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

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). 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Still adrift, but putting down roots

5 winters (the river measure of time and hardiness) ago I returned from India broke and in pieces, and moved into a cold and unfamiliar world. 

Making a shaky start (broken gear boxes, chimneys lost under low bridges) and frozen in at Hertford I soon toughened up, scooping snow off the roof to boil for tea (and sneaking round to my best mates for washing and warmth). Then it was off to london to join the world of continuous cruising; whereby nomadic boaters move every two weeks, a 'reasonable' distance, sporadically policed by the questionable authority of canal and river trust. A sign of the times is that since then the liveaboard community on the canals has increased by 70-80 percent. Most people will claim crazy rents and inability to buy in london have fuelled this change but I like to see the wish to get outside the machine in some way as just as much a factor. That's certainly why I and many of my friends did it; craving a more sustainable lifestyle in all ways, not just monetary. 

In deciding to buy a boat I ummed and awwed for weeks about the philosophy of it - pretending to 'own' something and buying into the need for security. A wise owl (that same Hertford rock of a friend) said to me - this will be the beginnings of good things for you, and besides your home moves and you have no address it's hardly 'settling down'! She was, as often, right. 

The healing power of water had drawn me: water which signifies the life giving essence expressing in different forms; the emotions; acceptance and flow. Having this floating 'cave' and being able to step away from the popularity contest of london life, I began to expand anew. Savouring aloneness, I began to attract new friends and collaborators. 

It has been with the support of amazing family and friends that I've slowly transformed my boat into a simple but joyful home, reflecting my inner journey. Re painting and re naming her after the celtic goddess of horses this autumn I realise the subconscious power of symbolism. A friend asked me 'did you go for trad colours or does she reflect your personality?' I let the pictures speak to that : ) 

And now I move into the second stage of settling, with lesser resistance. Making a full circle back to Hertfordshire, we've moved onto a mooring on the beautiful river stort. It manifested almost instantly after stating with surprise to the universe what I would like in my life now: grounding. Nourished by water and ready for the steady base of earth. What once would have implied stuck-ness and distance from spirit now feels it's very container. Both earth in which to plant sunflowers, broccoli and herbs - and roots from which to welcome the wonderful opportunities opening up to teach and play sound. I am finding new community, including bunnies and squirrels, and soon there'll be a yoga space to invite you to. Of course, again, I can move anytime but there isn't a need to know that. 

Here she is post transformation - thank you so much to Ben Smith 'Mr Blue' boat painter. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Renewed faith

Patanjali's sutras state that the spiritual aspirant needs 'provisional faith' as well as mindfulness and energy to step onto this path. What about those already on the path for many years, how can our faith continue to be strengthened? In cultivating our connection with our highest self on a daily basis, but also through seeing the emergence of the highest self in others.

I've just finished a month of teaching YTT in Rishikesh. I thank firstly my teacher Yogrishi Vishvektu for his faith in me, even at times when my own conviction falters. But also the 25 Akhanda teachers emerging fully cooked from the 'oven' (as he describes it) of an intensive month at Ananda Prakash ashram. Living, breathing and being 'yoga' together as a community is about much more than becoming a teacher of others, but building faith in our own divine nature.

And reaching out a hand to guide this process offers the same benefit. We see after a certain time (and effort) the transformational power of yoga in our wider lives as well as bodies and minds, but mindfulness is strengthened through seeing the new blossoming of Self in others. This year's group inspired me with their bravery, devotion and will to overcome whatever obstacles appeared. And to embrace not only the practise of yoga on the mat, but in every moment. I go home full of renewed energy to share this practise, on a physical level and as a path to divine living.

My meet and greet card on day one was 'embrace the negative as well as positive experiences' and this is where our faith is truly tested. I borrow a quotation from several students, via the words of Osho: 'I am the centre of the cyclone, so whatever happens around me makes no difference to me. It may be turmoil or it may be the beautiful sound of running water; I am just a witness to both, and the witnessing remains the same.'

When we have faith the right teachers arrive in our lives at the right time to awaken our witness. And from this place our fears - not being good/ smart/ beautiful/ whatever enough - are exposed to be transformed. I'm learning to thank these fears too! For showing me the strength of my faith! Faith does not mean a storm free journey, but does hold our hand and guide us back to the centre.

Love, congratulations and thanks to all. Hari OM. 

Monday, 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. 

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 / /

Saturday, 27 December 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s this course for?

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

What does it entail?

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

In this 8 week course you will:

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

Course schedule:

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


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

How to book:

Pre booking only
Please contact Ali on 07855402837 or email
£100 (concessions available)
Mats and all equipment are provided. Beginners welcome.

The course leaders:

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

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

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

Inspired by and affiliated with Minded Yoga:

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

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 : ) 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Santosha and 4 day professional course for ED

As you know I've been working on a programme for yoga and disordered eating. Returning home from India today I was thinking about the fact that in the days of patanjali and the ancient rishis eating disorders would not have existed as one of the afflicted states of mind. Food was probably pretty scarce and in India, even largely today, food is seen as a celebration of life with daily offerings, prasad and feasting making it part of religious and spiritual Life. Ok the Diwali sweets are not exactly the healthiest, but they are consumed in a social and sparing way. 

Coming to India was a big turning point for me in realising it was ok to admit to enjoying food, that it didn't mean I was greedy to tuck into a good old plateful; delighting in the sensory experience of a thali and actually laughing at my Imperfect self dribbling pani puri filling down my chin. I am very lucky to come here and be able to afford to eat well while others do not, and that is a strong reminder to be grateful, with perspective. 

Anyway I wanted to share some of the ways we (dr Sam Bottril and I) have been pairing up patanjalis ancient yogic thinking (the yamas and niyamas) with the modern issue of eating behaviour, through 8 week courses, each week following a theme with home practise tips and discussions...

I'll be supporting Sam and the Minded Institute on a 4 day professional training coming up end nov - this is for anyone interested in incorporating yoga into their therapeutic work with disordered eating or yoga teachers looking to expand their knowledge of the evidence, research, techniques etc out there. Details here 

Santosha – Contentment  

"From contentment comes supreme joy' rishi patanjali 

Each one of us sees life differently, through our own 'veil' of experience and conditioning. The struggle to meet expectations keeps us unhappy; looking to change ourselves, looking for new experiences that will make everything better. Expectations come from both within and outside but often we are the only ones seeking perfection in ourselves. Either way, we are the only one who is responsible for striving toward these expectations. When we step onto the mat we might be full of expectations – to achieve the 'perfect' back-bend today, to move faster than our neighbour through that last sun salutation, for the teacher to gives us the exact class that we crave, never mind the needs of the lesser able students around us.

We may have these same expectations in front of the mirror. Every day our body is different. In a world of homogenised food, harsh media criticism and monotonous jobs this is not what we signed up for. But we do not criticize the moon for its cycle – we watch with fascination at its changing shape and often celebrate its fullness and leave it to do its natural thing for the remaining 27 days. In a world which is constantly evolving why do we, part of nature, expect to freeze ourselves in youth, thin-ness or super-fitness?

Back on the yoga mat... there will be some practices you can do with ease and others that will be a challenge. As in life, we gravitate to those in which we look good or come with feelings of pleasure. Often the postures which make us feel challenged, angry or damned ungainly are the ones we need to be doing! Each obstacle is a teacher. Your neighbour will be going through a whole different set of attachments and aversions. Where would be the incentive to practice if it was all easy? Yes yoga allows us to change the way we look and feel but at the same time it alters our perception of what this should be. I often like to start my practice by banning the very word 'should' and noticing each time a thought begins with it.

Sometimes we get a little peek beyond the veils, that who we are is just fine. The longer or deeply we practice the more often we get a glimpse of santosha. I remember in India looking down at my feet one day and seeing them as just perfect – I mean really loving my feet. My nail polish was chipped, my toes were sandy and just as stringy as ever but I loved them just as they were in that moment. All I'd been doing was my daily practice with dedication: when you let it, supreme joy arises from contentment.

Contentment doesn't mean being ecstatically happy all the time - ups and downs are part of who we are. But as Patanjali outlines, it is the battle against how things really are that keeps us from contentment. Practicing teaches us to observe everything - sadness, happiness, good and bad times...and through all of these to stay with our true self.

If we cannot possibly be content until we look just like the yogi(ni) next to us, we are missing the magical changes that are occurring moment to moment, breath to breath. Even if we achieve his/ her look there will be another goal post to strive for. It is changing the perception (not obtaining a new yoga style/ body/ bag/ relationship/ title) that is transformational.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference”
Serenity prayer. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

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

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

Who’s this course for?

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

In this 8 week course you will:

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

The course leaders:

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

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

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

How to book:

Please contact Ali on 07855402837 or email
See our website

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

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

Inspired and affiliated with Minded Yoga:

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

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

River bank news...find a balance

In summer living on the canal really comes into its own: watching daily the changes in the under-waterscape, the crazy lettuce-like weeds and frisky dragonflies; picking brambles and, of course, being outdoors every second possible (including teaching yoga!). Above the waterline Hackney Wick and Bow have lately come alive with cafes, arts and new flats.

Through towpath connections I stumbled upon The Riverbank Project, a warehouse space with a permaculture garden, overlooking the Olympics near Old Ford Lock. This diverse space will be used for shoots and launches but on Mondays it dedicates itself to well-being, through a series of yoga classes and workshops called 'Find a balance'. So as well as practising Akhanda with me each week you can learn how to juice for better health, use martial arts for meditation, how to create with keffir and kombucha... and more. Yoga & workshops are just £17 for the introductory month!

We start on 28th July with a free taster yoga class (pre booking only) then on 4th Aug its a whole evening of yoga and gong.

Here's the info on the rest - pre booking essential here

Monday, 21 July 2014

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

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

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Yoga therapy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For details of sajis training check out

Thursday, 6 February 2014

South India part one....2014

Hello Kerala, land of the coconut, and Tamil Nadu, equally lush and green, with a sense of ancient wildness. In both states, some of the friendliest (and most laid back) people to be found in this, the friendliest nation. And featuring the hungriest of the hungry Mosquitos! 

India is so often described as a feast for the senses. In my first few days I've been tuning into its soundscape as much as the more obvious colours and flavours. Drifting in and out of sleep in my lovely fort Kochin homestay, the crows are making a right din, surrendering near sunrise to the swirling call to prayer which provides the backdrop to my yoga practise on the roof-top. As day breaks the rickshaw peeps come to the fore again. New environments are an amazing way to remember the freshness of our sensory awareness which can otherwise subside into routine and familiarity. 

I attend a morning meditation at the city's Kathakali centre where we sit or lie on a darkened wooden stage intricately carved with Keralan motifs. The musicians sit amongst us and start with a beautiful chant of 'lokah samasta sukinuh bhanvantu' before playing morning ragas. The tabla is immense, the flute haunting; my consciousness drifting between the two and somewhere way beyond. Afterwards the musicians explain that raga has a unique energy pattern which activates the chakra and 108 marma points throughout the body (same as the Sanskrit letters of a mantra would), producing specific psycho/ Physio-logical states. There are ragas (more than 6000) for morning, evening, sad times and everything in between. I'd never thought of classical Indian music as a sound bath but like gong it has that ability to tame the wandering mind in a more comfortable realm, that of sound rather than silence. 

Kochin and the Malabar coast is spice heaven: walking down the streets you catch chilli, pepper and cardamon in the back of the throat, just as I remember Salman Rushdie describing in "the moors last sigh", a family epic based in the city. My last visit here was a flying one, for a friend of a friends wedding, and we never really explored the eclectic Fort and Mattancherry areas, although one of my night wanders winds up in the same local Durga temple as 4 years ago. 

Today I ate probably the tastiest masala dosa yet, on the train to Kanyakumari - loaded with green chilli and bathed in squash sambar. Railway food I have learned is often surprisingly good: unlike trains back home there are no prana starved pre-packed sandwiches and depressing trolleys loaded with corporate sugar; as discovered while nosing around the carriages on a long long haul from Delhi to Goa, it is often cooked here on the train by sweating cooks stirring giant pots. The other surprise, today, was a juicy fly wrapped in the delicious pancake. But I found it, so happy to still be vegan, if not the low salt/ sugar/ garlic/ onion version of days back home! 

Kanyakumari is the southern most tip of India where the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea converge. Legend has it that parashakti, incarnating as the virgin Devi Kumari, destroyed the mighty demon Banasuri here, saving the world but at the same time missing out on a promised reunion with Shiva...Her final footprint is enshrined on Vivekenanda rock, a dramatic temple and visitor centre reached by ferry (never been asked to wear a life jacket in India before - which tells you how wild this meeting of seas can be!). 

The 'wandering monk' came to meditate here, realising his life's purpose and also prior to his great speech to the congress of nations in Chicago, 1892. I have read elsewhere that he wasn't fluent in English at the time but channeled his spiritual message to the world, which resonated amongst the broad spectrum of cultures and religions represented. Vivekenanda mixed the Santanam dharma with social thinking, hoping to unite India as an example to the world. His legacy and policies continue in education, health, worship and farming in Tamil Nadu today.

The monument, and the neighbouring mega statue to local poet Thiravullar, are kind of hectic so the vivekenanda meditation hall is a welcome respite. Inside a glowing om symbol decorates the front wall and it's mantra plays on loop as we sit on straw mats in the cool and minimal marble room. After a short while the gathered families, locals and tourists begin to breathe and softly chant along, together. It reminds me that we can make meditation reflect our lives - over complicated and busy (contradictory) - and that sound can bring us back, simply, to that deep and collective connection that simply is. 

The vivekenanda Kendram, is a community which lives by his philosophy, created by his great disciple eknathji (who also built the monument despite many odds and obstacles). This is the kind of place I have often imagined that the uk could do with, where yogic practise meets life and reaches out into wider society both as an example and in practical ways eg here they offer training in sustainable agriculture and traditional Tamil medicine and affordable yoga immersions. 

Here worship is filled with vibrant sound and I called time on Kanyakumari with a bell ringing puja as the sun set over the Muruga temple. Inspiring and unpredictable as ever, mother India, less than one week in - tonight I hit the road for Mysore. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Akhanda Yoga Teacher Training UK

More details on this from Yog Sundari...
I am delighted to share with you, Sundari Yoga will be facilitating Akhanda Yoga 200 hour Teacher Training 2014 – 2105 at Greenwich University, Greenwich, London
The dates are as follows, the course will be held on a Saturday 10am - 17:30pm and Sunday 9:30am - 16:00pm
June 7 & 8  2014
July 5 & 6 2014
July 26 & 27 2014
Sept 6 & 7 2014
Sept 27 & 28 2014
Oct 18 & 19 2014
Nov 8 & 9 2014
Dec 6 & 7 2014
Jan 10 & 11 2015
Jan 31 & Feb 1 2015
Feb 28 & Mar 1 2015
April 11 & 12 2015 Yogi Vishva's Workshop London
April 18 & 19 2015
It will conveniently run over 12 weekends, with an additional workshop weekend with Yogrishi Visvketu, this is included in the total course price.
Direct from the Foothills of the Himalayas, why not take this opportunity to immerse yourself in the authenticity of yoga? This unique holistic teacher training programme is designed for aspiring yoga teachers and devoted students who wish to have a greater understanding of yoga and to deepen their practice and yogic knowledge.
Akhanda means whole or indivisible, this will be the essence of these traditionally rich teachings. You will be provided with the foundation to eloquently teach with clarity, compassion, authenticity and integrity while honouring your unique style of deliverance. This course will be recognised by the International Yoga Alliance. The course is designed to meet the precise needs of the group and that each person will receive individual attention and continued mentoring and support.
Investment ~ Akhanda Yoga 200 hour Teacher Training ~ £2,995
Deposit to secure your place £300
Payments can be made by instalments or as a standing order.
There is an ‘early-bird’ offer of £2,750 if the course is paid in full by January 2014.
The teacher training will include diverse aspects of the yogic repertoire:
  • Asana, Pranayama & Meditation  
  • Yogic Philosophy     
  • Teaching Methodology, Techniques & Assisting       
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Subtle Yogic Anatomy & Chakras   
  • Introduction to Ayurveda    
  • Ethics & Yogic Lifestyle
  • Transformational Experiences
  • Teaching Skills & Conscious Communication
  • Business & Yoga
For more information and to register your interest please email me or call 07919 143 194
You may like to visit the website of Yogrishi Vishvketu, the founder of the World Conscious Yoga Family for a greater understanding of our all encompassing approach to teaching.
Akhanda Yoga Teacher Training UK believes that it is important to draw on the services of teachers who are expert and passionate about the subjects, offering you a variety of styles and perspectives. On this training you will experience the teachings of Yogrishi Vishvketu ~ Founder of Akhanda Yoga, Yog Sundari, Anandi ~ Philosophy and Piriamvada ~ Techniques.

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.
£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.