From Strength to Strength

Nov 22 / Niamh Colfer
Meet Niamh Colfer, the powerhouse from Hook Head, Ireland, as she shares her remarkable story - from strength training to yoga bliss. Read about her family's "Livin' off the Hook" adventures on their two-year European camper van escapade, and discover how Suryalila became the heart of their wellness journey.

Niamh's yoga journey began with a bold decision – to embrace an alternative, holistic lifestyle. Her path led her to complete the January 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training at Suryalila in 2018, a pivotal moment as it where Niamh's family now find sanctuary, and where she now works as our Marketing Manager!
Born and raised on the Hook Peninsula in Ireland, I initially found my movement passion in personal training and strength & conditioning. Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit were my sports, and I even ventured into Ireland's Strongest Woman competition, securing a proud fourth place. But amidst the physical rigor, I encountered yoga. The demand for flexibility and mobility in sports like weightlifting led me to discover Yin Yoga, igniting my love for the yoga practice.

Living on the remote Hook Peninsula meant no nearby yoga studios. So, I turned to online platforms like RomWod and exploring various yoga styles from Ashtanga to Vinyasa through YouTube. Yoga gradually claimed a significant portion of my training time, becoming a cherished daily ritual.

Before my yoga immersion, life had already taken me on an adventure. A seasoned traveler, I lived in New Zealand, France, and explored Asia & Europe. In 2008, I met my husband, Liam, also from the Hook and our shared love for adventure became the foundation of our unconventional family. In 2017, we set out on a two-year European camper van journey, homeschooling the children along the way while documenting our experiences on our blog "Livin' off the Hook."

As we travelled around Europe, my dedication to yoga found an unexpected outlet. In campsites and on beaches, I began teaching yoga to fellow travellers, sparking a passion for teaching the practice. It was during this journey that I decided to deepen my yoga knowledge, leading me to find Suryalila and the Frog Lotus Yoga Teacher Training.

Suryalila Retreat Center, nestled in the heart of Andalucia, Spain, became a winter sanctuary for my family. In 2018, I enrolled in their January 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training, and that first session marked my first-ever in-person yoga class. The experience was nothing short of magical; an unforgettable sunrise practice in the Om Dome. The training was intense, filled with early morning meditations, yoga workshops, and profound sessions on philosophy and anatomy. 

While I immersed myself in learning, Liam and the kids contributed to some of the ongoing eco-building projects at Suryalila. Little did we know that our initial plan to stay a few weeks would extend to us now living here full time. One morning, not long after my teacher training, I went to one of the Suryalila morning classes, and with some apparent confusion in the schedule and no teacher present, I found myself leading a yoga class in the Om Dome. The positive response from guests and Vidya's encouragement led to me becoming a regular on the daily schedule. Suryalila had become a second home, and it wasn't long before we were hosting retreats, soaking in the centre's serene energy and enjoying being part of the community.

Lockdown at Suryalila became a unique experience, living in a community as the world grappled with uncertainty, we found comfort within the retreat's protective bubble. In June 2020, as the first lockdown eased, the Irish embassy offered us repatriation. We returned to Ireland, but the call of Suryalila remained strong. Back in Ireland, we established our own wellness business, "Livin' off the Hook," offering yoga, breathwork, and strength classes. Our search for a studio led us to an old garden centre on Hook, where we created a thriving hub. We even built our own dome to hold our classes in but a turn of events meant we had to close our business there and take down the dome.

Our journey continued, however, and in November last year when we were bringing our own fully booked retreat to Suryalila, Vidya offered me the role of Marketing Manager. With the proceeds from our business in Ireland, we secured an apartment in Prado del Rey, making Spain our permanent home. Today, our kids attend the local school, and Liam and I continue our work at Suryalila.

My yoga teaching style has evolved over the years, blending inspiration from my favourite teachers, practicality of the advanced trainings I've done, and just my innate down-to-earth wisdom. Teaching in the Moon Shala and Om Dome remains a surreal experience, with breathtaking surroundings enhancing each class. As I continue to grow in my practice and teachings, I aspire to offer training modules in functional movement, anatomy, and strength and mobility development.

"Strength that has effort in it is not what you need; you need the strength that is the result of ease." - Dr. Ida Rolf

As I reflect on this transformative journey—from the rural and rugged coastline of Hook Head to the sanctuary of Suryalila in the Sierra de Grazalema—I'm reminded that life's best adventures often unfold when we dare to step out of our comfort zones.

Completing the January Yoga Teacher Training at Suryalila was really a pivotal moment for me—a plunge into the realm of in-person classes after years of solitary practice from a self-taught yogi to a certified teacher. The initial nerves gave way to the joy of sharing this ancient practice and being part of a community that feels like home. Suryalila is not just a retreat centre but a sanctuary where our family found roots and where I embrace the role of a yoga teacher, personal trainer, and now, the marketing manager.

Our whole journey unfolded with many twists and turns—pop-up yoga classes on the road, a repatriation ferry from Spain, the birth of our wellness hub in Ireland, and the return to Suryalila. Now, living our best lives in the village of Prado del Rey, I am filled with gratitude for the journey so far. 

To sum up this incredible journey, I'd like to share my favorite quote by Dr. Ida Rolf: "Strength that has effort in it is not what you need; you need the strength that is the result of ease." Life beckons us to navigate the dance between control and surrender, in balancing work and play, strength and flexibility, the ebb and flow of it all. It's in finding the sweet spot between pursuing our goals and savouring the present moment, that we uncover the true essence of well-being. 

Let's breathe, flow, and embrace the magic together. 

Discover the magic of Suryalila on one of our upcoming retreats, including;
- Dome-Sweet-Dome in February & November
- The Ultimate Fitness Retreat in March
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