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‘Yoga is a palliative for a stressful life’

Last update - Thursday, February 5, 2009, 16:15 By Denise O’Riordan

Yoga teacher Paola Catizone speaks to Denise O’Riordan about taking yoga in a new direction through her community work here and abroad

Paola Catizone arrived in Ireland in the early 1980s. She looks back on her initial time in the country with fondness, and is amazed at how much it has changed.
“When I came to Ireland I felt I was the only foreigner!” she laughs. “It is only in recent years that Ireland has become a multicultural country.”
Though 1980s Ireland is not remembered fondly, with fears that the current recession will lead us back to its doom and gloom, it is a time that holds a special place in Catizone’s heart, and she feels living through that time in Ireland has given her perspective on the country today.
“Despite the darkness of the ’80s I loved it,” she says. “You got a sense of more traditional values and attitudes.”
Catizone describes her upbringing as multicultural – her father is Italian and her mother is from the Canary Islands, and her childhood was spent growing up between the two countries. This multiculturalism has been passed on to her three children, who she says feel “a bit Italian, a bit Spanish, and quite Irish.”
Yoga has been a passion of Catizone’s since the days of her youth, when she first began to practice it along with martial arts in the Canaries. Arriving in Ireland, she got more serious and began a two-year course with the Irish Yoga Association, despite being pregnant with twins.
“I loved it,” she says. “Today there is too much focus on the physical aspect of yoga, but we also did a lot of philosophy.”
Yoga has become more popular in Ireland since that time. Does Catizone think this has anything to do with the relative prosperity of the country? “People have more money now than when I came here first, but also there is more stress, more work, more running around,” she explains. “Yoga has become a palliative for a stressful life.”
However, yoga’s popularity has its downside, and Catizone laments that it seems to have lost its depth. “It has become another beautifying process for many people”, she says.
Though yoga is still a large part of her life, and she teaches classes once a week, Catizone is now a full time student at the National College of Art and Design, and is involved in community and art projects all over Dublin.
“I wanted something more open, because by then I was beginning to become more involved in art,” she says. “Dance and visual arts were also interesting for me.”
Catizone’s work has taken her to all corners of the country, and strands of the community. Before the Northern Ireland ceasefire, she even taught at Portlaoise Prison – notorious for housing Republican paramilitaries – which she describes as a positive experience.
“It was incredible,” she recalls. “In a way these people are under enforced monasticism, so some were making the most of it by looking deeply into themselves.”
She has also done work at drug rehabilitation centres, and with groups such as Women’s Aid.
“I think community work is very interesting for me now,” she explains. “Sometimes yoga can seem a bit patronising. But when you work with art it is more down to earth and real.”
Catizone also uses her body and art expertise when working with people with disabilities, and she has been closely aligned with the Walkinstown Association.
She describes how the use of her body movement techniques – a form of somatic yoga – provides pleasant surprises for many people with disabilities when they realise what their bodies can do.
“It gives an incredible sense of body pride that they have never experienced before,” she says. “It’s incredibly valuable and rewarding.”

To find out about Catizone’s workshops in somatic yoga, visit or e-mail

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