6 Yoga Experts On Finding The Right Yoga For You

The yoga bug has bitten hard. RUTH O’CONNOR asked some leading practitioners about FINDING THE PERFECT YOGA for you …


Yoga has become a huge industry in Ireland. Gabi Gilessen, Secretary of the Irish Yoga Association, estimates the past six years has seen the numbers of studios, students and those engaged in teacher training triple. When veteran teacher Orla Punch began teaching 22 years ago, she had just five students and was lucky to make one pound profit from a class. Then Madonna started talking about yoga and Punch had “queues of people round the block trying to get into my classes”. What was a celebrity-driven trend slowly became a lifestyle for many. Punch points out that yoga is now taught in several schools and is fast becoming intrinsic to corporate wellness programmes. As well as running private and group classes, she now teaches at various schools, public bodies and institutions such as The Central Bank, as well as law firm Arthur Cox.

Both Gilessan and Punch caution that as the industry grows, students need to be more careful about choosing a teacher, suggesting that teachers ideally have 500 hours of training over four years. Evening classes remain most popular although lunchtime and morning classes are gaining momentum and the appetite for yoga retreats is growing apace: Irish retreats such as The Burren Yoga & Meditation Centre are doing a brisk trade and there is  huge interest in overseas retreats for those who want to develop their practice while escaping the distractions and pressures of everyday life. Workshops by visiting gurus, like that of yoga teacher, author and Sanskrit scholar Mira Mehta are also drawing a committed yoga crowd. Punch says that endorsement from athletes has seen the practice (particularly that of Bikram) grow in popularity among men too. “Yoga is for everyone,” she says, “whatever your age or ability. It improves physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing as well as enhancing strength and agility.”


1. MICHELLE MORONEY teaches at The Cliffs of Moher Retreat in Co Clare and runs yoga holiday company Yogatraveller.

What style of yoga? Inspired by many disciplines including Hatha Vinyasa, I teach my own alignment-based mindful style. Where to this summer? A week-long retreat at The Cliffs of Moher in June. Then Turkey and Ibiza with Yogatraveller. Yoga abroad? Morocco, Switzerland and Gozo. Your dream retreat? Yoga skiing in the Swiss Alps is my absolute favourite. Stunning Alpine scenery, fresh mountain air and snowboarding in fresh powder. Next big thing in yoga? I’m hoping it will be more men practising yoga! Kit tips? Irish company Grace & Aibell. Recommended reading? www.elephantjournal.com covers health, wellness, spirituality, yoga, meditation, diet and family. www.cliffsofmoherretreat.com; www.yogatraveller.com.

2. A freelance teacher with Hush Yoga, SINEAD O’CONNOR teaches a combination of Vinyasa, meditation and Pranayama. 

Why Vinyasa and Pranayma? Of the five Koshas in yoga, the Prana is considered the vital energy or lifeforce. Pranayama works on this energy layer by, for example, doing breathing sequences which enhance the practice beyond simple physical yoga. Vinyasa is a popular type of yoga known as “flowing yoga”– a sequence of postures flowing from one to the other. Where to this summer? Monalea Yoga Retreat, May 22 – 25. I’ll combine yoga with essential oils to deepen each aspect of the yoga practice. Yoga abroad? Thailand or India; my next destination is Ubud in Bali. The next big thing in yoga? www.theyogasite.com, a website featuring incredible events, all vetted by Orla Punch. Kit tips? My go-to sources are www.prana.com and www.sweatybetty.com. Recommended reading? For traditional yoga, Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama by BKS Iyengar. For a modern take, anything by Douglas Brooks. Yoga idol? Sri Dharma Mittra, a traditional Hatha Yoga Master in New York. He’s humble, compassionate and resonates peace. www.hushyoga.com.

3. KANTA BARRIOS has been practising Hatha Vinyasa yoga for 27 years. She teaches weekly classes and workshops in the Dublin area, and on yoga retreats in the Burren.

Why Hatha Vinyasa? Hatha Vinyasa is a multi-disciplinary approach to practise which incorporates techniques and methods from a variety of teachers and systems, to balance “ha” or stimulating energy with “tha” or calming energy Where to this summer? I teach regular weekend and week-long retreats in the Burren, and from October 9, will teach in the Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre. Where do you practice yoga abroad? I go to great retreats at the very authentic Omega Institute in Reinbeck, upstate New York. Your dream retreat? It’s on my to-do list to organise a retreat in Tulum, Riviera Maya in Mexico. Next big thing? My series of yoga videos for beginners and yoga therapy for back pain. I’ve just recorded three more videos in New York, so it’s exciting to see how they’ll go with audiences. Kit tips? Breathable, comfortable clothes that fit close to the body so you can see the muscles, the knees, the shoulders. Recommended reading? The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by TKV Desikachar and Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton. www.kantabarriosyoga.com.


4. LISA PETERSEN is an international Yoga and Somatics teacher, therapist and teacher trainer. Somatics focuses on self-awareness in movement.

Why Somatics? Somatics is like mindfulness for the body – it uses simple, easy exercises to release and re-programme tight muscles. It’s fast, efficient and anyone can do it. Where do you teach? People fly me all over the world – I teach in Australia, New Zealand, Triyoga in London, Wiltshire, Denmark, and Spain. In Ireland I teach in Dublin and Co Clare. Your dream retreat? The Sanctuary, Ko Pha Ngan. Next big thing in yoga? The original yogis were explorers, scientists and discoverers. I would like the next big thing in yoga to be that it comes back to its roots, while continuing to expand and adapt to modern needs. Kit tips? For me, comfort and durability matter most. I am addicted to Untouched World’s merino, silk and possum layers. Recommended reading? Yoga Body, Mind and Spirit, The Breathing Book and Bringing Yoga to Life all by Donna Farhi. www.living-yoga.ie

5. SEAN MCNAMEE teaches at Boss Hot Yoga in Maynooth and Stoneybatter, Dublin 7. Boss Hot Yoga specialises in Fierce Grace, a new variety of hot yoga based on Bikram, but less constrictive.

Why Fierce Grace? Fierce Grace covers the whole body head to toe. It’s great for upper body core strengthening. Yoga idol? Michelle Pernetta, who developed Fierce Grace. Pernetta practises what shes preaches, which not everyone does. Where do you practise yoga abroad? In Mexico with Tony Sanchez and in Hamburg with James Fox of the Prison Yoga Project which helps prison inmates through yoga. Your dream retreat? Michelle Pernetta’s retreats in Turkey, Tenerife and Tuscany. Not too expensive, with food and drinks included. You don’t have to be a full-on yogi – you can enjoy the beach too and chill out. Kit tips? Fitted shorts are essential. You don’t want to do hot yoga in a tracksuit or boardshorts. Recommended reading? Moving into Stillness by Erich Shiffmann. A simple book for anyone interested in starting yoga. www.bosshotyoga.ie

6. GREG WALSH teaches Iyengar yoga at Samadhi in Temple Bar, Dublin and Drogheda. Iyengar, developed in the 1970s, focuses on correct posture and alignment.

Why Iyengar? Iyengar is quite anatomical. We use props to get people into a pose that they might not be able to achieve otherwise, or to take the pose further if they are an advanced student. Who do you admire most? BKS Iyengar and some of the fantastic teachers who studied with him, now in their 70s and 80s. They’re like jazz musicians, they just get better with time. What’s on this summer? The Iyengar Yoga Holiday in Croatia from May 10 – 17, and a week-long yoga retreat in the Burren Yoga Centre, from June 26 – July 2. Where do you practise yoga abroad? It doesn’t sound very exotic but I have two amazing teachers in Sunderland in the north of England, Margaret and Gordon Austin. Your dream retreat? Studying at the Iyengar Institute in Puna, India. Not just because of yoga, because of the whole cultural mêlée. Next big thing in yoga? Yoga has been around for a long time. To me, it’s a quiet and ancient practice rather than something to do with your dog or to loud music. Kit tips? Wear something stretchy but comfortable. You want to be able to move in every direction and see what your body is doing. Lululemon is expensive but good. www.samadhi.ie 

Yoga Destinations

The Swiss Alps: Michelle Moroney’s Yogatraveller offers a wide range of options for those seeking to combine yoga with other activities in beautiful locations. How about a yoga and ski retreat in the Swiss Alps, yoga and foraging in Ireland or just chilling out completely with delicious food and daily trips to the hammam in Marrakech? www.yogatraveller.com.

Spain: Another Irish-run operation is Nature Sense in Tarifa, Spain where you can combine yoga with a variety of activities, including kite surfing, mountain biking and riding. A three-day kite surfing course with yoga and massage starts at s350, while an adventure bootcamp with fitness, rock climbing and yoga, including accommodation, starts at €650. www.naturesense.eu.

Bali: Begin your day with meditation and private or group yoga sessions in the yoga pavilion surrounded by lush vegetation before heading off to learn diving at the resort’s onsite PADI dive centre. Zen Resorts’s Harmony Dive programme offers specialised yoga, breathing and meditation techniques to enhance diving and aid flexibility and strength. www.zenresortbali.com.

Italy: If food is your thing, head to the beautiful Amalfi Coast, where you can practise yoga, hike and climb and indulge in some farm-to-table local, organic produce or visit local wineries. Yogascapes offer a wide range of worldwide retreats from yoga at world-renowned eco-lodges in Iceland to writing and yoga retreats under the giant redwoods in the hills of Northern Californian. www.yogascapes.com.

Australia: Escape Haven’s women-only retreats, pictured top, offer yoga, surfing, fitness and detox holidays in Australia, Bali and Sri Lanka, Portugal and Morocco. in luxurious, private accommodation. The women-only aspect make the retreats ideal for females travelling alone. Yoga techniques and full spa treatments complement the surfing lessons. www.escapehaven.com.

Image by Folio ID

Ruth O’Connor

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our May issue, out Thursday May 5.

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