Celtic Yoga: Rooted in Ancient Mythology


Have you ever wondered if yoga’s roots could be traced to any place other than India? Has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason yoga is so globally popular, is simply that it belongs to everyone; that it is not just the property of the Indian subcontinent? Introducing the Celtic School of Yoga; a 21st Century vision rooted in ancient mythology.

Is it such a wild idea to imagine that we don’t need to import all of our yoga from India, that in fact we could, even while we respect and honour all that comes from India, have right here beneath our feet, our very own, grass roots, home grown yoga philosophy and practice? One of the most recent, and beautiful developments in the contemporary yoga scene is the emergence of the Celtic School of Yoga, whose roots are firmly planted in the rhythms and traditions of our own lands.

The Celtic School of Yoga is an Invitation to Enchantment. The school—in its meaning of a shared philosophy—represents a new paradigm in the sharing of yoga that is rooted in the nourishing earth of our own islands to help people in the Western world to realise that their yoga—their connection with the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon—is not the exclusive territory of a far-Eastern tradition but rather it sings inside themselves, inspired by their own tradition and their own place in the world.

In its simplest form, Celtic Yoga is there to dissolve the boundaries between West and East, between Ireland and India, to effect a creative reconciliation between women and men, and to remove those boundaries that separate us from our own natural yoga. To practice Celtic Yoga is to be fully rooted in the earth and enraptured by life. Celtic Yoga en-chants us; it calls us to be fully alive and in deep connection with the land, and with the stories and poetic traditions that grew from her. Western yoginis and yogis have always looked to India to discover yoga, often without realising that its essence is intrinsic to our own culture and is dramatically alive at our far Western boundaries.

The myths and stories of Shiva, Shakti, Lakshmi, and Krishna and the philosophical reflections that we learn from the Vedas, Upanishads and Tantric texts, give us the inspiration and structure within which to place our yoga practices. But where does our yoga vision come from? Does it not arise in Ireland or Scotland or Wales as much as in India? Can our own stories be as much a basis for a real living yoga as the stories we hear from the other side of the world? There are resonances between the origin stories of Vishnu and the great Irish hero Fionn. In the mythology of India, Vishnu came from the world ocean as a fish and child at once and was “radiant with the lustre of wisdom”; Fionn was born of the river goddess Bóinn to become a seer/Druid. He emerged out of her river bringing with him all the Imbass (wisdom) from the nine hazel trees which grew at the source of the Boyne. The Indo-European links are endless.

One of the difficulties of importing to northern countries a wholly traditional Indian approach to yoga is that the climate and culture are so very different; what may feel natural and easy to practice at four am in the tropics in January feels like torture on November 21st in the West of Ireland, or on a desperately cold February afternoon in Somerset. Things are different here. Seasonal changes in available light and heat shape our lives according to where we live. Insistence on rigid structures or schedules of practice imported from India, and/or upon an authoritarian scheme of teaching that demands long periods of retreat in ashrams, is not always appropriate, possible, or nourishing for us.

When we attempt to adhere to Indian systems and schedules of yoga practice we can become depleted, frustrated, or disheartened because these methods and rhythms simply do not fit with our lived experience. We need a new way to share yoga so that it nourishes everyone. The sharing of yoga through the Celtic School of Yoga is responsive, subtle and intelligently attuned to the rhythms of our lives here and now.

Learning more...

If the idea of Celtic Yoga resonates with you and you would like to learn more, a good starting point is to familiarise yourself in the Celtic calendar, its places and Goddesses such as:

  • Imbolg—to the White Goddess as Brighid, the goddess of fertility who poured the future into the Shannon River from her great Iron cauldron
  • Bealtaine—to Danu (of Ireland, Greece and India) on May 1st and her three daughters who constitute the physical land of Ireland, on the site of the Omphalos at Uisneach. Also close to the Omphalos (the navel of the world) was a fire from which all fires in Ireland were lit.
  • Lughanasa—to the Lugh, god of light, at Lughnasa, the festival of the harvest, which included climbing hills and swimming in lakes.
  • Samhain—to the Cailleach (Kali) or Morrigan the witch goddess. Winter Solstice—to Aenghus, son of youth and god of love and birth.
  • Summer Solstice—Midsummer St John’s Eve
  • Spring equinox—We don’t seem to have any record of an older festival but today the festival of the Spring equinox is celebrated on St Patrick’s Day all over the world.
  • Autumn Equinox —The feast of Mabon, the continental avatar of Aenghus, was the Autumn equinox. This was also called Michaelmas, the feast of the Archangel Michael, who was the one to drive Adam and Eve and the snake out of the Garden of Eden

Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Jack Harrison will be leading the Celtic Yoga: rooted and enraptured; grounded and nourished workshop on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th November as well as Celtic Yoga: An Introduction on the evening of Friday 6th November. “The Celtic School of Yoga – An Aisling for the 21st Century” written by Uma and Jack will be available to purchase at the workshops and both authors will be happy to sign your copy.