Showing posts with label mantra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mantra. Show all posts

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, 4 February 2016

Mantras for precarious times, peace & everything in between

I was recently describing in class how much I enjoy the 'door-mouse' effect of living near to nature. Winter always invites me to hibernate - and while I chant on a daily basis, I often intensify my 'japa' during the colder months. 

Japa is the practise of using a 'mala' (beads) to count out a specific number of repetitions of a mantra. The action of touching and moving around the beads (like a rosary) adds an extra 'anchor' to quiet the mind. It wasn't a requirement of my sadhana to reel off 108s, but had become a spontaneous transition day to night, night to day. 

Particular mantras are recommended for particular situations we face, employing words which are a wake up the soul, of it's own remembrance, as Russil Paul describes in the fabulous book 'The Yoga of Sound' (which 'appeared' for me around this time via my ever-inspiring colleague Yog Sundari!)Or the bija (seed) mantras - which are powerful keys to unlock our inner energy and potential. For example you may choose the 'Maha Mritunjaya' mantra to break through fear and embrace transformation. Or the mantra 'Om Yam' to invoke the qualities of the heart.

For me right now its the Shanti mantra (below). With the exact, beautiful intonation of my teacher Saji) it came whispering to me one evening as I drifted towards sleep. This mantra I realised was the first I ever led, as a terrified trainee in Kerala several years back. What had changed? 

At that time it was all about the fear of my voice, how did the mantra sound to others, was I getting it right, what the hell did these words in this strange language mean? While now I was tuning in to the vibration and forgetting about the words themselves. 

Despite the different 'flavours', any mantra can take us beyond the confines of the ego into connection with the highest self which is unconditional peace, wellbeing, transformation, love and anything else we invoke. In times of turmoil and disharmony, the turmoil within is the one we can start with. 'As above, so below.'

Centuries ago yogis and yoginis found that sound has different layers, from the loud 'external' sound to a whispered mantra, a silent thinking and a spontaneous repetition. And used mantra as a vehicle of intention; re-creating with our tongue, lips, mouth and vocal chords its particular vibratory pattern allows us to manifest the form or result which that pattern represents. The rishis ('seers') worked with both mandala (form) and mantra (vibration) and today there is renewed interest in this, as 'cymatics'. Check out mandalas created in sand or this amazing video of the gayatri mantra made visible in water (thank you Lisa for this, I could just watch it for hours!)

Like a song we hear constantly on the radio, when we repeat a thought it sticks in our subconscious. When we listen to or repeat a mantra we make space between the thoughts - and fill that space with harmonious messages - which serve not only ourselves but others. If you wish to meditate and have a chattering mind (who doesn't right?) japa is for you. Even when the mind becomes quiet the world is chattering at you - others opinions, media messages, technology. So mantra clears the clutter and replaces it with vibrations that re-align us with our original/ desired state of resonance. 

Even without a translation - in fact sometimes because of this, as we are not busy analysing - sanskrit mantras have transformative power setting off waves of vibration through our watery organs, cells, bones, energy pathways etc. 

The act of chanting exercises our lungs and lowers our heart rate. It activates the glandular system, balancing hormonal secretions such as melatonin (sleep cycles). At the same time we are expanding outwards - the 'like attracts like' effect invites a response from that which we are calling to/ for. If that sounds less verifiable, just try it and see what happens and what others observe in you. 

Chanting alone - awesome. Chanting together - even better. We sync into the same breath pattern, the same pitch, the same vibration. We might let slip the armour we build up of who and how different we are and start to feel truly in tune, never minding how in tune our voices are. And isn't that what we are looking for in this practise of union (yoga)? 

We are starting a new chanting circle at The Well Garden on Friday 12th Feb at 6pm. It's FREE and requires no prior experience of chanting or even to make a sound (just come, listen, lay down before the 6.30pm class if you like). 




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 



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



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

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



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.