WANT to live a longer, better life? Do yoga. For those of you unfamiliar with downward dogs and sun salutes, doctors say the most important aspect of physical fitness as our bodies age is good muscle strength and flexibility, and yoga is widely regarded as one of the key ways to maintain and improve this.
It is also good for improving your posture and can helpprevent the breakdown of cartilage and joints. And these are just a few of the benefits. Devotees will bore you with a long list of other boons for body and mind. But what better way to get in some good yoga than to combine it with a few days of peace and quiet away from it all? So with this in mind we assumed the posture of yoga travel guru to bring you a collection of Irelandâ€™s best retreats.
ASHFORD CASTLE, CONG, CO MAYO
Good for Those who like their yoga drenched in luxury.
Setting In the recently restored Ashford Castle on the shores of Lough Corrib. The castle was voted the worldâ€™s best hotel by Virtuoso, a luxury travel network.
When to go? A special retreat hosted by renowned yoga instructor Ata (Alex Baechler) takes place on November 19-22.Yoga Asana (postures) and pranayama (breath work), hatha (usually, a gentle practice), chanting and yoga nidra (deep relaxation), gentle restorative yoga and meditation.Other activities The three-night package includes access to all the facilities of Ashford Castle, accommodation in a Corrib room, organic breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, Indian head massage, and unlimited use of the gym, pool and sauna facilities.Cost From â‚¬995 for a single room without transfer to the hotel, to â‚¬1,925 for a double room with transfers from Shannon airport.
CLIFFS OF MOHER RETREAT, LISCANNOR, CO CLARE
Good for Wild remoteness with stunning views; all types of yoga.
Setting On the wild Atlantic coast. An underfloor-heated studio faces Liscannor Bay, with a huge wall of glass framing the sea view.
When to go? There are four retreats between now and January: a yoga weekend (November 13-15); an
AntiGravity aerial (postures are performed while suspended in â€œhammocksâ€), restorative and fun wellness weekend (November 20-22); a winter warmer weekend (December 4-6); and a new yearâ€™s retreat (December 28 to January 1).
Yoga Each instructor has their own speciality, including hatha, pranayama, Iyengar (a style developed by BKS Iyengar that focuses on alignment in postures), AntiGravity aerialand hot yoga.
Other activities Silent walks, optional day trips to Lahinch, the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, as well as spa therapies and treatments arranged by staff. A daily menu of healthy vegetarian food is included.
Cost â‚¬380 for three days all-inclusive retreats, to â‚¬690 for a five-day all-inclusive retreat at new year.
BURREN YOGA, KINVARA, CO GALWAY
A â€˜gong bathâ€™ at the Burren retreat is said to recharge the mind, body and spirit
Good for Sociable types and foodies.
Setting In a remote rural setting on the border of Clare and Galway, in the Burren geopark. The centre is nestled beneath the shadow of Cappaghmore mountain.
When to go? Weekend retreats run weekly until the end of November and restart in January 2016. The next week-long retreats are from December 27 to January 2 and January 3-9.
Yoga Fifteen teachers with varying specialisations, including ashtanga
(a strong practice developed by Pattabhi Jois), Iyengar and Satyananda (a form of hatha yoga developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati), pregnancy yoga, vinyasa flow, Bikram (a hot yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury), pilates and meditation. You should select your retreat on the basis of your ability â€” some classes are more dynamic than others.
Other activities Visits to Aillwee caves, the Cliffs of Moher and local ancient sites, and boat trips to the Aran Islands. Guests can also go hill walking, surfing or kayaking, or sample local cuisine on guided outings. In-house vegetarian shared meals are cooked by Paddi, former chef at Seventh Heaven in Galway.
Cost Weekend retreats start at â‚¬300 per person sharing a three- to
five-person room, to â‚¬360 for a private single room. The unwaged are catered for, at â‚¬280. Week-long retreats start at â‚¬690 per person sharing a group room, to â‚¬810 for a single room. All food is included.
MACALLA FARM, CLARE ISLAND, CO MAYO
Good for Horse lovers and foodies.
Setting A family-run retreat and working organic farm situated on Clare Island in Clew Bay.
When to go? Thereâ€™s a sati yoga and meditation retreat on December 22-27 and one from December 27 to January 3.
Yoga Mainly sati (a mindful, Buddhist-influenced practice) and pranayama. Uniquely, the centre also specialises in yoga with horses.
Other activities Horsemanship and yoga (equine-assisted mindfulness), and various food skill sessions such as food preservation, sourdough bread making and dairying.
Cost â‚¬680 per person for the five-night retreats (sharing twin rooms). This includes all organic vegetarian meals, 25 hours of yoga/meditation tuition and a return ferry ticket.
LIFE CLEANSE DETOX RETREATS, BRITTAS BAY, CO WICKLOW
Put your back into yoga holiday
Good for Busy professionals seeking to de-stress and change their lifestyle habits.
Setting Beautiful beaches and a private room.
When to go? The next detox weekend is on January 8-10.
Yoga Traditional ashtanga with modifications to suit all levels.
Other activities Beach walks and breath work.
Cost â‚¬320 per person.
MONALEA BARN, COOLGREANY, CO WEXFORD
The Monalea retreat in Co Wexford offers a 24-hour detox in a cosy stone barn
Good for All levels of yoga and those who want to revisit (even briefly) virtuous living after binging at Christmas.
Setting A cosy stone barn in a rural valley on the Wicklow-Wexford border. It is only an hour from Dublin but feels like another, cleaner, fresher planet.
When to go? Thereâ€™s a 24-hour detox retreat (a weekend can just be too long for some) on January 23-24.
Yoga Iyengar with a twist led by Orla Punch, one of Irelandâ€™s most experienced practitioners.
Other activities A hike up Croghan mountain in the afternoon with spectacular views to the sea and the Wicklow mountains. Delicious vegetarian food and yoga nidra before bed for a restorative sleep.Lashings of fresh lemon and ginger tea.
Cost â‚¬150 sharing (four in a room), â‚¬170 for sharing an ensuite double room, and â‚¬190 for an ensuite single room.
FLOW YOGA CENTRE, WEST CO CORK
Beginners can discover their inner warrior on a breathtaking beach walk
Good for A nutritional reset, all standards of yoga â€” from beginner to experienced yogi level â€”and stunning scenery
Setting Flow Yoga Centre in Hartes Courtyard, Clonakilty, is a regular venue for Jessica Hatchettâ€™s workshops. But the next retreat (January 15-17) takes place in Dechen Shying, the new spiritual care centre at Dzogchen Beara Buddhist centre, in west Cork.
When to go? January 15-17.
Yoga The sessions will focus on yoga for life balance and restoring participantsâ€™ vital force to aim for stillness and strength. The retreat is silent during the morning classes and breakfast time.
Other activities Food by Caitlin Ruth from Deasyâ€™s restaurant.
Cost From â‚¬380 per person.
COOLATTIN LODGE, SHILLELAGH, CO WICKLOW
Good for A quick escape from Dublin for a blissful, if strenuous, weekend.
Setting A former Victorian model farm, it hosts regular yoga, pilates and mindfulness weekends with full board and healthy cuisine.
When to go? The next retreat is on February 7
Yoga A broad mixture of styles for all levels of ability.
Other activities Walking trek along the Wicklow Way.
Cost â‚¬375 per person
CARLINGFORD YOGA, CARLINGFORD, CO LOUTH
Yoga is also good for improving your posture and can helpprevent the breakdown of cartilage (Alamy)
Good for Healthy eating, guided relaxation and meditation.
Setting Carlingford harbour, in the heart of the Co Louth village.
When to go? January 8-10.
Yoga Iyengar and others.
Other activities Lovely scenery and plenty of gift shops to browse.
Cost â‚¬290 per person.
FRAOCH RETREATS, VARIOUS LOCATIONS
Good for Sociable, food-loving yogis.
Setting Current venues are Coolattin Lodge in Co Wicklow and the Gyreum Ecolodge in Co Sligo. A typical weekend begins with dinner on Friday evening and finishes on Sunday or, for bank holiday retreats, Monday afternoon.
When to go? Retreats take place monthly in different locations.
Yoga A mix of hatha yoga involving asana, pranayama and meditative practices, as well as partner yoga. This is for all levels, including beginners.
Other activities Walks and activities in the surrounding landscape and good food. Banquet brunches and dinners are served family-style at a long table, with sharing plates of vegetarian dishes. In the evenings the group gathers for fireside games. Fraochâ€™s last retreat was at the beautiful Ardtarmon House in Co Sligo â€” keep an eye on the website for further details.
Cost Usually â‚¬220 per retreat.