Over the last 40 years, Laksmi Scalise has been involved in almost all of the healing arts,
studying everything from chakra balancing, theosophy, and dowsing, to crystals, reiki, and sound healing—and having a blast along the way. She has a unique way of bringing all of that energy into her yoga classes, which students often call magical, healing, and transformational.
Recently, she has added "gong master" to her list of yogic titles. Leading gong-bath-style workshops at the Integral Yoga Institute, Scalise immerses you in the gong's healing and mysterious vibrations, while you do absolutely nothing but lie on your mat and soak it all up.
YogaCity NYC's Dar Dowling caught up with Scalise to learn more about her journey from yoga student to yoga teacher, and now, gong master.
Dar Dowling: How did you get started on the gong path?
Laksmi Scalise: Grand Gong Master Don Conreaux was leading a gong bath at Integral, and I was the karma yogi for the event. I fell in love with the gong from the moment I heard it, and was very interested in learning more.
Afterwards, Chandra, the manager at IYI, asked me to staff the gong training Don was doing. It was as if the universe, or divine, was leading me to the gong. Playing the gong was like coming home for me, and it wasn't long before the gong was playing me.
DD: How did you start using the singing bowls along with the gong?
LS: During the training, I also discovered the singing bowls. One of the students brought in a huge set of bowls, and I loved the sound and vibrations they released. I realized that they, and the gong, could easily be integrated into a yoga class. While the gong has a more intense sound, the bowls offer a gentler tone and vibration, helping the body to align more easily. They also help the student go deeper into postures and deeper into themselves during the class.
If a gong is already in the room where I'm teaching, I will gong as students come in or leave, and at certain points during the class. During restorative yoga classes and other kinds of workshops, I play the singing bowls because the sound works well with the flow of the class.
DD: Do you use them anywhere else?
LS: Yes, I am also an energy healer specializing in chakra balancing, and I have started using the singing bowls and tuning forks during those sessions because the vibrations they generate help bring the body into balance.
DD: What was your first gong bath as a player like?
LS: When Don would have a gong bath for the Equinox and the Solstice at IYI, his students would come and play with him – and that's how I got my start. It’s an amazingly exhilarating experience to play at a gong bath – and completely healing for the player and the people in the bath or workshop. I have to lose my ego in order to become an instrument of the gong or the divine while I play. Now I have started leading gong baths with other yogi's and gongsters
DD: When did you start yoga?
LS: My first experience with yoga was when I was 20. It actually all started in my living room in front of the TV doing poses along with Richard Hittleman, who had a TV show. Four years later I started looking for a teacher, and through a friend I found Swami Bua, who was an amazing yogi. He offered a totally old school approach, which I loved– there were no mats so we used bath mats, and it was at a time way before anyone was being certified to teach yoga.
Swami Bua taught us yoga, but he would also cook for us, making fabulous Indian meals, and then we would eat and talk about all things yoga. I studied with him until 1983 and would teach classes when he was out of town. But then life got in the way, and I fell out of yoga, although I was still interested in anything metaphysical, including learning about astrology, chakra balancing, theosophy, dowsing, crystals, reiki and other healing arts.
DD: What brought you back to yoga?
LS: I had been very ill with Cushings Disease, and started doing hospital bed yoga, which was the first time in many years that I had a regular yoga practice. When I got better I went to the YMCA, where I met my friend Sumati, a yoga teacher, and she took me to the Integral Yoga Institute. I loved it there, it reminded me of those early years of doing yoga, since Swami Satchidananda and Swami Bua are both disciples of Master Shivananda – the rest is history.
DD: Do you have any gong baths or workshops coming up?
LS: Yes, I'll be playing the the singing bowls, or rather they'll be playing me, at a restorative yoga workshop with Tara Dhyani Purswani on May 19th at Integral, and I'll be leading a gong bath with Lois Harrison on July 15th, called Cosmic Soul Journey, there as well. I have some other events coming up this summer too, including Yin Yoga and The Tibetan Bowls with Bhairavi Andrea Downs. For more information people can email me at email@example.com or on Facebook.