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Unique & Unusual: Heir Island Cottage Yoga Retreat and Culinary Experience

Last week I made my way to what I thought would be a purely yogic weekend led by my California based teacher Ducky Punch on a beautiful island in Southern Ireland in the most serene of cottages, the Island Cottage. Everything about this experience was unique and unusual. Yes, I said it, unique and unusual.  Now, before these words are misconstrued and mistaken with negative connotation, assume my best intention.

  

 
The weekend at the Island Cottage was hosted by talented chef John Desmond and Ellmary Fenton, who married in 1976 and returned to Ireland to start Island Cottage (which is now their home and business). The couple escalated and made our “grueling” physical practice manageable by making us look forward to the exquisite and nourishing meals that we knew, without fail, would be oustanding.  The culinary experience was communal; it was sensual and it was pure delight and an utterly joyous two hour gathering, post yoga asanas.

  

Approximately 90 minutes into our practice, we began to smell the brown bread baking and the vegetables being sautéed in their spices.  Once we approached our table, the only decision we had to make was to choose the type of wine to pair our starter and main dish with (yes, we had wine on our retreat). The specially designed menu for our retreat, varied anywhere from delicious vegetable soup, fresh hake ceviche or avocado salad. Meanwhile, our main courses, ranged from buffalo steak one day, duck the next, (clearly these made an extreme impression on this carnivore).  As we chatted about how challenging that one asana was, we could hear John whisking the chocolate mousse or the filling for the lemon soufflé in his intimate kitchen. Find some of his not so secret recipes here

  
 

Our loud voices slowly quieted and the metal whisk touched his bowl at a faster rate and the anticipation grew even higher for the best part of the meal (at least for my sweet tooth)- the sweet dessert. I claimed to have also said with two hefty glasses of wine in, that Ellmary’s coffee was “the best I’ve had in my life”. 

  

 It truly was great and it was Lavazza Qualita Rossa, one that I’ve had before, but I’m convinced it was the love that she added, while the beans were in brew.

According to their website:

 “our idea was simple, in fact so simple it was hard to explain; now twenty five years later, thankfully, we don’t need to do too much explaining.”

I would not do it justice with words or pictures, either. The experience is truly inexplicable and one that should be subjective, personal and unique for each person who makes the journey to this beautiful little corner. In fact, what caught my eye specifically were the two words on their main page: unique and unusual.
 

Meditation
 

Oh, was I wrong when I thought that this was going to be a “typical” yoga retreat! Then again, deep down I knew that anything Ducky would have organized would not be “typical”.  Whether she led us through a Kundalini kriya or a Forrest inspired foundational core building hatha sequence, it was unique and unusual. On our first day, she went around the room to assess the needs, expectations and injuries of her students. 
  

A teacher who truly creates space for three days of about 12 hours of practice and meditation and expects to take each individual on a unique journey does not and should not jump straight into physical asana practice. Ducky with her years of experience knows that establishing community, communication and trust through humor and realness are equally important than the sequences. 

So, as the injuries were being listed and expectations were being set, I am unsure whether or not my response was genuine, but I mentioned that “I expected nothing”. 

  

Partly, this was true. Throughout the years, qualitatively speaking, I have felt nothing but great by putting my trust in the time I dedicate to show up on my mat, with her. Her understanding of anatomical and energetic bodies, especially mine, make for a remarkable experience and I had no expectations. I knew, the journey would have been outstanding regardless. I guess that was my expectation, right there, which is why I question my lack of expectation My response was taken as an unusual one at the moment, but then again, I pride myself for being so and surrounding myself with u ordinary and extraordinary folks.

  
As the weekend slowly came to an end, our relationships with each other got closer and as we were saying goodbye to the lush green, the cows, the donkeys, each other and the beauty of what is Heir Island, I am so happy I made the decision to fit this on my European circuit. 

  

In our backyard, literally

I told Ducky hours before we got on the ferry that Ireland had never been my top choice of travel. Not being a pub person or one who enjoys rain much (LA boy at heart), I had made the incorrect judgement about a land which offers more than Guinness Beer and Jameson Whiskey. 

I did try some Guinness though

The humor, the laughter, the joy amongst all the yogis and personalities that came into my life this weekend have imprinted my practice. I truly left Ireland, also known as the land of saints and scholars,  mentally and physically stronger, more open, wiser and extremely joyous. Oh, and wanting to fly (see pic below). 

Dublin Airport

This unusual and unique experience by all of our hosts and participants is truly one I will not forget and one that I highly recommend. Stay tuned for more of her retreats by following her facebook page.

Ducky Punch

For more on my 4 month journey through Europe, Eurasia and Asia subscribe to the blog, follow me on Instagram, snapchat (packyourmat) or FaceBook (Armen Menechyan). So much excitement ahead. 

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6 thoughts on “Unique & Unusual: Heir Island Cottage Yoga Retreat and Culinary Experience

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