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6 Days Connecting With Horses Yoga Retreat in Clare Island, Ireland

  • Macalla Farm (Clare Island Retreat Centre), Clare Island, County Mayo, F28 TR96, Ireland

6 Days Connecting With Horses Yoga Retreat in Clare Island, Ireland

  • Macalla Farm (Clare Island Retreat Centre), Clare Island, County Mayo, F28 TR96, Ireland

Horsemanship and Mindfulness Yoga Retreat Ireland

On this unique retreat, you will look how you can use mind, body, and breath to communicate with horses. It involves four hours of yoga and mindfulness practice every day, as well as a lot of time spent outdoors with the horses, and for this reason, a good level of physical fitness is recommended. Experience how to communicate and connect with horses while enjoying the wind of a unique Island!

Highlights

  • Daily yoga classes
  • Daily meditation practice
  • Practical work with the farm’s horses session
  • Mindful movement, mindful breathing, and breath awareness
  • Learn to communicate with horses effectively
  • Daily organic vegetarian meals
  • 5 nights accommodation
  • 5 days with instruction
  • French, English
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During the retreat, you will be accommodated at Macalla Farm. The accommodation at Macalla Farm is comfortable and relaxing with beautiful views of Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick. Two buildings make up for accommodation. One an ecologically renovated cottage built at the turn of the last century and a renovated outbuilding known as the extension.

Both of those houses are strictly non-smoking and do not have a Wi-Fi, television, microwave, or hair dryer. All bed linen is provided except for towels, which you will need to bring with you. You will be staying in one of the shared rooms. A limited number of single rooms are available on a first come first serve basis. If no single room is available at the farm, it is generally possible for the organizers to book a room at a local bread and breakfast (BnB) which is about a 10 minutes’ walk from the center.

In your arrival day, the retreat starts with dinner followed by an introductory talk and a short meditation. Each day of your stay will start with a two-hour yoga class focusing on mindful movement and breath awareness. In the afternoons, you will do some practical work with the farm’s horses. You will look at how horses communicate with one another and how you can use posture, movement, breath, and eye contact to communicate with them effectively.

In the late afternoon, you will have another yoga session which will focus on mindful breathing and meditation techniques, with a focus on using these techniques in your work with horses. Macalla Farm’s retreats are small and the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, one in which you can explore and deepen your experience of yoga, rather than strive or compete.

The unique island setting, with nature so close at hand supports this developing awareness of your connection to your bodies, to your breath, and to the earth. At Macalla Farm, their horses play a significant role in your lives and the life of the farm. The six horses and two ponies are their friends and companions and they care for them as naturally as possible.

Over the years, Macalla Farm's style has evolved from the Ashtanga-Vinyasa they were teaching in the early days to a slow, strong, and balanced practice integrating pranayama, meditation, and ethics with asanas, which they call Sati yoga.

Macala Farm's work with horses has developed with their yoga practices, fostering a deeper interaction between human and horse while the importance of sustainable eating has become a keystone to their lives as they produce more of the food they eat. Finally, their meditation practice and teaching of mindfulness have emerged as a unifying principle for all their endeavors.

The horses live as a herd and are free to roam the large upland expanse of the farm all year round. Macalla Farm ride and work their horses without shoes or bits and use herbal wormers rather than chemical ones to keep them worm free.

Connecting with horses through Sati yoga

Macalla Farm’s yoga and horse courses are unique in Ireland, combining the holistic mind-body practice of Sati yoga with the tools of natural horsemanship. There are many yoga postures which through practice will benefit riders. But, these courses are not just for riders and people with considerable horse experience. Yoga assists you in creating more refined body awareness in general, which in turn improves communication with the horse.

On another, more subtle level, through the practice of pranayama (yogic breathing), you become more aware of your breathing and are able to release parts of your bodies which hold tension, something which the horses definitely notice! Macalla Farm has found that when using breathing techniques, the horses are also able to relax and trust you better. Yogic breathing increases your concentration, and with better focus, communication with the horses becomes clearer and easier.

Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, you learn to develop a non-reactive mind. Horses are acutely aware of the emotional state of their handler, whether the handler is or not. The confidence, calm, and emotional balance developed through yoga and mindfulness practice makes all the difference, especially in dealing with new or stressful situations, as well as competitions.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and open to experience, without judgment, and with an attitude of discernment and kindness. While the instructions may be simple, following them is not easy. You begin to understand that the nature of your minds is to wander, to be often distracted, jumping from the past to future, anywhere but here. But as you practice, a newly spacious relationship to your thoughts brings both peace and freedom.

At Macalla Farm, in addition to mindfulness and yoga, they offer unique courses combining mindfulness with food and horses. The unique setting of the island, with its contrasts of sea and sky, vast space, and intimate quiet, enables you to be more aware of what surrounds you as well as what is within.

Mindfulness and yoga

Combining the practice of mindfulness and yoga is a natural extension of these two practices, which share the same roots. Mindfulness meditation is as much a practice of the body as yoga is a practice of the mind. Sati yoga, the approach Macalla Farm has been developing weaves together the mindfulness teachings of the Buddha with the teachings of classical yoga as well as 20th-century yoga masters such as Krishnamacharya, Sivananda, and their students.

It is a transformative practice which aims at developing mindfulness of body and breath through asanas (postures), systematic relaxation, pranayama (breath training), kriyas (cleansing practices), and various meditation techniques.

During a Sati yoga retreat, you begin with developing awareness of the breath, through guided meditation, simple pranayama exercises, and basic asanas. You learn to notice how mindfulness of breath affects the quality of your physical practice. Using various simple “tools” which allow for the integration of meditative awareness with the physical postures, you mindfully approach more challenging postures from various hatha yoga traditions with the qualities of ease and stability.

Mindful horsemanship

Because horses have evolved in an environment where being fully aware of their surroundings was a matter of life and death, they live entirely in the present. They are also very skilled communicators, using movement and breath to connect with each other in a peaceful and authentic manner.

As such, horses make excellent mindfulness teachers. In order to learn to communicate effectively with them, it is necessary to be fully present, to develop an awareness that matches theirs. Combining mindfulness and yoga with horses, you will put into practice mindfulness skills in an innovative setting.

  • Christophe

    Christophe originally trained as an Iyengar teacher in the late 1990s, but his practice and teaching have since been influenced by a number of other yoga styles, particularly Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and the Atma Vikasa style of Acharaya Venkatesh (from Mysore, India), his main teacher for a number of years. He also teachers pranayama and has been practicing various styles of Buddhist meditation for many years.

This retreat takes place at Macalla Farm, Clare Island, Ireland. Macalla Farm is a small, family run retreat center, and working organic farm situated on Clare Island off the West coast of Ireland at the entrance to Clew Bay.

The island setting is wild and beautiful and Macalla Farm includes dramatic sea cliffs, upland and bog, vegetable gardens and polytunnels, and a native woodland. Macalla Farm offers an abundance of space and quiet, as well as that special sense that comes from being on an island. Your taste buds will be awakened and your body will be nourished by their creative and delicious seasonal vegetarian fare, using the freshest of ingredients grown there on the farm.

The largest of the off-shore Mayo islands, it has a varied terrain made up of spectacular cliffs with large numbers of nesting sea birds and a rich inland topography of hills, bogs, and small pockets of woodland making it ideal for hill walking.

The island’s complex history can be read through its landscape that ranges from archaeological remains of the Neolithic and Bronze age, to rare medieval wall-paintings in the 14th century abbey, to the pirate queen Grace O’Malley’s (Grainneuaile) castle, and burial place.

The island has been much studied, with the R.L. Praeger’s The Clare Island Survey perhaps the most well-known. The island has a number of bed and breakfast, a hostel with a bar and restaurant, a community center, pub, and one shop which is also the post office.

Nearby places

  • Harbor, 1.5 miles
  • Main beach, 1.5 miles
  • Pub, 1.5 miles
  • Shop, 2 miles
  • Westport, 14 miles

In this retreat, you will be served daily organic vegetarian meals. All product is organic, sourced from the resident farm or homegrown. With so much conflicting advice given in the media about food, Macalla Farm believes that eating healthy food should never be a burden nor a matter of following a complex chemical formula. First and foremost, the food must be delicious, easy to prepare, real, and not processed.

Macalla Farm has its own garden growing over 30 different types of vegetables, often heritage varieties. In addition to the usual vegetables, they grow different types of kales, many different types of beans, eaten fresh or dried for winter meals as well as an abundance of pumpkins for soups, curries, roasted, or in pumpkin pie.

They also grow oca (and sell as seed) a South American tuber which is delicious when roasted. From the orchard, blackcurrants provide the makings of kilos of jam and steam-pressed juice and they also have more than a dozen varieties of apples in the orchard.

The polytunnels allow them to grow delicate fruits and vegetables: in addition to tomatoes, they produce abundant harvests of aubergines, chilies, peppers, sometimes melons, and of course grapes. From middle August through September, you will feast on the most deliciously sweet white seedless grapes ever!

Macalla Farm's open plan kitchen and dining room with its wonderful views over Croagh Patrick is a key feature of their retreats and courses. All meals are prepared and eaten here. At different times of the year, the kitchen becomes a hive of activity as they transform their surplus fruits and vegetables into jams and chutneys, fermented pickles, and kimchis.

Macalla Farm makes elderflower champagne, various cordials, and mead from the honey. At all times of the year, they make their famous sourdough bread and are keen to pass on the skill (and starters), to those interested.

The island offers some excellent hill walking and bird watching as well as archaeological and historic sites. You are welcome to borrow books from Macalla Farm's extensive library. There are also skill session options in the kitchen such as vegetarian cooking, bread making, food preserving. You are always welcome to help in the garden or in the kitchen

  • 3 daily organic vegetarian meals
  • 5 nights accommodation
  • Daily meditation practice
  • Daily yoga classes
  • Learn to use posture, movement, breath, and eye contact to communicate with horses
  • Mindful movement and breath awareness
  • Practical work with farm's horses
  • Airfare
  • Airport transfers
  • Personal expenses

Driving direction from Westport

  • From Westport, take the coast road to Louisburgh (10 miles) and drive straight through Louisburgh.
  • About a quarter of a mile after the village, just after the Nomadic Display factory on the right, take a right turn to Roonagh (the road is clearly signposted for Roonagh Pier and Clare Island).
  • It is a further four miles to the pier; allow a good 35 minutes from Westport to Roonagh.

Arrival by airplane

Please book your flight to arrive at Dublin Airport (DUB) or Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC).

Arrival by bus

There are good bus and train connections to Westport. There are direct buses from Dublin Airport (DUB) to Dublin Heuston train station (called Airlink, route 747 - this journey takes about an hour). There are also bus connections from Dublin, Galway, Sligo, and Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC).

If coming by bus or train, you need to be in Westport by 4:00 p.m. For scheduled retreats and courses, Macalla Farm will try to put you in touch with another course participant who can give you a lift from Westport, or if numbers warrant, they will organize a shared minibus (expect to pay between 10 to 15 EUR depending on numbers).

Arrival by ferry

When the organizers confirm your booking onto one of the retreats or residential courses, they will let you know which ferry you should take on the first day of the course. As long as you take the designated ferry, the boat fare is included in the course fee and they will organize your transfer to the farm from the harbor on the island.

If you take another ferry, please let them know by text or phone. Also, make sure that you are on the right boat, the ferry for Inishturk also leaves from Roonagh quay, and may be at the same time. Note that if for whatever reason you arrive on the island with an earlier or later ferry, you will have to make your own arrangements for travel and (if need be) accommodation.

Roonagh Pier is the harbor serving Clare Island. If you are bringing your car, there is a large car park where you will leave your car (as it is not practical to take it to the island on the ferry). The car park is safe, with two CCTV cameras, and is used by islanders.

Ferries are great for a slower journey and the costs are about the same - though the stress and environmental impacts are much lower! Ferries to Dublin or Dun Laoghaire (a few miles south of Dublin) can be taken from Holyhead (UK).

For those coming from the UK who do not wish to fly, a Sail Rail ticket is a great deal. There are also ferry services from Scotland to Belfast, from South Wales to Rosslare, and from France to Rosslare or Cork.

Arrival by train

The train from Dublin to Westport leaves from Dublin Heuston station and takes around three and a half hours. To arrive in Westport in time, you will need to take the lunch time train. Ireland’s train travel website is IrishRail. If you are planning to travel by train, it is usually far cheaper to book your journey online at IrishRail in advance, rather than buying your ticket at the station on the day.

Arrival by taxi

If you need your own taxi, expect to pay around 35 EUR for the run from Westport to Roonagh Pier.

  • The deposit is fully refundable if the booking is cancelled up to 30 days before the arrival date.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid on arrival.

Verified BookYogaRetreats.com reviews

  • J
    Review by Janice Ziegler from Ireland

    Great Stay on Macalla Farm

    CONS Cons: Weather was a bit wet at times, but that was to be expected.

    PROS Pros: I really enjoyed the pace of yoga, working with the horses and the lovely space provided by Ciara, Christophe and their helpers. Overall a great stay.

    2017-Jul-05 08:27:27

  • C
    Review by Cliona Saidlear from Ireland

    CONS Cons: too much breathing not enough moving

    2017-May-03 07:43:23

  • Review by Aoife Murphy

    "I had a wonderful time with great home made food. Ciara and Christoph are very welcoming and they give thoughtful yoga practices. It is well organised retreat and had comfortable accommodation. It is a great trip for people wanting to switch off. Beautiful island where weather is good. I will definitely be back!"

    BookYogaRetreats.com website, edited, edited

Testimonials

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "Just want to say again that I had a fabulous time on Clare Island and I thought so highly of both of you and your teachings. I’ve had so much fun with what I learned from you both."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from United Kingdom

    "It was one of the best holidays that I have ever had. Many of my colleagues and friends have asked for the details after my tales of gastronomic delights, wonderful yoga classes, fabulous views, and a very warm welcome."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by C. from the USA

    "Thank you for your patience. And, mostly, thank you so much for your wonderful hospitality and example in the world. I came away from the experience of your retreat with rich reflections and a sense of clarity. I hope to return at some point."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by S. from Ireland

    "I would like to thank you and Christophe again for an incredible few days. Although I found it challenging, you really inspired me with your kindness and patience and I hope to continue with the practices you both taught me. The food was delicious and I definitely think you should consider publishing a cookbook."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by J. from Northern Ireland, UK

    "I just wanted to drop you an email to say thank you for hosting such a wonderful retreat. I came home feeling truly rested and rejuvenated. So much so that, when I picked my daughter up from the airport on Sunday, she said Mummy, you look really good and relaxed!"

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by S. from Netherlands

    "The classes were very inspiring and I took some important movements and a good point of focus and awareness with me. And apart from that and the delicious food, the farm is filled with a good energy that you create with your work and dedication.2015. Macalla Farm websiteReview by G. from the Galway, Ireland:Thank you all so much for sharing your home, energy and talents. Your generosity has been truly humbling. It is inspiring to see that you are really living the lives that so many people aspire to. Being in such a healthy and happy environment, I forgot all my troubles and was really able to live in the moment. I feel revitalized in body and spirit."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from United States

    "I wanted to thank you and your family for a wonderful retreat. I truly am amazed how the experience I have had with you all has changed my priorities. I feel so much more connected to what should be the priority in life versus what I have been programed to believe."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "Just to say a huge thanks for a wonderful week in Clare Island. I really enjoyed it. A great vibe to the place, feeling very calm and my back feels better than it has in years."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "I just wanted to drop you guys a line to thank you for such a lovely week. I can’t believe I’m already home for seven days but thankfully still feeling great. My heels are finding the ground and I’m sitting again, which hasn’t happened in a long time!!! Thank you both again for making me so welcome."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "Thanks once again for an unforgettable retreat. I had a fantastic time - as always, the yoga, the food, and the happy environment you provide made for a very special holiday."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from United Kingdom

    "Thank you so much for one of the most peaceful and enjoyable weeks of my life. Thank you for sharing your wonderful home, food, and yoga with me and the rest of our group. I had a blast."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "I wanted to drop you a line to say thank you to both you and Christophe so much for a wonderful yoga retreat over the New Year. It was better again (if that is possible) than last time. I think I am enjoying the yoga more as time goes on. Both classes each day were really insightful and rewarding."

    "Once again it was a very pleasant group - but most of all, the welcome and warmth provided by you both, in the classes and the kitchen, was second to none. Nutrition for body and soul. It is a very special place."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from United Kingdom

    "Thank you so much for a truly wonderful holiday. My work colleagues are commenting on how chilled out I am. I feel like a new person, you live in a truly magically place. Thank you for sharing it."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "I have to say again thank you and Ciara for the amazing retreat! You two are so inspired. I hope to make it back there again soon, maybe to learn some of the great cooking secrets!"

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "Many, many thanks for a wonderful weekend. Your hospitality and generosity was wonderful and very much appreciated. I sure could do with some of that wonderful food when I return home from work today."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "Just wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you most sincerely for such a fabulous week. The island is truly spectacular and the center oozes authenticity and integrity. I felt very privileged to have been part of that, even just for a little while."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from United Kingdom

    "I have been spreading the word about your yoga holidays to all the people I know who would be interested, raving about the lessons, the food, the island, the animals, the accommodation, etc. I hope to come back myself some time."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "Thank you for your hospitality and welcome. I feel full of energy after the two weeks and definitely feel the difference in my practice."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from United Kingdom

    "Just wanted to pop you a quick note to say thanks so much for the retreat. I had the most fabulous time and feel fantastic. You were fantastic hosts and I really hope to be back some time this year for another break. It was honestly I think the best holiday I have ever had."

    Macalla Farm website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from Ireland

    "I had a terrific week with you on Clare Island. I felt welcome from the minute I arrived."

    Macalla Farm website, edited