This spring I joined Ali Gunning (Piriamvada) for her Soma day retreat, a full Saturday of flowing joy was spent at The Well Garden, Hackney Down Studios. Trained in the Akhanda style yoga Ali returns to India every year to gather new inspiration and study with her teachers, which include Yogrishi Vishvketu in Rishikesh. Akhanda yoga is a holistic tradition, which weaves together the many streams of yoga practise, which lead to the experience of yoga – unity/ one-ness.
The Soma retreat was organised to honour the natural cycles of the earth and celebrate the passing of the seasons. The goal was to open up like a flower from the winter season, blossoming into a new light, rejuvenating the body and soul.
The all day retreat started at 9.30am on a Saturday with welcome tea, intensions and the building of a group shrine. The shrine was constructed from items which resembled bliss to each individual. Everyone participated and formed a circle where we all joined for a 30-minute mantra circle of chanting to evoke vibrations of in the heart. The circle of chanters were left buzzing from within, leaving the body utterly relaxed.
Next, Ali led us on a floaty flow yoga class with nourishing watery flow asanas & energising pranayama breathing techniques. Her practise was perfectly accommodating to the diversity of the group, which included beginners and advanced yogis. After the mantras and yoga practise, I had transformed from my morning zombie into a warm energy ball of calm and balance. My body felt light and grounded, clearly the tiger breathing had worked!
For lunch, everyone was asked to bring something vegetarian and preferably homemade. The result was a beautiful feast of personality in the form of edible treats and food flair. The food was a range from different cultures, both savoury and sweet. The fact that we all contributed to this enjoyment evoked gratefulness and satisfaction.
After lunch we embarked on a series of moving meditations in the adjacent park, surrounded by complex shades of green, warm sunshine and passing cold spells of clouds. Ali put us out on two tasks, an inward and outward walking meditation. The outward meditation was centred around focus on the senses around us i.e. smell, color, temperature, texture sensations. The inward meditation involved focusing on the in and out breathe while walking very slowly, I think we resembled a massive group of space walkers to the surrounding gazers, people were certainly drawing attention on us however the personal experience I had was a deep state of connectivity and peace. Slowing down changed my perspective of my surroundings. As we walked back to the studio, the surrounding pace seemed chaotic in contrast to my deep sultry state.
The afternoon was filled with a grounding and restorative yin yoga class where poses were held for 3-10 minutes at a time. Releasing tension and stress in the body while twisting for detoxification. The final meditation was a gong meditation lying down. We all received a mini head massage, burnt sage wafted through our noses and the cosmic vibrations sedated me leaving my body in a trance like state. I struggled to stay awake in my final blissed out shavasana pose.
There was a short break before the kirtan commenced, hosted by Ali and Tim Stone a local musician. It was kirtan with a bit of a twist…in the words of Tim who leads the session says ‘our kirtan is an hour of using the voice to connect, relax and feel great. After some warm-ups, it will be based around Indian chants, which will be very easy to follow. All led by myself using an acoustic guitar and some electronics that create rhythm loops from the instrument and soundscapes that wouldn’t sound out of place in the world of Gong. A natural space out folks! Kirtan is about expression of love and devotion through sound – no singing skill necessary, just an open heart.’
I left a feeling completely grounded, calm and euphoric. My surroundings more positive and my mood ambient. I had certainly bloomed into a glistening bud!
All yoga equipment (block, bolsters, belts, mats) was provided at The Well Garden, even the matt’s been eco and ethically sourced. The Well Garden is a creative oasis for wellbeing and yoga, waiting to be discovered. Ali will be running Yin Yoga classes followed by gong meditation everything Tuesday and Friday at the Well Garden in Hackney Down studios. Her next India trip in March 2016! More info http://yogaonashoestring.com/YogaholidayBanyanTreeGoaMarch2016.htm