The Benefits of Yoga with Mairead McGrath

Alanna Cunnane

They say that everything happens for a reason, a fact Dublin Yoga teacher Mairead McGrath is all too accustomed to.

While studying in DCU she began to regularly attend classes with the Yoga Society, after a while gaining enough confidence to step into the slot infront of the class when the then instructor was running late, in lieu of participating with her peers.

“Would you ever think about teaching?” a few eventually asked, and while she first shook off the notion at first, she ultimately would find purpose in the zen of showing others the ancient craft of combining physical stretches with centering breath work.

“Initially I thought no, why would I teach it? I just enjoy the practice, but then I started to think about it I actually really enjoyed the practice” the Pearl Yoga Ireland founder said.

Since going on to complete the training course in 2002, McGrath has encouraged others to take up the act, which wavers the equilibrium between exercise and meditation, while having a myriad of health benefits too.

“I think if you want to feel good in your body and mind, which I think most people would, then yoga is definitely worth a try,” she says.

“A common misconception people have is that you have to be physically flexible or fit to do yoga, but that isn’t the case.”

“You’re getting a lot of benefits because you’re doing something that helps stretch the body out, helps your internal organs, you’re focusing on posture which helps your shoulders and back, and breathing exercises to help with lung capacity and feeling that sense of calm” she added.

Yoga therefore is for everyone, or at least anyone who sometimes feels “they are all over the place.”

“It’s not necessarily that you do yoga and you’re automatically just so chilled out. That’s part of it, but it’s more so that you’re doing exercises that calm the mind enough and allow you to be focused on whatever you’re doing next.

“You check in with yourself and feel the mind and body connection, allowing you to feel relaxed and mentally refreshed afterwards, but also that you’ve achieved something physically.”

The selfcare trend that forcibly swept the nation throughout Covid 19 lockdowns gave rise to an opportunity for McGrath to spread this yoga message online too, allowing people to channel the extra time they found themselves with, minus the hefty commutes and obligatory social commitments.

“It’s been difficult over the last few years with Covid,  but yoga is something that can help with the uncertainty of it all,” she said.

“It is so important because when times are tough, you need to look after yourself. 

“It’s like masks on an airplane, they always say to put on your own first because if you’re not okay how can you look after other people? I think people have realised that there’s no point burning themselves out, they need to look after themselves both physically and mentally and then look at taking on whatever it is you want.

Despite what social media may lead you to believe however, ego is to be left at the door while practicing yoga, instead engaging with the most important critic there is. Yourself.

“Yoga is not about looking the best or pushing through a pain barrier. Instead, you’re trying to be aware of how your body feels right now” she commented.

“It’s not a sport where you are trying to win something. Instead trying to do something that helps you feel good by stepping away from analysing the past or worrying about the future.”

“Even in that one class you can feel good from it, but the more you practice you can really improve on that sense of feeling good and being that bit more in the moment.”

DCU Classes

Showcasing the Hatha style, McGrath intertwines the importance of physical posture with meditation breathing in both her DCU and own private sessions.

Spanning the next generation of Yoga society enthusiasts on the St Pats and Glasnevin campuses, meetings take place on Tuesdays in person, with an online option available for Wednesday evenings.

Savasana, downward dog and tree pose her top three recommendations for beginners, she stresses that “it really is accessible” with the necessary tools not a far stretch inconvenient.

“You don’t need a lot of space at home or even special equipment” she said.

“You just need a yoga mat which you can buy for about a tenner and enough room for that to fit to start to enjoy all of the benefits.”

Who knows, maybe the next instructor lies amongst DCU’s current (on time) yogi stronghold.

Alanna Cunnane

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