Showing posts with label Kundalini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kundalini. Show all posts

Monday, 21 July 2014

And...Exhale...the festival - Aug 2014

This is going to be so much fun...and affordable - only 300 tickets available so book now. I'll be there with the gongs, plus teaching kundalini and guiding morning meditation. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Meditate for a better posture

Much is made of the benefits of meditation in terms of improved brain functions like concentration and memory and for achieving positive emotional states, for example being more compassionate and empathetic. Generally it makes us more easy to be and be around.

In the traditional 8 limbs of yoga, physical postures (asana) come third along the path, as opposed to meditation (dhyana)'s second to last spot. It was impossible to get anywhere beyond the mind without stability in the correct sitting position – so asana was the essential ground for meditation: “stirum sukham asanam”.

Because we still need healthy bodies to function (and continue to meditate) in a world where we are exposed to stresses and toxins, most of us don't then forget about asana. But have you considered that meditation can also improve your asana practise?

As we cleverly create gadgets and apps that can tell us everything we need to know about our environment and health, maybe we are blunting our own intuitive knowing. Thousands of years ago, through meditation, the sages understood everything in the universe, their trained minds like scientific instruments. In the Yog Sutras (which map out the 8-fold path or Raja Yoga) Patanjali states that by meditating on the naval one gains complete knowledge of one's constitution. This was a big light bulb moment for me, first getting my head around the aphorisms. 

We can apply a little of their technique and learn to understand the body, our own little microcosm. Then making choices in class, of postures or variations, becomes personal and powerful.

When we can develop visualisation power on an inspiring image we can likewise visualise how the body needs to move to achieve a pose – then, when it comes to trying, already have muscle memory and confidence. So we might inspire ourselves into positions which had seemed impossible, with a whole lot less effort.

Meditation, like that first headstand, changes our perspective. It gradually brings equanimity; a balanced view of life around us and of ourselves, an ability to be with our self in all situations. I have definitely come to strive less on the mat, learning to appreciate when I can effortlessly hold Natarajasana and that nothing changes on the days when I wobble. Making it matter less leaves me free to actually smile and enjoy.

Our sense of ego becomes less, our sense of self expanded. Toppling over in headstand amid our favourite class can be placed into context and perhaps even become the basis for some inner inquiry. What is compassion and empathy if only applied to others and not our own bodies?

Meditation purifies the fluctuations of the mind, the subconscious, bringing to light the grooves which hold us to acting a certain way - making certain choices which the body plays out. It is often said that yoga is a process of undoing: for every knot in the body there is a knot in the mind. Understanding those knots rather than squeezing, pulling and cursing them makes asana about love not war in the ground of the body.

Of course the ability to still the mind probably means that wobbling and toppling happen less. 'Listen to your body, listen to your breath' us yoga teachers are always matter how amazing a multi-tasker we are, if we are listing to our thoughts we are definitely not listening to our body! 

We all know the feeling of beautifully balancing on one leg being interrupted by the mind which tells us we can't, should do better or simply that we have a to do list the size of our mat to accomplish by 5pm. While asana opens space in the body, meditation gives us space amongst the flow and tangle of thoughts. And through applying it's techniques, asana can itself become meditative.

Unaware, our thoughts can take us into cycles of negativity, ill health and injury. From cultivating and focusing the light of awareness we can work with intention to create positive patterns which resonate through the body. What better opportunity to believe in and achieve a healthier body than on the yoga mat where we have time just to explore and a whole tool box of techniques for nourishing certain tissues, joints, glands and organs along the way? OM Shanti, shanti, shanti. 

We have a new guided meditation group at stretch every Sunday morning 9-9.45am (free to members/ £7 drop in).

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Happiness in the mountains - India part 3

3 hours into the bus ride from pondy, passengers are craning pothole-jolted necks for a glimpse of the holy Arunachala - it is said you can feel this mountain before you see her.

India is a place where towns are famed for, or defined by spiritual leaders; monumental human beings as much as ones made of stone and earth. Thiruvanamali is synonymous with the late Bhagavan Sri ramana mahrishi (1879-1950)see He never aligned to one particular philosophy or label but Advocated a path of jnana and Bhakti (no surya namaskar here); of knowledge and going beyond knowledge, wisdom; the practises of satsanga, meditation and self enquiry.

'Thiru' is also a shiva town. Legend has it that brahma and Vishnu were arguing over who was the more superior deity, so shiva turned himself into an endless column of fire and challenged them to reach its source or beginning. Conceding that shiva was in fact the supreme of the supreme trinity, the other gods bowed and shiva turned fire into stone, creating arunachala, an imposing reminder in matter of the underlying divinity of all creation.

Think of something in India and it appears it seems it appears instantly: a Kung fu master/ karma yogi tour guide (I am so sorry not to have his name having lost the card) runs after us in the vast arunachalaswara temple to offer a speed satsanga, shiva he explains is 'CEO of the universe, all others are the executives'.

Here and in the north of India worship of 'shiva' does not only mean the trident toting destroyer (although he, king of yogis and renunciation is obviously the coolest) rather than another god or goddess but the underlying supreme consciousness, or shivam, which can be both in form and formless. All gods are in effect 
representations of whatever you call 'that'. 

The highlight of a stay in Thiru is giripradakshina, the circumambulation of arunachala, 14km on the outer path, mostly main road passing through a few villages and marked by 8 shivalingams, providing a protective, sacred compass. The way is peppered with temples, shrines, trees flapping with wish bags, hundreds of saffron clad sadhus, playful monkeys and friendly stray dogs.

Tradition was set by Bhagavan who walked in the early morning, slowly and bare foot, so I'm following his lead, starting shoe-less before sunrise and finishing before the midday heat kicks in. The walk celebrates the glory of arunachala, symbol of shiva himself and instills in the devotee a deeper connection with the divine within. To walk with reverence by doing japa or devotional singing keeps this as a moving meditation. In case the mind is wandering to the next chai or idly stop, all along the way loudspeakers loop a slow chant of 'aum namah shivaya'. Like a good yoga practise there is a challenge for the ego, for the body and for the mind.

Compared to the hectic tooting and heat of the outer path, the inner path of arunachala is peace and silence itself. Less to see and more to absorb - as you wander up and up guided by om painted rocks and handy arrows, you can visit the various caves where ramana spent most of his years in thiruvanamali, before the building of the current ashram. Racing against sunset to reach the top (in flip flops, no torch) everything else seems a world away.

It is amazing that a man who spent most of his days in silence is so well known, but when words are less used it seems their energy is stronger. The more time I spent in mauna on this trip the more I notice how words are often used to please others, but actually only appease our own ego, uncomfortable in silence; how saying thank you ten times is about our obsession with being seen to be behaving well and that if you actually smile from the heart and bow with reverence all these word are totally unnecessary.

The middle site, virupaksha cave, shaped like an om, was crafted by Ramana himself; he spent 17 years here mainly in Silence while a throng of devotees trecked for satsanga. The cave is alive with the buzz of the pranava and like much of the ashram property there is no need for technique here, just to sit and wait for peace, wisdom and truth to awaken within.

Everywhere at the ashram the spirit of Sri ramana is very much alive, in the atmosphere of the meditation room where he spent his last days, in devotees flocking to circle his samadhi (shrine), in the Seva of feeding 200 sadhus and local homeless every day. In the background peacocks are shrilling while each morning the young Brahmins lead Vedic chanting and puja. Don't miss the singing of arunachala mantras in the evening by ashramites. There are not really words to describe it here, simple and joyful without any drama, I just feel happy. And that is more than enough. 

Ramana never touted for followers or fame, never creating a lineage. Not once are we even asked to honour the donation system to stay in the beautiful guest house facilities, to use the library (which is a treasure chest of ancient and rare books not to be missed by us yoga geeks), or to eat 3 deliciously simple sattvic meals per day, served on hand stitched leaf plates.  It is as if silence is still the more powerful messenger here, trusting that those who can support the continuation of Sriramanas spirit will, and giving all the freedom to feel and taste for ourselves the essence of the teachings.

So that was Thiru - as is my usual trick we arrived at the end of season, just missing maha shivarathri, falling between the celebrations of full moon, when a million devotees take giripradakshina and the new moon shakti puja. Still, if this is arunachala off peak, I'm sold.

As towns are defined by people, so are our travels through them: eshwan owns the travel company who whisked us from Thiru to bangalore tonight. As the bus was running late he called personally to tell us not to leave the ashram just yet, then he met us at the crossroads and welcomed us to wait in his family home at 3am due to another delay. At the start of each trip this kind of kindness always comes as a surprise and by the end I realise, hey this is the way it should be: to treat all as equal is easy when you believe all are one, to trust before doubting. 

Goa and teaching calls - om namah shivaya.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Yoga therapy?

Isn't all yoga therapy? Several of my friends and students asked me before leaving for Kerala... I have to agree: in my own experience yoga has been a constant support in the toughest times,  transformed my behaviour patterns and removed much negativity - all from the inside. And at the same time, my body is at its healthiest on the outside. So why come all the way to India for training? 

Our guru Saji, founder of Vashista yoga research foundation, has a wealth of experience practising yoga therapy at the likes of SVYASA university, another vivekenanda inspired project which has pioneered programmes for the likes of asthma and diabetes and continues to produce credible research (which we teachers can use to convince the sceptics of the efficacy of yoga interventions). 

The foundation of Saji's teaching is the pancha Koshas - the 5 interrelated layers of our being, according to the upanishadic wisdom. What we do on a physical level affects the mind and vice versa. In fact yoga states that 90% of disease is psychosomatic. This approach seems to be best understood in a land where the goddess of knowledge (Gayatri) has 5 faces and many people still turn to nature before medicine for healing. 

The annamaya kosha is our outermost layer, created from the 5 elements in accordance with our karma and shaped by the food we eat.
Diet then is of supreme importance in balancing the body, and while the general yogic diet (fresh, seasonal, varied, vegetarian - high in prana, low in toxins) can suit pretty much all bodies (if not tastes, at first!), Ayurveda has a lot to teach us about the finer points of eating in line with our dosha (ie constitution - not to be confused with the lovely South Indian dosa).

As food can heal us, it can slowly poison us and yoga offers a series of techniques to remove the traces of a less healthy past. No YTT course in India would be complete without the anticipation of Shatkarma day. I've already written about neti and Shankaprakshalana and this time the stand out kriya for me was Vastra dhauti, the swallowing of 1m of fine cloth in order to remove mucous and toxins from the oesophagus and stomach.

The experience reinforced how much our heads rule our bodies. Saji soothingly tells me to "enjoy, enjoy" as I swallow down 1/2 a metre and watch all sorts of emotions coming out of the pit of my stomach - anger, healing from the inside out and the outside in, that is the basis of yoga therapy. 

Staying in India brings us back to simplicity, which is a great lesson for any yogi - asanas that might be considered easy or beginner level in our studios back home can provide profound relief to those in need. And I am appreciating all the more the health of my own body to be able to twist and turn... and my teachers for reminding me that it need not be the ego that moves it. 

Sometimes asana is not enough, sometimes too much asana is the problem! Pranayama holds a special place in healing; the Pranamaya kosha being the link, often damaged or unconscious, between body and mind. Even if we cannot move we can breathe ourselves into a state of better health. Learning to breath correctly is the starting point and pranayama is a step further - not just controlling the breath but guiding and expanding the flow of the 5 pranas, the vital life force within the breath. 

According to Patanjali "yogas chitta vritti nirodah" - yoga is controlling the fluctuations of the mind.  To heal we need to purify the mind stuff and, to live in fullness, identify less with the thoughts that it is composed of. Yoga defines stress as "speed of mind" and deals with its effects as well as the very perception of stress: we can't avoid life but we can choose how to act and think in each situation (whether at work, home or mid-kriya). 

The thoughts are the realm of the mental body, manomaya kosha and 
this layer is where much of the trouble begins, often unnoticed for years. Stress has a cumulative effect on the body and we can go on coping, and thinking we are coping, for years until the organs and immunity collapse under its load. And even then we can convince ourselves that patching things up will do. 

Modern western science is now reflecting the view that working with the mind - through meditation - into the roots of disease is the most effective way to heal many conditions.

Again from the Yog sutras: "if you feel that you are bound you are bound, if you feel that you are liberated you are liberated". If I believe I am ill I will become more ill. Or if I can find positivity and be identified with my bliss body as opposed to my body of suffering, I can live life with acceptance and fullness. This of course is easier said than done; yoga therapy works with resolve and affirmations.

Yoga has many streams and sometimes we need to turn to Bhakti (devotion) jnana (knowledge) or karma (selfless service) as much as the more familiar yogas of mind and body. This is another big learning we can take away from India - everywhere these principles spill over into every day life.

A cluttered and over-active mental body clouds our wisdom (vijnanamaya kosha) and bliss (ananadamaya kosha). In whatever form, yoga reminds us that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm and that separation is where the problems start. Applied as therapy we weave together a unique programme for each individual expression of the one. 

So yes all yoga is therapy, even before we realise we need it - not only easing the speed of mind but building immunity, bringing circulation of blood and prana, for keeping joints in motion, for digesting our thoughts and food. Strengthening all the bodies against stress and externally caused disease (the remaining 10%). So keep going to class everyone!...

In the past 4 weeks we delved (lonnng days) into yoga for conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, anxiety and depression, back pain cancer and menstrual disorders; the ancient science of yoga being applied to diseases which are very much symptomatic of the modern age and the effects of our increasing pace. Back in patanjalis day many of these conditions would not have been known, but in today's world, yoga applied in a holistic way can bring relief and, in some cases, cure.

Many conditions, so many techniques - and here is the importance of a teacher. Saji sets the perfect example to us - without the context of compassion, unconditional love and faith, techniques are just that, techniques. 

And as teachers, knowledge is a wonderful thing, but without our own sadhana, tapping into the universal source of energy, it lacks power. Yoga is to experience first hand. After a month of teaching or being guinea pig for other students, I can attest to the power of mind sound resonance, pranic energisation and Tantric Gayatri healing. With meditations galore - in motion, with mudras, bijas and, of course, on AUM - I have many more amazing yoga tools to share soon... but much self practise to do first.

I have to say a few words about the setting of this course, the Chinmaya foundation kerala; birthplace of the great saint Adi Shankaracharya. Doing japa every day in the very room where he was born, practising asana in the house where his family lived and taking lectures in the shrine to Vedanta master swami Chinmayanda help to reinforce Saji's point - that we are blessed and supported by the great yoga tradition before us and only a channel for the sharing of its energy to heal. 

And finally about the inspiration I've received from my juice family as well as new yoga family. Mary and Jojo in the village store have supplied me with various combinations of chickoo, banana, papaya, carrot and watermelon over the weeks. And reminded me that we also have to look up from the books and the mat - because yoga therapy in whatever form is about true connections with people - and all it takes is a few words of malyallam (mostly fruit names) and open hearts. 

Taking a breather on allepey beach before pondicherry. Hari om and love to all. 

For details of sajis training check out

Saturday, 27 July 2013

atha yoga anushasanam

Lately I've had the privilege of introducing Yoga to a lot of new people in a diverse mix of situations, so thought it was about time I wrote a blog about WHY YOGA? - its benefits and from my own personal experience/ perspective. 

From 120 kids at a Hackney primary school to the clients of the charity MIND and some incredibly busy and inspiring business women, the interest I meet only seeks to reaffirm my view that Yoga is for every body (,mind and soul). I also find myself repeating one of my favoUrite quotes from the Indian saint, Sri Aurobindo that "all life is Yoga". 

 This for me has become true over the last 12 years, but if that sounds a bit all-consuming don't worry - basically I mean that what we do on the mat can positively impact the rest of our lives and vice versa. 

 The ultimate goal of Yoga is self realization - of Self, by self - and it's beauty is that no one tells you what's what or who you are. We don't even have to intend to stay on to the final destination to benefit – or to change our religion, get a religion or subscribe to anyone else's beliefs. Yes Yoga offers us techniques and many paths but it asks us to test everything for ourselves, to explore through practise rather than follow. 
It's message unfolds from within - like the symbolic lotus flower. 

The beauty of the lotus flower is not without effort and the story is often told of how it finds its way through the crap at the bottom of the lake to get to the clean air and become all it can. Yoga is similarly about fulfilling our potential: because we all have it, we just have varying degrees of "stuff" to work through first, which is blocking our ability to realise. 

Every knot in the mind has a knot in the body - our Yoga practice attacks these knots on all fronts. The more we untie them more slack we give ourselves to move, breathe, think and be. To give you an overview of the benefits I'm using the model of the "koshas". 

While Yoga is suitable for every body, this body is not just this sum of bones, skin, organs...according to Yogic anatomy we are composed of 5 bodies or inter-related 'sheaths'. If you imagine a set of Russian dolls; each grosser layer reveals a subtler one beneath. 

On the physical level – Annamaya Kosha - our body made of food and shaped by past karma, Yoga can help us to tone, strengthen and protect: maintaining healthy joints and a mobile spine for example, as well as regulating the workings of our systems such as digestion; promoting better breathing patterns and even stimulating glands and hormones. 

Neuroscience is catching up to the wonders that Yogis realised in meditation many years ago such as that breathing techniques can regulate the functioning of the nervous system, reducing the loop of fight and flight; stress in the mind creating stress on the body and vice versa. 

Many people find that Yoga helps them to sleep better, both through going to bed physically relaxed and being able to withdraw the mind from rumination. I was a terrible sleeper for years and I feel sure that the quality of my sleep has changed – evidence supports that Yoga, and in particular the meditation element of it, affects our brainwaves - promoting those of deep relaxation and rest – far beyond the time that we actually spend on the mat. 

Yogic calm is not just a pretty picture but affects our brain chemistry. Research in the States found that Yoga produced more GABA, an essential neurotransmitter for positive mood states, than any other type of exercise and improved functioning of memory and reaction times. 

Yoga also impacts heart rate variability a key indicator of good health and longevity...I could go on and on! The thing that I have found myself, coming from both stress and depression in the past, is that Yoga not only brought me into my body but made us friends, if not always best ones, and now I listen to it, as a good friend should. 

The pranic/ vital body – Pranamaya Kosha – exists along with the breath and bridges the gap between the mental and physical layers. While we are born with our 'food' body, our vital body we create and can expand infinitely. Prana can be increased infinitely by our practise. Which brings me on to talk about the energy system...

Within our subtle anatomy the chakras, like energy transmitters, connect little us to an infinite source of Prana - the force of life that makes everything tick. And connecting them - a super highway of Nadis where the Prana flows within. Bear with me here!... No one has, as far as I know, proved the existence of the chakras and perhaps never will as we are talking about a subtle not tangible layer here. But experientially have my feelings, body understanding, behaviour towards the people I love improved as I have worked more consciously on this level? Yes! 

I have often read of the chakras being related to awakening dormant centers in the brain. They certainly produce distinct states of or shifts in consciousness which have been experienced consistently by yogis for over 3,000 years. Yoga tells us that anything going wrong is due to the blockage or imbalance of energy. Whether we make it a focus or not kriyas, asana, pranayama, mudras, bandhas - all those amazing tools of our trade - are balancing this energetic layer with knock on effects to physical health and mental well-being. 

Just to confuse things our 'energy' is sub-divided into 10 pranas which have responsibility for different functions – so when we twist, invert, forward-bend or back-bend the body there is more to it than creating an amazing looking shape – hence a balanced Yoga class will leave us feeling energised not drained and with a sense of inner harmony between these energies. 

 The mental body – Manomaya Kosha - a "collection of thoughts", as my teacher so beautifully describes. Who would not like to have some respite from the constant narrative at times? Yogas very purpose is "the stilling of the modifications of the mind." The moment we start to focus on our bodies or breath in class we are coming towards present awareness and even recognising that we are thinking about making the tea not Trikonasana means we are aware – awareness is key. 

 Not only quieting the mind but accessing its deeper layers, which contain impressions left by our past experiences. Why does this matter? These, our "samskaras", often pop up, unrecognized, to shape our future actions. So we go through life looping behaviour and lamenting things not being the way we'd like. 

 Yoga brings us to a witness perspective of everything around us and of ourselves - a safe place from which to weather the good and bad. Observing more than judging in every day life we may feel more focused and be more ready to let things go than take them personally. When I first started to think about karma I wanted to hide under the bed but over time I have been surprised to both blame myself less yet take more responsibility for my actions. 

 At the same time as weeding out the old we are sowing the mind with more positive patterns: mantras, routine, yama and niyama, cultivating positive feelings, these are all parts of Yoga whether you are dipping into the odd class or following a set sadhana. 

 The intuitive body – Vijnanamaya Kosha - how valuable to begin to just know when something is up with a friend and they need support, or with our own bodies; trusting our intuition allows us to save so much energy and time, free up our mind space, to be independent of what everyone else thinks. When we work at this level understanding comes about ourselves, others and truth. 

And finally the bliss body – Anandamaya Kosha - Yoga says bliss is not years, miles or £s away but accessible right here and now to every one of us. If intuition is beyond knowledge then the experience and benefits of bliss are beyond even words - incomparable, indescribable, full of love beyond love. Yoga is about experience - direct experience, your experience – give it a 
go! OM x

Ali Piriamvada Gunning - I teach Akhanda and Kundalini Yoga in East London. Me and my narrow boat Bokissa are away - cruising the rivers Lee and Stort

Friday, 1 February 2013

Workshop coming up...a super-shakti sunday!

10th Feb seems to be quite the auspicious date: a new moon, which is all about new beginnings. And Chinese New Year, welcoming in the the year of the serpent; predicted to hold a gentler energy than the dragon year we've just had. 

I'm also hosting an in-depth Classical Kundalini workshop at stretch! What better time to explore your Yoga on a different level... Classical Kundalini is a deep, dynamic & energising practise: tapping into the subtle body - the chakras & nadis.

This 2 hour workshop will include a series of kriyas - combinations of asana, spinal movements, pranayama - plus mantra & guided meditation. 

The awakening of Kundalini energy, the creative potential within us all, refines and expands our consciousness. In more practical terms... we can shift out the old and make space for a more positive way of being.

Expect to float home feeling invigorated, deeply strong, balanced & aware!

Suitable for newcomers to Kundalini - with plenty of extra info and practises for those who've been attending my other classes. Prior Yoga experience is required.

There will be tea, chat and treats afterwards. 

Sunday 10th Feb 2013 3-5pm
stretch 6b Ada Street, just off Broadway Market

£20/ £15 (stretch members)

Just bought this beautiful print by Lynette Shelley

by Ali Gunning (Piriamvada Yoga) – I teach Akhanda and Classical Kundalini Yoga in East & North London. Home is on the waterways with my narrow boat Bokissa.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

fire & light

Classical Kundalini Yoga (& a bit of Gong) this Sunday (21st Oct)4-6.30pm.

With the temperature dropping and clocks about to go back it is a time of transition, when our vitality may be flagging. Join me for an afternoon of Classical Kundalini kriyas, pranayama, sound & meditation - designed to restore the flow of Shakti and bring you back into harmony.

Classical Kundalini Yoga is a dynamic, deep & balancing practise working on the energetic level. We'll finish up with a bit of Gong - allowing it's tones to wash through us, for profound release and relaxation. 

Not suitable for beginners - £15 members/ £20 - chat, tea and treats afterwards...

Stretch, 206 Netil House, 1 Westgate Street, E8

Thursday, 15 December 2011

New Year, New Yoga

Hurrah, starting January I have 2 new Kundalini-Hatha classes in East London...cue more doodlings on coloured paper...

Monday evenings, Hackney 
St John at Hackney 7.30-9pm
Starts 9th Jan

Saturday afternoons, Bethnal Green
one yoga centre 12.30-2pm
Starts 14th Jan - taster class for £5!

You can book a 6 week course for £60, getting one class for free as drops in are £12 (concess £10).

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Becomings & goings

Anyone else felt the seasons change as a big old shift, physically and emotionally?

Yep, me too! I've started about 4 different posts only to change my mind (and back again) about what I'm trying to say. 

For the last week or so a fine morning mist has been (barely) rolling along the river and getting up on the roof to do asana seems like the last thing I feel like...observing while drinking chai at the hatch much more fitting to the tamasic mood. 

As a consequence, I've been having a little running battle with myself; should I enforce the pitta-like discipline to get on the mat at 6.30am regardless, or listen and respect my body's need to hibernate a bit...or is that the secret lazy me double-bluffing? 

The truth is probably somewhere in between the two: we are always becoming, evolving & moving on. And the turn of the seasons outside seems to accelerate the changes in our inner world.

We suffer when we try to fight or force this process. Inflexibility does not just affect limbs and joints but mindsets too; sticking steadfast to yesterday's routine or what's expected of us.

We wouldn't step outdoors in summer clothes today and expect to feel comfortable; okay, at least without a few concessions to the cold (short shorts + tights, hat etc)! It takes a few weeks to figure out how to wear a winter wardrobe again and still feel like 'me'(or the many x 'me').

Routine is here for a reason; because it gives us a back-drop to understand what we are all about, but if routine that cannot itself be adapted only sets us up to fail and feel bad about it. 

This morning the mist had rolled on and become something else, cool and clear, so I'm glad I caught it - sometimes the answer is in the stillness, Yoga becomes about being rather than always doing.  

Ali Gunning (Piriamvada) - I teach Kundalini & Hatha Yoga classes across East London. Me & my narrow boat Gorse live on the river Lee and London's canals - today Clapton, this weekend @ Kings X.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Autumn Yoga at Hackney Homemade Markets

I've moved my St John at Hackney Kundalini-Hatha class to a Saturday morning at 10am...which means we are now upstairs in the Gallery and limited to 6 people - so pls text, call or email to book in advance on 07855 402 837

After class, in the lovely church grounds, there are tons of healthy foodie options and vintage bargains to be had - check out the weekly Hackney Homemade Market which supports and promotes local traders as well as community & charity groups.

Every Saturday from 10am...
St John-at-Hackney Church
Lower Clapton Road
E5 0PD

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Yoga at home....?

...well in a lovely house, just off Chatsworth Road. I'm teaming up with Hackney Homemade ( over the coming weeks and we are holding an early morning Yoga gathering  for local Clapton/ Hackney people...


Morning Yoga Class every Friday 7.30am to 9am
In a house on Dunlace Road, just off Chatsworth Road
Class limited to six people and must be booked in advance
£10 (£8 concessions)
Bookings/ further info: 07855 402 837/ 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

'Maha Adi Shakti...'

So starts the first line of the mantra...'Kundalini namo namaha'.

This takes me straight back to the rooftops of Rishikesh, studying Classical Kundalini with Vishvaji at Anand Prakash. 15 mins into the first session it had set my imagination alight and now makes up a large part of my personal practise. 

What is Classical Kundalini and in fact what, or who, is Kundalini? 

Like Hatha, Classical Kundalini Yoga is rooted in Tantra and so views the body as a vehicle to liberation; the best tool we have at hand to develop higher or deeper levels of awareness. 

The style created by Vishva-ketu is dynamic and invigorating, based around 1.5 minute Asana sequences. Rather than holding, as per Iyengar or Hatha, we make rapid repetitions in and out of the posture, whilst breathing like crazy!

The Asanas used are those which allow the spine to oscillate in all its possible directions, acting on, or activating, the various Chakras (more on these in a tic). For example Ustrasana (the lovely camel back bend) and Chandrasana (lateral moon stretch). 

The breathing technique is similar to Agni Prasaran or 'breath of fire' - equally strong, full inhalations and exhalations (this is important, you'll end up very red faced if forgetting to breath in fully), through the nose only. 

Each class begins with purification of the Nadis and techniques to stimulate the Chakras - mantra and sound being a big part of this.

The class is not suitable for complete beginners - some prior practise of Yoga should have provided understanding of the check points of the postures first, so that focus can be directed to awareness of the subtle body and co-ordinating breath and movement. Hatha Yoga also purifies the energy system, removing blockages and allowing free flow around the body.

Subtle body, Chakras & Nadis:

To explain briefly, imagine that the Chakras are flowers (these are traditionally depicted as lotuses with a varying number of petals, sanskrit letters/ sounds and colours) which on a healthy plant are all bright and blooming. The Nadis are stems or stalks taking vital nutrients to and from the flowers. And if the stems are blocked or damaged the flowers will wilt. 

This 'plant' is the anatomy of our own subtle body, not visible but detectable as we move deeper into the layers of Yoga practise. And the nutrients are the various types of Prana (life force energy), sourced largely through the breath but also our food and surroundings. 

The 7 main Chakras (there are 1,000 or more in each of us) line up with the spine and the crown of the head. As wheels or vortexes of energy they are gateways between us and the universe around us, feeding and filtering Prana. 

When it comes to the Nadis there are 72,000 of these subtle energy channels but three are of vital importance: Ida, corresponding to the moon energy, the left nostril and the right or creative side of the brain and Pingalla; the sun's channel, linking right nostril to left or analytical brain.

The central or spiritual channel is Sushumna - the pathway for our Kundalini energy to flow through the 6 chakras to the crown of the head (Sahasrara). 

Ms Kundalini:

Kundalini is the creative potential stored in all of us - this energy is often symbolised as a coiled snake at the base of the spine, or seen as light. She is never fully dormant...different people are just in various stages of awakening.

Tantric texts explain the Kundalini experience as Shakti - creative goddess energy - moving upwards to meet with Shiva, or consciousness, at the crown. Uniting the two creates a perfect union or realisation ('Samadhi' to those who know other types of Yoga). 


I know I'm losing some of you...but consider that the Chakras all relate to various glands and organs of the body and our emotions - so the practise can be used to improve physical health, release mental blockages, fears and negative behaviour patterns. 

As with all Yoga, theory is nothing without personal experience...which in turn suddenly makes the theory click.

NEW Kundalini Hatha classes:

Lately I've mixed the Classical Kundalini up with Hatha sequences so there is a fun balance of grounding and uplifting. If you like a dynamic physical practise with a spiritual element I think you'll love it!

Weekly classes at St John at Hackney church, Hurdman Hall
7-8.30pm every Weds till Sept 11
Lower Clapton Road, E5 0PD 
Hackney Central Overground   
£10/8 drop in
Block book 6 for £50