I find relaxing difficult at the best of times. As Dr. Eddie Murphy recently described himself in the Irish Examiner, I’m an active relaxer and I find doing nothing almost impossible. My job is a really challenging and stimulating one, making it even more difficult to switch off, and I’m also very busy in my personal life. For some time now, I’ve been considering yoga as a way of helping me to calm my mind while simultaneously improving my strength and flexibility.

As a complete beginner, however, I find the idea of joining a regular class a little daunting, and while there are many beginners’ courses out there, I need to be sure that yoga is for me before I commit. There is a fantastic free weekly yoga class in my home village of Killeagh, organised by our GAA Healthy Clubs’ team, but the time doesn’t suit me. Extensive Googling brought me to Himalaya Yoga Valley Cork, which offers a fantastic ‘Let’s Get Started’ taster experience, absolutely free and with no strings attached. I signed up for a Saturday lunchtime class using their excellent online booking system.

The studio is situated in Penrose Wharf, Cork, which has convenient parking (you do have to pay!), accessible from Alfred Street. Staff members are extremely friendly, welcoming and helpful, and at no stage did I feel intimidated or uncomfortable (I’m shy, okay!!). It’s useful to arrive well ahead of time on your first visit as there’s the usual form to be filled out etc., and any health concerns will be dealt with at that point. Mats and all other equipment are provided for beginners, which removes another concern.

Himalaya Yoga 2

There were about eight others in the class, and our instructor, Trish, made us feel very welcome and comfortable (that’s how I felt, anyway!). We had to remove our shoes at the beginning, and were invited to choose a mat. Trish gave us some background on the centre and on yoga in general, and outlined what we could expect from the session. She made it quite clear that everyone could operate at their own level. We began with shavasana and some breathing, and moved on to taste a number of different poses including the more well-known ones like downward-facing dog and tree, and also some modified sun salutations. The class was reasonably challenging and I was glad it was only going on for 40 minutes (normal classes last up to 1 hour 15 minutes and I had run a 5K that morning)! It was very enjoyable though, and by the end, I felt pretty certain that yoga would work for me.

As an added bonus, all participants were offered one further free beginner’s class, provided we signed up within a week (I booked mine on the way out!). Pricing is competitive, with classes for as little as €8 depending on how many you want to pay for, and there’s a special offer running this month (July 2017) offering four weeks’ unlimited classes for €50, of which I will certainly be availing! They also provide an extensive schedule incorporating all levels of practice.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre Let’s Get Started class for anyone new to and/or unsure about yoga – there’s nothing to lose! Namaste.

UPDATE: I attended my free New Beginnings Level 1 class this week, and I am now well and truly hooked. If you are a complete beginner, like me, I would definitely recommend the Let’s Get Started class first, as you are expected to be familiar with some basic terms and poses. Everything is well explained and demonstrated though, including modifications for the more challenging poses, and I found the class (with instructer Jenn this time) very enjoyable and easy to follow (even for someone who struggles with co-ordination and differentiating between left and right!). Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre provides an ideal structure if, like me, you can’t commit to a regular weekly slot but need something that you can fit into your schedule whenever the opportunity arises. My next step is to purchase my month’s unlimited yoga for €50!

*Photos used here are from the Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre website