LOU HORGAN’s yoga holidays draw a devoted coterie of travellers but you don’t have to be a client – or a YOGA FANATIC – to join in the fun …
In a studio space called The Yoga Shed in the leafy garden of her Dublin 6 home, Lou Horgan teaches yoga to small groups of (mostly) women, usually in two-hour classes. An experienced teacher for 15 years, practising yoga for 20, Horgan’s classes outside her own studio were always oversubscribed. Now she focuses on small groups and her approach – or “intention” in yoga language, is to balance the bio-mechanical or technical with the spiritual aspect of the yoga philosophy to put the body – and the “ego, heart and mind” back into balance. She’s aware that this will make some women’s eyes roll backwards in their heads – but a more grounded, relaxed and positive woman you will not meet. So you might drop your scepticism, as you drop your mat – and tune in.
“We have become so competitive in a fast-moving world, in a manner that devastates our spirit. We feel like we are always carrying, nurturing, and our spirit is drained. I work to help each woman right that in her own body and mind. We are told the energy comes from the outside in – but energy flows from us. I work on the quality of that inside-out energy, improving it through the practise of yoga.”
Yoga is a form of exercise which suits women brilliantly. “We are connected to our bodies in a way that men are not – with periods, pregnancies, menopause. Our energy goes up and down, on a rollercoaster, largely thanks to hormones and even lunar influences. We have a different physical rhythm to men.” Yoga, with its innumerable permutations, can flex, it seems, to suit.
Horgan focuses on breath and movement, subtle realignments, and tells a story as she teaches. “The narrative with which I frame the class is simple – we ground ourselves, find our inner rhythm, and go from there.” Stopping and listening is vital, she says. “Where are you in your life cycle, physically? Where are you in your cycle, in the season. Once we know what our baseline condition is, we go from there to find our own energy, allow the body to rebalance.” Most of Horgan’s clients are between late 30s and late 50s. This is a time when most women are tying themselves in knots, overcomplicating their lives unnecessarily, over-extending themselves, often needlessly. “The more I learn, the more I practise, the more I teach, the more I pare it back,” says Horgan, referring to her philosophy and her classes. She moves around the studio, correcting a pose here, reassuring there, letting fall a pearl of wisdom. “I like to drop treasures into an open heart.”
The shared experience resonates in a class, and women quickly become connected, supporting each other, often becoming friends. Horgan’s three-hour weekend workshops always include shared meals in the garden (“and wine!”) so that those bonds are allowed to strengthen, unforced. Her Black Moon Feasts, with food by her friend Katie Sanderson (of The Fumbally) are based around “peace and presence” – you are fully present and the atmosphere is calm (but not dull). It’s not a bitching session but a supportive circle. “We agree it’s about silencing that critical inner voice, about learning to say no sometimes, to support ourselves.” Horgan also creates interesting retreats and holidays which bring together women who love yoga but equally love a glass of wine, a little culture and good food. In her 20s and fresh from an ashram in the Himalayas, she was sure, to be a real yoga teacher, she should live a strict yogic lifestyle. “Having my children and just living life, reminded me that that person wasn’t me. We live well and healthily, but being happy and relaxed and having fun, is really important.” Sign us up.
April 26-29: Yoga and cycling mini-break, Bergen, Holland. Daily yoga, biking through forests, great food and long walks on the beach. Bergen is a picture-perfect Dutch village, with cool boutiques, restaurants and galleries.
September 25-29: Yoga holiday, Randazzo, Sicily. The magnificently restored organic wine and olive oil agriturismo of Feudo Vagliasindi, at the foot of Mount Etna, is the perfect setting for yoga, organic food and sunshine.
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