Turtle steps, tango steps: healing and breathing by a Furbo forest

A post-birth trauma led Ciara Ní Dhiomasaigh to her true calling as a therapist and yoga teacher

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 01:00

When Ciara Ní Dhiomasaigh was born, she had a congenital hip dislocation and was encased in plaster of Paris that was two inches thick.

“I spent my first 18 months as a turtle,” totally unaware that life in a cast was not normal, she says. “And when it was taken off, I spent the next 20 years reacting as if I was a turtle that had lost its shell.

“They used to call me the Storm Cloud,” she says, recalling how she became “incredibly armoured and angry”. Looking back, she is convinced that she was on a “crash course to self-destruction”. The fact that her dyslexia was never picked up at school in Co Galway didn’t help.

She went to France at the age of 19, took a job as an au pair, and after a massage one day she began to develop an awareness about herself.

“I cried solidly for about two and a half hours, and began to realise that I had been locked in and had no understanding of my body,” she recalls. “It was the start of a release.”

She found herself writing for hours, sending letters home to her parents. She trained in 13 forms of massage, spent time in London and Paris, went to India and ran a yoga studio in Mumbai.

To support this search for wellness – this “deep dig for health”, as she puts it – her initial day jobs were in Sheridan’s cheese shop in Galway, where she became manager, and at Delphi Adventure Centre, where she taught outdoor pursuits.

There came a point where she was able to take the leap and set up a practice in massage and yoga. Her mother was both a touchstone and an inspiration, for she had taught her children how to massage from a very young age.

“My mum was a qualified midwife, worked in a US hospital in Libya, as a counsellor for a family planning centre and ran breastfeeding support classes,” Ní Dhiomasaigh says.

“When we were about 12 and smoking outside Mass, she sat us down and told us that we had it all wrong and that spirituality was more important than religion.

“She encouraged us to think of Sunday as a contemplative day, and even offered to pay for psychotherapy sessions when we were older.

“Her philosophy was that it was not what happens to us all, it is what we do with it that matters.”

Spiritual home

On hearing about the Karuna Institute in Devon, Ní Dhiomasaigh signed up for a two-year course, and it was then that she felt she had “come home”.

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