Elma’s a yoga warrior at 64

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“I was so enthusiastic about it. I could get people to do things, and realised that I was so passionate about what I was telling them, that I could motivate them,” she says.

Young mothers made up the bulk of her clients at her first classes in Leixlip, although she says yoga has become something that people of all ages are doing and this is reflected in her classes today.

“After six years of teaching, I realised I knew nothing. I felt I needed to know more about illnesses and conditions and I was one of five people to train to become a yoga therapist at the time,” says Elma.

She describes yoga therapy as being a marriage of western anatomy and eastern yoga and a better understanding of how the body works being born.

This knowledge, she says, totally changed her practice and her own teaching of yoga changed too. “I became more anatomy-centred. When I meet limitations in the body now, I know how to modify the posture to make it simple,” she says.

Elma began working with organisations like the Rutland Centre in Dublin and MS Ireland where everything she did related to the person. “It’s more about the yoga adapting to suit the person”.

As she met limitations in her classes, she was able to adapt the moves for people and found she loved this and what it did for people who couldn’t believe what they were able to do. In the late 1990s Elma and a few colleagues set up Yoga Therapy Ireland to train yoga teachers here.

When her daughters flew the nest – both Isabel and Catriona, her husband and two children are living in Australia – Elma and Patsy began to feel their home was too big for them. And while they’d always been regular visitors to Donegal, they started to spend more time in Inishowen.

They started to imagine what a life might look like back in Donegal but it had been so long since they lived there that Elma worried about not knowing anyone and not doing anything.

While Patsy worked in development education, he was also very involved in the music scene and already had many friends and acquaintances. However Elma felt she would have to do find her own way to get to know people in the area. Teaching yoga in Clonmany was her way of reaching out to people.

“I really just wanted to be able to say hello to people in the shop – I wasn’t looking for a best friend. I also wanted to do a little bit of yoga. I started off with two classes and that went to three and then five,” she says.

Through word of mouth her reputation grew and she recognised a hunger locally for yoga classes. Now Elma is preparing to give classes to yoga teachers with one specifically about teaching teachers chair yoga.

While these classes can be especially good for people with limitations, Elma says the chair is underrated as a prop and when you do yoga in a chair you are learn about breathing so much easier.

“I want to share my passion for yoga. Learning yoga is a life skill – what is there not to like? It’s about maintaining your body as you get into your older years too. I love seeing people blossom,” she says.

At her Monday morning class, she take a mixed age group with women in their thirties up to their sixties. “Yoga is achievable for everyone and it’s adaptable. It’s not high impact and people who are starting to have issues like arthritis and osteoporosis can benefit greatly,” she says.

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