Showing posts with label gong meditation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gong meditation. Show all posts

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. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Space & soma - a midsummer workshop in Blackheath - 28th June

Delighted to be invited to host a midsummer workshop at the gorgeous Blackheath Complementary Health Centre in SE London....

'This body is an instrument, you will hear the tune it is meant to play.' Anandamayi Ma (the 'bliss-permeated mother')

In this half day workshop ('space & soma') we will create the space, which is often missing in our lives, bodies and heads, to uplift our vibration - through yin yoga, pranayama, chanting and gong meditation.

Harmonising and making space in body & mind - the yoga session
Life is a balance of yin and yang - around us, within us and pervading the whole universe. In modern life, and even yoga practise, our balance can tip towards excess yang, the fast paced active, solar energy - depleting our receptive, lunar and nurturing yin. Yin yoga involves surrendering to poses, in stillness, for long periods of time; listening to the body, watching the breath, waiting for release and opening.
Whereas dynamic yoga moves chi, yin yoga builds chi - the life force which runs through our meridians and chakras, bringing harmony to immune system, vital organs and glands. Yin yoga builds physical flexibility and emotional resilience - acceptance and awakening to inner wisdom.
Pranayama means not only controlling the breath but expanding the vital life force within it. We will explore the blissful Brahmari breath.
Through mantra we create space between true self and an overload of information and thought. Chanting as a group creates a powerful healing vibration for the well-being of ourselves and all.

Filling that space with blissful vibration - the gong
Bathing in the sound of gong is believed to work along the same meridian lines as acupuncture and yin yoga. Having opened up and wound down in the yoga session you are free to lay back and receive the vibrations of gong, deep into the body, energy system and mind. The gracious gong has a broader range of tones and harmonics than any other healing instrument so its potential to lead us towards self healing is vast and inclusive.
Each session is different, depending on your own needs and energy in that moment. Many people experience profound relaxation and physical release, the movement of blocked energies. Others see images and colours. You may slip into deep meditation, tap into intuition or leave with greater mental clarity. Probably the most common result is the best night's sleep in years!
Feedback from recent gong & yin workshops:
'I'm buzzing with energy after the yin, in a really lovely way. And I feel very clear in my head!'

'The gong session helped very much in a moment of intense external stress and worry. I found the resonance and vibration to support, encourage and expand the breath, so there is a constant dialogue between both. The body starts to open up on its own time, effortlessly, as if each organ, chakra, muscle, body and mind structure awakens like a flower in the right moment. There is no forcing, no pushing, the sound is the conduit for change. It is a very beautiful, poetic experience that makes you connect fully with life.'

Further details:

Saturday 28th June 2015
10am - 1pm
£30 early bird offer when booked and paid before 30th May
£35 thereafter
At Blackheath Complementary Health Centre 184-186 Westcombe Hill, London SE3 7DH 
The workshop is suitable for all, regardless of yoga experience. Please contact us if you have any specific health conditions or injuries which require extra support.
A short break with herbal teas and snacks will be provided. Please ensure you leave 2-3 hours between breakfast and the yoga session at 10am.
Please bring blankets, warm layers and drinking water – yoga mats and equipment provided.
For queries and bookings: Ali / 07855 402 837 / /

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 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

Sunday, 22 February 2015

chai & chat with...Tracy Karkut-Law Homeopathy

A friend recently chided me for writing so infrequently on my blog. Sometimes it is hard to find the right balance of 'I' and potentially useful information (perhaps other yogis would resonate with this!). I also recently realised how surrounded I am with inspiring people, an extended sangha that includes yogis and many other holistic practitioners. So I decided to let them do the talking about what they do, where, how etc. 

First up is Tracy Karkut-Law, super-homeopath, DJ, nature lover and mum of 2 from Bethnal Green...Tracy has been helping me with a cold aching in my upper back so I can attest to her nurturing approach. 

What got you into Homeopathy and how long have you been practising?

I first tried homeopathy when a friend suggested it for my recurring sinus infections, as an alternative to my frequent antibiotics. I had a really positive response to my first prescription and never looked back!

I’ve been qualified for almost eight years, but feel I have been practicing a lot longer than that as I was giving remedies to friends and family even before I started my training. 

What's involved and what are the benefits?

Homeopathy is a holistic system of medicine that can be used to resolve all types of acute and chronic health issues. A homeopathy appointment is surprisingly detailed, and includes personal and family medical history, as well as general information such as whether you are warm or chilly, and what types of food you prefer. 

Most people find that after a first appointment, they start to feel more well in themselves, they are sleeping better and have more positive energy. In addition they will notice a general improvement in their symptoms. Sometimes, and not always at the beginning of treatment, there can be a short-term worsening of symptoms as part of the natural healing process. Sometimes old symptoms may  reappear in order to be healed. Overall, homeopathy helps us to be stronger and more resilient. There are excellent benefits from ‘preventative’ or ‘maintenance’ treatment as well as treatment for actual illness.  

What are some of the common conditions you treat?

I frequently treat illness related to allergies. I have developed a Homeopathic Hayfever Prevention programme that I’ve been using for many years, that is very popular as it works well. Two appointments during the winter and one during the summer are usually all that are needed. I use a combination of desensitisation strategies along with liver support and constitutional treatment.

I work with issues around immunity, especially in cases of recurring infections - sinus, chest, throat, glandular issues, urine infections all respond beautifully to homeopathy. I include antibiotic detoxification as part of the treatment, which I find is very helpful.

….And some of the more unusual/ unexpected ones? 

To be honest, I never know what I will be treating from one day to the next. Everyone is welcome! This last year I’ve worked with many long-term chronic illnesses such as HIV+ and Parkinson’s, both with good results.

What role does intention have to play in the treatment?

I like to explain my strategies and reasoning behind remedies. I also talk about the remedy itself - what it is made from and why it is appropriate. I strive for a balance between being non-judgmental but also honest and open. I feel that this is the only authentic way to practise.

How has homeopathy, or perhaps the acceptance of homeopathy evolved since you began practising?

Homeopathy is better known nowadays, partly due to the influence of the internet. There are many sceptics and detractors out there, however, so as professionals, we need to maintain a very clear and positive online presence. 

Homeopathy has well-established and traditional philosophy and principles that have served us well for almost 200 years. However, we have additional tools and strategies in our tool-kit that are relatively recent, but well proved and effective. These include ‘sarcodes’ (remedies made from healthy organs and tissues) used to stimulate repair and normal function of different body parts and organs that are not working well. Another example is ‘tautopathy’ (remedies made from a substance that may have caused harm, such as a vaccination) used to detox where certain substances are seen as ‘causes’.

What are the best preventative 'medicines' for modern living?

The best preventative medicines for modern living are, in my opinion, sleep and activity. We live lives that are too full, and too sedentary on too little sleep. 

Which plant best represents you and why? 

The plant that represents me best is perhaps the geranium. Long-lasting, energising and yet relaxing. :)

Who/ what have been your most important teachers? 

My most important teachers? This is such a great question! I have learned so much from many homeopaths - I can’t choose between my tutors at homeopathy college. Gordon Sambidge, Marcus Fernandez, Susi Deller, Hilery Dorrian, Robert Bridge, Tony Hurley, Colin Griffiths, Mike Bridger and Tricia Allen. I have to add Caroline Gaskin, a tutor from a different college. My first two homeopaths, Angelika Koch and Lesley Murphy. I learned so much from Miranda Castro’s Homeopathy for Mother and Baby book. Robin Murphy and Ian Watson have written many words of wisdom for homeopaths that I have read and reread many times over.

How do you stay balanced while living in London?!

Balance is never easy, but I this is what I aim for. 

Be outside - parks and canals are a great way to be in nature.
If you can manage it - have a dog or a cat. 
Be active - walk, cycle everywhere in a 3 mile radius.
Keep one day (for me it is Sunday) free to relax.

Give us 5 top tips for holistic living in London

Shop local, and go to the amazing markets - Globe Town, Broadway, Columbia Road, Brick Lane, Spitalfields.
Buy locally baked bread - Pavilion and E5 are my favourites.
Take classes - dance, yoga, pilates, anything! There is so much on offer. Try new things until you find something you love.
Find a therapy that resonates and use it regularly - massage, acupuncture, homeopathy or something else.
Look for opportunities to be creative. Take photos, join a choir, or anything that inspires you. 

As a practitioner, how do you balance our increasing reliance technology with the need to connect with nature? 

Technology is a wonderful thing but it can also be a massive time-suck. This is what works for me:

I try to do most things from my phone - on the go, and keep it brief. 
I use a notebook and a diary. If I write something I remember it better.
I sit down with a laptop two or three times a week to take care of longer tasks. 
I take a couple of whole days per month to work on bigger projects.
I unsubscribe ruthlessly from emails.
I aim for my inbox to be zero but use folders to file things I need to action.
Evernote is a great place to capture ideas and anything I might want to work on, but keeps it out of my inbox.
I get out in nature every day, once or twice. Walking and taking long-cuts through the park are great.
I try to see a sunset or a sunrise at least once a week.
I always have a vase of flowers in my home.
I have a dog and a cat. They are wonderful companions and my dog is a great excuse to get outside.
Go to bed early and wake earlier for a walk or a run.

Tracy practises at the well garden and the plane tree in hackney. Schedule/ find out more here

More about homeopathy 

Homeopathy is a gentle, effective and non-toxic form of medicine that has been in use for over 200 years. The basic homeopathic principle of 'like cures like' was established by Hippocrates 2,500 years ago, but homeopathy as we know it today, was developed by a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann. He began his career as a doctor, but gave up his practice because he felt that his medicines and their side effects were doing more harm than good. He went on to experiment with giving reduced doses of potentially toxic medicine, and discovered that minute dilutions of a substance would cure his patients of the symptoms that a larger dose would cause.

Friday, 28 November 2014

gong gone weekly!

Exciting times: the monthly gong meditation is going weekly. We have a new home at The Well Garden, in Hackney Downs Studios, every Friday from 5th Dec, which happens to be the next shiny bright full moon to grace London's skyline. 

So what's the gong experience all about? 

There is nothing to do...except undo with gong. You lie in a snuggly shavasana for an hour enjoying sound "bath" (literally like bathing in an ocean of gong, singing bowls and natural sounds).  

Sometimes sounding like a UFO crashing into the core of the earth; at times industrial; other sounds coming as if from the depth of the ocean, the gong leads us like an AUM-ing pied piper into states of healing and bliss that our everyday rational mind clouds. Many people who 'can't do meditation' get a little window into its world. 

It can be a powerful cleansing experience, washing away physical, energetic and mental stuck-ness. 

I really don't want to say more... expect come and experience it, without any expectations, but maybe a little bit of background is useful. 

The beauty of the gong sound is one thing (gong legend Don Conreaux believes it takes less than a minute to hook ANY listener), but the vibration does the inner work - and for long after the mallets are hung up - shaking through the spaces and watery contents of our body. The brain is also re-patterned - its left side gives up, the right blooms; alpha waves slow and harmonise to states akin to deep sleep or trance. Scientists are even showing the effect of sound work on DNA structure. The possibilities are endless with sound, it seems like we are rediscovering the power of vibration which is so primordial and so essential to our daily sensory lives. 

My first experience of gong was with a sound healer friend and it blew my mind, a few months later he had me playing and the collecting of these mysterious instruments began. Gong originated in Persia over 3500 years ago and has been used in Tibet and China for ceremony and healing for centuries. Like a singing bowl they are crafted from a special alloy of metals - the modern day gong meditation phenomena is largely due to master cymbal maker Paiste who cottoned onto the healing effects of gong and started making ranges based on the planets and elements, plus the orchestral sounding symphonics. 

It can be a mystical and magical experience playing or receiving gong. Or it can bring you a few moments peace in a stressful time. No one experience is better or more special than anothers'. No matter how we look on the outside or feel inside, gong is a leveller - eyes closed, all laying on our backs there is no comparison or competition (which can creep up in even the most practised yogi right?). 

Gong affects us on many levels depending what we need at the time. It is the gong that is the energy channel rather than the player, a fact confirmed by gong teacher and author Sheila Whitaker to me on a training weekend (2 incredible days of either gonging or being gonged). We step aside from ego and it's notions of technique and just play what's needed for the group energy presenting itself. Gong is perhaps the most powerful instrument for sound work as it offers so many different overtones that a broad range people's needs can be accessed in one session. 

Speaking to my own experience, gong connects me to my intuition. It also connects me to simplicity and love, where sometimes I can get carried away with this philosophy and that, to endless wondering and watching my self (this is obviously key but sometimes we just need to say less and hug more people). It makes me feel grounded and expanded all at once, but has also helped me release physical blocks. And sometimes we need tangible proof. It's not like teacher or healer emerges from the gong to provide the answers, simply that following it's merry journey strips back my layers, thoughts and defences so much that I can experience that all are within. 

Gong meditation 
Every Friday 7.30pm
£10 in advance by paypal or BACS (email me for details)/ £12 on the night
The Well Garden 

The Village Green 
Hackney Downs Studios 
17 Amhurst Terrace 

From the beaches of southern portugal, back to hackney this full moon. OM : ) 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Moving into meditation @ Yotopia part 2

Our May workshop, looking at how the breath and sound can lead us into meditation - and its role in Yoga. This month the focus will be the soothing Brahmari pranayama and include some gentle movement.

As the breath can be both unconscious and consciously controlled, it creates a powerful bridge between body and mind. While Pranayama does improve lung capacity, is much more than 'breathing exercises': the means for even expansion and distribution of Prana (our vital life force energy), it has a powerful effect on the nervous system, our mood & vitality.

Traditionally meditation is part of, not separate to, the Yogic path. Affecting every layer of our being, from physical to spiritual, its benefits ripple out into our daily lives. We will lead you through various meditations, using breath and sound.

And we'll finish up with the Gong bath - you simply lie back in Shavasana and absorb the layers of sound vibration which restore the happy resonance of body and mind. The Gong is a sacred instrument which has been used in the far East for centuries, for healing and ceremony. Its harmonics and rhythms take us automatically into the creative 'right brain' and facilitate a meditative state.

Please bring a few extra layers - the body temperature can fluctuate and you want to feel snug - so socks, jumpers and shawls are good.

Not suitable for beginners. Please let us know in advance if you have specific health conditions which may affect your Pranayama practise such as high blood pressure or asthma, or if you are pregnant.

Venue/ address:

St Martin’s Courtyard,
13 Mercer Street,

Cost/ booking: £30

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