A long way from LA...

Cork-born scientist turned yoga teacher Ducky Punch returns from LA this New Year for a series of workshops, writes Chris Dunne
A long way from LA...
Ducky Punch , Yoga teacher from Glanmire but now living in LA. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

CORK-BORN Yogi Ducky Punch is a regular visitor from her home in LA to Hehir Island.

“Hehir Island is the perfect, beautiful, natural environment to practice yoga,” says Ducky, who is from Glanmire.

The Grainstore in Ballymaloe is Ducky’s latest venue where she plans to teach a mix of Vinyasa flow interwoven with Forrest yoga. The first yoga weekend, ‘Inspired and Energised’, is scheduled for January 5, 6 and 7, while a second, ‘Reboot and Re-energise’, takes place on January 11, 12, 13 and 14.

“The weekends are a perfect introduction to yoga for those who have never practiced before,” says Ducky.

East Cork is a long way from LA, where she lives and where she is a full-time yoga teacher.

 Ducky Punch , Yoga teacher from Glanmire but now living in LA. Pictured at Ballymaloe.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
 Ducky Punch , Yoga teacher from Glanmire but now living in LA. Pictured at Ballymaloe.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“In LA people want the yoga booty,” she says smiling.

Can we get the yoga booty here in Cork too? Yes we can, according to Ducky.

“I say ‘stick with me’ and do lots of back bends and keep squeezing, and you’ll be filling your jeans in no time!”

Sounds like a plan. But let’s get the elephant out of the room first. Ducky? That isn’t her original Christian name, is it?

“The Punch part is real,” says Ducky, referring to her surname. “My mother, aged 77, who still lives in Glanmire, and who lives for her garden, was born in France, and she lived in Poland. When I was a babe in arms, she had sweet pet names for me that translated to ‘my little ducky’, for instance. Ducky stuck. I like it. I much prefer it to my given Christian name.”

Which is?

“I prefer to keep the mystique,” she says.

What is the Hehir Island connection?

“My first cousin, John Desmond, is the chef at the Island Cottage Restaurant renowned for serving the daily catch from the sea with home-grown island vegetables,” says Ducky.

“People come for miles to enjoy the experience. They leave their stress on the mainland.”

And now they can enjoy another experience to relieve the stresses of modern-day life.

“The venue, Hehir Island, is the perfect back-drop for a relaxing, invigorating, yoga retreat,” says Ducky.

“I have hosted two yoga weekend retreats there. People from all walks of life participated and they really enjoyed it. Likewise, the Grainstore, and its surrounds, is really conducive to relaxation and re-energising the body.”

Ducky didn’t always eat and drink chakras.

“No, I had a resistance to chakras and energy. I wasn’t into the woo-woo elements of yoga. In the beginning I had a love/hate relationship with yoga.”

That changed when she travelled to San Francisco.

“I was in my early twenties,” says Ducky. “I left for the USA and I never looked back.”

 Ducky Punch , Yoga teacher.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
 Ducky Punch , Yoga teacher.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ducky’s background was in science.

“I kind of fell into yoga,” she says. “I never, ever, dreamed that I would teach it. After a degree in biochemistry, I did a Masters in neuroscience and studying cranio-sacral therapy, I worked as a researcher on the Genome project in San Francisco. A pal brought me to my first yoga class,” says Ducky.

“I remember I felt great after the class. And then I dribbled in and out of more classes and I dabbled more into yoga as I took on extra classes.”

She found that even after running long distances, she had no after-effects.

“After running my first marathon, I was tight as hell the next day. But I never got injured. It was down to practising yoga.”

Ducky’s scientific background prompted her to explore the world of yoga more. She took time off her research work and took on a yoga teacher-training programme.

“I saw yoga as a very scientific, preventative medicine,” says Ducky.

“It grabbed me and I saw yoga as a very rich practice. Because of my scientific background, I was different to many of my peers, looking at yoga as more anatomy based.”

Ducky took to her new role like a duck to water. After moving to LA, she has been teaching yoga for 17 years with thousands of hours under her belt.

“All my teaching is based on a deep understanding of the body,” says Ducky.

She describes her yoga as a mix of Vinyasa flow interwoven with Forrest Yoga principles, peppered with a little Kundalini Yoga.

“Much of what I try to do in my teaching is to open up the body to affect postures,” says Ducky. “But secondary as a consequence of that, the poses make you feel better, more rested and relaxed. The breath is important. It has a direct effect on the nervous system.”

Ducky knows every inch of the human body.

“All my teachings are based on a deep understanding of the body,” she says. “When I take people to inversion — the head-stand, it is a reason to allow the heart to slow down it’s beating, as the normal blood flow is reversed. It is very scientific.”

Ducky sees the big picture.

“I see yoga as a form of preventative medicine that keeps the spine flexible and upright so that posture is good and you are not hunching over on top of the heart.”

Good posture is important.

Ducky Punch.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ducky Punch.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Bad posture causes terrible damage to the internal organs,” says Ducky.

“I want to help take stress away from the heart and help recalibrate the nervous system. My classes are about regulating the sympathetic nervous system; the fight or flight response, so you can be in a space where you are relaxed. Achieving that balance is the aim.”

Ducky’s own approach to yoga has changed over the years.

“In my twenties, my approach was playful and fun,” she says. “In my thirties, I began to explore the nature of my practice and the meditation side of things. I found I liked being quieter.

“Now, in my forties, my practice is fundamentally different than in my twenties. It is richer and deeper. I accomplish more every day in a half hour just by sitting and breathing. I love the wellbeing aspect yoga gives me.”

Does she live a monk-like existence? Ducky laughs.

“I can be picky what I eat,” she admits. “I am a fiend for kale and Swiss chard, and I like rare, grass-fed beef. I could never give up my glass of red wine!”

Ducky teaches yoga in numerous venues in LA.

“I teach classes privately too. Some people prefer one-to-one classes. I love going to yoga retreats myself and I’m not long back from a retreat in Mexico.

“In LA, there are yoga studios in every corner. It may have started as a craze, but it is a craze that has lasted. Meditation, mindfulness, has been practised for thousands of years.

“Yoga has lasted all the way through the ages.”

It is also accessible to everyone.

“True beginners dip their toe in and when they come to my class they find their level,” says Ducky.

“They become more flexible and less stiff with practice.

“As people practice yoga more; they find it more enjoyable as the body moves as one. The wellbeing aspect is truly wonderful.”

For more information about the upcoming yoga workshops, contact Bree at the Grainstore, Ballymaloe, on 021-4757200.

THE BENEFITS OF YOGA — ACCORDING TO DUCKY

Revive a connection to the body.

Increase flexibility, reduce excess weight, feeling of wellbeing and deeper peach.

Pranayama or breath work can decrease stress hormones so we feel more relaxed and energised.

Relieve chronically tight joints such as the shoulder hips and vertebrae of the spine.

Better posture, greater ease in the body offering a feeling of greater energy and confidence.

Cultivate physical and mental strength.

Individuals with chronic tension may stave off medical intervention that, with time, would be inevitable.

Increase blood circulation, decrease blood pressure.

Sweat and detox, twist the abdomen which moves the organs.

Yoga can help arrest further development of scar tissue Promotes restful sleep.

Creates deeper awareness of ourself and our habits.

Permeates into our daily life affecting our movement and posture, our choices around food and our actions to others.

We have a lifetime to practice our thoughts, what we practice we perfect, yoga has the potential to expose negative thought habits which we can then chose to drop and create better habits.

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