Monday, 9 November 2015

Thanks to 'wabi-sabi'...a new workshop format...

I was reminded recently of a concept from Japan - where the 'imperfections' of an object like a tea cup are highlighted, in fact painted gold, to celebrate its history as part of a real and whole beauty; rather than spending endless energy trying to be 'perfect'. Something to bear in mind perhaps, amongst the pressures of the festive season! 

As you know we offer 8 week yoga for eating disorder programmes...but we also appreciate that not everyone can commit this we are super excited to have come up with this new half day workshop format...

Exploring the body-mind-eating connection through yoga & mindfulness - a special half day workshop @ The Well Garden.

Do you wish to better understand your patterns around emotions, eating habits and body image? To develop greater self acceptance and learn practical tools for dealing with triggering situations in everyday life? 

Join Dr Sam Bottrill and Ali Gunning for a tailored afternoon of yoga and mindfulness practice plus discussion and gong meditation. We run 8 week courses, professional trainings and workshops exploring the link between body image, eating issues and emotions. This workshop will incorporate recent theories and neuroscience research around self-acceptance, body awareness and eating difficulties with ancient yogic understanding of the body-mind-spirit connection. There will be practical exercises for you to take-home; integrating yoga and mindfulness into the everyday challenges around eating, particularly at this time of year. 
The day will begin with an introductory talk, followed by a tailored group yoga session, mindful tea drinking ceremony, soothing gong (sound) bath and group discussion. 
Clinical psychologist, yoga therapist and mindfulness lecturer Sam works in the NHS and privately, specialising in eating disorder recovery. Ali teaches yoga and yoga therapy for mental health and addiction recovery and is the Well Garden's resident gong practitioner. Together we share a passion for promoting healthy bodies, balanced minds and happy eating. 
Cost £40 per person
Booking/ queries: to Ali, 07855402837 

5th Dec 2015
Timings 2-6pm
At The Well Garden, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, Hackney E82BT 

All yoga equipment, mats, blankets etc provided 

Yoga suitable all levels of experience - please inform us of specific health conditions in advance

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Renewed faith

Patanjali's sutras state that the spiritual aspirant needs 'provisional faith' as well as mindfulness and energy to step onto this path. What about those already on the path for many years, how can our faith continue to be strengthened? In cultivating our connection with our highest self on a daily basis, but also through seeing the emergence of the highest self in others.

I've just finished a month of teaching YTT in Rishikesh. I thank firstly my teacher Yogrishi Vishvektu for his faith in me, even at times when my own conviction falters. But also the 25 Akhanda teachers emerging fully cooked from the 'oven' (as he describes it) of an intensive month at Ananda Prakash ashram. Living, breathing and being 'yoga' together as a community is about much more than becoming a teacher of others, but building faith in our own divine nature.

And reaching out a hand to guide this process offers the same benefit. We see after a certain time (and effort) the transformational power of yoga in our wider lives as well as bodies and minds, but mindfulness is strengthened through seeing the new blossoming of Self in others. This year's group inspired me with their bravery, devotion and will to overcome whatever obstacles appeared. And to embrace not only the practise of yoga on the mat, but in every moment. I go home full of renewed energy to share this practise, on a physical level and as a path to divine living.

My meet and greet card on day one was 'embrace the negative as well as positive experiences' and this is where our faith is truly tested. I borrow a quotation from several students, via the words of Osho: 'I am the centre of the cyclone, so whatever happens around me makes no difference to me. It may be turmoil or it may be the beautiful sound of running water; I am just a witness to both, and the witnessing remains the same.'

When we have faith the right teachers arrive in our lives at the right time to awaken our witness. And from this place our fears - not being good/ smart/ beautiful/ whatever enough - are exposed to be transformed. I'm learning to thank these fears too! For showing me the strength of my faith! Faith does not mean a storm free journey, but does hold our hand and guide us back to the centre.

Love, congratulations and thanks to all. Hari OM. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Gong, gong and yet more gong @the well garden

It seems Hackney can't get enough of gong, so we've upped our offering at The Well Garden to Monday, Tuesday and Friday evening, plus a 'mini gong' for little un's and their parents every Friday at 11.15am. 

Whats it all about?

Grand gong master Don Conreaux coined the phrase 'holistic resonance'. The gong sound represents AUM, the universal sound of creation, and has been described by our students as beautiful, dark, angelic, primal, avante garde, industrial, watery, whale-like and much more. No experience is the same. 

With the widest spectrum of tones and overtones of any instrument we've come across, there is something for us all as the room is enveloped in sound and our relaxed bodies and minds absorb that vibration down to a cellular level. Put more simply, it sounds good and feels even better! 

We are energetic beings - our bodies, thoughts and actions vibrating within a universe of vibration. And sometimes the frenetic pace of life gets us a bit out of balance - disharmony leads to dis-ease. 

The gong is our pied piper to lead us to stillness in a noisy world. Here we can access self healing; re-set ourselves to face the week ahead; perhaps know ourselves a little better away from the distractions of who we have to be on a daily basis. 

In gong we are all equal, laying snugly on the floor, held in a space of love, drifting towards one-ness once again. 

See timetable here.


Your turn to play gong! And all night gong bath. 

This Autumn Equinox we have a special treat for those who wish to understand more abut the gong and pick up the mallets for themselves! 

On Sat 19th Sept gong master, author, musician and teacher Sheila Whittaker is hosting a one day intro workshop (10am-5pm) followed by an all night gong 'puja' (10pm Sat - 7am Sunday). A whole day and night of being gonged and gonging! 

Sheila brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with sound healing, which she shares with insight, lightness and compassion. Not to be missed if you've been enjoying our gongs baths so far - there are just a few paces remaining. 

Click here for full details or contact me with any queries ( 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Dancing between spontaneity & discipline

Several years ago a teacher commented on my practise that it was 'all very graceful and dancer-like' but  tightly-held and without spontaneity. At the time I was both pleased and confused; of course I want my asanas to look great and what did he expect me to do - crack out a hand-stand while he was cueing warrior? Actually this particular teacher would probably have delighted in that, so assured he was of his  craft. Now I kind of get it. When stuck-ness or approval seeking are traits of our life we quite probably replicate them on the mat. 

Now in the teachers shoes, I try to offer opportunities for students to honour their own bodies; to make an enquiry and move to its findings, even a simple spinal wiggle as opposed to uniformly cat-cowing with the rest. Like myself then, holding on for dear life in that twist, as students arrive on the mat they often don't know what the body needs or feel what it wants to do.  And no wonder - so many of our choices are guided by other people's opinions; we are assuaged with messages about how we should eat, look, walk, dress; and experience life from the head down. 

Yoga provides us with a structure in which to begin to re-connect with ourselves, our bodies, hearts and wisdom. And a space in which to dis-connect from some of this previous programming. Recently I've been observing myself on the mat for spontaneity - or lack of. Do I do the sequence that way because its safest/ most effective or am I starting to auto pilot here? Getting on the mat at the same time every day, regardless of how little you want to is immensely powerful - a new habit to replace other ideas that don't serve us so well. I state it clearly - it has changed my life. 

But what about when we believe everything will crumble without it? I looked at the four edges of my mat and briefly saw them as walls - were my ideas become rigid and my boundaries tense?  Several times I got the message recently: 'this girl needs to dance!' So with disciplined zeal I searched for where to go and get on with this task asap! Then as plans fell apart, it started to feel more like dancing was a way of being - just as yoga is not just our date with the mat. 

I decided to rebel against my own discipline and see if I still felt as balanced and clear. I slept til I woke naturally, sometimes at 5am as usual and sometimes at 9am after a late night teaching. I ate desert and stayed up late sometimes. I slacked off (ok, in the pitta sense of slacking off) for a week or so, felt better rested and increasingly liberated. Soon I was getting excited to move, shifting my sequences around in a circle - a dancer that arose freely from within. I got back on the roof of my boat and didn't care about the staring. And suddenly I was desiring a specific sadhana - back I've gone to the original meditation programme from my first kriya yoga retreat. Exploring it all again with new eyes, making new discoveries, savouring how far I've come and how much potential is still there. 

Tantra expresses beautifully this dance between discipline and spontaneity - the student must be seriously dedicated, yet also come to realise that the discipline is the means and not the goal. Practise is for the blocked body and messy mind - the true Self needs no practise. Sometimes we have to let go and just check we're still awake. My favourite poetess Lal ded said something like this 'for then we dance without support'. 

My point here is not to say 'oh just practise when you can be bothered'. No no no! But find ways to keep that practise fresh and alive; to get your feet on the grass; to always enquire within, even when you're doing just what the teacher has told you. Because following to the letter is different to following from the heart. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Connection & community

I have always been a bit of a loner, typical Sagittarius - living by myself, travelling solo and, although obviously surrounded by people in classes, working very much by myself. The idea of community and collaboration can get brushed to the side when we get super busy. Cycling between classes and working evenings I often felt that fellow yoga teachers were whizzing past each other, rarely having time to meet. 

When I graduated as a yoga teacher I didn't really know anyone else who was doing this, and most of my class mates were in other corners of the world. I kind of scrambled through the transition into contacting studios, setting up my own classes, creating lesson plans - with a lot of trial and error. 

Recently I've been asked to mentor several of my students in making the transition into teaching. And this has been such a gift, to reflect on and share some of those learnings. To feel proud of their journeys as well as my own. 

Embarking on my second teacher training I gained much more of a sense of community - our Akhanda yoga family has branches throughout the world and is now growing strong roots in the UK, through brilliant trainings offered by Yog Sundari. 

Community is so vital, to share knowledge and to express what we are teaching - that external differences are just labels and we are all the same underneath. It is easy to be equanimous in lone practise but real practise is to challenge it in interaction. 

Of course community doesn't mean just sticking to 'our kind', and I have learned most in recent years from collaborating with practitioners in other fields - acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, music. What a wonderful 'job' this is to meet with others who open our minds in new ways and to offer treatment exchanges to work on our own healing and progress. 

Returning from GMT in Poland I have a new family, created around the magic circle of the gong. As the gong is relatively new I feel the opportunity to create this community in a truly open and positive way which is about collaboration rather than picking over differences or competition. There are more than enough gong-ees to go around and the more gong is out there the more people will come. 

If we are open minded, collaboration might be a single meeting which we learn so much from or it can be a long term partnership which takes us in a whole new direction. Collaboration teaches us that we don't have to do it all ourselves (despite being super yogis who are of course possible of it) and allows us to focus on what we are most connected to in this moment. 

I feel a new direction calling me as I bring together learnings from all these connections over the years. Launching 'Resonant Retreats' is an attempt to create conscious connections through yoga, gong, wholesome eating and community - to uplift the vibration of our lives. Fran is the raw food genius who is also my hairdresser, dear friend and ex yoga student. We talk for hours about juicing and cleaning up the rivers but we also have a great laugh and we hope a sense of fun, love and lightness will come through in our offerings. See retreats page for info. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Space & soma - a midsummer workshop in Blackheath - 28th June

Delighted to be invited to host a midsummer workshop at the gorgeous Blackheath Complementary Health Centre in SE London....

'This body is an instrument, you will hear the tune it is meant to play.' Anandamayi Ma (the 'bliss-permeated mother')

In this half day workshop ('space & soma') we will create the space, which is often missing in our lives, bodies and heads, to uplift our vibration - through yin yoga, pranayama, chanting and gong meditation.

Harmonising and making space in body & mind - the yoga session
Life is a balance of yin and yang - around us, within us and pervading the whole universe. In modern life, and even yoga practise, our balance can tip towards excess yang, the fast paced active, solar energy - depleting our receptive, lunar and nurturing yin. Yin yoga involves surrendering to poses, in stillness, for long periods of time; listening to the body, watching the breath, waiting for release and opening.
Whereas dynamic yoga moves chi, yin yoga builds chi - the life force which runs through our meridians and chakras, bringing harmony to immune system, vital organs and glands. Yin yoga builds physical flexibility and emotional resilience - acceptance and awakening to inner wisdom.
Pranayama means not only controlling the breath but expanding the vital life force within it. We will explore the blissful Brahmari breath.
Through mantra we create space between true self and an overload of information and thought. Chanting as a group creates a powerful healing vibration for the well-being of ourselves and all.

Filling that space with blissful vibration - the gong
Bathing in the sound of gong is believed to work along the same meridian lines as acupuncture and yin yoga. Having opened up and wound down in the yoga session you are free to lay back and receive the vibrations of gong, deep into the body, energy system and mind. The gracious gong has a broader range of tones and harmonics than any other healing instrument so its potential to lead us towards self healing is vast and inclusive.
Each session is different, depending on your own needs and energy in that moment. Many people experience profound relaxation and physical release, the movement of blocked energies. Others see images and colours. You may slip into deep meditation, tap into intuition or leave with greater mental clarity. Probably the most common result is the best night's sleep in years!
Feedback from recent gong & yin workshops:
'I'm buzzing with energy after the yin, in a really lovely way. And I feel very clear in my head!'

'The gong session helped very much in a moment of intense external stress and worry. I found the resonance and vibration to support, encourage and expand the breath, so there is a constant dialogue between both. The body starts to open up on its own time, effortlessly, as if each organ, chakra, muscle, body and mind structure awakens like a flower in the right moment. There is no forcing, no pushing, the sound is the conduit for change. It is a very beautiful, poetic experience that makes you connect fully with life.'

Further details:

Saturday 28th June 2015
10am - 1pm
£30 early bird offer when booked and paid before 30th May
£35 thereafter
At Blackheath Complementary Health Centre 184-186 Westcombe Hill, London SE3 7DH 
The workshop is suitable for all, regardless of yoga experience. Please contact us if you have any specific health conditions or injuries which require extra support.
A short break with herbal teas and snacks will be provided. Please ensure you leave 2-3 hours between breakfast and the yoga session at 10am.
Please bring blankets, warm layers and drinking water – yoga mats and equipment provided.
For queries and bookings: Ali / 07855 402 837 / /

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Taking your practise to the next level...but not too seriously

Wow, as spring in London truly arrives, 9 new yoga teachers blossom out from the first ever Akhanda Yoga YTT to be held in the UK! Which leaves me reflecting on this tradition of Akhanda Yoga...and why some of you might be tempted to sign up for the next one... and join the family!

Here in London for a workshop and graduation, Yogrishi Vishvketu re-told the story of founding Akhanda yoga - when he came to the west to teach, people kept asking 'what's this type of yoga called..' - 'yoga, just yoga' he would reply. After some time he realised that we like to brand our yoga as much as our leggings or phones. So a name had to be chosen, and that name was Akhanda - meaning indivisible, unbroken tradition (a bit like yoga - so we are essentially saying "yoga yoga"!). 

What makes Akhanda yoga so special? 

It's a great story but there are reasons why Guruji was asked so often what this type of yoga is - at first it feels different - very 'whole ' - though we might be at a loss to pinpoint why. 

In Akhanda we honour the original streams of yoga - Bhakti, raja, jnana and karma - as well as Hatha yoga. That means our practise includes a diverse range of techniques from cleansing kriyas to fire puja, chanting, meditation and study of the scriptures as well as service in our lives. 

Personally I'm bored of saying or hearing the words 'but yoga is not just asana' and I want to be positive about everything yoga is, rather than debate what it's not. That's why Akhanda appealed to me so much. 

There are hundreds of yoga techniques because we are complex and unique beings. According to yogic theory we are comprised of 5 layers - the koshas - which we become familiar with experientially in practise. And different techniques balance or purify each subtler layer. So when we chant we filter the monkey mind, when we do pranayama we expand our energy in preparation for meditation, and so on. 

When it comes to asana, the stilling and purifying of the physical body, we consider not only a balance of the movements of the spine and different station of postures, like inversions and sitting, but our individual constitution (via the Ayurvedic doshas) and the influence of the vayus (subdivisions of the pranic life force which govern different functions of the body).

Yoga is a path of balance or equanimity - of bringing ourselves from the extremes to the centre. As the Gita says: 
'Yoga is skillfullness in action'; not over-feasting or over-fasting, a balance of practise and right understanding. 

Akhanda yoga considers the balancing of opposites - the yin and the yang, the sun and the moon, the rajas and tamas, shiva and shakti, creativity and consciousness, expansion and grounding, effort and allowing, Self and all...for whole-ness. 

Taking an Akhanda YTT 

Training with the World Conscious Yoga Family (in Akhanda yoga) includes philosophy, techniques, anatomy (yogic and physical), transformational experiences, teaching methodology and ethics, practical teaching experience, yoga and business, discussion about Ayurveda and yogic diet...

A lot of learning and a lot of unlearning. 

At the weekend Guruji reminded us of some words by the great yogi Goreknath:
'Hasiba Kheliba kariba Dhyanam' - your meditation should be playful.

Akhanda is learned and taught in a spirit of fun. At times you may wonder, why I am elephant walking rather than poring over some scripture, what will I learn? But the point is what we open to by dropping our guard, freeing our thoughts and embracing the child-like spirit. This is as important to teaching as knowing our Sanskrit. 

Of course YTT is challenging! Being ready depends not on x number of years practise, doing whatever advanced techniques or even being sure that you want to teach. But knowing that unshakable pull to explore more and more deeply the effects of this magical thing called yoga. We work on ourselves while learning to share with others. In many ways completing the training is just the start. 

Traditionally you have two choices - intensive study of Akhanda yoga at its rishikesh hq, versus training in your home country, paced over 9 months or a year. And whats right will depend upon your circumstances and ultimately what your heart gravitates towards... 

However this year I think Yog Sundari has created the perfect balance for uk trainees - a flexible programme of 8 weekends at breeze in london and a 10 day intensive workshop in India (experiencing guruji's teaching and graduation on the rooftop with the Himalayan foothills in the background!). 

I will also be teaching on the programme and you can join us from sept - but hurry we have just 4 places left! Details here

Class of 2015 

Me and Guruji