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
It’s between the bathroom or a Korean restaurant. I suffer from social anxiety sometimes, and when you go to the bathroom it’s the one place where no one will bother you. Korean food is my favourite thing in the whole world.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
Being silly. I like pulling practical jokes, and I think they’re hilarious. I have a large leprechaun doll that I hide around the house and scare people with. Sometimes he’s in the food press, under the covers taking a nap, or sitting in the driver’s seat of the car.
What’s the best advice you ever got?
“It’s ok to not be yourself.” We are stuck in this world of ‘be yourself’ commercialisation, which is a bit egotistical. Transformation means letting go of parts of yourself, not holding on to every quality.
Name three things that are always in your fridge
Hot sauce (chipotle, sriracha), gochujang (Korean red-pepper paste) and milk (for coffee). Hell hath no fury if any of these go missing.
Who was your first hero?
Tori Amos. She taught me how to be open and fearless. I still listen to her music today.
What makes you nervous?
Crowds of people in small areas. Sometimes at bars I have to leave because it gets overwhelming for me. Friends are well aware of me disappearing because of it.