Review: Heir Island Yoga Retreat
Intoxicating yoga on Ireland's secluded south-western front
The short ferry transfer from Cunnamore pier to Heir island on the furthermost tip of Ireland's idyllic west Cork coastline sets the tone for the weekend to come. Not a particularly stunning day to say the least as the rain lashed down on us, but it would have taken far more to dampen our spirits. Our bags and mats are hoisted onto the small vessel and we're off over Roaringwater Bay (what a perfect name for this tiny island's home). With a population of just 24 living in a scattering of cottages and no amenities bar a sailing school, restaurant and art gallery (the latter two owned by John Desmond and Elmarie Fenton) offering no choice bar the very best of seasonal produce prepared and served from a kitchen the size of a large family bathroom.
Not Your Average Yogi
Gourmet food aside, the reason I've made the crossing is to enjoy another weekend of yoga and the best of craic (Irish style) courtesy of LA-based-Co.Cork-native and celebrity yogi Ducky Punch. I am lucky enough to have experienced wellness retreats of all types in many corners of the world (see other MidLife Edit postings) but to learn from this exceptionally talented yoga teacher I would travel to the ends of the earth (and this is not said lightly). Ducky is not your average yogi, having come to teaching after a degree in biochemistry and a masters in neuroscience. She has also studied cranio-sacral therapy. She describes her teaching as 'a mix of Vinyasa flow, interwoven with Forrest Yoga principles (from renowned yogi Ana Forrest) and peppered with a little Kundalini."
All her teaching is based on a deep understanding of the body and with clients including the head of Sony Pictures and Avril Lavigne she truly is at the top of her game. She says that her teaching has changed somewhat in recent years with more emphasis on meditation and calming the 'monkey mind' that seriously messes with our life. "Be gentle," she advises, "there is a softness and the nervous system unwinding is often the last piece in the puzzle of true relaxation.
Ducky's workshops are less frenetic than most standard classes with plenty of time to really stretch stiff and tight body parts. Each of the 4 sessions lasted about 21/2 hours with various techniques demonstrated and held through Ducky's intoxicating humour. 'There are many ways to kneel and kiss the ground' (to quote renowned Sufi poet Rumi) and with Ducky's expertise we get to experience a healthy blend of yogic practices all succinctly combined in one life-enhancing package.
In addition to Ducky's fab teaching what sets Heir Island yoga apart is the food, wine and simply wonderful company. Undoubtedly the finest classical French cuisine (John Desmond worked as a chef in Paris for many years before returning to his roots) all washed down with bottles of very more-ish (house) red or white: Think succulent local beef with red wine sauce, the most delicious homemade courgette and almond soup and chef Desmond's delightful signature lemon soufflés - all well deserved after demanding, often gruelling yoga (well we thought so anyway!). it goes without saying that on Heir Island much of the food served is homegrown and everything was homemade,
While the yoga schedule was busy, there was time for a refreshing (mmmm!) morning dip in the freezing Heir island waters and a not-to-be-missed walk across the island (that takes about 45 mins) - so refreshing and uplifting courtesy of the freshest sea breezes. Suffice to say that on a good day this tiny dot in our mighty could possibly rate as one of the most perfect imaginable.
Luckily for us, Ducky is planning on spending more time back home in Ireland, focusing on yoga, bodywork and cleansing - watch this space!
Book in advance as yogis stay in local houses on the island - some bring slightly cosier than others! Bring everything you might need for every type of weather and plenty of warm clothes!
Room for improvement?
As with everything, undoubtedly yes, but part of the charm of this weekend is that it just seems to flow in a calm and casual way.
Will I return?
Yes, tomorrow please! Essential for the soul
Yoga with Ducky costs €325 per person, per weekend, inclusive of accommodation, lunch, dinners and yoga and I challenge you to find an alternative offering better value for money.