Yoga and travel complement each other beautifully; yoga and solo travel even more so. You can take yoga anywhere with you or you can find it anywhere in the form of eco-retreats on sunny beaches, humble ashrams or high-end luxury. Websites such as soleyogaholidays.com and yogatraveller.com list Morocco, Portugal, Ireland, Israel and Greece among the many stunning locations where you can find all-inclusive yoga packages, some at a pretty price. If budget wasn’t an issue I’d happily do all of them. But budget is an issue so I’ve only done one yoga retreat and that was at Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre in the West of Ireland, and it was money well spent – very well spent.
Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre is located in the Burren region of County Clare, an ecologically unique and diverse landscape of giant limestone slabs, ancient megalithic tombs and dolmens, and non-indigenous plant-life that shouldn’t thrive but does somehow. It’s also close to the Aillwee Caves, the Cliffs of Moher, and Coole Park, among other natural attractions. If you’re into ecology, geology or botany you’re going to get super-excited about it but, putting all that aside, there’s a stark natural beauty and a spiritual quality to the region that always leaves its mark on me. It’s the perfect habitat for re-connecting with nature and your soul and an amazing location for a yoga and mindfulness retreat. (I realise I started with the science and slipped into hippy-speak pretty quickly but that’s the Burren effect.)
Burren Yoga do weekend and week-long retreats throughout the year so I did the week-long retreat over Christmas. It entailed daily meditation and Hatha yoga in the morning before breakfast, walks and light hikes in the Burren, meditation and yoga in the evenings and vegetarian dinners at the centre every night. Lunch isn’t included but you buy lunch locally after your walks. The food was very good but if you miss meat you can always get some in the towns at lunch time. Nobody judged me! In fact, I had a sneaky glass of wine one day as well in the pub but obviously I wouldn’t dream of consuming alcohol on the yoga premises.
The rooms are very clean and fresh. I shared a room with three others but if I went again I’d pay extra for my own room. Having said that, I slept like a log every night after the first night and really didn’t notice my room mates.
Despite my initial apprehension about two hours’ yoga before breakfast, it was a fabulous way to start the day and I felt amazing after it. You start at 8 a.m. which is actually quite reasonable – late enough to be humane but early enough for you to feel virtuous. The floor to ceiling windows capitalise on the natural beauty that surrounds the studio so even indoors you are facing out to nature during your practice.
I had very little experience of yoga at that stage but the course caters to all levels so it wasn’t in any way intimidating. The tutor was great and, while the mornings started gently enough, we always got into some amazing stretches and challenging poses but at our own pace. The more advanced students got to stand on their heads but I managed to opt out of that one as I know my limits!
Since my week at Burren Yoga, quite a few friends of mine have gone there and loved it. You don’t need to be stressed to benefit from it but if you are stressed or under pressure it will work wonders for you as you’ll come home feeling refreshed, rested and mentally clear (that’s the best way I can describe how I felt). See their website for exact dates and prices: http://www.burrenyoga.com/
**Sorry for offering no photos of the retreat itself but I wasn’t yet blogging when I went there. It looks the exact same as the photos on their own website.