Rainforests, waterfalls and starry nights are just some of the many sights you can experience at Maura Rath’s immersive yoga classes and you don’t even need to leave your mat to go on the journey.
The Killenagh native and founder of Yoga with Maura has been chosen to lead a series of yoga classes at the Van Gogh Dublin Experience in the RDS. Not long after the launch of the experience, the creators are now bringing to life a 360 degree, completely immersive digital wellness studio, never before experienced in Ireland.
"It was really exciting. They approached me about the opportunity in May and I had already booked tickets to go with my boyfriend. The minute I walked in I thought, this place was made for yoga. I said ‘I’m in, let’s do it’ and that’s how it started.”
The opening session kicked off on Tuesday, June 21 to mark International Yoga Day and the Summer Solstice.
"I was really nervous in the lead up to it. In the end, there was 90 people there. There was amazing energy and people really immersed in it. By the end of it, everyone was floating home.”
According to Maura, each session aims to ‘awaken and nurture the senses’ and combines visuals, music and her yoga instruction.
"During this busy period of re-establishing our burgeoning social lives, this is the perfect opportunity for you to bring a friend and engage in an activity that energises and resets you, maybe even helps you find a new perspective. I’m absolutely delighted to be able to bring yogis on this journey with me,” said Maura.
This isn’t Maura’s first experience of combining the ancient tradition of yoga with the modern technologies of today. In fact, it is her move towards online teaching that helped her to become a household name, with many people turning to her Yoga with Maura platform for solace during the pandemic.
"Before Covid, I used to teach in the dance studio in Crossfit in Gorey. I rented a studio off them before moving to Dublin. Back then, I didn’t think the online yoga world was really a thing. I always thought I must get a few Youtube videos up, but I didn’t think it was a place where people would practice,” she said.
When the first lockdown hit, Maura was left unable to teach her regular classes. Unsure what to do, she decided to explore the idea of teaching online.
“That night, I went on to my Instagram and put up a story to say that I was going to do a free online class if anyone wants to come online and join. Low and behold, we had 200 or 300 people live during that first week. I continued it for free for 14 weeks and continued to have a few hundred practicing with me every day.”
Since then, Maura has developed her Yoga with Maura website and in recent months, has launched an app. She offers several live classes a day, as well as recordings for those who can’t make the live edition.
"Now I feel that the online world is amazing. In person wins; we cant beat that human connection. But realistically, having to commute to go to a yoga class isn’t possible for everyone. The internet has made yoga accessible to everyone.”
While yoga is now Maura’s passion and her ‘whole life’, she wasn’t always so drawn to the practice.
"I was living in new Zealand in 2011 and everywhere I went, there was yoga studios. Everyone was talking about it. I started running at the time and was getting stiff so I was told to try it. I didn’t enjoy my first few classes. But I thought there was something in it and felt great after so I kept it up,” she explained.
At the time, Maura was juggling her running and yoga hobbies with a job in a busy insurance company. Yoga was something that gave her some relief from the stressful environment after a busy day, she said.
On finding a teacher she connected with, Maura’s passion for yoga continued to grow and this led her to embark on a yoga teacher training in India in 2017. She returned to Ireland with her now fiance in 2018 and since then, has not looked back. In addition to her online yoga community, she now has a yoga studio in Dun Laoghaire and has just finalised the curriculum for a yoga teacher training course, which will commence in February 2023.
While she has many strands to her yoga business and innovative plans for the future, the goal of her teaching remains the same.
"The main thing I come back to is that I want people to find joy in their yoga practice like I found. The world is so serious and even yoga can be quite serious. If I can guide people to tune into their bodies, to give them some escapism and allow them to leave feeling relaxed, that’s all I want to do.”
Maura’s classes in Van Gogh Dublin will run until the end of July. Tickets are available at vangoghdublin.ie/immersiveyoga.