Earlier this year I had the good fortune of being able to participate in a Kundalini Yoga workshop with Ali (Piriamvada) in Dublin’s Yoga Hub. The instructor, like the weather, was warm, welcoming, energising and bright. It was my first time doing Kundalini so I was interested in learning about the practice as well as experiencing one of Piriamvada’s famous Sound Baths. Ali has this energy about her which is sweet and innocent, yet at the same time contains a power and wisdom of someone who has experienced life many times over.
The first day began with an invigorating Shakti sequence and moved from there into chakra work which involved different body movements and chants to awaken the dormant energy within, and powerful visualisations to help focus the prana (energy) on specific areas of the physical and astral bodies.
The second day was composed of a more relaxing, rejuvenating and strengthening Shiva sequence which was held outside with sunshine, warm grass and the cooling shade of a tree to aid us on our inner journey through the path of a tranquil physical sequence which included asana like Natarja’s Lord of the Dance pose. We finished with a Sound Bath session which consisted of Ali orchestrating a field of energy sound vibration with a series of gongs, bells, and Tibetan singing bowls. It was truly an out of this world experience and one which I would encourage everyone to take part in, if at all possible.
Moose: Describe your introduction to yoga.
Ali: I saw a poster for a local Iyengar class in Glasgow and thought I’d give it a go, I was hoping to tone up but there was definitely something deeper drawing me.
Moose: From student to teacher, what was the turning point?
Ali: I had my own practise early on but kind of lost my way when I moved to London. It was really on my first trip to India that I found my commitment again. A teacher there suggested I do the training and when I got back to the UK it became pretty clear to me that I had to change my life – these two things came together – 6 months later I quit my job and flat and went back to India to study. And change my life it did! For me it was starting to have a sense of an inner teacher that was a turning point in my teaching, though I will always consider myself a student still.
Moose: How long were you practising yoga before becoming a teacher?
Ali: Seven or eight years.
Moose: Do you have any tips, recommendations, or things you have learned along the way that you would like to share with aspiring teachers?
Ali: For me it has been important to maintain my own practise, not just running through what I’m teaching. For this I have Babaji’s Kriya Yoga – it keeps me grounded and connected, so feeds my teaching in a different way. Also just teach from your heart and it will always be ok.
Moose: Top three tracks/albums/artists in your playlist.
Ali: I recently stocked up on Yoga music in Rishikesh. One of my favourite Indian singers is Uma Mohan, anything by her is uplifting. I often play a song called Rivergoddess in class. Manish de Moor makes some amazing mixes of mantras, classical & electronic stuff. And I have a Shiva mantras CD by Craig Pruess and the Art of Living which is brilliant for Shavasana or falling asleep to.
Moose: Top three books you would recommend to the world.
Ali: ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahamsa Yogananda was full of revelations for me and tells the story of Kriya Yoga. I recently re re-read the Yoga Sutras and its amazing how we can always find something fresh in it. Right now I’m reading Mooji’s ‘Breath of the Absolute’ – you can feel his stillness and compassion coming out of its pages. Can I have one more? – Lal Ded, a poetess from Kashmir has been a big inspiration.
Moose: Are you a juice juicer or a smoothie blender?
Ali: Both! I think smoothies are winning at the moment, as I feel like you can be a bit more spontaneous with them, like cooking.
Moose: You live in a houseboat on the Thames, correct? Can you tell us a little about that lifestyle (pros/cons?), how long you have been doing so, and what made you choose water over land?
Ali: I live on a narrow boat, mainly on the River Lee which runs from East London to Hertfordshire and has some beautiful countryside and wild marshland. As a ‘continuous cruiser’ I’ve been living a bit of a nomadic life on the rivers and canals for nearly 3 years (we have to move every 2 weeks). The lifestyle is very free/ freeing and helps me stay connected with nature even though I’m in a huge and loud city. The people I’ve met are just amazing, the community is very strong and supportive. I love the constant change, though its not for everyone and you do have to be prepared for a more minimal and physical existence.
Moose: Do you think you would ever live on land again?
Ali: Never say never! I am sure there are lots of similar communities finding a way to live a little bit differently. But it would be hard to leave behind the soothing and healing effects of living on water.
Moose: You provide Sound Bath sessions. How did you get into this practice, and is there a place where one can train and learn more about this method of healing?
Ali: Sound has given me some of my deepest experiences and I began incorporating it with Yoga through a brilliant sound therapist friend. The London School of Sound Healing has some great courses – recently I attended a gong training with Sheila Whitaker. Most of the work is intuitive and learning to allow the sound to play through you, not the other way round.
Moose: Do you have a favourite gong/bell/singing bowl?
Ali: No favourites! But I recently picked up a huge bowl in Dharamasala (which is in Dublin this weekend), it has such a huge range of overtones and feels very healing and grounding – it reminds me of the Ganga river.
Moose: What is the significance of Piriamvada?
Ali: I was given the name by my teacher Yogrishi Vishva Ketu and it means ‘sweet expression’ or ‘speaks with love’. I think its a name I’m growing into!
Moose: What is your stance on the vegan/vegetarian approach to life, and why.
Ali: I’ve been vegi since 8 and vegan for about 4 years. For me it just makes sense: I don’t want to cause harm to another being and there is no reason to – we have amazing fresh plant foods available and so much knowledge about how to eat well – both ancient and new. I have always felt this principal comes before any pleasure I could get from consuming something.
Moose: How do you view the big picture, Life, etc.?
Ali: Our practise on the mat is practise in a bigger sense, for how we live our life, and vice versa. As Sri Aurobindo said, ‘all life is Yoga’. At the moment I’m just trying to approach all of it with love and without expectation.
Moose: Best thing about teaching yoga?
Ali: Its such a privilege to share the thing I am most passionate about with others. Plus the people I’ve meet, the constant change and variety, getting up every day and loving going to ‘work’!
Moose: You have shown interest in class swaps with other yoga teachers on your meetup page. Is this something you would encourage other teachers to do so also, and why?
Ali: I get a lot of solitude in my lifestyle and my self practise is so important but I also know its good to come out of my Yoga-bubble sometimes! Its supportive and reassuring to connect with other Yoga teachers. We can learn from everyone – our teachers, other teachers, our students.