Category: Archive

Working Lives: Seeking balance, even Nirvana, through yoga

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Harry Keaney

In the foyer of the Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel, on Lexington Avenue, last Wednesday morning, Paul Dallaghan seemed starkly out of place.

While others, mostly crisply attired, starch-shirted businessmen, hurried on with the mundane task of checking-out, Dallaghan, fit and firm in his tracksuit and sneakers, was sitting peacefully, observing the rat race he has decided to leave behind.

Only a few years ago, Dallaghan, a Limerick native who grew up in Dublin, was among the sober-suited corporate brigade. An economics and business graduate of Trinity College, he worked in Ireland and Germany before coming to the U.S. in 1995.

"When I came here, I interviewed with Wall Street firms, and one day I was sitting on the bond trading floor of Merrill Lynch and I came to the realization that this wasn’t what I wanted," Dallaghan said. "I ripped off my tie and decided to follow my dream — acting.

"This meant I had to wait tables and take acting classes, including a class on movement for actors, which had a few yoga poses, and I thought ‘this feels good.’ Out of that came the desire to look more into yoga and find out what it was all about, purely from a physical point of view."

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Hence, the 28-year-old’s introduction to this most ancient of physical and meditative exercises, which he now teaches to those seeking calm and clarity in their stress-laden lives.

"It’s a great way for executives to become more focused because it not only strengthens and calms the body, it helps the mind to relax so you have greater focus and can think more clearly," Dallaghan said.

"From a physical point of view, it’s probably the most challenging form of exercise one can do, and I gladly offer myself as living proof," he said, displaying his solid, sturdily sculpted biceps. "I do not lift one weight."

But yoga is about more than exercise. According to Dallaghan, it was a sage in India named Patanjali who, more than 5,000 years ago, wrote down the essences of yoga practices in the ancient language of Sanskrit.

"The word ‘yoga’ roughly translates to ‘union,’" Dallaghan explained. "It goes from the physical to the mental to the spiritual. It’s about connecting yourself with a higher source, ultimately God, or however you want to view it. The ultimate benefits come from meditation, and from living according to the eight limbs of yoga."

These "limbs," or precepts, according to Dallaghan, are: yama, which are social concepts to live by; niyama, moral concepts; asanaas, the poses seen in a typical yoga class; pranayama, breathing exercises; pratyahara, the effort to curtail one’s senses from dictating behavior; dharana, concentration; dhyana, meditation; and samadhi, or Nirvana which, Dallaghan said, is "the ultimate goal" of yoga.

"The first four are body related," Dallaghan added. "The other four relate to the power of the mind."

Every week now, Dallaghan conducts about 20 yoga classes, which includes groups and private individuals in a number of Manhattan locations, including in-company sessions. Guests of the Fitzpatrick Group’s two hotels may also avail of his instruction.

As for pursuing his theatrical dream, Dallaghan will later this month play the Covey in Sean O’Casey’s "The Plough and the Stars," which will run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 21 in T. Schreiber Studio, in West 26th Street.

"I love doing the acting," he said. "Teaching yoga provides me with a living. But now, I never wake up and feel I ‘have to’ go to work. I love what I do."

In time, Dallaghan would like to become a respected actor who happens to have a strong yoga practice. But what he, in essence, is seeking and espousing is the idea of balance, which, for many people in today’s crazy world, would be Nirvana in itself.

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