Yoga on an Island

The Clare Island Yoga Retreat Centre began somewhat unexpectedly when, in 2001, we had the crazy idea of doing an Easter yoga retreat on the island where Ciara had been living on and off for nearly twenty years. We were surprised when the course filled up. Do people really want to come all this way, to a spectacularly beautiful, but difficult-to-get to island with a decidedly temperamental climate? But they did, and we soon we were made aware of the satisfaction and delight and gratitude that many expressed for just such an opportunity. In those early days, we used the cold and draughty community centre hall for the yoga classes—except for one course which, because of confusion over booking dates, we had no choice but to hold in the pub!—The accommodation was in rented houses, and there was a lot of logistical planning (definitely not rocket science on an off-shore island) in terms of transporting people back and forth between the yoga classes, the accommodation and our house where we served the meals. Despite the hitches and challenges, everyone seemed to go away quite happy to have shared this very special island experience. People raved about the delicious organic vegetarian food that was served for dinner. They were appreciative of the chance to deepen their yoga practices without stress or pressure. And not surprisingly, people raved about the surroundings and dramatic landscape of the island.

Yoga on Clare Island Islands are special places, and Clare Island is no exception. An island is an ideal setting for both exploration and introspection---you can walk around its periphery and end up back where you started from. Islands have a curious way of bringing people back to themselves. And this is when exploration can become introspection. We like to think of this outward and inward movement as a metaphor for what can happen during a stay with us. While it rarely offers the blue skies and warm weather of tropical venues, Clare Island has its own special qualities, including its remoteness, its beautiful and rugged landscapes, the startling changes in the light and the often dramatic nature of its Atlantic climate. (We held a successful course over Christmas and New Years this year, despite storm force winds and monumental seas!) It is also not the easiest place to get to, it's a full day travel from London. Nevertheless, people keep coming to the island, not only from Ireland and the UK, but also from various parts of Europe and even from Honk Kong and the United States. As one of them put it, "To get away from it all, you actually have to spend some time getting there”.

Yoga on Clare Island After 10 years working hard in the IT field, running my own software localisation company had lost its appeal, and after two winters in India, all I wanted to do was teach yoga full time. Running a yoga centre had been a dream for a long time. I never, however, expected to be developing that dream on an island off the west coast of Ireland. But over the following three years, Ciara and I continued to hold courses (each time vowing that we wouldn’t do it again until we had things 'properly in place’. ) Almost in spite of our other plans, the yoga centre was developing around us.

Finally, two years ago, we made the big decision to build a yoga studio and to extend and renovate our island cottage to provide accommodation for yoga students. The work is still on going, as building projects take even longer on an island, where everything has to come by boat. But now the yoga classes are held in a beautiful timber building with underfloor heating and wonderful views of Portlea storm beach and Croagh Patrick, the west of Ireland’s majestic holy mountain. Accommodation for participants is now in our renovated and extended island cottage nearby —no more runs in rickety vans to transport people between the classes.

Yoga on Clare Island Next summer, the new centre will offer a full programme of courses, some for beginners and intermediate students with the two of us teaching, and some aimed at advanced practionners and teachers with a number of senior visiting teachers, including Danielle Arin, Danny Paradise, Paddy MacGrath and Nancy Gilgoff. Off season, people can come for individual or group retreats, or for 'karma' yoga sessions, helping with various island chores, such as working in the garden (where we hope eventually to grow most of the vegetable for the summer courses), mulching the recently planted trees in the ever expanding woodland, feeding the horses, converting an old stone barn for more accommodation, or looking after our two year old son.

Written by Christophe Mouze

Christophe Mouze, Clare Island, Ireland,