Elma’s a yoga warrior at 64

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Elma is on a mission to let others know how yoga can enrich their lives. Photo: Patsy Toland

If Elma Toland thought her move back to her native Donegal was going to coincide with her taking it easier, she was mistaken. The yoga teacher and yoga therapist is busier than ever and bringing her message of the benefits of yoga – at all ages of life – to a whole new audience.

Outside the village of Clonmany in Inishowen -the country’s most northerly peninsula – Elma Toland has made her home at a cottage called the Spout in front of a mountain called Bulbin.

It’s a jaw-droppingly beautiful place and a blustery November day, the cottage with its fire lighting inside is a welcome refuge from the gale blowing outside.

Elma Toland’s grandparents owned the Spout and she and her husband Patsy have lovingly restored and renewed the place to make it their home now.

Having lived and worked in Dublin first, then Leixlip, Co Kildare, Elma, now 64, did not have some master plan to be back in Donegal teaching yoga. She and her husband, who’s also from Clonmany, left their native village many decades ago and settled in Leixlip, where they raised their two daughters Catriona and Isabel.

They spent five or six weeks of every summer in the cottage and when Catriona got married to a Clonmany man she met on one of her many summer holidays, it seemed fitting that they got married in the garden of the cottage.

Now life has come full circle and Elma lives in Clonmany, giving yoga classes several times a week at the Market House in the village.

She never knows how many will turn up to a class but the demand for yoga is such that she’s putting on a few different kinds of classes to suit everyone in the community, including a ‘men only class’ – which her husband Patsy recently started attending.

Elma’s own journey to yoga, first as a regular practitioner and then as a teacher and therapist, began when she was at home with her daughters in the 1980s. She joined a class run by Linda Southgate, then the only yoga teacher in Co Kildare. After some years of practice, Elma decided to take it a step further.

After qualifying as a Montessori teacher, Elma says she found the confidence to train as a yoga teacher through the Irish Yoga Association.

She says she never intended to teach yoga – she’d only wanted to know more about it. But as soon as she stepped on the mat to begin her training, she knew she would love teaching.

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