Yoga teacher and life coach: An interview with Ciara Bruton
They say variety is the spice of life, and Ciara Bruton has certainly followed a varied and interesting career path to date.
Over the years, the Athlone native has worked in marketing in Sweden, spent months practising yoga in India, and taught in primary schools in South Roscommon.
These and other experiences have all led toward her current work as a self-employed yoga teacher and holistic life coach catering for "heart-centred sensitive people".
On a recent Friday afternoon, she met up with the Westmeath Independent to talk about her journey. It was cold and wet outside, but Ciara radiated warmth and positivity as she explained how she became drawn to the area of emotional wellbeing.
"I really wanted to spend my time and energy working on that because it's what I really care about. Once people are well, and happy in themselves, they can do anything, and that’s where I felt I could make a difference," she said.
A past pupil of Coosan NS and St Joseph's College, Summerhill, she studied business and languages in Dublin City University, which led a job as a marketing executive based in Stockholm.
"I was working with Irish companies based in the Nordic countries, helping them to find export opportunities," she said. "It was amazing – I was 22 and going to meetings in Finland, Norway, and Denmark.
"Stockholm is so beautiful, but it was a cold, long, first winter there because people hibernate. They literally come out, go to work, and go home, and socialise at home during the winter months."
After "doing some re-evaluation of what I like and don’t like," Ciara then changed career, becoming a primary school teacher after studying for a year in Liverpool. She moved back to Athlone, teaching for two years in Cornafulla NS and five years in Knockcroghery NS.
The "family" feeling of the schools where she worked is something she always appreciated. "I love the smaller schools, where every child would nearly know every other child's name," she said.
When school was out for summer she would go travelling, and this brought her to India. Her first visit there was supposed to last for three weeks, but she ended up staying for five months.
"I then went back to India the following year and did my yoga teacher training – 200 hours intensive – and while I was there I explored a lot of different things.
"I did reiki training. Chakradance. Tibetan massage. I learned meditation in 10-day silent meditation retreats. I did loads of different kinds of spiritual practices, finding out what I liked and didn’t like, and just digging into this holistic world."
As she was thinking about moving away from teaching, and into this new area, she decided to spend a year working at yoga and meditation retreats in Australia, New Zealand and England.
"I met the nicest people and I just felt so great. The people I met inspired me to think, 'I could do this – I could do something different', because when I was in my routine and my everyday I couldn't realise exactly what I wanted to do.
"I was so busy and on my treadmill of life that I couldn't see it clearly. So with the time out, the space, the meditation and yoga, I felt that I was getting closer to where I wanted to go. "
As a result, she started drawing on her classroom experience by teaching yoga classes for children, and a year ago she qualified as a life coach after completing a course with Positive Success Group in the Marino Institute of Education.
So, what exactly is life coaching?
"Coaching is about helping people to figure out their way forward," she replied. "Things like counselling and therapy are looking to the past to try to understand and make sense of the present, but coaching is really about looking at the present and towards the future."
Ciara said the clients who come to her for life coaching are often seeking more clarity in their life. "They might be feeling very overwhelmed and wanting to get some balance, or else they maybe have a decision to make and want to get some clarity.
"Or perhaps things in their life might seem grand, but they just want to have more fulfilment. It could be related to work or it could be related to their personal life."
She said there's a big distinction between life coaching and mentorship. "Mentorship is where someone is going to tell you what to do. 'Look, I've done this, it’s worked for me, and you should do this too'.
"What I say is, you’re the expert on you, so I help you to figure it out. I help you to figure out what’s the right thing for you, through tuning in to your values and what you want from your life. It’s about looking inside yourself."
She said there is nothing "airy-fairy" about life coaching. "A life coach is basically helping you look at the bigger picture of your life and helping you to figure out; What am I spending my time and energy on? Is that what I want to be spending it on? How am I going to move forward?
"So it’s a chance to think deeply. It’s a new industry, a new thing, but more and more people are realising how it can help you to be more effective and happier in your life."
Ciara meets her locally-based clients in the Radisson Blu Hotel, and does online video calls with people who are based further afield.
For those who might be interested in her life coaching service, she offers a free 30-minute session "to see if it would be a good fit". She also provides yoga classes for children on Fridays at Westside Yoga Studio on Connaught Street (beside Brett's Allcare Pharmacy), and is starting adults yoga classes at the same venue this Friday, February 28.
In addition, she organises meet-ups for holistic businesses in Athlone, and runs a 'Highly Sensitive in Ireland' Facebook group. Research by American psychologist Elaine Aron in the 1980s found that 20% of people are more sensitive than the remainder of the population, and Ciara counts herself among that highly sensitive category.
"When I say ‘highly sensitive’ everyone can think of somebody who is, and in our society in general, the pace of life is not suited to being more sensitive. It’s kind of seen as being a flaw.
"But highly sensitive people think deeply and I think that’s because they realise how different they are to everyone else, and they can’t do everything the same way.
"They might think it’s a bad thing, but actually they can do amazing things such as having really strong emotional intelligence," she said, adding that many great musicians, artists and photographers are highly sensitive.
While her work can be "all consuming" at times, she also enjoys going on silent meditation retreats, attending wellness events, and spending time with her nieces and nephews.
"I’m vegan, and I love cooking. Honestly, what I like doing is sitting down and chatting to people with a cup of tea, and going for a walk. There’s not much more to it than that!" she smiled.
She recently completed her first year as a life coach and it's been a very rewarding experience.
"I get such a kick out of every session," she said. "It’s so satisfying and you can see afterwards the calm that it brings to people when their mind has more clarity."
* For more details about Ciara Bruton's life coaching, visit www.ciarabruton.com or the 'Ciara Bruton Coaching' Facebook page.