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You might know Leo Cosendai through his music. Perhaps you’ve seen him gigging around London, until a few years ago as part of four piece band The I.D who released a number of records on Cosendai’s own Duchamp Record Label (Marcel D. being one of his idols at the time). You might have seen him on stage delivering his post punk vocals, or playing rock riffs on his guitar. Or perhaps you know him through his other music. Because today you are more likely to find him banging a drum than strumming a guitar, seeking to calm people down instead of fire them up. Leo is now a trained Pranayama Kriya Yoga teacher , reflexologist/sound therapist and gong master, teaching across London, and I caught up with him after a retreat in the Sahara to find out a bit more about his roles and what it all means for him.
How did you come to being a yogi, gong master, and practioner of meditation?
I am glad you mention the word practitioner here, because I believe it sits at the very core of what I do. In my experience, what links yoga, gong and meditation is pure and simple enquiry. Asking one’s self questions and attempting to answer them as honestly and humbly as possible. That is probably what has led me to do what I have been doing during the past few years. I should probably add to this the fact that my mother is a brilliant kinesiologist and aromatherapist. She has given me wonderful tools and techniques to assist my own self and to aid others. So that must have been a strong influence, there is no doubt. All in all, it has been a very organic and gradual evolution. Terms such as yogi, master and guru are misunderstood and heavily misused, and therefore represent nothing more than social glitter to me.
The music industry has a reputation of hedonism and extremes, drink and drugs, late nights and loud noises, whereas yoga is obviously far more measured in approach. Did you ever have that experience of the music industry, and was yoga a counter to this for you?
From the perspective of a passionate, hard working musician and also a person who also loves to create through the medium of music. I must say that this is not something that I have experienced. I think that I was probably spared by floating about within the realms of the ‘Do It Yourself’ scene. I worked very hard during those years and thankfully learned a great deal from all aspects. You talk about measurement on the yoga scene, yet I must tell you that I have witnessed a lot more rock star and diva types of behaviour in yoga centres and new age festivals than in Camden music venues. Ha ha!
Along this vein, as both music and yoga are expressions and art forms do they both give you the same feeling?
I am the kind of person who likes variety. I witness myself exalted by and through music, and I create space for my very self in and through yoga and gong. I think the element of yoga, which literally means union, was always there for me. The truth is, I have been making music to express something and I have been practicing yoga and gong to express something else. The key here is that they totally complete each other, and their union sort of completes me.
Do you still play music?
I practice, play and write music and am not intending for that to change anytime soon! It is absolutely vital to sustain everything else that I do. Everyone should play music, if you are reading us right now, go and play or get yourself an instrument, and play!!!
I found my first experience of a gong bath frustrating and confusing – were you an instant convert or has it been a gradual process?
I must be falling into the category of instant convert, however, I have had both confusing and frustrating experiences myself. A gong bath is a very strong practice which involves other limbs or facets of yoga and it is mentally far more challenging than the physical practice of asanas, also known as postures. Your state of awareness is greatly heightened and your senses are drawn inward. Those sounds you hear aren’t meant to entertain, in fact, it’s rather the opposite. The music comes from outside but its unconventional format confuses the brain and thus promotes a total inner awareness. That state is very healing in the sense that you suddenly become acutely aware of everything that has been suppressed and stored in your subconscious, but its downside is that you come face to face with that stuff, sometimes unprepared. A lot depends on the practitioner. It is so important that people who are giving gong baths should first play for themselves and then train to play for others. Anyone can buy a microphone, but can they sing?
I’ve seen some stuff about the science of gong baths. Can you tell me how it works?
Gongs produce hundred and hundreds of what we call harmonic and dissonant tones. The difference in frequency (Hz) between them is so small that they generate binaural beats. Those beats stimulate the brain to produce theta and delta waves (0.2 Hz-10Hz). Those are recognised brainwaves states that we can enter during deep sleep or trance. Prolonged exposure to Gong tones also refocus the brain activity into the frontal lobes, which is the “seat” of imagination or creation. Some people in American have been doing studying their effects on blood, and it seems to be clearing out a lot of the bacterial debris and also aiding in reshaping the red blood cells. I believe a lot is achieved through a well led session and I am currently trying to arrange some test studies with a couple of universities in Switzerland.
And finally, how can people find out more?
People who are keen to experience it or would like to know more about it are advised to come and see me. I give Gong baths every other Sunday at Indaba in Marylebone, and also teach in other studios across London, including Barbican Yoga Cave, The Life Centre, Samsara, Gracelands and The Refinery, and give private gong soirees at people’s homes across London.