Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The exciting news...

Oh yes, its been a long and fun process to bring this special retreat together...and bookings are now open (early birds save £75!). 

Myself and the Well Garden are hosting a feast of yoga, sound and creativity in the Goan jungle this coming Feb...and you of course are invited! 10 days of dynamic yoga, yin yoga, sacred art workshops, sound baths, sweat lodges, fire chanting, nourishing food, naturopathy and Ayurveda. 

We dive into the elements around and within over the course of 10 days. Our home will be the divine Khaama Kethna near Agonda in South India.  

Come on in...See my India retreats page for all the info! 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

What I learned from my students today...

Your teachers will tell you how to put poses together, what they do for the mind body; but your students will show you what it means to their lives. It is a privilege to teach and be reminded of many things that as practitioners we may have begun to take for granted. 

Leaving everything behind 

When we step into our yoga space...I'm not saying 'mat' as yoga can be done sitting on a chair or the bus; it's more about carving out a mental space (and of course coming into a dimly lit room away from the world facilitates this more easily)... When we step into our bodies and breath within that space we can make a choice to leave behind the family arguments, the feelings of low self worth, the work expectations etc. That 'leaving behind' might walk a wavering line, but with practise it will become more concrete. And every time we re affirm that choice, by reconnecting with the breath, a chakra, the music in the room, a smile, or whatever...our ability to make a choice becomes stronger. Of course we have to go back to our home/ desk/ lives - but we go back a little different. For many people, weekly yoga class is the only time they take have that's not for someone else. The funny thing is that it ends up being for everyone, if it benefits us. 

Battling less with life 

In our first twists we tend to use brute force to get somewhere; to triumph over our bodies; to mirror or better where someone else is at. Over time we understand that kindness and breath produce openness in our spines. And before long our eyes are closed and we are the only one in this twist, playing with looping edges of acceptance/ frustration/ surrender. So off the mat do we learn flexibility. That trying to force life/ family/ friends/ colleagues into doing it our way doesn't work and only leaves us frustrated and wondering why other people have it better. 

A breath changes everything 

Breath is transformation on a cellular level. Not just an automatic function of the lungs but the thread that connects the everyday with the highest self. Whatever physical shape we are in, the breath unites us. What use is the most complex pranayama unless we remember to breathe? In the most challenging postures, through the breath, we learn that relaxation is not just lying around being lazy; but a highly effective mind body state. Class by class the breath starts to vie with our to do list or self beliefs as the chosen dwelling place of our mind. Back in the everyday, awareness of just one breath rises us above the battle and allows us to negotiate some inner space, to see and respond more clearly. 

Community heals 

Yoga is both being together and being entirely in our Self. Sometimes the community we need is the shared silence of shavasana, the brief absence of words in a noisy world; sometimes it's a chat after class, discovering common issues and sharing experiences. My experience is that our highest self guides us to the people we need and the work we are meant to do in each moment; the only thing that's required of us is to stay open to it; that of course is the whole practise! As teachers we simply facilitate the opportunities for communion and community, and let go of attachment to the results. 

I am grateful to offer yoga for positive mood and positive living courses as part of the Wellbeing network for mental health recovery, run by City & Hackney MIND. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Raga flow ~ live music & yoga unite

You may have remember my post a while ago about experiencing raga meditation in India. Well its such an pleasure to be linking up with Daisy Watkins to produce our own take on the blissful union of music and yoga this summer...

Raga Flow ~ live music & yoga 
Sunday 3rd July @ The Well Garden

Welcome to a new moon collaboration between musician & composer Daisy Watkins and yoga teacher & gong practitioner Ali Gunning. Inspired by the Indian roots of classical music and classical yoga, we have created an uplifting Sunday afternoon of live music & yoga.

Both raga and yoga inspire us towards a 'bhava' of divine bliss. Ali leads us through the yoga sequence, flowing from the heart to the crown, while Daisy's live soundtrack of viola and tampura guides and echoes our movement - until breath, sound and body are flowing as one.

We lead you into a deeply nourishing shavasana with a fusion of gong, voice and viola. And close our afternoon together with chai and nibbles.

Sunday 3rd July 2016
At The Well Garden, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace E8 2BT
£30 early bird (before13th June)/ concession, £35 thereafter
Suitable all levels
Bookings: 07855402837

About Daisy

Enamoured with the romanticism of carnatic raga music, Daisy embarked upon her journey into exploring and discovering the beauty and creativity that can be conjured with this tradition.

Carnatic ragas are particularly appropriate to yoga as their origins are also found in India. There are unique characteristics given to each raga which Daisy carefully selects and builds upon to create intriguing settings and enthralling scenes. Combining this storytelling craft with the philosophy and lifestyle of yoga, Daisy found herself creating subtle, flowing and grounding music.

Influenced by her western classical background, the live score is composed for tanpura and viola. Whereas a traditional raga may be more rhythmical with tabblah and sitar, this music features the soothing, lyrical tones of the viola which add to the flow of the yoga class.

Daisy performs the music live with the intention of it being sympathetic to its environment and audience. She believes live music is much more enjoyable, personal and ‘in the present’.

Daisy has performed for many guided meditations, mindfulness classes and yoga workshops in and around London.

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Daisy Watkins trained at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. She performs regularly throughout the UK in various ensembles and is a passionate music educator.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

If the shoe doesn't fit...

If I meet one more beautiful being going through a massive transformation I'll have to write a book rather than a blog post. I wanted to write a blog post but almost as soon as words were formed they were redundant to say what I meant. They are mainly women, in all corners of my life; kicking down the walls that have contained them in some way; or watching a storm rip through their house, if they had been hesitating with that sledge hammer. 

It seems to be the time in which situations that we might have ambled along with, not quite satisfied but not yet ready to change, simply won't fit anymore: whether relationships, friendships, finances, careers or living arrangements. There is one thing that unites us and that is a search for authenticity. Its everywhere! And as the old protective structures come down, our hearts and fears are equally, authentically exposed. Not being good enough/ being good enough; letting go/ letting in; surviving, losing our power and many more. 

How do we know we aren't just running away? Fears are faced and transformed, not side stepped. The need for authenticity suddenly outweighs attachment to the known. Some part of us feels lighter after being stripped away. Of course as we embrace the vibration of transformation we attract others riding a similar wave. And this sisterhood can be the biggest blessing, inspiring us on when we are leaving others in our wake. That's not to say transformation may not inspire others, but that cannot be our motivation. 

Goddess Kali has been knocking on my awareness in various forms. We often hear and read that, sigh, we languish in a dark age (Kali Yuga). But, perhaps if we are awake to it, this is the real moment of Kali, when she flattens the lot in order to make space for rebirth? Her destruction is ever paired with compassion, bringing us through the dark to take a peek at the new light. But, if you do not wish to let go, all you will see is her fierceness; teeth, skulls an all. Transformation can be tough, painful, drawn out and unexpected. As she reminds us, this ain't permanent and it ain't yours. 

We all have our catalysts and for me India is it; time to be, time to question yet again, what feel authentic for me right now? As the search becomes more subtle, so do the layers of attachment. Ok I may have less things but what about clinging to the way others see me, or to spiritual ideals? The closer we get to how we once imagined out lives to look, the tighter the urge may be - who would want to let go of this, which we strived for? Patanjali wisely said that clinging to life exists even for the wise! But clinging always stifles our potential. Even our perfect ideal of yoga teacher life or whatever is not permanent. While we hang on to how it's supposed to be, we contract and we block the way for others who are expanding around us. 

As I sat barefooted in a blast of sunlight on the Downs last night I felt: 'transformation does not mean losing everything/ someone, but letting go...and the gain or loss is irrelevant.' And everything felt just perfect after a stormy few days.  Finally with the full moon overhead there is an air of completion as we take a breath and await the next cycle. 

Monday, 18 April 2016

introducing AcuGong...

A while ago I wrote that collaboration is the way forward, and at the time several exciting partnerships were bubbling under. Fresh from trialling the treatment with groups and one to ones, we are now delighted to be offering 'AcuGong' sessions in Hackney, Blackheath & Devon. 

Who we are

Myself, Ali, yoga teacher, yoga therapist & sacred sound practitioner. Sarah Pritchard, acupuncturist and Tui Na specialist: Sarah has been a big inspiration for me as she flows through life manifesting her dreams with a huge depth of knowledge and infectious enthusiasm. And Chinese medicine practitioner Isabel Milner who adds an intuitive and compassionate touch to the body work.

What is AcuGong?

AcuGong is and does as it sounds; we combine acupuncture with the guiding vibrations of a gong bath, 
plus hands on energy/ body work. Acu and gong each work to balance the physical, subtle and causal flow of life force energy - for increased wellbeing and consciousness. 

Life is a flow of chi - flow with it...

When working with this combination we've found the effect to be greater than the sum of its parts. We (and our clients) often have the feeling that we are unearthing and reviving some ancient art of our feminine ancestors. Much like sound, colour & smell there seems a collective conscious shift towards time-honoured technologies in our healing modalities.

Both acupuncture and gong work along the bodies meridian energy lines, discovered in ancient Chinese medicine and verified by science today. AcuGong is about more than stimulating the liver or balancing the spleen, it is a journey that takes you deep inside your body to uncover its wisdom and understand the mental patterns which are both imprinted there and released through the flow of chi. 

Vibrational medicine not only has huge potential to bring body and mind back into harmony, but to protect our immunity in the first place. As physical wellbeing manifests from imbalance through the energy system, it would seem to make sense to work with practises which clear us of the daily onslaught of disharmonious vibration. A great resource for info on this is 'Vibrational Medicine' by Dr Richard Gerber. 

Intention...and awareness

More and more in my own practise and work I'm reminded of the power of intention, both group and personal. In each and every yoga practise, in each and every step of self healing, intention is the vehicle which gathers and guides the energy created to its destination. Thats not to say we only have to make an intention and its all fixed. We must continue to have awareness of what brought us here, what it taught us and what patterns we need to address. 

How does a treatment work as a group: 

Actually the work begins before the session as we begin to set our minds towards that which we wish to shift...

The afternoon opens with guided meditation, intention setting and mantra, moving into the treatment space for 1.5 hours approx. Where you'll receive needles by Sarah, in specific energy points relevant to your intention and current health, while I build up steady waves of gong and circulate with singing bowls & tuning forks. 

During the treatment Sarah and Isabel provide hands on bodywork to stimulate and balance the flow of chi where needed. After the session we allow for grounding, sharing (optional) and finally we burn and release the intentions to the universe.

One to ones: 

In a similar way but without the sharing, a treatment lasts around 1 hour and can be applied to any health condition. 

In both cases its important to note the AcuGong may be the start of bringing to light certain patterns, rather than an immediate fix all. Collectively our journey continues...

AcuGong recent feedback:

"I am speechless, more powerful than plant medicine!"

"Something profound has shifted since the treatment, I notice myself handling life in a different way."

AcuGong is coming up at The Well Garden 28th May, Blackheath Complementary Health Centre 5th June & in Lyme Regis on 7th Aug. Contact me for info! 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Intend it loud and proudly

1 year ago, exactly to the day I received the keys, I voiced out loud, in a powerful circle of goddesses (aka yin training), an intention which had been bubbling away subconsciously, even since starting a blog called 'yoga adrift': to open a floating yoga and gong space. 

A space surrounded by nature; with no speedy turnovers between classes, where people could drink tea and chat after class; for friends to host weird workshops that wouldn't be 'commercial' enough for big spaces. In my dream I would live in a boatman's cabin on this floating ashram and my living room would be a yoga studio (a bigger version of what I have now basically...). It almost happened with a potential Belgian barge swap. Then things got busy, the cruising logistics (and bank balance) didn't quite work out. 

But it seems the wheels were turning on a divine plan, its outcome only slightly different to mine! So, later than expected, but with the same delight and pride, I can now introduce 'the shepherds hut at south mill lock'. Crafted from salvaged bits and pieces of trucks and houses, it fell into my path with the support of some generous-hearted and creative souls. And perhaps a divine wink that I still had some lessons to learn about patience. 

A mini yoga & gong space by, if not on, the river. On wheels (it couldn't be entirely stationary could it?) in a field next to my boat. But the intention remains the same. 

Now available for mini retreats and private gong baths for up to 4 people - and for use by other practitioners and teachers! 

What I learned? Keep intending out loud, surrendering the results and waiting patiently for what will be. LOVE from the river x

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Mantras for precarious times, peace & everything in between

I was recently describing in class how much I enjoy the 'door-mouse' effect of living near to nature. Winter always invites me to hibernate - and while I chant on a daily basis, I often intensify my 'japa' during the colder months. 

Japa is the practise of using a 'mala' (beads) to count out a specific number of repetitions of a mantra. The action of touching and moving around the beads (like a rosary) adds an extra 'anchor' to quiet the mind. It wasn't a requirement of my sadhana to reel off 108s, but had become a spontaneous transition day to night, night to day. 

Particular mantras are recommended for particular situations we face, employing words which are a wake up the soul, of it's own remembrance, as Russil Paul describes in the fabulous book 'The Yoga of Sound' (which 'appeared' for me around this time via my ever-inspiring colleague Yog Sundari!)Or the bija (seed) mantras - which are powerful keys to unlock our inner energy and potential. For example you may choose the 'Maha Mritunjaya' mantra to break through fear and embrace transformation. Or the mantra 'Om Yam' to invoke the qualities of the heart.

For me right now its the Shanti mantra (below). With the exact, beautiful intonation of my teacher Saji) it came whispering to me one evening as I drifted towards sleep. This mantra I realised was the first I ever led, as a terrified trainee in Kerala several years back. What had changed? 

At that time it was all about the fear of my voice, how did the mantra sound to others, was I getting it right, what the hell did these words in this strange language mean? While now I was tuning in to the vibration and forgetting about the words themselves. 

Despite the different 'flavours', any mantra can take us beyond the confines of the ego into connection with the highest self which is unconditional peace, wellbeing, transformation, love and anything else we invoke. In times of turmoil and disharmony, the turmoil within is the one we can start with. 'As above, so below.'

Centuries ago yogis and yoginis found that sound has different layers, from the loud 'external' sound to a whispered mantra, a silent thinking and a spontaneous repetition. And used mantra as a vehicle of intention; re-creating with our tongue, lips, mouth and vocal chords its particular vibratory pattern allows us to manifest the form or result which that pattern represents. The rishis ('seers') worked with both mandala (form) and mantra (vibration) and today there is renewed interest in this, as 'cymatics'. Check out mandalas created in sand or this amazing video of the gayatri mantra made visible in water (thank you Lisa for this, I could just watch it for hours!)

Like a song we hear constantly on the radio, when we repeat a thought it sticks in our subconscious. When we listen to or repeat a mantra we make space between the thoughts - and fill that space with harmonious messages - which serve not only ourselves but others. If you wish to meditate and have a chattering mind (who doesn't right?) japa is for you. Even when the mind becomes quiet the world is chattering at you - others opinions, media messages, technology. So mantra clears the clutter and replaces it with vibrations that re-align us with our original/ desired state of resonance. 

Even without a translation - in fact sometimes because of this, as we are not busy analysing - sanskrit mantras have transformative power setting off waves of vibration through our watery organs, cells, bones, energy pathways etc. 

The act of chanting exercises our lungs and lowers our heart rate. It activates the glandular system, balancing hormonal secretions such as melatonin (sleep cycles). At the same time we are expanding outwards - the 'like attracts like' effect invites a response from that which we are calling to/ for. If that sounds less verifiable, just try it and see what happens and what others observe in you. 

Chanting alone - awesome. Chanting together - even better. We sync into the same breath pattern, the same pitch, the same vibration. We might let slip the armour we build up of who and how different we are and start to feel truly in tune, never minding how in tune our voices are. And isn't that what we are looking for in this practise of union (yoga)? 

We are starting a new chanting circle at The Well Garden on Friday 12th Feb at 6pm. It's FREE and requires no prior experience of chanting or even to make a sound (just come, listen, lay down before the 6.30pm class if you like).