Hi Valeria, Nice to meet you. Thank you for agreeing to let us interview you. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to Shanghai?
Hi, I am honored to be talking to you! I am from Russia but have lived in China for the past ten years. Looking back, I guess it’s the endless possibilities and big city vibe that lured me into Shanghai from another beautiful city in China. At the time, I found a new job, packed up and moved here all within a month!
You’re something of a wellness guru in Shanghai! Tell us about what you do?
Haha, thank you for the compliment! I see myself more as a wellness addict, and would try almost any healing modality under the sun if I could! I am a longtime yoga practitioner, a student of holistic nutrition, co-active coach in training and energy healer, but it will probably take a hundred fingers to list all the healing practices I have tried. My habit of breaking daily sweat comes from dancing school and my quest for holistic health is a result of personal struggle: while eating “right”, exercising like crazy and consuming endless supplements I wasn’t in optimal health.
Bit by bit I was guided toward balance: my first pranayama workshop at Iyengar studio eight years ago, the practice of yin yoga, kundalini yoga, and meditation started giving me clues that maybe health doesn’t need to be a struggle of overachieving and fitness doesn’t have to contain ten workouts a week. It’s been a long journey, and I am still on the way, but I have found what I refer to as “parasympathetic bliss.” I believe that our bodies know how to heal and repair, and all we need to do is give them a break – from thoughts, anxiety, toxic relationships and “have to’s,” from DOING in general. That is why I love running gong baths – sound healing is a perfect assisted meditation that ticks all the boxes.
I have been trying to gather my experiences in one place and been working on a website where I could share my personal healing impressions – I will keep you posted when it goes live!
Tell us more about the Gong Bath? Where did they originate?
Gongs have been around for millennia – used in rituals, ceremonies, as a status symbol and musical instruments. I was first exposed to gong bath as part of kundalini yoga class, and it appears that Yogi Bhajan was the first yogi who started using gongs as a healing tool. Kundalini is a very challenging and intense yoga practice that exposes resistance and old, deep-seated trauma, and my first short gong session happened while I was lying exhausted in savasana after an intense kundalini class. At first, I had a panic attack – while my body was paralyzed on the mat as if in REM sleep, painful memories that were dislodged by the practice started rising up like a nightmare. But things let up quickly, and I entered bliss. It felt like brain massage while my body was levitating on sound waves. Years later I learned from my Gong Master that gongs have de-materialization abilities, and that is why a lot of people have out-of-body experiences during gong baths. I now play Paiste gongs – considered to be the best handmade gongs that have wonderful voices, and used by kundalini teachers and gong healers around the world.
What does it involve and where can we access your sessions?
Gong Bath is a session of sound healing and meditation. We typically start with a simple spinal warmup to get the prana flowing, a short meditation and then you rest on the floor in corpse pose bathed in overtones of gong sound waves. Clothes stay on, and no water is involved. Each Gong Bath is truly co-created – as participants bring their energies and gongs sense what is required for each single one, and every single session is unique. I always say that it’s not me playing the gongs, it’s the gongs playing through me! The gong is played for 45 minutes, the length of a sleeping cycle, but it’s important to be allowed some time to get back to this dimension afterward. A complete session with me would last close to 90 minutes as I like to give people time to come back and get grounded. You can email me at email@example.com to schedule a session, and I collaborate with Lizzy’s Zen Den on Yongkang rd. I also do distance healing sessions on auspicious times like new or full moons; they are free of charge and suitable for anyone.
Why would you recommend Gong Baths or Reiki and what benefit do they bring?
I believe we are spiritual beings having human experience – and that we are more than bones, brains, and digestive tracts. Kundalini yoga tradition, for example, lists ten bodies and only one of them is tangible, all the rest are energy bodies! Chakras, Aura, body meridian system, doshas – a myriad of healing traditions have tried to map and explain the workings of energy and subtle bodies. Ultimately, all healing modalities have the same goal of re-balancing energies to assist body’s healing.
I recommend Gong Baths and Reiki first of all to those who find it tough to relax, often feel tired and wired – exhausted but unable to have a good rest. The need to control the world is very understandable, with such informational overload we need to feel that we have filtered and categorized everything, but it’s physically impossible to stay on top of absolutely everything. The flow of energy in Gong Baths and Reiki healing sessions helps to loosen the grip of stress on our minds.
Gong Baths are a wonderful entry point to meditation – I often hear from students that “they can’t meditate because thoughts swarm around.” Meditation, simply put, is a practice of not being attached to rising thoughts and emotions. With sound waves taking center stage in your head during the sound bath you drift away from the daily worries and experience the state of thoughtless bliss.
Gong Baths also provide detoxifying vibrational healing – like micro-massage to all your cells and tissues that help to flush out toxins, memories, and trauma in the form of accumulated neurotransmitters and inflammatory chemicals. Your history becomes your biology, as Bruce Lipton says, and during the sound healing the vibrations gently ease this history out. Each body, physical and subtle, knows what it needs at any given moment – that is why it’s so fascinating to hear about people’s opposite Gong experiences, even they were all in the same room!
Reiki operates on the same principle – we feed the body and chakras with life force, and balanced, subtle body transmits the healing to the physical body. Just like gong consciousness guides me to play, Reiki guides me through the body to find and release blockages in chakras and give extra energy to painful areas. Reiki is clinically proven to alleviate pain and is used in many medical establishments around the world as an addition to pain therapy and post-surgical recovery. I find that adding Reiki treatments into any illness recovery program tremendously speeds up the healing.
Ultimately, there are a lot of crossing points in different healing modalities, and they work in synergy with each other and your own spiritual practice to help you heal and thrive. But one doesn’t need to suffer disease or illness to join the Gong Bath or schedule a Reiki session – they are a wonderful tool to deep relaxation, too! We really don’t need to wait until we are on our last legs to allow ourselves to relax and restore, timely relaxation is the proverbial ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of any cure.
In a noisy, polluted busy city like Shanghai, what are your tips for our readers creating calmness and stillness?
i) Personally, daily meditation practice is a MUST, first thing in the morning. We somehow decided that we only deserve a moment of quiet after we have exhausted ourselves, but try starting your day with meditation in silence and see how it positively affects your life.
ii) Regular relaxing practices: Gong Baths, Reiki healings, yin yoga, yoga nidra, naps, lounging, simple “legs up the wall” pose with eyes covered and soft music or silence. I have left behind beloved Ashtanga practice a few years ago after realizing it wasn’t serving me. I was jittery and restless at first hanging out for long 5 minutes in each yin yoga pose but now not a week passes by without a full-blown yin party of a 90-minute class. Yoga nidra is my secret weapon of boundless energy – a 15-minute session leaves me recharged and happy. At first, you might feel restless – you are not DOING stuff! I am a former dancer, weightlifter, runner and ashtangi – I know how this fear of missing out on DOING feels! Don’t get attached to your emotions and panic, keep breathing and focusing on relaxation.
iii) Creating personal boundaries – which is especially challenging for women as I see in my healing and coaching practice. Demands of children, spouses, households and mailboxes are enormous, but we can never give from an empty tank. There is no magic trick here – you need to learn to advocate for yourself and draw the lines. Whether it means that your kids get an hour with babysitter or that you skip someone’s birthday dinner and go to bed 8 pm, the world will not collapse if you don’t cater to its every whim.
iv) Earplugs:) In all seriousness, I keep them in my handbag and have several sets for home, work, and travel. Tuck them in, take a few deep breaths and leave the crazy of the city behind in an instant. Sometimes I honestly spend a whole weekend in earplugs. I add extra juice to that by dabbing some essential oil on the back of my neck – there is always a bottle in my bag and in my desk drawer!
v) Any form of spiritual practice: meditation, prayer, journaling, painting, planting, cooking, staring at the trees in the park – anything that makes you plug into your divine daily. Realizing that there is a force bigger than your human body that is here to support you is a wonderful support.
Finally, we ask all our interviewees…..As you have lived in China for a long time and a Shanghai Resident – What are your favorite things to do in Shanghai?
I have to think hard on this one – I have been so busy working, studying and healing that in the past year I have barely gotten any city life! I love biking around really early in the morning when there is no traffic at all, and I enjoy museums from time to time – they have art and no traffic jams. I love food, both cooking and eating it. Shanghai has so much to offer, and small Chinese places along tiny streets usually have so many gems. It’s hard to imagine a week without getting a tuina or foot massage – I love how affordable and wonderful they are. It’s so great to see how the health-minded community has grown – from healing circles and healthy food meetups to markets, talks and festivals. I hope we keep growing and healing each other!
To talk more about Gong Baths or Reiki, visit Valeria at Lizzie’s Zen Den or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org