Sun salutations and headstands on silent ground
Áine Ryan talks to Westport blow-in, Áine Doyle, about her journey to being a daily yoga practitioner and regular teacher
AR You are a native of Athlone who is working in Kilkenny but living in Westport. Tell us about that circuitous odyssey?
AD Yes, I grew up in Athlone and lived and worked in Dublin after studying architectural history in UCD in the 1990s. Wanting to get away from the city, I found work in the area of the built heritage in Kilkenny in 2007. My dream, however, had always been to live in the west of Ireland, and my wish came true in 2009 when I met my partner on a weekend walking holiday on the Tóchar Phádraig, the ancient pilgrimage route between Ballintuber Abbey and Croagh Patrick.
I knew I had found the place that I wanted to be and soon settled into living in Westport, teaching yoga and working part-time, until the recession drove me back to commuting to my old job in Kilkenny.
AR Commuting from Kilkenny to your home in Westport doesn’t exactly sound very yogic – as a lifestyle. How do you ensure that such a busy lifestyle does not become too stressful?
AD You’re right it’s not very yogic ... but it’s amazing how yoga allows you to be calm and centred and stable on the inside even when the world around you is chaotic. I know that if I did not practice yoga regularly I would not have the energy to do the commute. I also make sure that I get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water and eat as well as I can. I have become very interested in moving towards a plant-based diet recently and have found that this gives me a lot of energy. I still love my mother’s roast beef Sunday dinners though – but I keep meat-eating to special occasions.
AR How and when did you discover yoga?
AD I discovered yoga when I moved to Kilkenny in 2007. I had always been buying yoga books and teaching myself at home when I lived in Dublin, but the move to a new part of the country spurred me on to go out and find classes and find a good teacher. Elaine Costello was my first teacher – she was excellent, and after three years with her I decided to do a teacher-training course.
AR Was your training at the Yoga Campus in London pivotal for the development of your practice and teaching skills?
AD Yes it was, but I must say that my initial 200-hour teacher-training which I did with Noeleen Tyrrell of Ardnahoo Yoga School in Dromahair, Co Leitrim, was a life-changing experience. Noeleen’s teaching was inspirational, and I will always look back on that time as one of the best times of my life. That time for me was pivotal.
The subsequent training that I have completed at Yoga Campus in London is the start of a long journey to becoming a qualified yoga therapist. I have a huge interest in the therapeutic aspects of yoga and this has been the focus of my most recent workshops.
AR Since it seems to be mainly women who attend yoga classes, if you could get on a soapbox with an only male audience, what would you say to them?
AD Ryan Giggs, Andy Murray and the New Zealand All Blacks all rave about how yoga tones muscle, improves flexibility and increases endurance.
What would I say? Don’t let the girlie image deceive you – you’ll be breaking into a sweat after only a few minutes of sun salutations.Yoga is great for keeping fit and trim and for maintaining peak physical condition for whatever your main sport is: football, soccer or triathlons. It’s great too for providing the calm focused attitude that’s useful at work and at play.
AR Do you think the new buzz word and practice of ‘mindfulness’ is simply the vested interests of the West stealing an ancient Eastern practice?
AD I don’t think so. I think ‘mindfulness’ is a way of presenting an ancient practice in a way that is not associated with any particular religion or belief system and therefore is accessible and acceptable to all. Its massive popularity is a testament to how desperately such a practice is needed in our stress-filled age.
Mindfulness and yoga are very similar practices, both using the breath and body awareness to come into the present moment. The present moment is the only one that actually exists, and if we miss it we risk missing our entire lives. I think we’re slowly waking up to that message, that by slowing down we actually live with greater attention and live more fully.
AR If you had to choose one yoga pose, which would it be and why?
AD My desert island yoga pose is sirsasana (headstand). If I manage to include a headstand in my morning practice I feel amazing for the rest of the day.
AR Have you ever practised your yoga in a most unlikely place?
AD Yes, on the deck of my dad’s boat on the Shannon last summer! We were moored at the time though, so there was no danger of falling in but it did feel a little bit funny. Still, once you start doing yoga it’s hard to stop, even when you’re on holiday.
For more information, visit the Silent Ground Yoga page on Facebook, call 087 6794401, or email email@example.com.