Showing posts with label the well garden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the well garden. Show all posts

Monday, 12 December 2016

Resonant Solstice ~ Dec mini retreat


I have been hearing from many of my students: 'I want to tuck myself away, get quiet, eat well', yet its not the easiest time of year to do so! Hopefully our Resonant Retreat (18th Dec) offers a chance to introspect as the year - which has felt, collectively, highly transformative - draws towards its conclusion. 

Turning within doesn't mean we are wallowing (or boring), but honouring the natural twists and turns of the season; prakriti, the nature around and within us. When we honour rather than resist the cyclical nature of life we appreciate each of its stages all the more; all the seasons, each breath and movement, every thought and conversation. 

It is easy to forget who we are at this time of year, to lose our sense of ground (EARTH) as our obligations shift towards the needs of others, towards the material side of life. Emotions can run high (WATER) as we are drawn into family dynamics that show us where we still have work to do, and where daily routines, like practise and diet, are disrupted; depleting our vital energy. The need to breathe, be, witness, digest and re-charge is greater than ever.

As winter solstice approaches we can look forward to the next shift, moving towards the light again. In the emptiness left by autumn and winter there is an opportunity to make space for what we wish to create on our future path. 

Our last retreat for 6 months or so...The resonant solstice mini retreat takes place Sunday 18th Dec at The Well Garden 9.30am - 2pm. Chanting, yin yoga, sacred sound bath and delicious cuisine by Moody Mango. Bookings piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com





Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The exciting news...

Oh yes, its been a long and fun process to bring this special retreat together...and bookings are now open (early birds save £75!). 

Myself and the Well Garden are hosting a feast of yoga, sound and creativity in the Goan jungle this coming Feb...and you of course are invited! 10 days of dynamic yoga, yin yoga, sacred art workshops, sound baths, sweat lodges, fire chanting, nourishing food, naturopathy and Ayurveda. 

We dive into the elements around and within over the course of 10 days. Our home will be the divine Khaama Kethna near Agonda in South India.  



Come on in...See my India retreats page for all the info! 





Thursday, 16 June 2016

What I learned from my students today...

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

Leaving everything behind 

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

Battling less with life 

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

A breath changes everything 

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

Community heals 


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



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

Monday, 6 June 2016

Raga flow ~ live music & yoga unite

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 3rd July 2016
2-5pm
At The Well Garden, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace E8 2BT
£30 early bird (before13th June)/ concession, £35 thereafter
Suitable all levels
Bookings: piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com/ 07855402837



About Daisy

Enamoured with the romanticism of carnatic raga music, Daisy embarked upon her journey into exploring and discovering the beauty and creativity that can be conjured with this tradition.

Carnatic ragas are particularly appropriate to yoga as their origins are also found in India. There are unique characteristics given to each raga which Daisy carefully selects and builds upon to create intriguing settings and enthralling scenes. Combining this storytelling craft with the philosophy and lifestyle of yoga, Daisy found herself creating subtle, flowing and grounding music.

Influenced by her western classical background, the live score is composed for tanpura and viola. Whereas a traditional raga may be more rhythmical with tabblah and sitar, this music features the soothing, lyrical tones of the viola which add to the flow of the yoga class.

Daisy performs the music live with the intention of it being sympathetic to its environment and audience. She believes live music is much more enjoyable, personal and ‘in the present’.

Daisy has performed for many guided meditations, mindfulness classes and yoga workshops in and around London.

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Daisy Watkins trained at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. She performs regularly throughout the UK in various ensembles and is a passionate music educator.










Thursday, 21 April 2016

If the shoe doesn't fit...

If I meet one more beautiful being going through a massive transformation I'll have to write a book rather than a blog post. I wanted to write a blog post but almost as soon as words were formed they were redundant to say what I meant. They are mainly women, in all corners of my life; kicking down the walls that have contained them in some way; or watching a storm rip through their house, if they had been hesitating with that sledge hammer. 

It seems to be the time in which situations that we might have ambled along with, not quite satisfied but not yet ready to change, simply won't fit anymore: whether relationships, friendships, finances, careers or living arrangements. There is one thing that unites us and that is a search for authenticity. Its everywhere! And as the old protective structures come down, our hearts and fears are equally, authentically exposed. Not being good enough/ being good enough; letting go/ letting in; surviving, losing our power and many more. 

How do we know we aren't just running away? Fears are faced and transformed, not side stepped. The need for authenticity suddenly outweighs attachment to the known. Some part of us feels lighter after being stripped away. Of course as we embrace the vibration of transformation we attract others riding a similar wave. And this sisterhood can be the biggest blessing, inspiring us on when we are leaving others in our wake. That's not to say transformation may not inspire others, but that cannot be our motivation. 

Goddess Kali has been knocking on my awareness in various forms. We often hear and read that, sigh, we languish in a dark age (Kali Yuga). But, perhaps if we are awake to it, this is the real moment of Kali, when she flattens the lot in order to make space for rebirth? Her destruction is ever paired with compassion, bringing us through the dark to take a peek at the new light. But, if you do not wish to let go, all you will see is her fierceness; teeth, skulls an all. Transformation can be tough, painful, drawn out and unexpected. As she reminds us, this ain't permanent and it ain't yours. 

We all have our catalysts and for me India is it; time to be, time to question yet again, what feel authentic for me right now? As the search becomes more subtle, so do the layers of attachment. Ok I may have less things but what about clinging to the way others see me, or to spiritual ideals? The closer we get to how we once imagined out lives to look, the tighter the urge may be - who would want to let go of this, which we strived for? Patanjali wisely said that clinging to life exists even for the wise! But clinging always stifles our potential. Even our perfect ideal of yoga teacher life or whatever is not permanent. While we hang on to how it's supposed to be, we contract and we block the way for others who are expanding around us. 

As I sat barefooted in a blast of sunlight on the Downs last night I felt: 'transformation does not mean losing everything/ someone, but letting go...and the gain or loss is irrelevant.' And everything felt just perfect after a stormy few days.  Finally with the full moon overhead there is an air of completion as we take a breath and await the next cycle. 


Monday, 18 April 2016

introducing AcuGong...

A while ago I wrote that collaboration is the way forward, and at the time several exciting partnerships were bubbling under. Fresh from trialling the treatment with groups and one to ones, we are now delighted to be offering 'AcuGong' sessions in Hackney, Blackheath & Devon. 

Who we are


Myself, Ali, yoga teacher, yoga therapist & sacred sound practitioner. Sarah Pritchard, acupuncturist and Tui Na specialist: Sarah has been a big inspiration for me as she flows through life manifesting her dreams with a huge depth of knowledge and infectious enthusiasm. And Chinese medicine practitioner Isabel Milner who adds an intuitive and compassionate touch to the body work.


What is AcuGong?

AcuGong is and does as it sounds; we combine acupuncture with the guiding vibrations of a gong bath, 
plus hands on energy/ body work. Acu and gong each work to balance the physical, subtle and causal flow of life force energy - for increased wellbeing and consciousness. 

Life is a flow of chi - flow with it...

When working with this combination we've found the effect to be greater than the sum of its parts. We (and our clients) often have the feeling that we are unearthing and reviving some ancient art of our feminine ancestors. Much like sound, colour & smell there seems a collective conscious shift towards time-honoured technologies in our healing modalities.

Both acupuncture and gong work along the bodies meridian energy lines, discovered in ancient Chinese medicine and verified by science today. AcuGong is about more than stimulating the liver or balancing the spleen, it is a journey that takes you deep inside your body to uncover its wisdom and understand the mental patterns which are both imprinted there and released through the flow of chi. 

Vibrational medicine not only has huge potential to bring body and mind back into harmony, but to protect our immunity in the first place. As physical wellbeing manifests from imbalance through the energy system, it would seem to make sense to work with practises which clear us of the daily onslaught of disharmonious vibration. A great resource for info on this is 'Vibrational Medicine' by Dr Richard Gerber. 

Intention...and awareness

More and more in my own practise and work I'm reminded of the power of intention, both group and personal. In each and every yoga practise, in each and every step of self healing, intention is the vehicle which gathers and guides the energy created to its destination. Thats not to say we only have to make an intention and its all fixed. We must continue to have awareness of what brought us here, what it taught us and what patterns we need to address. 

How does a treatment work as a group: 

Actually the work begins before the session as we begin to set our minds towards that which we wish to shift...

The afternoon opens with guided meditation, intention setting and mantra, moving into the treatment space for 1.5 hours approx. Where you'll receive needles by Sarah, in specific energy points relevant to your intention and current health, while I build up steady waves of gong and circulate with singing bowls & tuning forks. 

During the treatment Sarah and Isabel provide hands on bodywork to stimulate and balance the flow of chi where needed. After the session we allow for grounding, sharing (optional) and finally we burn and release the intentions to the universe.

One to ones: 

In a similar way but without the sharing, a treatment lasts around 1 hour and can be applied to any health condition. 

In both cases its important to note the AcuGong may be the start of bringing to light certain patterns, rather than an immediate fix all. Collectively our journey continues...

AcuGong recent feedback:

"I am speechless, more powerful than plant medicine!"

"Something profound has shifted since the treatment, I notice myself handling life in a different way."



AcuGong is coming up at The Well Garden 28th May, Blackheath Complementary Health Centre 5th June & in Lyme Regis on 7th Aug. Contact me for info! 


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). 




Monday, 4 January 2016

New year, reconnecting with path and purpose

As one year rolls into the next there is a pressure to blaze into Jan with big decisions, big resolutions; to delete and re-invent. I am sitting waiting for the inspirational words to come, trying to gather together into that expected new year blog post the random thoughts that have been gathering in a reflective few weeks. I almost missed the sound of the rain drops on the steel roof of the boat for the last half hour. I listen and I re-connect. And this is the key, where the inspiration always comes from; turning within, not turning a page on the calendar.

The yoga sutra we are most familiar with is probably 1.2 yogas chitta vritti nirodah'. This is the state or purpose of yoga, the stilling of the fluctuations of consciousness. The attention becoming absorbed in the rain drops rather than the to do's and 'I am's'. But flicking onto sutra 2.1, here, clearly outlined, is the practise or path of yoga – 'tapah svadhyaya-isvara-prindindanani kriya-yogah'. This is the how of it – the three prongs of dedicated effort, self study and devotion to the divine which will support the cycle of our practise throughout the years.

Our early days of yoga (or maybe of each year) might mainly reflect the first element, of tapas: lots of intensive asana practise, a sudden desire for strict routine, grand renunciations and shifts in attitude. Then swadhyaya sneaks into play, perhaps we wonder what is behind this steam roller of transformation and begin to read into the sutras or other texts. But we also begin studying who or what is this 'me' reading, moving or breathing. Perhaps our dedicated practise shifts into a new contemplative depth, whether its content changes or not, whether it still looks the same from the outisde.

Swadhyaya offers an opportunity for yoga to spill off the mat, for 'Who am I' is not only an enquiry for deepest meditation but in our lives, moment to moment, and in any situation as we begin to re-appraise what draws us towards our happiness or stillness, and what increases the feeling of separateness. The pauses in thought we find on the mat (nirodah) can be applied to any choice such as 'might this comment I'm making on facebook cause anguish'; 'does this relationship nourish me' or 'can this food help me feel more present or more anxious'?

The more this enquiry draw us within, the closer we come to the divine, whether or not we have a devotional practise or an idea of what the divine looks like. For in yoga the two are only separated by false perception - ishwara and purusha or brahman and atman. Devotion or surrender indicate allowing a softness to creep into practise, as we move from separateness towards union. Perhaps we move from times of necessary purification to a desire to reach out to the divine in others. Or life, family and health circumstances change and surrender allows us to see that not even our glorious early yogi-self is permenant. We move through the ebbs and flows of the years with grace rather than struggling against the tide.

Of course this path is never linear and as ever deeper layers are revealed, sometimes we have to retrace our steps. And here is why swadyaha stands at the centre of the path. Where am I and what do I need right now?

Here at the beginning of a new cycle can we look honestly at how our bodies and minds feel after a festive break. Whether students or teachers, likely we need to re-apply some discipline to get back on track. But before kicking ourselves: for indulgences and arguments; todays wobbles in a previously steadfast dancing shiva pose; clunky cueing in that first class back...seeing this as an opportunity to be grateful for the awareness of how some of our choices have made us feel this time round; for the patterns we can only see more clearly through testing interactions.

Swadhyaya is the key to checking in with our own purpose and our own path. No previous effort has been wasted. Rather than how little have I achieved in the year goneby - how much have I learned? To making realistic intentions instead of those that peers or magazines condition us to desire. Or setting extreme targets that we are set to fail and falling into guilt and shame which divide us more deeply that the 'failure'. I remember a beautiful saying by Swami Lakshmanjoo: 'he who knows he has fallen has not really fallen.'

Happy New Year. Embrace this time of transition and all that you are : )  







Monday, 9 November 2015

Thanks to 'wabi-sabi'...a new workshop format...


I was reminded recently of a concept from Japan - where the 'imperfections' of an object like a tea cup are highlighted, in fact painted gold, to celebrate its history as part of a real and whole beauty; rather than spending endless energy trying to be 'perfect'. Something to bear in mind perhaps, amongst the pressures of the festive season! 

As you know we offer 8 week yoga for eating disorder programmes...but we also appreciate that not everyone can commit this time...so we are super excited to have come up with this new half day workshop format...

Exploring the body-mind-eating connection through yoga & mindfulness - a special half day workshop @ The Well Garden.


Do you wish to better understand your patterns around emotions, eating habits and body image? To develop greater self acceptance and learn practical tools for dealing with triggering situations in everyday life? 

Join Dr Sam Bottrill and Ali Gunning for a tailored afternoon of yoga and mindfulness practice plus discussion and gong meditation. We run 8 week courses, professional trainings and workshops exploring the link between body image, eating issues and emotions. This workshop will incorporate recent theories and neuroscience research around self-acceptance, body awareness and eating difficulties with ancient yogic understanding of the body-mind-spirit connection. There will be practical exercises for you to take-home; integrating yoga and mindfulness into the everyday challenges around eating, particularly at this time of year. 
The day will begin with an introductory talk, followed by a tailored group yoga session, mindful tea drinking ceremony, soothing gong (sound) bath and group discussion. 
Clinical psychologist, yoga therapist and mindfulness lecturer Sam works in the NHS and privately, specialising in eating disorder recovery. Ali teaches yoga and yoga therapy for mental health and addiction recovery and is the Well Garden's resident gong practitioner. Together we share a passion for promoting healthy bodies, balanced minds and happy eating. 
Cost £40 per person
Booking/ queries: to Ali, piriamvadayogaetc@gmail.com/ 07855402837 

5th Dec 2015
Timings 2-6pm
At The Well Garden, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, Hackney E82BT 

All yoga equipment, mats, blankets etc provided 

Yoga suitable all levels of experience - please inform us of specific health conditions in advance

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Gong, gong and yet more gong @the well garden


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

Whats it all about?

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

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

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

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

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

See timetable here.


***

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

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

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

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

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




Tuesday, 14 April 2015

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

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

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

How many gongs do you own?
About 28 I think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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






 

Monday, 6 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Why yin?

Yin and the physical body

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

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

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

Yin in balance

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

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

Yin versus restorative

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

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

Yin and the energy body

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

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

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

Mindfulness

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

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

Yin and meditation

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

Here are the details...

Soma - flowing with the joy of life 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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