Showing posts with label akhanda yoga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label akhanda yoga. Show all posts

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
2-5pm
At The Well Garden, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace E8 2BT
£30 early bird (before13th June)/ concession, £35 thereafter
Suitable all levels
Bookings: piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com/ 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.










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. 

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. 





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. 

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 



Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Chai & chat with...Sheila Whittaker, gong master, musician, teacher & sound healer

I have noticed a huge surge in interest in the gong recently, with many people asking me where they can learn to play. So... we are delighted to welcoming such an authority on sound healing and gong, Sheila Whittaker, to host an introductory workshop and ALL-night gong puja at the well garden this Sept 19th. Sheila's was the first gong workshop I attended and has provided much inspiration for my personal and playing journey with the gong! Over to Sheila to tell you more...

What got you into working with the gong?
I was already working as a Sound Healer when I discovered the gong, about ten years ago - a series of synchronicities led me to discover it. I quickly realised it is the most powerful Sound Healing instrument and did the necessary training. Since then I  have specialised in working with large high quality gongs.

How many gongs do you own?
About 28 I think

...Which is the most essential/ dear to you and why?
I love my 60" gong and it is an amazing healing instrument. But my 38" symphonic gong is my favourite - it's sound is like coming home to me.. it has everything and really moulds to the person it is treating, giving exactly what is needed. 

You are a classically trained musician - does/ how does that influence your gong playing? 
It doesn't really influence my gong playing - it's not necessary to be musically trained to play the gong as it's a spontaneous thing - we play intuitively. But I guess my musical training does come in sometimes as I often find myself playing rhythms or hearing certain harmonies. The musical training definitely helps with my teaching though - it's very useful in that arena.

What are the benefits of a 'gong bath'?
Stress relief, relaxation, increased ability to cope with life's every day challenges, feeling more chilled out and tolerant, plus a myriad of other possible effects such as pain relief, and help for conditions such as insomnia, migraines, fibromyalgia, kidney stones, and other conditions.

What is the difference between a gong meditation and gong/ sound healing?
A gong meditation would probably be for a number of people, who may be either sitting or lying down, like a group gongbath. A gong healing would usually be a treatment session on a one-to-one basis for one recipient, with the Gong Practitioner just focusing on that person.

How important is intention when offering or receiving sound healing? 
I think it is very important. My intention is always to be a clear and pure channel for healing sound to flow through me for the Highest good of all present. Then there is always a positive intention, and that can only lead to a good outcome.

Where is the most unusual place you've held a gong bath?
I suppose that would have to be a huge basketball court in Perth, Australia, about 8 years ago when we took the on tour. Many people attended the group gongbath - it was an awesome occasion. I've also played at several garden parties, and it's nice to play the gongs outside - birds join in and animals tend to come and want to listen. 

What are some of the common ailments/ conditions you use gong to treat?
As above - insomnia, pain relief, fibromyalgia, migraines and headaches, stress relief, energy imbalances of all types, both physical and emotional, blocks in the subtle energy system, moving people on spiritually by clearing old energy. 

...And some of the more surprising/ unusual?
Yes, we've had results with kidney stones - scans showed there was one, then after a gongbath it had gone. We seem to be able to clear blockages to conception too - I and my students have successfully treated several ladies who wanted to get pregnant, and conceived following one or more gong treatments.

How do the benefits differ when playing rather than receiving a gong bath?
When you receive a gongbath you're able to just relax and receive. So the client may feel more relaxed than the therapist afterwards. However, I do feel that the benefits are more or less the same for giver and receiver - as Gong Practitioners we are so close to the gongs when giving treatments and gongbaths that we are bound to benefit from the vibes just as much as the client we are treating. We're not free to allow ourselves to go fully into Theta state and have visions and "journey", but we still get the effects. That's my feeling anyway, and my experience.

Why is the gong becoming so popular?
Because it has the broadest range of tones of any Sound Healing instrument. It works so well for relaxation, wellbeing and relief of stress, and people seem to be drawn to it somehow, when they are ready to grow spiritually.

As a healer how do you balance the need for technology with connection to nature?
Not easily! I use technology when necessary, and it is necessary to be able to utilise the latest technology for our work, while recognising that our connection to nature is of primary importance. Nature is our earth - our mother, and we need to be connected with her above all else. There are some destructive technologies today that I feel are not necessary or advantageous. We need to put nature first, not technology!

Who or what have been your greatest teachers?
Many! My parents; my first spiritual teacher Sri Vasudeva; the gong work and the gongs; certain relationships have been some of the greatest teachers! Mooji; James Eaton; Eckhart Tolle. My own self observation and intuition.

What keeps you in balance (gong and other treatments or practises)?
The gongs, chanting, listening to music, meditation of all types, playing the violin and performing, eating lightly and nutritiously, mixing with like-minded people, doing things which keep my energy vibration high.

What is the importance of honouring the equinoxes and solstices?
I feel we need to honour the natural cycles of the earth and celebrate the passing of the seasons. It is good to mark these times with rituals, as our ancestors did in times past - an opportunity for people to come together in celebration. The gong Puja is an ideal event to celebrate these special times.


Sheila's first introductory gong workshop takes places at the well garden, hackney on Sat 19th Sept - you can attend the daytime workshop 10am-5pm to learn more about the gong's history as well as how to play - plus participate (play and receive gong) in a sacred gong puja ceremony, running all night until Sunday 20th (breakfast provided)! 






 

Monday, 6 April 2015

'Dig a hole for your pond without waiting for the moon. When the pond is finished the moon will come by itself'...

These words by Dogen Kenji just sum up the practise of yin yoga for me. Recently I was lucky enough to take a yin yoga training with Gayatri Gayle Poapst a Canadian anatomy and yoga teacher who trained with Sarah Powers, one of yin's pioneers.

Yin, also known as Taoist yoga, is all about resistance and surrender. We surrender the to the pose, we surrender the mind's resistance into breath or mantra, we surrender (rather than resist) what is right now. We wait. This might sound unpalatable, especially for us pitta types! Yet, as is often the case, what we 'dislike' can often be just what we need - a welcome release in a world of striving and flitting.

The environment many of us live, work and play in is YANG. To keep up with it we eat, move, think in a very yang way. And why not? No one wants to be seen to slow down, step back, ' lose their edge' - right (including, perhaps, on the mat)? As nature around us plays out as a balance of yin and yang, so do we require both the 'sunny and shady sides of the mountain' to be healthy and whole. Yin and yang exist together, within one another, within each of us.

Coming home from the first day of training, via the buzz and tension of the tube, I cycled down the river feeling the shivers of chi in my body. I looked at the reflection of the full moon in the water and thought: this is what yin yoga brings to the mat (and this is what london needs more of!).

Why yin?

Yin and the physical body

When we move in and out of asana in dynamic or 'yang' practise we rarely hold a pose longer than 1 minute and even where we do we are engaging, activating and generally working against gravity, which both stretches muscles and strengthens them. This is great and totally necessary, but doesn't scratch the surface of the structures which connect bones, joints and muscles. It takes over 3 mins to stretch out these ligaments, tendons and fascia - with a like-attracts-like approach, ie holding for a long time in a relaxed way...a yin approach to yin tissues.

Lines of fascia connect the body from head to toe and spiralling within, for example from the psoas through the diaphragm to the tongue. The body is interconnected by its web and wherever we tense or tug a strand we affect seemingly unconnected regions. A microcosm of the universe itself. Imagine how as we spend hours at the laptop, forehead tensed, this ripples through the body.

As for the joints, as we age they become drier, more vata - yin practise keeps them lubricated and infused with prana.

Yin in balance

Fascia gives us our shape and sometimes even yoga practise doesn't seem to be shifting that whole body stiffness we come up against at certain times of life or circumstance. So try yin... But don't give up your yang practise just yet! The two balance each other. Yin may make our yang praise more open and flexible but yang does a vital job of strengthening and stabilising our joints to complement their openness.

As someone drawn to contemplative practise I absolutely savour yin but with high mobility I recognize the absolute need to keep on strengthening. Actually it's an interesting practise for 'bendy ones' as we can often flop easily into a (physically) deep expression of a pose without much to challenge our awareness - as yin focuses on sensation we may have to step back to find it, and focus even deeper to be sure we are safe.

Yin versus restorative

Although both may use multiple props, restorative yoga is more designed to release the body into support and comfort, ideal for recovery from illness or injury, with yin more aligned to exploring our edges of comfort and going beyond the body into the deeper Koshas.

If anyone tells you either style of yoga is the 'easy option' I invite them to spend 10 minutes in dragon!!

Yin and the energy body

Many of us groan at the idea of hip openers as we know that not only our stiffness is highlighted. The hips, land of the swadisthana chakra, stir up emotions and here in yin we are holding them for an, at first, excruciating 3/5/10 or more minutes (yes, each side!). Fascia it seems is the gateway to the meridians or Nadis and the chakras and provides access to stored emotions and tendencies.

Chinese medicine and yogic anatomy overlap in mapping out how our organs, glands and nervous system are supplied with the subtle force which makes them tick. Lines of chi or prana move through water rich channels, governing our state of health. This chi must move (yang practise) but also be replenished (yin).

Of course the breath is the vehicle of prana and the stillness of the poses offers us a real opportunity to study, feel and guide the breath.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness tunes us into how we feel through the messages of sensations - the body whispering, talking and eventually shouting at us for what we need. Yoga practised with a desire for the body to be different and a list of shoulds and musts can reinforce our disconnection.

Once we find our comfortable edge in a yin pose we commit to stillness, breathe and observe. W
e 'dig our pond' and we wait!..becoming the witness. This, of course, is easier said than done, but hugely rewarding (as the tons of mindfulness research that have emerged in recent years reflects) in life off the mat. The poses increase the potential for us to feel our body while coming back to the witness challenges the egos grip on our consciousness as we stay, in stillness, and drop through the body into deeper layers of mind.

Yin and meditation

'Yogas chitta vritti nirodah' yoga is stilling the fluctuations of consciousness (patanjali)

How many of us stay still for more then 5 minutes in the waking day without distracting ourselves in some way - book, iPhone, TV, conversation etc etc?. Amazing how we think 'I just want to be still and quiet yet' when that is offered we will do anything we can to escape it, to wriggle away from the discomfort of what appears in the space or just the space itself - the mind throwing us resistance in the form of itches and excuses - 'I don't need this', 'how boring' etc.

In yin, after establishing ourselves as the witness, we are in a ripe space to face the underlying patterns which everyday life allows us to dodge. Being still and quiet is not about swinging from a rajasic mind to a dull one - we face it's ripples and let them go, often adding the positive vibration of mantra or brahmaree breath (or welcoming in the luscious tones of gong).

Yin is meditation in partial motion itself but if you find the act of sitting tricky it will also give you some much needed openess in the hips to fold into that 'steady comfortable seat'... And all that unfolds from there.

I start a weekly yin class every Thursday 6.30pm at the well garden from April 9th
As yin works along the same meridian lines as gong I invite you to try them both together for some powerful release and rejuvenation...
6.30pm - 8.30pm, £16/18




soma - a one day spring workshop - right here in hackney

Happy spring time! An idea that really resonates with me is Ayurveda's balance between agni and soma, on a deeper, inner level, the forces of sun and moon, purification and rejuvenation. 

So, the seasonal retreat this spring at the well garden is all about the moon-like, blissful nectar of soma. Celebration rather than detoxification! 

Here are the details...

Soma - flowing with the joy of life 

Revive, get in shape, laugh, love, share & learn.

Ready to come out of hibernation and unfurl the body into Spring? As the days lighten we prepare to bring ideas to fruition and embrace personal growth. We continue with a series of one day retreats to inspire you through the transitions and challenges of the seasons.

Water symbolises the flow of life, rejuvenating and adaptable; soma the stream of inner bliss. Harnessing these energies in our yoga practise, we can expand into a more joyful way of being - with our body, self and the world.

Join me, Piriamvada/ Ali, for a day in the life of an ashram retreat right here in Hackney. Workshop includes two yoga asana practises, pranayama, mantra and meditation. Morning yoga, dynamic but nurturing, will get the body and prana flowing. In the afternoon we explore deeper layers of body and mind through the stillness of yin yoga, mantra and breath-work. Guided meditation, time spent in nature and an optional evening kirtan bring us towards blissful harmony.

Lunch will be picnic-style (outdoors if we're lucky!) so please bring a vegetarian/ vegan dish or some bits and pieces to share. Snacks, water and herbal teas will be provided throughout the day.

Saturday 16th May 9.30am-5.30pm
Optional kirtan (guided devotional chanting with acoustic music) 6pm-7pm

The Well Garden, Hackney Downs Studios, 3-17 Amhurst Terrace, Hackney, London E82BT

Cost £60 per person or £50 early bird (book and pay via paypal to alipretc@gmail.com before 2nd April)
Kirtan £8 for retreat attendees, £10 drop in
Please bring a vegetarian/ vegan dish or a few bits to share during lunch

Suitable all levels, all yoga equipment provided
Contact me to pre-book and receive full programme piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com/ 07855402837



Wednesday, 25 February 2015

One conscious bite at a time...


Many of you will have come across mindful eating on yoga retreats or mindfulness courses - probably based on the John Kabat-Zinn raisin exercise. It often reveals our deep emotional connections with food – from memories of mum's christmas cake to 'I wish the teacher would just shut up and let me eat it!' (depending on what the edible object is/ how we are feeling). But it can also be terrifying, baffling etc.

It is one thing to eat consciously with soothing guidance in a relaxed environment (as it is to breath beautifully into parasympathetic resonance on our yoga mats) but how do we apply these learnings on the wider scale, to benefiting our everyday lives?

In our recent 8 week course tailoring yoga towards recovery from disordered eating, we set a home practise: to take one mindful bite of each meal, or conscious sip of one drink, once per day. So I'm following it myself for a week. The task is to slowly explore with the senses: smelling, touching, watching, listening to and finally tasting. But not just like v dislike ('yep that piece of toast smells good' as we shovel it in); really observing how the smell fades and develops; feeling around the different textures, noticing the temperature; putting an ear to the crackling of muesli... and so on.

For most of us not every meal can be this slow and mindful. There are situations where we would feel extremely odd gazing intently at our dinner. Say dinner with our new work colleagues for example!

But can the scheduled practise seep into the day to day, so that every meal becomes a little bit more conscious? From the two extremes we can move towards balance and integration - this is what yoga is all about right?

On day one its more like my third sip of morning tea which is at all mindful. The first thing I notice, before even the smells, texture etc is berating myself for forgetting! High expectations and judgement can be a pattern itself (it probably already is a pattern in many areas - playing out on the plate or the yoga mat). The exercise isn't about being perfect – in this case perfectly mindful all the time, just a little more conscious.

Day two I choose my morning yoga snack, a couple of dates and nuts. I think about how sugary dates are as well as how amazing they are to squish and realise that I wake up looking forward to this sugar in the morning when its particularly cold on the boat. And that I don't judge myself for this, whereas in the past I would have felt bad about admitting to having sugar cravings. I feel pleased with myself for this step... then judge myself for my lack of equanimity!

Day three I start to notice my posture as I eat, it seems quite protective and cramped – I would never sit for yoga practise this way. I examine all the textures of my bircher muesli and banana, just as it is. I am also aware of how much easier it is for me to be mindful with cold foods/drinks than hot ones, which I cant bear to go cold – interesting!

Day four I am trying out dinner and I realise I'm thinking about an intelligent thing to write about the experience. I laugh at myself for being unconscious in a whole new way.

Day five, you may be getting bored now, but I am curious about how different meals or foods are more emotive and difficult. Sometimes we bolt our lunch because we just have to eat in a hurry or because the pace of our lives has us habitually rushing. And to judge ourselves for that can be counter productive. But at other times are we rushing as we subconsciously know that if we did slow down we would go through a less elaborate version of conscious eating – and realise that what we are eating isn't the best thing for our health right now?

Day six, I'm eating with family and thinking about how hard it is to be both attentive to conversation and keep my senses on the plate. Of course eating together can be joyful, as it is in this case, but there can also be lots of triggers and challenges to staying conscious with food, perhaps versus using food to escape or deal with am emotional situation.

Last day, dinner, I make a legendary raw salad of red cabbage, carrot, tahini, olive oil, sunflower seeds and goji berries. I realise that what I'm doing is shifting things around in my routine for the opportunity to eat consciously...as opposed to fitting in eating/the practise when I can. I pause after shutting my laptop down before going to the kitchen. Switch the engine off and pause before serving up.



If you are interested in how yoga can help with disordered eating please contact us about the next 8 week course. Om shanti 


Saturday, 27 December 2014

Next 8 week course - yoga for disordered eating - STARTS 27TH JAN (AMENDED DATE)

New year is full of pressure to make food or body related resolutions: after the encouragement from family, supermarkets, cooking programmes etc to indulge as much as we humanly can, suddenly gyms and magazines are shouting at us to lose the christmas pounds, the beach body being just a few issues around the corner; and, of course, there are celebs everywhere showing us how easily it can be done (easy with the help of an airbrush or 5). 

We can't avoid the pressures we face around food and body image. But we can strengthen our own emotional resilience to the impressions they leave on our minds. And deepen our connection with what the body actually needs or what the bodies signals might be telling us about our deeper emotional needs. Because its not just about the food. One of the discoveries of modern science is that people with stronger 'interoception' (awareness of body sensations) are more able to understand their minds. 'Well obviously' the yogis would have said - the body and mind are mere expressions of the same thing and cannot be squashed into separate boxes. 

Eating disorders affect our body, our mind and our self therefore many people find that just talking is not enough or perhaps exercise helps a little but there is something more... As an integral body mind self practise, more and more of us are finding that yoga can really help in recovery from an eating disorder.

Healthy body, balanced mind, happy eating starts 27th Jan
An 8 week yoga program designed for those who wish to develop a healthier relationship between their self, body and eating. 

Who’s this course for?

Perhaps you are currently experiencing an eating disorder, perhaps you have had issues in the past, or perhaps you just recognise that your eating patterns vary with your emotions, and you wish to understand this better…

What does it entail?

The course incorporates body-mind-self practises - bringing together ancient yogic wisdom, mindfulness and modern scientific research. Each session includes movement, breath-work, guided relaxation, meditation and chanting; followed by discussion and supported by home practise materials.

In this 8 week course you will:

- Explore the relationship between body, mind and food
- Develop mindfulness of the body, its sensations and needs
- Better understand your patterns of behaviour
- Begin to develop a kinder relationship with your body and self
- Learn yoga techniques that you can apply in everyday life to navigate stressful situations
- Use your yoga practice to support your ongoing wellbeing, e.g. support digestion and calm nervous system
- Balance and boost your energy levels
- Have fun and find support with likeminded people experiencing similar challenges!

Course schedule:

Starts Tues 27th Jan 2015
Runs weekly every Tuesday 7.15-9pm
Final week 17th March

Venue:

Betty Brunker Hall
Gambier House
Mora Street
EC1V 8EH
Angel/ Old Street tubes, Shoreditch High St/ Hoxton O'ground

How to book:

Pre booking only
Please contact Ali on 07855402837 or email piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com
£100 (concessions available)
Mats and all equipment are provided. Beginners welcome.
See www.embodiedmind.co.uk

The course leaders:

Dr Sam Bottrill is a qualified yoga teacher (Yoga Alliance accredited), Yoga Therapist for Mental Health and Senior Clinical Psychologist specialising in Eating Disorders at the Maudsley Hospital. She lectures and supervises on the Minded Institute professional training and runs Yoga Therapy for the Mind 8-week courses in North and Central London.

Piriamvada (Ali) is an advanced Akhanda yoga teacher, teacher trainer and yogic lifestyle coach who applies ancient yogic wisdom and techniques to the issues of modern living.

Each brings personal experience of yoga as a basis for recovery.

Inspired by and affiliated with Minded Yoga:

Minded Yoga Therapy is inspired by yoga, mindfulness, neuroscientific understanding, and psychotherapeutic principles to effectively blend ancient mind-body practices with modern scientific insight. Seewww.themindedinstitute.com

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Curling within - and a whole day of yogic-loveliness!

Are you feeling the urge to get cosy and curl inwards like nature? Yep, me too, along with a mug of vegan cocoa! This week I've been embracing that feeling. It doesn't mean we don't 'do yoga', but perhaps we feel drawn to altering our practise slightly at this time of year?

We can both honour the need to go within and the pull to get so tamasic we don't make it onto our mats. Chanting and meditation are perfect ways to combine getting under a blanket with self inquiry!

On Sunday Tim and I host our first kirtan at The Well Garden. We'll be celebrating both the masculine and feminine aspects of the divine play of life and our nature, with a mix of Shiva and Shakti chants; which are guided and require no singing expertise (I am no Deva Premal - this practise is about connecting rather than performing)!

Plus, beforehand, local teacher Hui is running a gorgeous workshop in the same space - details below - contact her asap if you wish to join as there are just a few spaces left.

And I'll hope to see you there for a mug of that cocoa and homemade vegan shortbread. Om namah shivaya : ) 


Extended Sunday Practices with Hui


14th December 2014  1:30pm - 4:30pm
11th January 2015     10am - 1pm


These 3 hour Yoga sessions will allow for an in depth look at the range of practices included within the Yoga spectrum, extending beyond just the physical Asana practices:
  • Mantra
  • Asanas (physical postures)
  • Pranayama (working with energy using the breath)
  • Meditation 
  • Yoga Nidra (guided deep relaxation / visualisation)

Cost:  £25 /  £20 if booking more than one session
Venue: The Well Garden, 17 Amhurst Terrace London E8 2BT.

Contact: hui ng sidehuis@gmail.com

Kirtan with Ali and Tim

Sunday 14th Dec 5-6pm 
Hosted by myself and local musician Tim Stone* we will share a mix of traditional shiva and shakti mantras and acoustic guitar, campfire style. Hot spiced cacao and vegan shortbread on arrival.

The ancient Bhakti practise of Kirtan involves repeated singing of names of the divine to simple, sweet melodies...Don't worry this is done as a group and guided, in 'call and response style'. Kirtan is about vibration rather than voice quality - meditation rather than performance! Supported by the group energy we set side the monkey mind and call out to pure consciousness to reconnect us with its qualities of peace and oneness. Come with an open mind and leave with a happy heart!
*Tim has been playing and making music for too many decades to mention, teaching guitar, writing music for film and the latest of his albums is an atmospheric guitar-led journey through Indian chant. 

Cost: 
£10 pp, come with a friend and pay £8 each 
Open to all
Includes refreshments

Venue: The Well Garden, 17 Amhurst Terrace London E8 2BT.

Contact: Ali 07855402837 piriamvadayogetc@gmail.com



Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Healthy body, balanced mind, happy eating starts 9th Sept

An 8 week yoga program designed for those who wish to develop a healthier relationship between their self, body and eating. 

Who’s this course for?

Perhaps you are currently experiencing an eating disorder, perhaps you have had issues in the past, or perhaps you just recognise that your eating patterns vary with your emotions, and you wish to understand this better...

In this 8 week course you will:

- Explore the relationship between body, mind and food
- Better understand yourself and your patterns of behaviour
- Begin to develop a kinder relationship with your body and self
- Learn yoga techniques that you can apply in everyday life to navigate stressful situations
- Use your yoga practice to support your ongoing wellbeing, eg digestion and breathing
- Balance and boost your energy levels
- Have fun and find support with likeminded people experiencing similar challenges!

The course leaders:

Dr Sam Bottrill is a qualified yoga teacher (Yoga Alliance accredited), Yoga Therapist for Mental Health and Senior Clinical Psychologist specialising in Eating Disorders at the Maudsley Hospital. She lectures and supervises on the Minded Institute professional training and runs Yoga Therapy for the Mind 8-week courses in North and Central London.

Piriamvada (Ali) is an advanced Akhanda yoga teacher, teacher trainer and yogic lifestyle coach who applies ancient yogic wisdom and techniques to the issues of modern living.

Each brings personal experience of yoga as a basis for recovery.

How to book:

Please contact Ali on 07855402837 or email piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com
See our website

This is a progressive course, running for 8 weeks with a one week break, finishing 4th Nov. Block booking is required, drop in not available.

£80 (concessions available)
Mats and all equipment are provided. Beginners welcome.

Inspired and affiliated with Minded Yoga:

Minded Yoga Therapy is inspired by yoga, mindfulness, neuroscientific understanding, and psychotherapeutic principles to effectively blend ancient mind-body practices with modern scientific insight. See their website


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 saying...no 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).