Ballin Temple is a magical spot nestled in the valley near the River Slaney. Since we moved here 23 years ago we’ve managed the place and grown vegetables without chemical sprays; we were officially organic for a few years. Very soon, we’re offering

  • FREE introduction to Grow Your Own on Feb 25 (online) – Tom will take you through what the course is about.
  • Grow Your Own, a course (in person in our garden, and online) that runs monthly from March 25 – Sept 30 to get into growing your own food. The monthly format allows you to keep at it and ask questions to personalise your food growing experience.
  • Summer yoga classes – dates will be announced after Easter. Can’t wait! Not on the yoga mailing list? Scroll to the bottom of the page and join my lovely yoga community.

We’re also selling a thoroughbred (no time!), square-bale hay, and have just gone live on the Wwoofer website. For details on all of that, check out the full Ballin Temple newsletter here.

Be a Nature Sanctuary Supporter

Years ago we had to stop salmon fishing as the population on the Slaney was in peril. Now we manage the river bank much less intensively but walkers love coming to enjoy nature. There are still costs involved in path clearing and other maintenance, so if you’d like to lend support, it is greatly appreciated.

3 tips to help you get the greatest benefit from your yoga class

1. What to eat before yoga class

Yoga is traditionally done early in the morning, so that the stomach is empty and the mind is quiet. An empty stomach is helpful when you’re trying to bend forward, or twist!

And energy is not diverted to digesting food.

But evening classes make an empty stomach tricky. Most importantly, eat what YOU can digest easily. Be aware that a light meal takes about 2 hours to digest and do what you can to accommodate yourself in this regard. Something warm like soup, broth or a plant-based stew would be ideal. As with yoga itself, observation of the effects of your food choices will inform you for the next time.

A bowl of soup

Water intake during class is not a yogic practice. This developed because some “power” or “hot” yoga classes, designed to make you sweat profusely, required water intake. This is not in line with traditional yogic practice so use common sense based on what style of class you’re in. Try to hydrate well up to half an hour before class. You should also attend to personal needs – thirsty types, medication and certain conditions may require additional hydration. Generally, my classes do not promote a need for water.

2. What to wear and bring to yoga

If you’re comfortable, you’re on to something. Anything that does not restrict your movement around the hips and shoulders is perfect. Leggings and a sports top or t-shirt are popular.

LAYERS are important because you’ll warm up during class, but when we lie down for even 5 minutes the body cools down quickly. You are welcome to bring a blanket to stay cosy. Some people simply use their outdoor jacket as an extra cover if they want extra warmth.

what to wear for yoga

what to wear and bring for yoga class

We practice in bare feet. Socks are fine if you’re cold. Shoes are left at the door.

Bring a mat. Yoga mats provide a non-slip surface for the practice. The Shadow yoga school teaches without the use of mats, which has advantages, but on a carpet or a colder floor, a mat is very helpful.

3. Arriving to your yoga class

Being early allows you time to settle in, and avoids disrupting others. However, if you ARE running late, I welcome you, please come anyhow – sometimes life gets in the way of our schedule!

If you’re chronically late, give yourself the space, and permission, for those extra few minutes. That 5 minute cushion is not wasted time, it’s an acknowledgement that you are truly giving yourself time to fully absorb the benefits of your yoga practice. Chronic, avoidable tardiness probably points to some other issue; compassionate inquiry may help to shed light on what’s really going on.

If you’d like to book a class, there’s plenty of choice, from drop in to 4, 8 or 12 weeks, and Zoom. Check out



This powerful practice is a way to find clarity by writing things down. Intentions, unlike goals, do not specify how you will get there, but they give you a direction and priority.

The year can seem to drag or fly by, and taking charge of your time at the start of the calendar year can be a refreshing way to step into new things, or to simply refine your existing way of living.

Before setting intentions for the coming year, let go of the past year. Sit or lie still for a few minutes and thinking through your highlights and lowlights, acknowledging successes and failures equally, and letting any unwanted energy from those moments go with a good exhale. Once that’s done, focus on your heart for a few breaths, feeling the softness of it. Allowing this vital organ to “soften” brings the nervous system into a calmer state.

Now, you’re ready to write a few things down.

Intentions are based on your values, so they allow you to envisage you in your full potential, without expectation of perfection. There’s wiggle room; it’s a mindful direction rather than a stressful challenge or goal.

Values can be about connections to the outside – family, good relationships, community; or personal characteristics and practices like patience, kindness, acceptance, discipline, gratitude; or life priorities like health, happiness, learning, leading, abundance.

Setting your 2022 Intentions

When I first did this exercise, I was struck by how it cleared the dross from my cluttered to-do list and laid the foundations for a productive and focused year. What is your WORD for 2022? Your Word is the overall value for this year. Take your time – it can be tough to decide, or it can leap out at you. Check the appendix for a list of possible words. If you’re overwhelmed, start with a list of 10 words. Whittle down to 5. Choose the one that resonates with you most strongly.


Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based. That way, you can be clear about what’s next, align it with your overall intention, and give have a mini-celebratoin every time you complete a step. Have fun!


What are your PERSONAL goals for 2022?

This may be to do with a personal habit (to create or to break) – read a book a month, watch 1 hour less of TV per day, etc.

What is the FIRST STEP (a very small easy step) that you can take?

When will you take it?


Tick here when you have taken it: ­___

Write your next (small) step here: __________________________________________


What are your HEALTH or FITNESS goals for 2022?

Would you like to have more energy? Complete a 5 km run? Try one new vegetarian recipe a month?

What is the FIRST STEP (a very small easy step) that you can take?

When will you take it?


Tick here when you have taken it: ­___

Write your next (small) step here: __________________________________________


What are your SPIRITUAL goals for 2022?

This may be about you and your self-awareness, or it may be about how you interact with the world. ~Taking a breath when you need a moment; being grateful for something each day; these are examples.

What is the FIRST STEP (a very small easy step) that you can take?

When will you take it?


Tick here when you have taken it: ­___

Write your next (small) step here: __________________________________________


What are your ___________________ (family, professional, etc) goals for 2022?

What is the FIRST STEP (a very small easy step) that you can take?

When will you take it?


Tick here when you have taken it: ­___

Write your next (small) step here: __________________________________________


Roll this process over as many times as you need, to see your goal through. Remember: Intention guides, Goals give a fixed aim, small (achievable, measurable|, time-based) steps make it happen. Happy new year!

What’s going on at Ballin Temple?

More than we expected, especially as Ireland has been under lockdown all year so far.  If you’ve seen some of the posts on social media you’ll have an inkling of how busy we’ve been.  In order to keep the fires burning we were doing a lot of logging since January as our wood stock had expired.  Although it’s not light work it always feels good to be in the woods hauling lumber – it’s fresh out there.  In addition we got an invitation to clear some trees from around a barn at Headfort School where my brother has helped relaunch the friendly well equipped country school near Kells.  When we got there we found out it was a massive job as no maintenance had been done for 25 years.  Luckily I had with me certified tree ninja Jonas Holland Brennan who was able to swing like Tarzan with a chainsaw and remove trees rooted to the roof of the barn!

Jonas also did us a huge favour of reducing a couple of overgrown trees in the garden.  (I’m too nervous to climb a tree with a saw any more (mostly).)  Crowning the trees was a decision we’d put off for years because we don’t like cutting trees, but the positive effects are already noticed and we’ve planted several saplings around the smallholding already this year.  The two trees overshadowed the garden and the plots and provided a handy vantage point from  which vermin could fly in and peck at seeds or poultry eggs.  Now the garden is warmer and lighter and the crows, magpies and pigeons have more difficulty getting in, though they still do.

The last couple of weeks have been spent manically trying to catch up on the spring planting.  A kind donation of manure from Padraig Byrne will have a positive effect on soil fertility – we’re spread more than half of the 16 tonne load.  Phew!!  Broad beans were first to go in (over 2,000) and the onions (~800).  Both are showing their heads now.  Spuds went in (~900) as that hard frost hit a week ago.  Hopefully they’re not too affected by the cold.  (Here’s a little video on tying fleece down, though with the wind these days cement blocks or similar are almost essential.)  Most of the leaves plot is sown and we’ve direct sown brassicas for the first time, i.e. not seedlings.  Hopefully they’ll get ahead of the weeds and give a crop.  And we only sowed the tomatoes (~200) last weekend so they might not be as tall as usual.  It is not normal to need irrigation at this time of year, but we’re basically having a drought so although it’s April (i.e. “April showers”) we’re watering everything!

We’ve also launched a gardening course which is challenging us to share helpful stories of our experience over the past 20 years as well as deliver a kind of TV production as it is a live broadcast (with access to the recorded sessions later if needed).  Luckily Pam is an excellent director, cameraman and editor.  The course is seven sessions, the last Saturday of the month from March to September, so everyone can see the progression of the garden during the growing season.  It’s not just a simple gardening course though, it is much wider ranging to encompass many of the activities pursued on a smallholding, like logging, animal husbandry, infrastructure, marketing, family etc.  Check out the intro video or some of the snippets we’ve posted.  The Smallholder’s Garden offers a different approach which is an amusing diversion from the normal video entertainment.  Join any time as you can watch previous sessions’ recordings.  Next session this Saturday April 24.

After several failed attempts we’ve managed to incubate goose eggs and now have 4 one week old goslings.  We had five until yesterday when the weakest one caught itself in the heat lamp and died.  That kind of accident is why I’ve shied away from animal husbandry – the responsibility of life and death. But it is good to have the new goslings and if they make it through the next month or so they’ll be out clipping the grass in time for summer!

Moving on to smaller animals, insects in fact, the bees survived the winter – hooray! – and we’ve made new hive boxes, which now need roof and floor, so might expand the buzzing habitat this year if we are lucky.

Fishing is open. Although we do not promote the activity and lean more to conservation and nurturing the natural environment, we have welcomed a couple of new members who have taken a season weekday rod – thank you John and Anthony.  We keep the numbers on the river low but would welcome a few more season rods with similar conservation ethics as they help keep an eye on the river and protect it from poaching and abuse.

Pam has started teaching yoga after the Easter break again.  Check out to sign up for the ever popular Tuesday evening class (zoom or Tullow) or the Friday morning class (zoom or Ballin Temple).  She is also offering private sessions and workshops will be announced as they come up.  Yoga has become more popular in the past year as it is an activity that one can do at home and which can help with emotional stress which has been increased by the pandemic. Pam has free resources available on her website and social media to inspire your practice.

On the subject of health and the pandemic, information seems very varied from the political aspect of the freedom or not to choose masking, vaccination etc to the epidemiological aspects of surviving and enjoying life.  We had a covid household in January and symptoms varied from almost none to a few days of being “out of commission” followed by some symptoms of “long covid”.  What helped was rest and healthy eating as with any flu and being in a clean environment i.e. NATURE!  (We are lucky.)  The outlook remains difficult to plan as the infection rates remain high, vaccines have partial efficacy, variants are increasing and too many people in positions of responsibility are still talking about “back to normal” which is clearly a non-starter.  Our outlook has been sanguine for many years now but enjoying life is certainly helped by having fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink and wildlife in the neighbourhood.  We hope you can enjoy those simple pleasures. The lockdown certainly seems to be helping wildlife as we’ve seen more squirrels than spotted for a few years now and had our first owl sighting a week ago. Consider joining the nature club here to enjoy and protect the little nature sanctuary here on the banks of the Slaney.

We have some grass livery available for friendly horses or donkeys and will be cutting hay for small bales in a couple of months.  Let us know if you’d like some.

Ballin Temple is a life laboratory for our exploration of system change technologies and offers a living work place to understand the kind of changes that are required to live with nature rather than consuming nature.  The past year has seen developments in consciousness thinking which underline the importance of mental health.  Unfortunately most of us are still insulated from the opportunity to change by traditional mindsets.  But nature is acclaimed as a cure in so many articles over the past year.  So build your immunity by getting in touch with nature.

If you want to get away but can’t go abroad, consider a staycation at one of our holiday cottages.  They are lovely, are fairly priced and offer immediate access to the special area of conservation on the Slaney.  May can be the best month to visit since the weather is usually fine and bluebells an rhododendrons are bursting out in the woods and on the river banks.

Stay well and #LoveNature 🙂

Pam and Tom

For regular notes from Ballin Temple please follow us on facebook.

Cross-legged forward bend: Hips & back

Crossing your legs rotates the hips outwards and stretches the lower back. Resting your hands on the ground and relaxing your head forwards stretches the upper back. Don’t push.

Seated twist: Outer hips & waist

This relieved hip soreness from lying in bed on my side. It also moved my waist and ribs, which felt like an enormous relief. Give that knee a good hug. Hold it for as long as it’s doing you good – a few seconds or a couple of minutes.

Thread the needle: Hips & back

More on the hips: But it was nice to lie down. This relieved hip soreness from lying in bed on my side, in a stronger way.

Side-lying twist: Hips, back & waist

This is a more relaxed version of the side twists. I preferred the stronger twist, hugging my knee firmly. But this one is more accessible and more relaxed.

Single leg stretch: Quadricep & lower back

I was surprised how useful this was, to release the discomfort from the whole front of the leg and hip on the outstretched leg. The leg being hugged stimulates the abdomen a bit, and stretches the lower back. Wonderful relief.

Sphinx and Cobra: Mid back bend

Lying in bed for too long causes my back to get tired and sore, Covid or not. This combination of poses gave my back a stretch in the opposite direction to what it was otherwise getting. Careful not to let your shoulders hunch up too close to your ears, that can make the neck sore.

Seated forward bend – Back & hamstrings

Fabulous relief all along my back, heels to top of head. BUT also very powerful: A tiny gesture of drawing my chin in a bit could be excrutiatingly strong. Remember to go easy with all these stretches.

Happy Baby Pose – Deep hip, groin and back release

The first image is the perfect pose :). The second image is a helpful variation. I often ended with this one. If you have the capacity to gently begin to straighten your legs, you’ll get a fantastic hamstring stretch too. Do not reach so hard to grab your feet that you arch your neck and create tension there. Remember – do only as much as you need, and helps you.


When I contracted COVID in January – the dreaded virus had made its way into our household, and our use of masks and attempted isolation did not contain it well enough. – I experienced a sudden onset of pain. The pain was in my muscles and joints; luckily I only suffered very slight, occasional headaches. But it was like something was trying to burst out of my muscles, almost a humming discomfort that refused to let me sleep or even rest easily. It may help you or a loved one to read what I learned from COVID.

My routine for 9 nights when I woke from the pain was to ease myself out of bed and onto the hard floor. There was something comforting about the hard floor: Clarity of sensation. I could feel exactly where it hurt. I stretched. Stretched. Stretched. I was literally to open up my muscles and let the pain out.

It worked, at least most times, at least partially. The best, most restful sleep I had during my COVID bout was after a good stretch.

While symptoms seem to vary, keeping my muscles and joints moving, gently and as needed, was the best solution I could find for pain. But other symptoms like fatigue and headaches need attention too. Here are my 5 top tips to deal with Covid.

  1. STOP
    This is the first lesson. Not just physically, but mentally. It wasn’t the “brain fog” that is listed as a COVID symptom that made me stop, it was the exhausting nature of thinking. The brain uses up a startling 20% to 25% of the body’s overall energy, mainly in the form of glucose. That translates to 350 or 450 calories per day for the average adult. That’s why studying is so tiring. That’s why fatigue causes error.
    I believe that what helped me recover was letting go of technology and resting a lot. Even if you cancel your zoom meetings (and yes, you should!), it’s easy to pick up the phone, scroll down Instagram, comment on social media, read the news, and worry about … whatever you like to
    worry about. Don’t. Sit down. Lie down. Read the comics if you must (your headache or eye ache may prevent you from doing even that) Drift. Close your eyes. Open your eyes and stare at the ceiling, or the sky. Do this for many days. It’s ok. Got kids needing home schooling? They will never, ever remember “today” as a standout day in their life because you didn’t home school them properly. It doesn’t matter. Let them play, draw, “watch TV” (whatever that means to you these days), clean their room, go outside if that’s appropriate.
  2. WALK
    Walk? But you just said to stop!
    Think of this kind of walking as “stopping in motion”. Stroll, and breathe the fresh air a little more deeply to boost your immune system and your mood. Don’t go too far – you’re not challenging yourself, you’re coddling yourself. Just for a few days. Bundle up, and if you feel like a good stretch while you’re strolling along, stop and enjoy a nice big stretch. This releases lactic acid from your muscles and moves your lymph. Both good for “getting rid of” stuff you don’t need.
  3. DRINK
    “Drink plenty of water”, states the HSE’s website.
    I happened to read about founder’s Martha Lane Fox, who suffered a near-tragic jeep accident while on holiday some years ago, drinks tumeric+pepper in hot water every morning as part of her pain management regime. I have included tumeric and black pepper in many smoothies and hot drinks since then. Tumeric is known to reduce inflammation.
    During your walk, as suggested above, or a really good stretch to get rid of the stiffness associated with COVID. Here’s a short video on my favourites – and a “chair yoga” version, here.
  5. BATHE
    If you have the option, a nice hot bath can relax you and your muscles, It seemed to help me. I added Epsom salt – available over the counter at a pharmacy in nice big 4 L tubs – though there is no solid evidence that the salt gives additional benefit. A few drops of essential oils like lavender are helpful. The lovely smells (if you still have your sense of smell) can indeed help to relax you.
    Enjoy the comfort!
    I resorted to pain medication a handful of times when nothing else was giving me relief, or I was too exhausted to put up with it any more. Paracetamol worked well for me, although it did nothing to help me actually sleep. Remember that you are treating a symptom (pain), not the actual virus. The HSE says this: “Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help with symptoms such as pain or fever.
    Paracetamol is usually recommended as the first-line treatment for most people. Before taking any medication you should read the full package leaflet that comes with your medicine. You should also follow any advice a healthcare professional gives you.” There is a LOT of disinformation, and also simply not enough research, to know for sure what is best and what may work against you.

I hope this blog post on what I learned from COVID has helped you. Find out more about my yoga classes here.



Update: April 2021

Two weeks after I recovered, I noticed my muscles becoming sore again, and headaches, this time around the eyes, returned. I kept up a simple yoga practice which included arm movements (prana mudra) and relaxation with my chest slightly elevated. Marma points associated with heart, lung
and blood are around the neck, shoulders, chest and arms. The arm movements, done with deep regular breathing, improve the heart and lung channels in the body
I’m still not as strong as I was but this could be the virus or a simple reduction in fitness. .