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). 




Monday, 4 January 2016

New year, reconnecting with path and purpose

As one year rolls into the next there is a pressure to blaze into Jan with big decisions, big resolutions; to delete and re-invent. I am sitting waiting for the inspirational words to come, trying to gather together into that expected new year blog post the random thoughts that have been gathering in a reflective few weeks. I almost missed the sound of the rain drops on the steel roof of the boat for the last half hour. I listen and I re-connect. And this is the key, where the inspiration always comes from; turning within, not turning a page on the calendar.

The yoga sutra we are most familiar with is probably 1.2 yogas chitta vritti nirodah'. This is the state or purpose of yoga, the stilling of the fluctuations of consciousness. The attention becoming absorbed in the rain drops rather than the to do's and 'I am's'. But flicking onto sutra 2.1, here, clearly outlined, is the practise or path of yoga – 'tapah svadhyaya-isvara-prindindanani kriya-yogah'. This is the how of it – the three prongs of dedicated effort, self study and devotion to the divine which will support the cycle of our practise throughout the years.

Our early days of yoga (or maybe of each year) might mainly reflect the first element, of tapas: lots of intensive asana practise, a sudden desire for strict routine, grand renunciations and shifts in attitude. Then swadhyaya sneaks into play, perhaps we wonder what is behind this steam roller of transformation and begin to read into the sutras or other texts. But we also begin studying who or what is this 'me' reading, moving or breathing. Perhaps our dedicated practise shifts into a new contemplative depth, whether its content changes or not, whether it still looks the same from the outisde.

Swadhyaya offers an opportunity for yoga to spill off the mat, for 'Who am I' is not only an enquiry for deepest meditation but in our lives, moment to moment, and in any situation as we begin to re-appraise what draws us towards our happiness or stillness, and what increases the feeling of separateness. The pauses in thought we find on the mat (nirodah) can be applied to any choice such as 'might this comment I'm making on facebook cause anguish'; 'does this relationship nourish me' or 'can this food help me feel more present or more anxious'?

The more this enquiry draw us within, the closer we come to the divine, whether or not we have a devotional practise or an idea of what the divine looks like. For in yoga the two are only separated by false perception - ishwara and purusha or brahman and atman. Devotion or surrender indicate allowing a softness to creep into practise, as we move from separateness towards union. Perhaps we move from times of necessary purification to a desire to reach out to the divine in others. Or life, family and health circumstances change and surrender allows us to see that not even our glorious early yogi-self is permenant. We move through the ebbs and flows of the years with grace rather than struggling against the tide.

Of course this path is never linear and as ever deeper layers are revealed, sometimes we have to retrace our steps. And here is why swadyaha stands at the centre of the path. Where am I and what do I need right now?

Here at the beginning of a new cycle can we look honestly at how our bodies and minds feel after a festive break. Whether students or teachers, likely we need to re-apply some discipline to get back on track. But before kicking ourselves: for indulgences and arguments; todays wobbles in a previously steadfast dancing shiva pose; clunky cueing in that first class back...seeing this as an opportunity to be grateful for the awareness of how some of our choices have made us feel this time round; for the patterns we can only see more clearly through testing interactions.

Swadhyaya is the key to checking in with our own purpose and our own path. No previous effort has been wasted. Rather than how little have I achieved in the year goneby - how much have I learned? To making realistic intentions instead of those that peers or magazines condition us to desire. Or setting extreme targets that we are set to fail and falling into guilt and shame which divide us more deeply that the 'failure'. I remember a beautiful saying by Swami Lakshmanjoo: 'he who knows he has fallen has not really fallen.'

Happy New Year. Embrace this time of transition and all that you are : )  







Saturday, 19 December 2015

Still adrift, but putting down roots

5 winters (the river measure of time and hardiness) ago I returned from India broke and in pieces, and moved into a cold and unfamiliar world. 

Making a shaky start (broken gear boxes, chimneys lost under low bridges) and frozen in at Hertford I soon toughened up, scooping snow off the roof to boil for tea (and sneaking round to my best mates for washing and warmth). Then it was off to london to join the world of continuous cruising; whereby nomadic boaters move every two weeks, a 'reasonable' distance, sporadically policed by the questionable authority of canal and river trust. A sign of the times is that since then the liveaboard community on the canals has increased by 70-80 percent. Most people will claim crazy rents and inability to buy in london have fuelled this change but I like to see the wish to get outside the machine in some way as just as much a factor. That's certainly why I and many of my friends did it; craving a more sustainable lifestyle in all ways, not just monetary. 

In deciding to buy a boat I ummed and awwed for weeks about the philosophy of it - pretending to 'own' something and buying into the need for security. A wise owl (that same Hertford rock of a friend) said to me - this will be the beginnings of good things for you, and besides your home moves and you have no address it's hardly 'settling down'! She was, as often, right. 

The healing power of water had drawn me: water which signifies the life giving essence expressing in different forms; the emotions; acceptance and flow. Having this floating 'cave' and being able to step away from the popularity contest of london life, I began to expand anew. Savouring aloneness, I began to attract new friends and collaborators. 

It has been with the support of amazing family and friends that I've slowly transformed my boat into a simple but joyful home, reflecting my inner journey. Re painting and re naming her after the celtic goddess of horses this autumn I realise the subconscious power of symbolism. A friend asked me 'did you go for trad colours or does she reflect your personality?' I let the pictures speak to that : ) 

And now I move into the second stage of settling, with lesser resistance. Making a full circle back to Hertfordshire, we've moved onto a mooring on the beautiful river stort. It manifested almost instantly after stating with surprise to the universe what I would like in my life now: grounding. Nourished by water and ready for the steady base of earth. What once would have implied stuck-ness and distance from spirit now feels it's very container. Both earth in which to plant sunflowers, broccoli and herbs - and roots from which to welcome the wonderful opportunities opening up to teach and play sound. I am finding new community, including bunnies and squirrels, and soon there'll be a yoga space to invite you to. Of course, again, I can move anytime but there isn't a need to know that. 






Here she is post transformation - thank you so much to Ben Smith 'Mr Blue' boat painter. 

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 time...so 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, piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com/ 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