I had the pleasure to spend a whole day at Cregg Castle in Corrandulla, Co Galway, doing my favourite things: yoga, walking around looking at plants and trees, eating, and hanging out with some really nice people. Marese Cregg organised and led this yoga day retreat. Marese is no relation to the castle by the way; it’s just a happy coincidence of a shared name. That’s Ms Cregg below in the room that was our lovely yoga studio for the day:
What a great setting for a retreat day. The inside of the castle is the traditional landlord structure overlaid with a boho artsy vibe. The space is lovely and airy, filled with old furniture, handmade pieces and vibrant art on the colourful walls — really full of character. I love this mix of old and new — it feels quite balanced to me not to be overwhelmed by history, nor to have history overshadowed by too much soulless, modern style.
The day started with a bit of peace and ease in the form of chants. Some reading this may already be aware of my relationship to chanting. For those of you who don’t, let me just say that I feel a bit silly doing it as I don’t speak Sanskrit too well and I’m a person that likes to know what’s going on and why I am doing something. But on this journey of mine I am learning to allow myself to be open to things I don’t fully understand. So on this morning, I let the lovely singing voice of Áine ní Fhaoláin (of Yoga Roots) and her harmonium (I think that’s the name of the instrument, but I am open to correction) wash over me. Áine invited us to sit up or remain lying on our mats. I sat up at first, (again, because of my need to see and understand everything), but soon realised I was much more comfortable lying down — it was nice to have the choice. The lying position allowed me to listen to the sounds and vibration of the music and get over my self-consciousness. Áine said we could participate in the chanting or just listen to it. I found myself humming at some stage, which eventually allowed me to sing along. It was a pleasant experience once I settled in to it and got over myself. Nice way to start the day as it did a job paring down my ego (always my greatest challenge) and relaxing me.
After a cup of tea, Marese led us in an Ashtanga inspired class, though we did veer off the traditional primary series (I love doing this – I live to be non-compliant!). It was a lovely class and all poses were available to all levels in the room as Marese offered variation and adjustment from the ground up (so to speak). I loved the room with its old wooden floorboards and vibrant blue walls, and the view out of the enormous windows. The icing on the cake was the cat who came in, checked everyone out and then sat on someone’s mat cleaning itself. Oh, I forgot to mention that before we started Marese’s class, we were led through some pranayama practice by one of the attendees, Cormac. It was a nice intro to some of the breathing techniques we never seem to have time to practice in yoga classes. These practices can be very useful for finding balance and well being — and can even be life changing, when practiced regularly.
Lunch came next and was prepared by Richard Cassar. Richard made us a couple of types of soup: butternut squash and a pea and mint. There was crusty bread to go with the soup and an assortment of hummus, beetroot spread and the like. It was absolutely delicious, filling but not heavy, and all vegan (if you didn’t put cow’s milk in your tea!). Here we are hanging out, eating and drinking, a really nice bunch of folk… see them below. Oh, and I must give a shout out to Marese’s lovely sisters who were helping out, getting the day set up and running smoothly.
After lunch, we went for a walk through the woodland around the castle. This wood is a peaceful, magical place, full of moss and dappled sunlight (between showers, of course). We took a moment together to just be, to meditate if you like. Donna and I then walked down to have a look at the natural spring, which was full to the brim with water despite the very dry weather we have recently had.
Back to the mat then for Marese’s backbend workshop. Marese is the Backbend Queen and the perfect teacher to guide you into back extension. The Queen eased us in, like an artist putting layers of paint on a canvas, building up layer by layer to increasing backbending. I always feel more open and alive after a slew of backbends. So no better way to end the day.
Well, not quite… there was more tea and dark chocolate. Now THAT was a perfect note to end a perfect day.
By the way, Marese hopes to do more of these day retreats. It’s a great way to get an introduction to some of the different limbs of yoga, to ease back into practice if you have been away for a while, to meet like minded souls, or to just get away and relax for awhile and not have to spend too much doing it. You can follow Marese on FaceBook to find out about more retreat days and her regular classes at Marese Cregg Yoga.
What’s next? Hmm, not sure, but maybe Sunday Morning Ragas at The Gallery Café, Gort, Co Galway. It’s not a workshop, but I figure it will be worth talking about!
P.S. Let me know if you have a yoga workshop or related event coming up as I am starting to organise my great Irish yoga roadtrip. My intention is to go to a workshop or related event in each county of Ireland. No time limit involved, and I will be doing this on weekends. Email me at email@example.com if you have anything interesting coming up.