The first of May is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland, but did you know that the bank holiday comes from an ancient Celtic tradition, known as Beltane or Bealtaine- a celebration of the change of season, from winter to spring and onwards to summer? Beltane has been mentioned in Old Irish literature as far back as the 4th Century AD and was seen as a day for communities to prepare to step out of the dark days of winter and into the promise of brighter, more abundant days ahead. Having done some reading about the spring and summer Celtic festivals all the way back in January, the idea behind Beltane seemed so appropriate for what we have all been through over the last year- letting go of the darkness as we move towards the light! I knew the message of the festival would sit particularly well with yoga, which at its heart is all about celebrating life and growing as we move forward. I thought it would be a great idea to put together a retreat which would mix Eastern and Western ideas in a way which complimented both. This last year has seen more people than ever start to wake up to our environmental problems, myself included, so I wanted to build on that too. Blue Planet has done a lot for nature on a global scale, and I think it’s great for people to realise they can start to develop a healthier relationship with nature by understanding the local ecology on their doorstep! I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, so I entrusted a few friends with my idea and slowly, over the next few months, we all worked hard to bring it to life. This was the very first retreat that we had all taken on to run, but I was confident in the skills and talents of each of the ladies that I had asked to come on board. And they did not disappoint. I wanted the day to be as peaceful and relaxing as possible. Which meant we would have to run the retreat somewhere special. Finding that location was definitely one of the easier parts of the prep work- I used to work in Corralea and had always loved how beautiful and quiet it was (once groups had gone home!), so it was a natural choice for me. It sits right on the shores of Lough Macnean and anyone who had ever stayed or rented a canoe there will know just how amazing and tranquil it is.
Once that was sorted, we planned, we prepped, we advertised… we did lots of Sun Salutations and lit lots of candles for good weather! And it worked (the candles were definitely what did it)! We couldn’t have asked for two better days to celebrate the festival. We started with an hour of yoga after everyone arrived, beginning with an exercise based around the Beltane theme of letting go of worries or troubles, to allow us to focus on what comes next. After our first class and a break for smoothies, Amy held court as she explained everything Beltane to the groups- where it came from, why it was important and how it was celebrated. It was a lovely way to begin to reconnect ourselves to nature as we listened to the sounds all around us and regrounded ourselves by putting our bare feet on the grass- when was the last time you did that? From there, we prepped ourselves for a little cold water dip. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but we were all really impressed with how game people were to give it a try! Myself and Clare have been dipping a few times a week since last October- it’s great for clearing your head. Once we hopped out of the water, warming up our bodies was the most important thing, and a few Sun Salutations and Warrior poses later, everyone’s bellies were fired up and ready to enjoy our delicious and nutritious lunch, prepared by Stacey with the able help of Collette!
After lunch, with bellies full, Clare took us on a slow walk through the woods around Corralea as she explained some of the flora and fauna we saw along the way- a perfect way to help to digest lunch. By the early afternoon, we were all full of food and information on our Irish mythology. Coming into our last class, I wanted to continue to tie in the yoga with the fire theme of Beltane. So we focused on the fire chakra based at the solar plexus. On each day, as we moved towards our relaxation, it started to rain! Which was possibly a sign that someone up above was sad that the day was ending?! So we finished both days under the marquee and gazebo, everyone well wrapped in blankets and hand-made eye masks to aid relaxation! The day didn’t quite end there, as we also had chill out time around the fire pit, sipping our mocktails, having a chat, enjoying the ambience of the birdsong around us and completing one last exercise- writing out a feeling or emotion that we didn’t need, or writing down some good fortune or good health we wished to attract in the coming months and dropping the page into the fire.
It was hard to say goodbye to people after that, because both days were just so amazing. Each group came together to form a beautiful energy that all of the team could feel each day. These good vibes completely energized us and kept us buzzing all weekend. And for a good week after! There is definitely a power in the ceremony of the festival. I think everyone who joined us would agree. And we can’t wait until the next one. To keep an eye out for upcoming classes and retreats, make sure to follow Aurora yoga on Facebook and Instagram.