Yoga is nothing new to these here web pages of IMAGE.ie; its popularity is growing by the day across Ireland and not just as a great form of exercise but as a way of life, as a way to cope with stress, to sleep better, the list goes on. The benefits of yoga and meditation are things that we've discussed at length and we're always interested in hearing more from those who've taken it and built their life around it. Last week we profiled Bray native Aisling Vesque Ryan who packed in her 9-5 in real estate in favour of yoga teaching and now, ahead of his highly anticipated Ashford Castle Yoga Retreat, we've gotten time with world renowned international yogi master Alex (Ata) Baechler. Read 'til the end for details on this bound-to-be-amazing weekend.
1. When and how did you first discover yoga? What was it about yoga that appealed to you?
I discovered yoga early on in my childhood through my father who was a yogi, and he introduced me to some of the teachings and reading material. I started practicing early on, experimenting with the techniques I was reading about and starting the journey of the exploration of the self. The first steps along that path were through meditation and finding the inner connection that ultimately leads to the oneness.
2. New York is one of the busiest places on the planet, what is it like to be a yogi there?
When I first met Sri Dharma Mitra (legendary Yoga Master) I knew at first sight that he was going to be my teacher. I started attending the Kailashananda temple in New York and received the precious teachings from Sri Dharma Mitra. Dharma always said that being a yogi in the forest living off coconut water was easy, but the real challenge was to be a yogi in the midst of hectic New York City.
3. What is the greatest lesson your master ever taught you?
The greatest lesson I have learned from all the master that have crossed my path is to keep the faith and to cultivate a constant trust and gratitude towards life.
4. Can you tell by instinct if a person will take to yoga naturally if they've never done it before? Is it possible for anyone to master yoga with practice?
Yoga is a science and a method. Anyone can self-realize it just needs constant practice. People are generally looking for quick recognition and effortless result, but constant practice, and angry determination are the keys to success. Some people are predisposed to evolve faster on the path, and many signs will manifest.
5. Can you describe your average day?
Life is generous enough never to give me an average day but always a day full of the richness of life and experiences. I feel very grateful everyday.
6. Can you tell us about your time in the ashram? How significantly does it differ from life in New York?
Life in the ashram is, in a sense, very easy. Everything is taken care of for you. Life is very structured and that is one way to condition or recondition the mind. In ashram life, you perform a very strict ritualistic routine. Everything is designed that way so that you have minimum interferences from the outer world, giving you more time to explore the inner world. In everyday life, if one chooses to live an active life in a busy city with a family, you don't have 12 hours a day to meditate. So living the life of a yogi in New York is much more challenging than living in the ashram.
7. What was it like for you to return to New York after spending time in the ashram?
Returning to active life after spending extensive time in the ashram presented a whole new set of challenges. These challenges of daily life, however, give you the opportunity to really become a yogi in all its essence and act with compassion, respect, love and kindness.
How important is meditation to you??How often do you practice it?
Meditation is the most important part of the yoga practice. Meditation is a way to check in with your inner barometer and see where you are at. If you don't do this, it is very hard to know where to start. You need to do routine check ups to your car to make sure everything is running properly, and the same principle applies to your own mental and physical being. Morning meditation is the perfect place to check in.
Why should yoga feature in our daily lives, how has it benefited your life?
I believe Yoga should constantly be present in our lives - to me, it's as important as breathing. I constantly use everything I experience in life to evaluate and practice the yoga and the yogic principles applying the yamas and the nyamas. This is what yoga is all about.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue yoga professionally?
Yoga is not a profession but a way of living life.
Can you tell us about your healing thai massage - how does this differ to other massage techniques?
I cannot talk about it, you need to experience it!
How do you compare your life now with your life before yoga?
Yoga has always been part of my life. I see how the practice has evolved and guided me over the years towards my true nature connecting me to the 'self.?
Nestled away from the hustle and bustle, the recently restored Ashford Castle provides the most?exceptional getaway for a series of Yoga Retreats hosted by famed yoga instructor, Ata (Alex Baechler)?which will take place this November. Baechler, renowned for his focus on balance and harmony, will be?available at Ashford Castle from 19th to 22nd November 2015 for a programme that includes the following?Yoga sessions:
? Asana and pranayama: to detox, de-stress and boost energy for good?health and vitality
? Hatha yoga: to recharge, relax, and be ready for the day
? Chanting and Yoga Nidra: to relieve the daily tensions, anxiety and other
? Gentle Restorative yoga: a slow paced stretching class to learn basic poses and
? Pranayama and meditation: to increase energy, relieve stress and tension,?emotional problems,'relaxation techniques
The focus of the retreat is to escape a fast paced environment and take the time to slow down, to find calm?and serenity through different forms of yoga and meditation while being pampered and nurtured in the?luxury of one of Ireland's most magnificent properties, recently recognized as the Best Hotel in the World.
Situated on the shores of Lough Corrib, in one of Ireland's most picturesque and naturally beautiful'settings, the clean air, surrounding forests and natural rugged landscape will restore, revive and inspire.
For prices, itineraries and more head to?www.ashfordcastle.com