Showing posts with label ali gunning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ali gunning. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 June 2016

What I learned from my students today...

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

Leaving everything behind 

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

Battling less with life 

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

A breath changes everything 

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

Community heals 


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



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

Monday, 6 June 2016

Raga flow ~ live music & yoga unite

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 3rd July 2016
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.










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. 


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








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

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Gong, gong and yet more gong @the well garden


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

Whats it all about?

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

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

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

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

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

See timetable here.


***

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

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

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

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

Click here for full details or contact me with any queries (piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com). 




Monday, 10 August 2015

Dancing between spontaneity & discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 6 April 2015

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



Monday, 30 March 2015

Expectations....

On the recent Rajasthan retreat we talked about banning the words SHOULD, MUST and CANT and this applies as much to teaching as to practising yoga. 

EXPECTATIONS. When we first get on the mat these'll likely be about our own bodies, not doing as we believe they should/ what our neighbour's can do; frustration as to why today's practise isn't as 'good' as yesterday's; wondering why we feel angry, agitated etc when we 'should be' zen personified like the serene teacher sitting in front of us...

Then, as teachers we continue to have, and maybe grow some new, expectations about ourselves. We will of course expect class to pan out just as we planned it and torment ourselves when we didn't stick to the painstakingly crafted plan (although it could that our students loved us for that spontaneous sequence which felt it had been just made for them!). To expect ourselves to be as funny/ popular/ experienced as the next teacher on the schedule. To know all the answers, otherwise be exposed as a yogi fraud! And maybe to feel like we should be perfectly at peace with ourselves (not not having these expectations) now that we've ticked the box of YTT. We are work in progress and old patterns may come up again in this new form. 

But perhaps also towards our students. Do we expect they should show a certain level of commitment, body awareness or behaviour off the mat? Might the fact we feel drained or disappointed by our students 'lack' on any of these points be more about the security of our teacher ego? Teaching is a wonderful practise in offering up the fruits of our actions, karma yoga in action. Krishna would say we just do our duty and leave the results to god; the role we play might not always match up with our expectations of who we are or how we are perceived, but may be what's necessary in the wider scheme of life. 

That's not to say we become push overs or lazy teachers who roll out the same class with minimal effort as 'they can't be bothered anyway'. Or stop encouraging, inspiring and challenging our groups. But find the balance of doing our best and offering it up. 

And of course students will have expectations of us. Oh yes! For us to make them as happy as their last class/ favourite teacher/ other style of yoga did; for us to behave flawlessly off the mat. We are a work in progress as are they, we will grow as teachers as they grow as practitioners. Can and should we communicate this - for example acknowledge that the 'serene' teacher that now sits in front of them is sometimes shaking inside? I don't think there is one right answer, except to have awareness of where this is coming from and speaking to - if we are looking to have an outlet for our personal stuff there are more suitable ears; if we are seeking approval, why? But if we can soften students expectations of themselves by sharing a little of our own vulnerability, we may all grow in the process. 

Continuing, or starting, to cultivate authenticity, non-attachment and discernment through our own sadhana will help us navigate this path and turn expectations into teachers themselves.m

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 


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Yoga social - Gayatri x 108

Join us at for a special Saturday evening in at gogoyoga on 7th Dec: movement & breath-work, chanting, nourishing food and great company. 

I'll be leading a shakti-freeing yoga class then the chanting of Gayatri mantra 108 times. One of the most powerful and beautiful sanskrit mantras, central to the yoga tradition, its meaning is to be experienced as much as learned. We look to goddess Gayatri (mother of the vedas) and ask for illumination. 

In traditional 'call and response' style, accompanied by harmonium, we chant as a group and absorb the healing vibrations of the mantra - i.e. you don't need to have any singing 'skills'! I am certainly not a 'signer' so I really urge people to come and give chanting a try as the effect of even sitting quietly among the group energy is quite profound. 

We start at 6pm with tea and snacks and finish with a chance to chat and share over a bowl of gogo owner Annie's amazing dahl and locally baked bread (finishing by 9pm so still time to go out for you party devis, and an early night for us hermits :)).

All levels of yoga experience are welcome - yoga equipment provided. 


gogoyoga, 59 Columbia Road, E2. www.gogoyoga.co.uk
£18 early booking or £20 OTD. To book, message me with your details and we will call you to take card payment. OM x






Ali Piriamvada Gunning - I teach Akhanda and Kundalini Yoga in East London. Me and my narrow boat Bokissa are floating around near Homerton. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Hitting the re-set (rather than self destruct) button


The first time I encountered shatkriya or shatkarma I was on a YTT in the middle of Keralan jungle. I had just left the UK and the dregs of my 30th birthday party: feeling less than healthy.

Several people on the course thought it was all a bit bonkers; rising with the sun to drink a litre of salt water, throw it back up again (dhauti), then drinking another 16 glasses until it runs clear out the other end (shankprakshalana, which I'll be describing). Then rinse the nose and floss the back of the throat via the nose (see post about Neti). A lot of salt water! Being a lover of extremes, challenges and anything slightly out there, I of course was first in the queue with my Neti pot and silver ashram cup.

Since then I have come to a more understanding and respectful place about this practise called Shankaprakshalana. "Shanka" means conch, the shell being thought to reflect the shape of the digestive tract. "Prakshalana" is to clean out. We undertake this 'internal wash' at the changes of the seasons – pre-winter and pre-sumer. But also at a time when you can give yourself head space.

One of the 6 cleansing practises of traditional Hatha Yoga, it washes the entire intestinal tract, from mouth to rectum, removing a stuck food (like up to 10 days old) and entangled toxins and restoring the balance between the 5 vital pranas. Yogis claim that it stabilises weight for those needing to gain as well as lose it.

What feels like a very physical practise has of course many deeper effects. My dear room mate in Rishikesh (this was round 2 for me) told me she could literally feel herself "shitting out the past". Undoubtedly the practise has a strong effect on the muladhara chakra system which guides our relationship to food. As much as the solids, feelings and emotions are flushed out: an internal and even more inner 'saucha'. As for all of Yoga, we are cleansing the past and shaping our future actions.

After drinking fresh and warm salt water at a specific concentration we practise a set of 5 asanas 8 times each then it's back to the bucket for a top up x 2. The twisting, side bending and stretching movements, from top to tail, encourage natural peristalsis and after several rounds the visits to the toilet begin. Depending on your diet, lifestyle and how relaxed you can remain it takes 5,6,8...cycles to eventually find almost clear water running through, all food eliminated.

Then it's a short rest, but no sleeping (not so easy), before a brunch of kichari (a special meal prepared in advance from mung dahl, basmati rice, teeny bit turmeric and cumin) laced with ghee (laden with ghee if guruji passes your plate), or olive oil for us vegans. This gentle and complete meal encourages a new film to form on the stomach and restores energy levels. Over the course of the next two days it's kichari again and again, with a few green veg gradually creeping in as the oil quota decreases. Faces around the ashram canteen are pining for the chapatis landing on the plates of those who haven't cleansed.

My experience has always been feeling wiped out, wobbly legged and looking a bit grey on the day itself - but the next, pinging out of bed with shining white eyes and teeth, ready to take on the world.

I'm writing this as shankaprakshalana has been coming up in lots of conversations lately with people keen to try it. Without wanting to sound like a Yoga kill-joy, I feel it's important to emphasise that this isn't just a quick fix and your off full-pelt again; a re-set button without consequences.

Shankaprakshalana is part of a system of cleansing on all levels of our being - in order to purify the body, energy and mind on route to higher yogic practises. The Hatha Yoga texts recommend following it up with a diet free from certain foods for 1 week, some up to 1 month: citrus fruit, gas forming veg, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, spices, sugar, excess salt, carbonated drinks and processed/ refined foods! Not easy when you are working/ on the run/ feeding a family. And there are certain conditions which contraindicate the technique like weak kidneys/ stones, hernia, acute diabetes, pregnancy.

The stomach and sense of taste become super sensitive: essentially we are like babies on the inside once again; pure and delicate, it puts us into a sattvic state and provides an opportunity for the re birth of eating habits and diet.

For most people the adjustment extends beyond their dietary probation – our digestion improves and we draw more nutrition from foods. Mentally it affects the type of foods we desire, bringing greater awareness to how as well as what we eat.

After my first teacher training I stayed in a posh-ish hotel in Cochin. There was a mini bar. I was so excited to see beer and salted cashews but the first sip tasted like chemicals and by the end of the bottle I just felt flat.

I also think its important to undertake the practise in a place where's it's understood and catered for i.e. an ashram. As anyone who's stayed in this environment knows, toilet talk is normal, encouraged and incredibly bonding. Here the energy of our surroundings matches the inner state we are cultivating. Wherever you are, supervision by an experienced teacher is always recommended.

The third time I went for it I was at home and I admit there were moments when I had to swallow panic (as I threw up salty water) - "this didn't happen on the ashram - is something going wrong - how the hell do I explain this if I have to call for help - I'm on a narrow boat in the middle of nowhere, how would I even get that help!" type thoughts. Of course I was totally fine and again the experience had positive effects - each time the process is quicker and quicker.

However I found it hard to honour the recommended amount of rest and reflection - the processing of the process. I had to move my boat, teach, meet some friends in a pub. All choices of course. But I started to enjoy having this reason to come home and cook my own meals rather than compromising on sattvic (pure, cooked with the right intention) food in order to be sociable.

There is an option for lagoo shankaprakshalana - a half version of the cleanse which requires less strict follow up. I've just done this - compromising (not a word I knew much about pre-Yoga)  between my desire to re set and the current demands on my time. I certainly feel better energetically after a flat few weeks, starting to feel a shift away from summer.

Shankaprakshalana and many other Yoga practises have made me think about food a LOT! I was the kind of girl who lived on a few slices of toast and peanut butter and would always rather dance on tables than dine at them. So at first I feared I was becoming greedy, I was losing another element of control, crumbling away a wall of the big strong fortress "me". But gradually I have realised that we have to face things, to fully experience and understand our behaviour around them, before finding a healthy balance.

Sure we will hit the self destruct button a few more times after we've re set, but each time the urge to becomes less and less strong...Until naturally choosing the things we need at that very moment, without a battle between "good" and "bad".

Hari 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

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

new moon yin & gong workshop 17th August

Yippee, new moon is coming around again and Jenny and I have another session of yin yoga & gong meditation lined up for you, Friday 17th August 7-9pm...


See below for all the details - our lovely new home is St Peter's Church, 56 Warner Place E2 7DA (in Bethnal Green - 2 mins from Hackney City Farm).

Please reserve your space & pay in advance for this workshop - we have a super-easy new way for you to do so here ...
Early birds get yoga & gong for £18 (normal price £20).

This month its all about vishuddhi: meaning 'purification', the 'throat chakra' is associated with the element ether, our inner space; creativity, truth & self expression.

If you'd like to know more about yin & gong, have a read of our recent review on lecool.com, they said: 'London is busy. We’re so busy, we even compete to be busy, working late, waking early, pushing pushing pushing ourselves all the time. This little Bethnal Green class is the beginning of the counter revolution, a move towards peace and balance.' Full review here




by Ali Gunning (Piriamvada) - I teach Kundalini & Akhanda Yoga classes across North & East London. Me & my narrow boat Gorse are taking a break from Olympic London, on the idyllic River Stort.