CASTLEBAR Mitchels sharp-shooter Neil Douglas overcame a season of hamstring injuries by turning to dynamic hot yoga, writes Tom Gillespie.
Now, after completing 200 hours of training, he is holding traditional yoga classes at Andy Moran’s HealthQuarters and Barry O’Neill’s Bonco Wellness centres in Castlebar. As part of his training he spent over two months in India and hopes to compete another 300 hours to obtain his 500-hour certificate.
When Mayo team full-forward Andy Moran opened HealthQuarters at the Barcastle Industrial Estate, Neil was looking for a job and today he is a gym instructor and personal trainer with Andy, where they have a class timetable to suit everyone, details of which can to obtained by contacting (087) 8781074.
Neil, who also played with Castlebar Celtic, told me of his encounter with yoga.
He said: "My yoga journey started when I was with James Horan (as part of the Mayo squad). I had a horrible year with hamstring injuries. I tried everything and it just wasn’t working.
"Barry O’Neill of Bonco Wellness was doing dynamic hot yoga. I did it twice a week for six weeks in 37 degrees heat to simulate India. All the injuries cleared up and I kept going once a week as best I could with the football in between.
"I looked up how to do the yoga teacher training, a 200-hour course. But in Ireland they only do it at weekends and it didn't suit.
"I was talking to a girl in the gym and she told me a friend went to India to do it. I looked it up and found a course in Goa and booked it last April for the month of December.
"I flew out to Mumbai and then on to Goa. It was a different type of yoga. It was very spiritual, with mediation, chanting and stretches or postures. We did it from 6.30 a.m to 5.30 p.m. We did teaching practice and our own Hatha yoga. It opened my eyes. It was a great experience."
Neil said it was hard to describe yoga unless you practiced it, adding: "You feel relaxed, it releases any tension, and there is a great sense of wellbeing. We have it now on our timetable at HealthQuarters on Monday nights and Thursday mornings. Using your breath is a huge part of traditional style yoga, just in and out through your nose. It relaxes the body and as you stretch you release all tensions. The classes are good and we are getting a good response to them."
Some of what Neil saw in India was not pleasant on the eye. He said: "There was a lot of poverty there, though Goa was probably one of the richer regions. The people live off nothing but they are happy out with whatever they have. When I came home I had lost a stone. I had eaten only vegetarian for the month and all natural fruits.
"After I came home I tore the tendon in my finger. I had an operation and I was in a splint for six weeks so I went back to India for the six weeks. This time I went north. I wasn't able to practice as much with the hand in the splint but I did a good few meditation sessions.
"I moved around every three days. I made my way up though Rajasthan to the northwest and up to the bottom of the Himalayas. It was spectacular. It is the yoga centre of India. It is a very diverse country. The difference between the south and the north is unbelievable."
Neil travelled around a lot while in India. He recalled: "I remember getting a train at one stage for a 17-hour journey. I rocked up to Mumbai train station on my second trip. As a tourist you have to book a ticket to go in either first, second, third or general class. The general class was the only ticket left. I met an English lad and we were both in the same boat.
"It was a scramble for seats. They don’t consider how many seats are on the train - they just keep selling tickets. The general tickets are the cheapest.
"There was pushing and shoving to try and get in. We got in and there was a metal shelf above the seats for bags. I managed to throw my bag up on it and then I sat up on the shelf. Everyone was just sitting wherever they could. There was one fellow asleep on my bag.
"I was 17 hours sitting on that shelf. I didn't move. I didn't even go to the toilet. There were people sleeping in by the toilets. It was the longest journey but a great experience - but once was enough."
Neil would like to return to India and go down the east side and see more of the south.
He added: "I will travel again with the yoga. The plan is to do the 300-hour course now so together with the 200 I have done I will get my 500-hour certificate.
"My plan is to go traveling and teaching to Indonesia, maybe at the end of the year or the start of next year, where Bali is the main hub for yoga."