The Yoga Picnic

Leading the Way Towards a Greener Future

  As part of our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, The Yoga Picnic 2024 is leading the way in festival sustainability with an electrifying new initiative: power our stages, sound systems and microphones with electric vehicles! Say goodbye to noisy and polluting diesel generators that are a large part of other festivals, and say hello to a green, cleaner festival experience. By ditching diesel generators and embracing electric, not only are we reducing carbon emissions that are generally associated with powering stages, but also leading the way for a much needed change in the festival scene. We want to show that festival fun does not have to come at the expense of the planet, and can actually be eco-friendly! We hope to inspire others to adopt similar sustainable solutions for powering their stages and tents. Together, we can make a real difference for our planet! We are immensely grateful and proud to embark on this journey with our Sustainable Transport Partner, Kia Ireland. Their commitment to sustainability within the car manufacturing industry makes them the perfect match to bring this vision to life. We hope you will join us on this electrifying journey, powered by our incredible partners and fuelled by our passion for a sustainable future.

Yoga from the Heart: voices for Gaza

by Alice Harrison We use the tradition of yoga to move the body, tune into our breath, connect with our own rhythm. And yoga is a practice for life in every sense. Taking yoga off the mat is something you have probably heard mentioned in class, and you may have heard mention of the ethics of yoga, the Yamas, perhaps the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence) or Satya (truthfulness). As yoga practitioners, we can commit to practicing these principles in our own lives. Perhaps being mindful of how we eat, how we talk to ourselves, or how we treat others in our day to day lives. I am trying (still learning) to integrate yogic values into my life myself – to keep respect, honesty, integrity and authenticity at the forefront of my decisions or difficult conversations. Yoga is, after all, a practice for all aspects of life. And when we begin to integrate these principles, the ripple effect is immense. The meaning of yoga is “oneness” or “unity” – that we are all one, that everything in the universe is interconnected or part of a greater whole. So then, in the midst of utter devastation such as that on the world stage right now, how can we hold and respond to the immensity of the suffering? Tara Brach, meditation teacher and psychologist, advises us: “In contemplating how best to serve, it helps to pose a deep inquiry to our own heart: What is love asking from me here?” From a young age, our mother always instilled in us a great sense of social justice – she has been an activist for human rights, civil rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights – marching and using her voice ever since the 70s. Growing up, we always knew to speak up for those persons, places and animals which have been harmed and, as best we could, we did. My job for the last ten years has been as a criminal defence barrister – advocating human rights and constitutional rights is an integral part of the fair trial process. In recent months, we have all been faced with an unfolding tragedy in the Middle East. It was clear to me that love was asking me to speak out on behalf of the occupied population in Palestine, to recognise that there is hurt on all sides but that it was these people who needed my voice right now. The Bhagavad Gita warns that, at certain times, to stay neutral or inactive is still choosing and still creating an impact. Instead, act and do so wisely – be a warrior with your hands and feet and a yogi with your heart. Brach’s words are apt here: The only hope for a more peaceful, loving world is for us to open our hearts to all who are suffering, to value and cherish all life. From that inclusive and compassionate presence, we will naturally seek to relieve suffering. It is our caring, not fear or anger, that can guide us in expressing our inner spirit with wise action. And act we must. We belong to this world, and we impact others with our silence or words, our passivity or activity. Brahmacharya, another of the Yamas, means the right use of energy. In the midst of a health challenge this Winter, I needed to step away from social media. I needed to focus on grounding and healing and presence in my own body. I felt uneasy because, although I needed to, it was my privilege to be able to look away from the devastation. But my voice – I still felt called to use it and it became hugely important to me to turn up at events and show my solidarity. There is power and love in attending vigils, events and marches. On a beach in the West of Ireland, on a rainy December day, a large group of us gathered to fly kites for Palestine – the children of Palestine made the Guinness book of records for most kites flown in 2011. A family friend, a young cartoonist studying in Ireland, was one of the children who had flown kites in 2011 when he was just 14 years old. He held his final year exhibition in Galway and shortly afterwards returned to Palestine – just days before 7 October. It is him we are using our voice for. It is him, and all of the others. For me, feet on the ground, people power makes sense. It is difficult, it is fraught and it is easier to look away. It’s our privilege to be able to. But can we keep coming back to that question – what is love asking from me here? Can we connect to that deep inner place of knowing and intuition? Can we listen and tend to our awakening heart? Can we seek academic sources to deepen our understanding of historical trauma? Can we channel our anger or grief into action and show up to protests, vigils, fundraising events and call on representatives? Can we use our voice in whatever ways we can? Can we call for an immediate ceasefire? We are one with this world, with Mother Nature and all of her children. We are all connected. May we always live, speak and act from a place of love to protect her and her children. With this I offer the prayer Lokah samasta sukhinho bavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free. Ceasefire now. ~ Alice P.S. If the above perspective resonates and you are seeking ways to be more active, some organisations you might check out are: Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund: ​https://www.pcrf.net/​ Irish Artists for Palestine: ​https://irishartistsforpalestine.com/​ I also recommend the following: Gabor Mate – YouTube: Collective & Individual Trauma in Palestine/Israel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFmJpzBYCvI

The Winter Solstice

by Katy Harrison “As he spoke, he paused before a great mound grown over with trees, and around it silver clear in the moonlight were immense stones piled, the remains of an original circle, and there was a dark, low, narrow entrance leading therein. “This was my palace. In days past many a one plucked here the purple flower of magic and the fruit of the tree of life…’ and even as he spoke, a light began to glow and to prevade the cave…” A.E. (George Russell) writing about Newgrange in 1897. When I was a little girl I remember my father bringing my brother, my sister and me to Newgrange. He had just been working for years on the exhibition centre there–Ireland’s most famous prehistoric monument and a World Heritage Site. He showed us beautiful images of the winter solstice sun weaving its way through the ancient passageway to the sacred tomb. And although, only a child at the time and knowing I would never be allowed into the tomb for the solstice—unless I won the Newgrange lottery of course, an improbable feat given my track record with winning prizes—I could feel the passion and love for this place through my father. And even in the innocence of childhood I knew there was something profound and special not only about Newgrange but also about the Winter Solstice.​ Celebrated each year around December 21st (December 22nd for 2023) the Winter Solstice is an astronomical phenomenon that marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. With deep roots in Celtic tradition and Irish folklore, the Winter Solstice is a time of hope, signalling the end of darkness and the return of light. The word Solstice is derived from the Latin word sōlstitium which translates as Sun-stop or Sun-still. ​ The Winter Solstice is deeply integrated into Irish folklore and mythology. As a daughter of a folklorist, I grew up listening to stories of faeries and Celts. The Celts, closely attuned to the land and the changing seasons, celebrated Winter Solstice as a shining light that let them know that they were nearing the turning part of the year when the slide towards darkness would come to an end and the lighter part of the year would return. It was a beacon of hope and new life.​ We know the celebration of the Winter Solstice much predated the Celts. According to ancient mythology the Tuatha Dé Danann, who once ruled Ireland, were said to have built Newgrange as a burial place for their chief, the Daghda Mór, and his three sons. In a version of the story, the Daghda sent Elcmar (Boann’s husband) away on an errand, and while he is absent the Daghda seduces Boann, who becomes pregnant. So that Elcmar will not discover their affair, the Daghda, causes the sun to remain at a standstill for nine months so that outside Newgrange only a day had passed. The divine child, Aonghus is born on the same day he is conceived in the great chamber of Newgrange. He grew up to become the god of love of the Túatha Dé Danann and is always associated with birds, especially swans.​ The Winter Solstice is a time of re-awakening and returning to the light and it invites us to prepare for spring. It is an opportunity for a simple yet profound observation of the stillness between the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next. This is a time to reflect and a perfect time to set intentions for the next cycle of life. It is a time to dive deep, celebrate and refocus our direction for the season to come. In yoga, Winter Solstice practices usually include Sun-salutations, restorative poses and hip openers. ​ You can celebrate the Winter Solstice by turning inward, awakening your inner fire and setting your intentions for the next cycle. Here are some ideas you could try. ​ – Get cosy beside a fire—bonfires were traditional in Ireland at the Winter Solstice–—grab some blankets, or wooly socks and jumpers; make your favourite cup of herbal tea or cacao; light some incense and some candles and get a piece of paper and pen. Close your eyes, connect to the Earth’s energy and reflect on the year gone by asking yourself these questions—what can you let go of that no longer serves you? What inspires you? What are your hopes and dreams for the year ahead? (Dream Big!) Open your eyes, write down whatever comes to you—When you are finished throw your musings into the fire, and let the energy of the Earth carry them into the universe. ​ -Go out and watch the Solstice sunrise—one of the most important parts of the ancient Celt’s celebrations— a new day, new light and new hope. ​ -Simply get out into nature for a walk and breathe in the anticipation of new beginnings and new dreams. ​As a Christmas baby, I have always loved this time of year with the Christmas lights and songs, markets and love everywhere but I also know a lot of emotion can come with it, and sometimes grief or pain. So this year let us reach out and squeeze our loved ones extra tight and look forward to a bright future filled with love, health and dreams.

Top Tips on How to Slow Down and Embrace the Christmas Season

By Eibhlin Fitzpatrick The twinkling lights, the joyous melodies, the aroma of freshly baked foods —Christmas is a time cherished for its warmth and festivity. However, amidst the bustling energy of the season, there’s an opportunity to infuse consciousness and mindfulness into our celebrations. Often, the essence of Christmas gets lost in the frenzy of consumerism. This year, why not embrace the spirit of conscious living by re-imagining traditions. Consider handmade gifts, DIY decorations, or opting for experiences over material possessions. These choices not only reduce waste but also foster meaningful connections. Here are some of my top tips on how to slow down and really enjoy this Christmas. – As we exchange gifts, let’s prioritise intention over extravagance. Consider supporting local small businesses or choosing presents with eco-friendly and sustainable qualities. Thoughtful gifts, chosen with care, carry far more significance than expensive tokens. – Amidst the chaos, find moments to savour the season’s true magic. Whether it’s taking a walk and feeling the frost crunch under our feet, cosying up by the fireplace, or enjoying a quiet cup of hot chocolate, these moments ground us in the present and remind us of the simple joys that make Christmas special. – Christmas is a time for connection. Beyond the material aspects, now is the time to invest in relationships. Engage in heartfelt conversations, spend quality time with loved ones, and extend kindness to those who may feel lonely during this season. Small acts of compassion go a long way. – Amidst the excitement, take time for gratitude. Reflect on the blessings of the past year, the lessons learned, and the people who have enriched your life. Practicing gratitude fosters a deeper appreciation for the present moment. – Be mindful of consumption patterns. Enjoy the festive feasts, but also be conscious of food wastage. Opt for sustainable choices and consider donating excess food to those in need. Choosing gifts with minimal packaging and prioritising second hand goes a long way to reducing our plastic waste. – In a world that often glorifies extravagance, embracing simplicity can be revolutionary. A cosy evening with loved ones or a heartfelt handwritten note can often bring more joy than lavish celebrations. This year, bring things back to basics and focus on the small things that really make you happy. – As the year draws to a close, take time for reflection. Set intentions for the upcoming year—intentions rooted in personal growth, kindness, and conscious living. ​ Christmas, at its core, is about spreading joy, love, and compassion. Infusing consciousness into the celebrations amplifies these values, creating a deeper and more meaningful experience for ourselves and those around us. By weaving mindfulness into our festivities, we can celebrate not just the holiday, but the essence of what truly matters. This Christmas, let’s make the conscious choice to celebrate with intention, less waste, and a heart full of gratitude.

Embrace the Dark and Welcome the Light

By Jack Harrison​ On the first page of Moby Dick, that remarkable book about the pursuit of philosophy in the shape of a white whale, Ishmael, the narrator, tells us: “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul… I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” A damp, drizzly November. I know that feeling; particularly living in the West of Ireland. I admit it…I don’t really like Samhain (the festival of Halloween and the Irish word for November). I never have. It’s cold and wet and dark and scary and the hour goes back on the clock. I just want to go to sea and escape. But I usually don’t; because it’s also somehow magical and probably a necessary portal for people who live at high latitudes as we do in Ireland. In the Celtic tradition, Samhain—the midpoint between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice—was the most significant of the four quarterly fire festivals and the beginning of the dark part of the year. It is the end of the Celtic year. But it is also the beginning of the next one. In the darkness, though it seems at first to be a time when all hope is lost, the seeds of a whole new year are sleeping in the earth, gathering strength and waiting for the light to return. The function of the fires and revelry was to help to transform the darkness and move the world back towards the Winter Solstice and the rebirth of light. Famously, this is the time when the curtain between this and the parallel, “supernatural” world opens a little and we get a dim view of what it looks like on the other side. “Fairy” forts open their doors and the spirits of our ancestors are welcomed back to the house to be brought into the warmth of the fire. People dress up to celebrate them as well as to disguise themselves from any harmful entities hidden in the darkness. People travelling on this night are well advised to go in groups to avoid being led astray by the Sídhe or the “good people” (The word “fairy” does not really do justice to the Irish tradition of the magical descendants of the goddess Danú living in a parallel world). If you do get led astray, the best thing to do is to turn your coat inside out so that they won’t recognise you and will be distracted by something else. And if you throw water, or anything else, out of your window or door at this time, make sure you call “seachain” or “beware” to allow invisible creatures to get out of the way. You do not want to antagonise them!… It’s also a time when we can find out what is in store for us in the future. A wedding-ring in a barm-brack or a serving of potatoes and kale foretells marriage, a coin promises wealth and young girls look into mirrors to see their future husbands, though there is also a risk they may see the devil in the mirror (not an auspicious event!). Children go from house to house collecting “apples and nuts”, a tradition which went to America with Irish immigrants, became even more popular there, and then came back again with pumpkins and sweets and “trick or treat”. And my mother (who was not given to such things) swore that, around this time, she saw a fairy woman (Bean Sídhe) singing and combing her long, black hair beside a stream to foretell the death of her grandfather.It’s a time of darkness but also of promise. I’m going to try again to escape Samhain this year but I probably won’t; which may be a good thing—we know how it turned out for Ishmael in his adventures with the great, white whale.