Practice makes perfect

The yoga bug has bitten hard. Ruth O’Connor asked some leading practitioners about hot summer retreats

Yoga has become a huge industry in Ireland. Gabi Gilessen, Secretary of the Irish Yoga Association, estimates the past six years has seen the numbers of studios, students and those engaged in teacher training triple. When veteran teacher Orla Punch began teaching 22 years ago, she had just five students and was lucky to make one pound profit from a class. Then Madonna started talking about yoga and Punch had “queues of people round the block trying to get into my classes”. What was a celebrity-driven trend slowly became a lifestyle for many. Punch points out that yoga is now taught in several schools and is fast becoming intrinsic to corporate wellness programmes. As well as running private and group classes, she now teaches at various schools, public bodies and institutions such as The Central Bank, as well as law firm Arthur Cox. Both Gilessan and Punch caution that as the industry grows, students need to be more careful about choosing a teacher, suggesting that teachers ideally have 500 hours of training over four years. Evening classes remain most popular although lunchtime and morning classes are gaining momentum and the appetite for yoga retreats is growing apace: Irish retreats such as The Burren Yoga & Meditation Centre are doing a brisk trade and there is  huge interest in overseas retreats for those who want to develop their practice while escaping the distractions and pressures of everyday life. Workshops by visiting gurus, like that of yoga teacher, author and Sanskrit scholar Mira Mehta who will visit Dublin on May 9, and again in November (, are  also drawing a committed yoga crowd. Punch says that endorsement from athletes has seen the practice (particularly that of Bikram) grow in popularity among men too. “Yoga is for everyone,” she says, “whatever your age or ability. It improves physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing as well as enhancing strength and agility.”

This story appears in the May issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in our next issue, out Thursday June 4

Keeping Hope

Siobhán and Colin had always hoped for siblings for their two-year-old daughter, Heidi. But when Colin was diagnosed with late-stage testicular cancer, fertility seemed implausible. Nevertheless, they refused to give up hope

Our daughter Heidi is full of life and a real Daddy’s girl. One Saturday morning in July, the pair of them were messing on the couch. I could hear giggles and shrieks. When Heidi fell awkwardly in Colin’s lap, he winced with pain, but paid no heed.

The days wore on but the pain in his testicles remained. He shrugged it off. I suggested he see the GP, have it checked out, fully expecting it to be nothing at all. As a precaution, he organised a scan, which showed that he had a lump. Again, as both of us were busy with work, dropping Heidi to the crèche, catching up in the evenings. We didn’t get unduly panicked.
A biopsy was taken and we went off on a lovely relaxing holiday in the Douro Valley in Portugal, oblivious to the havoc about to be unleashed on our lives. We soaked up the sun, went on long walks through the dusty valleys, talked about having another child.

Relaxed, invigorated, we returned home, to be told there would be an in-house multi-disciplinary meeting on Thursday morning. Colin’s case would be presented. Alarm bells sounded, but buoyed by optimism and a sense of wellbeing, we didn’t panic. Mid-morning he was called by an oncology nurse and told to come to the hospital. Immediately. And most importantly, to bring me. They needed to see me too? It must be serious. And did she say oncology? That was the first time this word had been used. It almost bypassed me. Almost.

“Cancer,” I thought. How? Why? A million questions flooded my brain. Still reeling with shock and disbelief, we met with Dr Con Murphy, our amazing oncology consultant, and he told it as it was. Colin had testicular cancer, non-seminoma. 

This story appears in the May issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in our next issue, out Thursday June 4