Music and Meditation

Kirtan is a meditation practice set to music. Yoga classes usually include music, either recorded or ‘live.’…

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Kirtan is a meditation practice set to music. Yoga classes usually include music, either recorded or ‘live.’ When we meditate before our shrines, we might incorporate some gentle sounds to help clear background distractions. However, we likely won’t be trying to meditate while playing raunchy hip-hop or Led Zeppelin, nor should we practice yoga while listening to hard-hitting genres, as they tend to distract our attention rather than focusing our practice. I tend to agree with author Binazir regarding music at yoga classes. In the same manner, I’m not a fan of teachers cracking glib jokes during yoga classes. When someone is in a challenging, balancing posture and a joke is made, laughter is an enormous distraction that can potentially result in injury.

We are surrounded by music. Every media source incorporates music: even print, by suggesting music through dance-like body postures. Listen to the music used in movies, TV shows, advertising, etc. It is so routinely incorporated that it almost is unnoticed, is subliminal. It’s intent is to affect us emotionally and to get us to act on those emotions. In certain examples music might be used intentionally for evil.

Music is a vital, necessary part of our being. Our very first sounds are ‘cries of joy’ at entering a new experience. Interestingly, the first sounds purported to be ‘song’ is said to have originated by man imitating the sounds of nature. In fact, the human voice was likely the first of man’s ‘instruments.’

Sunset

And there’s a concept called Motherese, whereby a gestating mother communicates sounds (vocally) and other vibrations (kinesthetically) to the fetus, who after the 20th gestational week is capable of hearing and feeling these vibration AND remembering the vibrational patterns. This helps in the development of language and higher cognitive functions.

Music gets a pretty mundane place in our modern world. We’re so used to carrying music around with us on our little devices. We have music at our fingertips. We can put a thousand songs on a device no bigger than a postage stamp. Music is relegated to mere background noise to block out the irrelevant clutter of input and stimulus, but also to camouflage our heart’s yearning for something deeper, hence the propensity for discordant lyrics.

Music, for thousands of years was solely a performance art. There was no ‘recording,’ save for the record impressed upon the heart. Only within the last hundred years has music evolved into a canned art form. Families of old would gather in the evening around the fireplace and sing together. There was no TV, no radio, no other opportunities for ‘entertainment.’ And in some cultures, music was principally relegated to spiritual, existential thought, hence Kirtan, a gift celebrating existence.

Kirtan is one of the only events where individuals can walk in the door and sing. It’s an open invitation. There is no audition, no preconceived requirements. One simply shows up. And by its design the practice intends to provide a vehicle by which one can elevate their soul to the highest of heights. Singing, dancing, coupled with pure, soulful thoughts can fundamentally change the way we see the world and our place in it. And that is its purpose. To allow our true nature to grow, upwell and become again. Your becoming benefits the world.

Our Kirtan offerings include two CDs and our regular practice every Thursday evening at 8:30pm in Normal Heights. Sing, dance and make new friends. And please note: There will be NO KIRTAN on Nov. 24th (Thanksgiving).

See the schedule to find Kirtan, meditation, pranayama and mindfulness classes offered at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio. And be sure to check out Pilgrimage Yoga Online, our huge community resource.

Happy Kirtan!

Tom

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Review: Michael Stribling: A Better Place

A Better Place is the first album from keyboardist/composer Michael Stribling in several years. It was worth the wait for A Better Place, an album sure to…

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by Kathy Parsons

A Better Place is the first album from keyboardist/composer Michael Stribling in several years. I was introduced to Stribling’s music back in 2007 with Out of the Darkness, Into the Light and have reviewed (and enjoyed!) six more of his albums since then. After becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist, Stribling worked in the mental health field for many years, returning to music in 2005 during a transitional period in his own life.

Inspires and Uplifts the Human Spirit

The mission statement of Leela Music sums up Stribling’s goals with his music: “to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit. (Leela means ‘divine play’).” Stribling’s albums have always been visual and spiritual, but A Better Place seems to come from the heart of someone very much at peace with himself and his life. Using keyboards and synths, Stribling creates music that tells a story using a broad range of instrumental sounds and rhythms. The fourteen tracks on this album are diverse and range from ambient and floating to more uptempo rhythms that invite toe-tapping and moving your body to the beat. It is a pleasure to have Stribling’s music as a backdrop to other activities, but I think it is even more effective when listening with eyes closed, letting the beautiful waves of sound envelop you.

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Happiness and Carefree Spirit

A Better Place opens with “First Light,” a piece that begins with the sound of birds chirping contentedly and then goes into a peaceful and colorful depiction of early morning light. Fully orchestrated as the birds continue to sing in the background, the music gently coaxes us to a place of warmth and tranquility. “Looking Up” begins with a quietly ambient introduction/prelude that picks up the tempo considerably about a minute in. This wonderful piece overflows with happiness and a carefree spirit – my favorite track! “Winter Encounter” moves in quite a different direction, but is still very soothing and peaceful. The music paints a picture of icy stillness in all of its splendor – another beauty! “Dream Waves” is hypnotic with its smooth, ambient flow – a mind massage!

Ambient and Dreamy

The next several tracks continue in an ambient and dreamy mode with a varied palette of musical instruments. The title track is a bit more dramatic and symphonic, although still very peaceful and warm. “Quiet Certainty” takes us back (or moves us forward) to more melody and an infectious rhythm. I love the titles for “Dust Yourself Off” and “Time for Bed, Sweetheart,” both very soulful and heartfelt pieces. “Ever Onward” is light and breezy, and seems to reflect on the power of love  and positive thinking/living – a great way to end the album!

It was worth the wait for A Better Place, an album sure to take you to a better place, if only for an hour or so! Recommended!

Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Ajeet Kaur…on Love and Forgiveness

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art,…

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by Ajeet Kaur

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art, my art brings me closer and closer to the core of my being, to the real essence of who I am. As I see it, the only parts of ourselves that keep us from truly loving and forgiving are the places of fear within us. Art allows us to explore those more vulnerable parts of ourselves, to really go deep into the vast world within, and then to express from a place of real truth when we touch it. Art that doesn’t come from that place of truth doesn’t hold much power. For me, art comes from a place where love and forgiveness are natural and come with ease, and that’s why I like to visit that space as much as possible.

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Art and music represent unity

Art and music represent unity. They are languages that communicate through feeling, emotion, and devotion. As a world with so many different traditions, languages, and ways of living, we need art to remind us to live openly. By sharing our messages of hope and love through art and music we put them into a universal language. Art is a reminder of how beautiful it is to do things differently, to be individual. If every song or every painting was the same they would lose their magic. If every person or every culture was the same, the world would lose its beauty as well.

Let My Heart Be My Compass

My creative life changes me every day. BEING CREATIVE REQUIRES US TO BE REAL WITH OURSELVES FIRST. IF I AM LIVING IN A WAY THAT ISN’T TRUE FOR ME, THAT ISN’T ALIGNED, THEN THE
music I create carries that vibration. My CREATIVE LIFE INSPIRES ME TO KEEP OPENING MYSELF, KEEP EXPLORING MY DEPTHS, AND AS I CHANGE SO DOES WHAT I CREATE. AS I EMBRACE A MORE CREATIVE LIFE WITH ART AT THE CENTER OF IT, I HAVE JUST WATCHED THOSE PRESSURES FALL AWAY. NOW THE MOST IMPORTANT GOAL IN MY LIFE IS TO LIVE IN A WAY THAT FEELS TOTALLY TRUE AND TO LET MY HEART BE MY COMPASS. MY PRAYER IS THAT BY BEING TRUE TO MYSELF IT WILL HELP OTHERS DO THE SAME. UPLIFTING EACH OTHER IS THE BEST GIFT.

“Art and music serve as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life.”
– Ajeet Kaur, Sacred Chant Artist, Flutist & Spiritual Teacher

AJEET KAUR is a sacred chant artist, flutist, and spiritual teacher based in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She released her debut album of meditation music, “Sacred Waters” in the Spring of 2013 and is now working on her second album, “At the Temple Door”. She is now traveling the world to offer music and yoga with Snatam Kaur and on her own. Inspired by the musical and spiritual atmosphere of her upbringing Ajeet began singing at a young age. Her love of music has lead her around the world to study traditional Indian and Irish music, along with folk traditions and western musical styles. Ajeet Kaur’s music is available from Spirit Voyage Records.

Website: www.ajeetkaurmusic.com
Photo: Spirit Voyage Recordsebook_cover_3D-fixed

Love Live Forgive features interviews with a diverse range of artists who reveal and explore the transformative power oflove, forgiveness, and the creative spirit. While featuring a wide-ranging demographic, the contributors to this project represent a dynamic spectrum of artistic, cultural, and faith-based backgrounds. Individually they offer their unique perspective on the human experience. Collectively they embrace a shared passion for art and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.  Get a free book download.

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5 Tips for Improving Your Focus

Technology has enabled more distractions in our lives than ever before, and it’s easy to lose focus on one’s priorities and goals. Focusing our minds is a sure way to achieving our goals and fulfilling the promise of our lives. If you’re like me, you might have been buried in distractions from notifications on a mobile phone or computer — from email, social media, news […]

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Technology has enabled more distractions in our lives than ever before, and it’s easy to lose focus on one’s priorities and goals. Focusing our minds is a sure way to achieving our goals and fulfilling the promise of our lives.

If you’re like me, you might have been buried in distractions from notifications on a mobile phone or computer — from email, social media, news alerts and instant messages.  One day I decided to shut off the notifications on my iPhone.  Now I now check for messages on my own time versus being interrupted by notifacations.

“Distractions signal that something has changed,” says David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work (HarperCollins, 2009). It’s an inner alert that says, “Orient your attention here now; this could be dangerous.”

And sometimes life gets out of balance. So working on personal focus is a great way to find your center again. Here are some practical tips for staying focused.

1. Meditate in the Morning

Morning meditation can be a transformative, life-changing experience if done regularly. Take any of our online meditation classes to learn productive meditation techniques. Practice a few minutes each day. Be patient with yourself; it took a lifetime to get you clogged up and unbalanced. It takes some time for a lifetime of reverberations in one’s mind to dissolve into the focused stillness that regular meditation practice enables.

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2. Be Creative First Thing

Creative time can be a release us from the distractions of life.  Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” Being creative opens the door to an inner dimension where we reflect, expand ideas, and see life in new ways.  I say be creative – sing, paint, play music, blog, or keep a diary daily. Be creative.

Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” suggests writing daily Morning Pages — three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. Morning pages are not intended to be high art. Cameron suggests, “they are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

3. Run and Become

Running a few miles a day is a great way to let go of the distractions of the day. Rather than listening to music on Spotify when you run,oractice mindfulness while running. Focus on your breathing. Listen to the quiet.  Accomplished runner and leader of Shambhala, Sakyong Mipham combines mindfulness with physical movement for more energy, more focus, and more. His book, “Running with the Mind of Meditation,” shares ways to connect with the present moment through synchronizing body and mind.

4. Commit to Your Calendar

Keep a physical or online calendar. That’s where you can schedule and prioritize time for activities that nurture focus. Add calendar listings for morning meditation, yoga, being creative, running and more. Be fair to yourself — create a schedule you feel you can keep. Then keep to the schedule; that’s the commitment. The longer you do the more you’re providing your ability to focus. Fulfilling your calendar puts your focus into action while nurturing good practices for life.

5. Control Instant Notifications

Author Stephen King says the one thing a writer needs is a “door” to close. We’re living in an instant notification world. Consider reducing or eliminating persistent notifications on mobile phones and laptops from social media, email, stores and friends. Check messages on your own time versus allowing them to intrude on you every moment of the day – as if your door was always open to strangers.

 Shambhu writes for the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.  He’s also an accomplished guitarist and composer. Learn more at ShambhuMusic.com.  

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Meditation: How to Stay Inspired

Having trouble finding inspiration to meditate as part of your yoga practice at home or destress at work?…

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It’s common to momentarily lose the inspiration to continue a daily meditation practice especially in today’s non-stop, notification-driven world. Like any life activity, meditation needs to become a priority.

Say Yes to Activities that Add Value to Our Lives

Writing in Harvard Business Review, author and speaker Tony Schwartz suggests we need to say “yes” to activities that add value to our lives and learn to say “no” to the rest. ‘Saying no, thoughtfully, may be the most undervalued capacity of our times. In a world of relentless demands and infinite options, [we need] to prioritize the tasks that add the most value. That also means deciding what to do less of, or to stop doing altogether.”

One day I was feeling ‘unsatisfied’ after a very busy day and I asked myself why. It turned out I was occupied with activities that brought little true value to my life. I decided to prioritize meditation and other tasks and activities that added value: exercise, yoga, healthy eating, and music.

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If you’re ready to prioritize regular meditation practice in your life, Swami Paramahansa Yogananda shares inspiration on the importance of preparing for your meditation:

“The yogi begins with proper deep breathing, inhaling and tensing the whole body, exhaling and relaxing, several times. With each exhalation all muscular tension and motion should be cast away, until a state of bodily stillness is attained.  Then, by concentration techniques, restless motion is removed from the mind. In perfect stillness of body and mind, the yogi enjoys the ineffable peace of the presence of the soul.”

Spiritual Books Help

Your meditation practice can also benefit from reading spiritual books, says spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy.

“If you are an absolute beginner, then you can start by reading a few spiritual books or scriptures. These will give you inspiration. You should read books by spiritual Masters in whom you have implicit faith. There are Masters who have attained the highest consciousness, and if you read their books, you are bound to get inspiration. It is better not to read books written by professors or scholars or aspirants who are still on the path and have not yet attained illumination. Only those who have realised the Truth will have the capacity to offer the Truth. Otherwise, it is like the blind leading the blind.”

Power of Imagination

What happens if you’re uninspired to meditate on a particular day? Sri Chinmoy suggests: “Think of a time when you had a most sublime meditation, and consciously dive deep into that experience. Think of its essence-how you were thrilled, how you were jumping with delight. At first you will just be imagining the experience, because you are not actually having that meditation. But if you enter into the world of imagination and stay there for ten or fifteen minutes, power will automatically enter into your meditation and it will bear fruit. Then it will not be imagination at all; you will actually be deep in the world of meditation.”

How do you stay inspired to meditate?

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Yoga at Home – Music Playlist 1

What music are you listening to at home when you practice yoga?  The Yoga Music Playlists you hear at the…

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What music are you listening to at home when you practice yoga?  The Yoga Music Playlists you hear at the Pilgrimage Yoga studios in San Diego are created by our yoga teachers to reflect their moods, and to inspire your practice with uplifting music.  Here’s a playlist from Yoga Tribe of songs, both sublime and energizing, that will enhance your yoga practice at home.  Use the Spotify player below to hear the tracks.

What’s on your yoga music playlist?

Ommmmm…… 35 songs – 2 hours and 25 minutes

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Falling Into Practice

I fell into the practice of yoga several years ago when a coupe of friends of mine had invited me to attend a Moksha Hot yoga class…

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by Keith Macpherson

I fell into the practice of yoga several years ago when a coupe of friends of mine had invited me to attend a Moksha Hot yoga class. I remember walking into the studio and feeling like I stepped into another planet. The culture was so different compared to what I had known outside the walls of that building. A calm came over me as I placed my mat down in the sweaty hot room and waited for class to begin. I remember feeling very self conscious as the instructor entered the room and started referencing words I had never heard of. “Savassana this and Udyana that”. My mind raced into overdrive as I didn’t want anyone to look over and see me in the corner trying to keep up with the next to impossible stretches the people around me seemed to be so easily doing and yet somehow after the experience, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good I felt. I left the studio that day feeling so light, open and completely present. Everything seemed clearer and made more sense.

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Words Can’t Explain It

To this day, I can’t completely explain it in words. I continued to make my way back to the studio every week and the practice became a regular routine for me. It was then that my life began to change. I started absorbing more of the information being instructed to me in class; from physical cues to specific intentions and inspirations spoken to relate to the postures I was doing in my body. The yoga world became a magical place for me. It made me feel alive and free. I graduated my practice into teaching yoga and have been for several years. Although I am now in the role of a yoga instructor, I have come to see that we never stop growing. Everytime I step foot in the studio as a student or instructor, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow on so many levels. Such is life. Yoga is a remembrance of what life is really all about. It reminds us to take things one moment at a time, to breath, to stay present, to surrender our tension and holding patterns, to love and be grateful. At first, at least in my experience, it all appears to be kind of impossible. How can something so basic like stretching lead to such deep insights? I have come to see that yoga is so much more then just people stretching their bodies. It is a reflection of life. I am a big believer that we are all on a journey back to oneness. In sanskrit, (the language associated with the yoga practice), the word “yoga” means “union”. Underneath all that appears to separate us on the surface, whether it be our body size or shape, the way we look, the way we think, the choices we make, there is a deep connection that we all share. Think about it. We are all sharing this planet, we are all breathing the same air, we are all able to be present in this body because we all have beating hearts.

#Fallintopractice

30 Day Yoga Challenge Ahead!

This practice of Union deepens us and will eventually lead to a realization that we truly are all connected in a way much deeper then the physical reality that we think we are. I am passionate about making yoga accessible to everyone. It is a game changer worth trying. Over time it will improve the quality of your life. For that reason, I am launching a 30-Day yoga challenge on Instagram with my good friend Rachelle Taylor (Editor of Prairie Yogi Magazine). Together for 30 days we will be posting a picture of a yoga posture once a day for you to try and then post up a photo version of you doing the pose at the hashtag #fallintopractice. We purposely decided to put postures in this challenge that could be accessible to as many people as possible. So this is your chance! If you haven’t attempted this practice before but have been curious- try out a few postures and take that extra step to share your journey with us. Even if you have been practicing yoga for a long time- even better to encourage others to fall into their practice. There are some great incentives attached to this challenge that you can win simply by posting your photos to the hashtag including spa certificates from Thermea, NHL Jets Gear, Yoga Studio Passes at Moksha Yoga Winnipeg Lianne Gail Jewelry and some great swag from Prairie Yogi not to mention a few copies of my new yoga dvd that just got released. I hope you will take the risk and dive into to meet our invitation for you to try yoga. After all- this is the perfect time to try something new. Life is here waiting for you to expand and grow! I look forward to seeing what you come up with and hearing what you think of the practice!

Join the Instagram Challenge at http://www.instagram.com/keithmmac .

Subscribe to Keith’s daily email intentions and updates here.

 

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3 Ways To Feel Your Best

We spend our time doing many things each day. But how many of our activities actually contribute to our own well-being…

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We spend our time doing many things each day. But how many of our activities actually contribute to our own well-being or make the world a better place?

Do Worthwhile Things

Feeling good results when we do things that are worthwhile for ourselves and those around us. Practicing yoga, working out regularly, eating healthy foods, and living harmoniously with nature – all can contribute to a personal sense of well-being.

Motivation guru Earl Nightingale wrote, “We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”

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Think Positive

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become,” says Buddha.

Lets say life is great, but your job feels like it’s going nowhere. Be patient. Avoid saying self-defeating and/or negative things to yourself. Try replacing them with positive thoughts.

Author Normal Vincent Peale advises an approach to positive thinking, “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.”

Positive Affirmations

Affirmations are things you can say to yourself either out loud or quietly to help enable positive outcomes. Try affirming to yourself whatever it is that you want to occur. Let’s say you’re recovering from a broken arm, you can repeat to yourself, “I have a strong and healthy arm.”

Holistic Health writer Liz Parry, suggests several positive affirmations that you can use to influence your life:

  • I have a healthy body and a happy mind.
  • I have plenty of energy.
  • My mind is calm and relaxed.
  • I have an enjoyable and fulfilling job.
  • Money flows easily and naturally into my life.
  • I radiate love and happiness.
  • I have a happy, loving relationship with my partner.
  • I am successful in all that I do.

What do you do each day to feel good?

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Review: Matthew Schoening: Narrow Path

Narrow Path is the fifth solo electric cello album from Matthew Schoening, a true master of his instrument…

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by Kathy Parsons

Narrow Path is the fifth solo electric cello album from Matthew Schoening (Shay-ning), a true master of his instrument. His 2011 release, Elements, was named Best Instrumental Album for that year by Zone Music Reporter. Although the music is performed on solo electric cello, the sound is that of a full band or even a symphony orchestra complete with percussion and ambient sounds that are accomplished through a complex process of live looping.

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Layers of Cello Loops

Using the technology as a compositional tool, Schoening creates layers of loops that play back instantly as he performs and become part of the pieces. His two compositional rules are that his music must be able to be performed live, with no pre-recorded sounds; and that every sound must come from the electric cello through blowing, strumming, percussive and pizzicato (plucked strings) techniques, and his proficiency with effects pedals. Narrow Path consists of nine original compositions, one of which is a 15-minute meditation, that represent what it means to Schoening to walk his path.

A Musical Journey of Adventure

Narrow Path opens with “Writing on the Walls,” an upbeat, high-energy piece that exudes excitement and anticipation as we begin our journey. “Odyssey” is a favorite. It conveys a sense of adventure, but is quieter and more subtle than the first track, taking time to observe and experience along the path. Sounding more like a cello ensemble that adds players as the piece evolves, it’s soulful, peaceful and very beautiful. I also love “Structure,” with its jazzy, intoxicating rhythms and swirling vitality. The first part of “Faith” is much more ambient, but a gorgeous melody line enters later, evolving into a layered cello ensemble that expresses peace and gentleness. “Frolik” is my favorite. The juxtaposition of the lively, percussive rhythm and a Baroque-like cello opening are infectious and compelling. As the piece unfolds, the melody becomes more contemporary with the classical sound continuing in the background and the percussive effects propelling it forward. (There is a wonderful video of this piece and others on YouTube.) I keep pressing the “repeat” button on this one! As its title suggests, “Surrender (Float)” is ambient and very tranquil. Here, the cello sounds more like a guitar with strings and ambient washes of sound in the background. “Breathe” is a fifteen-minute meditation that would be wonderful for its intended purpose. Very atmospheric and silky-smooth, it provides a peaceful respite from the chaos of daily life. For active listening, it’s very interesting, but a little long.

One-of-a-Kind Artist

Matthew Schoening is truly a one-of-a-kind artist who deserves a much bigger audience for his music. Narrow Path is available for download from www.SoloElectricCello.com and on physical CDs from Amazon. Recommended!

Matthew’s Website     Amazon

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Top 10 Yoga Pants

Looking for yoga pants? Here are some recommendations from Pilgrimage Yoga Online…

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Looking for the ultimate in comfy yoga pants ? We love these recommendations by Getting Balanced author Kristina Cappetta.  (Mouse over this ThingLink interactive image.)

Which are your favorite yoga pants?

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Throw a Home Yoga Party

Create an evening as a healthful experience for your guests. Forget the burgers and dogs, and”Party Like a Yogi”…

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Want to have friends over for a really fun time? Throw a home yoga party.

“Party Like a Yogi” — Go Healthy!

Create an evening as a healthful experience for your guests. Forget the burgers and dogs, and”Party Like a Yogi”– go with healthy food and drink choices that will transport your friends into yoga heaven.

Need a teacher to lead the group?  Play the 35 minute Pilgrimage Yoga Evening Playlist for a group of classes you and your friends can take together. This includes:

1. Sunset Flow with Courtney–20 min

2. 3 part breath with Lauren–10 min

3. Conscious Relaxation with Space Imagery and Guitar–5 min

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Organize a “Pot Luck”

Organize your party as a “Pot Luck” where each guest brings a healthy dish or drink of their choice to be shared amongst the group. After practice, you all get together for a great meal.

Recipes You Can Try

If you’re an ambitious host, you can also download these tasty SaucyPants recipes (pdf) and prepare healthy and festive snacks for your guests.

The Recipes

Kale Walnut Pesto
Bruschetta: Gorgonzola + Fig, Strawberry + Goat Cheese, Goat Cheese + Soybeans
Pineapple-Peach Smoothie
Avocado Pudding
The Prana Cocktail
Pineapple Quinoa Salad

Throwing a yoga party? Tell us about it!

Image courtesy of KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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When’s the Best Time to Meditate?

Anytime we are able to meditate is the best time for meditation. In our hectic society…

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by Sujantra McKeever

Anytime we are able to meditate is the best time for meditation. In our hectic society with busy schedules, work and a myriad of responsibilities, just finding five to ten minutes a day for meditation is an accomplishment. What is most important is that you do practice, every day.

Morning is a Splendid Time

If you are able to accommodate your schedule or make changes, there are certain times in the day that are more conducive to meditation. These times coincide with the cycles of nature. Morning is a splendid time for meditation. When we wake, the sun is rising, the new day is dawning. Nature is once again beginning her growth process, the sun is beginning to shine; this is an excellent time for meditation. The dawning of the day reminds us—inspires us—of the dawning of our aspiration for the soulful and spiritual experiences life can offer us.

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Noon has Power

Noon is a powerful time to meditate. With the sun at its apex we find the world fully active and dynamic. Meditation is not just the experience of peace and calm; meditation also embodies the dynamic and powerful. Noon—the middle of the day—is a time of power for nature and we can feel that power within our own consciousness.

Evening Calm

In the evening, as the sun is setting, the world is again in transition; we leave behind our multifarious activities, the hustle and bustle, and we enter into the calm of the evening. This aspect of day allows us the opportunity to let go of problems, worries, and anxieties and enter into the quiet, soulful peace of evening.

Right Before Sleep

Before going to sleep at night is another excellent time for a few moments of meditation. This is the time to calm and quiet our mind and body before going to sleep. Sleep is a significant part of our lives; in face, it is a sort of biological meditation, and by preparing ourselves and infusing ourselves with a peaceful consciousness, we create a deeper, more fulfilling and effective sleep.

Midnight Soulfulness

Midnight is a soulful time for meditation on the quality of love. Love begins with self-acceptance. Concentrate and meditate upon a photograph of yourself which you feel embodies your best qualities. While concentrating on your photograph allow your body and mind to relax. Becoming comfortable with your image n the photograph helps you to accept and love yourself. Once we feel love within ourselves we have access to the greatest thing we can offer to others: love.

3 am Hour of Brahma

Finally, 3 a.m. is called the hour of Brahma, or the hour of God. If you have ever awakened at 3 a.m., you will find the earth consciousness silent and asleep, deep within the peace of rest. By meditating at 3 a.m., we are able to enter into that peacefulness, that calmness.

Morning and Evening Are Best

Of all the times mentioned, the most practical are in the morning and in the evening. When meditating in the morning we gather peacefulness and calmness into ourselves and are then able to access these qualities during our day. It is as if we are putting money in the bank and during the day we draw from our account. When we face stressful situations we can use the peace and quiet and power from our morning meditation to deal with these challenging moments. During the evening meditation we can invoke peace and then reflect on our day, resolving events that we have pushed away from our consciousness. As our day’s activities and memories melt into peace we are renewed and ready to experience the evening hours.

Reprinted with permission from Learn to Meditate by S.G. McKeever.

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

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Five Office Yoga Exercises You Have to Try

Are you stuck at a desk all day staring at a computer screen? Making office yoga a part of your work life…

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Are you stuck at a desk all day staring at a computer screen?

Making office yoga a part of your work life can keep you fresh and revitalized through the day. The exercises take a few minutes. They are ideal for addressing job-related strains the neck, shoulder and back muscles, which leads to tension and stiffness. The exercises can be done together or one at a time. They take only a few minutes.

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Suggestion: If you are wearing tight, uncomfortable shoes remove them before starting the stretches. You may also wish to first loosen your neck tie or scarf, and remove a tight jacket or sweater.

Here are a five office yoga exercises from The Art of Living you can try for a start.

Neck Roll

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Let your chin drop down to your chest.
  3. Begin the circular motion of your neck slowly, by moving the right ear to the right shoulder, taking the head backwards and then bringing the left ear to the left shoulder.
  4. Keep your shoulders loose and relax.
  5. Rotate your neck 3-5 times and then switch directions.

 

 

Cow Stretch

  1. Keep your feet on the floor.
  2. Bring both hands on your knees.
  3. While inhaling, stretch your back backwards and look towards the ceiling.
  4. While exhaling, stretch your back forward and drop your head forward.
  5. Repeat this exercise for 3-5 breaths.

 

 

 

Seated Forward Bend

  1. Push your chair away from your desk.
  2. Remaining seated, keep your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Take your arms behind the lower back, keep your back straight and interlace your fingers behind your back.
  4. Bending forward from the waist, bring your interlaced hands over your back.
  5. Rest your chest on your thighs and relax your neck.

 

 

Eagle Arms

  1. Stretch your arms straight in front of your body and parallel to the floor. Palms facing the ceiling.
  2. Cross your right arm over the left (bend your arm slightly at the elbow if needed). Bring both palms together.
  3. Lift both elbows. The shoulders slide down your back.
  4. Repeat this exercise with the left arm over the right.

 

 

 

Seated Spinal Twist

  1. Sit sideways in your chair.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Holding the back of the chair with both hands, twist your waist to the right towards the back of the chair.
  4. Turn to the other side. Repeat this exercise a few more times.

 

 

 

Temple Rub

  1. Keep your elbows on your desk and place your hands on your temples.
  2. With small circular motions gently rub your temples first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.
  3. Do this for 10 – 15 long deep breaths.

 

 

Thanks to The Art of Living for these inspiring yoga practices. Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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Tonight: Kirtan Band Streaming Live!

Join us online for an evening of music, community and joyful fun! Every Thursday night Pilgrimage Yoga Online…

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Join us online for an evening of KIRTAN: music, community and joyful fun!

Every Thursday night the Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band streams Kirtan music live.  WATCH LIVE at 8:15pm (Pacific) using the FREE Stre.am app for iOS and Android. Download the app, sign in and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us. Become part of our world-wide Kirtan community.

Kirtan is a music and chanting meditation practice with its origin in the bhakti tradition of yoga; the practice of devotion to the creator. By singing and chanting we vibrate our bodies and resonate with good energy.  And by occupying our minds with a ‘Mantra,” a meaningful devotional phrase, we are better able to focus our attention on devotion to our creator, creation and our place in it. At its very best kirtan is a deeply profound and moving meditation practice. At its least its a fun, entertaining hour.

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Pilgrimage Yoga Online Kirtan features chants from the major faith based systems, ancient, contemporary and original mantra and song.

Join us streaming live Thursday nights at 8:15-9:15pm (pacific)!

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Setting up a Regular Place for Meditation

Ideally we should have a regular place for our individual meditation, whether it is a corner of our room, an entire room in our home, a park bench…

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by Sujantra McKeever

 

Ideally we should have a regular place for our individual meditation, whether it is a corner of our room, an entire room in our home, a park bench, or any place where we can go and be free of distractions.

Be Free of Distractions

The reason for this is twofold: by consistently meditating there, having this sacred spot for our practice, we create a meditative vibration in that area. Every time we sit down to meditate that energy becomes stronger. Secondly, just as we have various rooms in our house—when we go into the breakfast room, we know we ill eat breakfast; when we go into our bedroom, we will sleep—so, too, when we go into our meditation area we know exactly what will take place in that room: meditation. We want to make that place free from distractions: ringing telephone, other people, television, and other common distractions.

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Create an Altar or Shrine

In the place where you practice your daily meditation it is essential to create an altar or shrine towards which you can focus your attention when practicing your meditation. On your shrine you can place objects which will inspire you, remind you of your own spiritual journey and be practical aids in your practice. I suggest: candles, flowers, incense, photographs (either of people or places that offer you spiritual inspiration), uplifting music and books. In essence you are creating your own church or sacred, holy ground where you can commune with the spirit and potential within and around you. Freed from the pull of the mundane, your consciousness can dance with the limitless aspect of existence. You can then infuse this new energy and feeling into your daily activities. I know a number of individuals who use the daily practice of meditation as an oasis amidst the intensity of their business careers. They enjoy the focus and concentration needed in their careers. They also find it essential to meditate and infuse the intensity with joy and gratitude which they derive from their meditation.

By creating this sacred spot you are also saying to yourself and those you know you: “The spiritual quest is a reality for me and this is the sacred area where I sit to seek and know the vastness of all that is.”

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

(Candle photo credit Shawn Carpenter)
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Review: Masako: Call of the Mountains

Call of the Mountains is the second release from pianist/composer Masako. Equal in beauty to her debut,Masako, Call of the Mountains was…

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by Kathy Parsons

Call of the Mountains is the second release from pianist/composer Masako. Equal in beauty to her debut,Masako, Call of the Mountains was also recorded at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont and features guest artists such as Premik, Noah Wilding, Jeff Oster, Will Ackerman, Eugene Friesen, Tony Levin, and Jeff Haynes on several tracks. Twelve of the sixteen tracks are elegant piano solos that showcase Masako’s poetic playing style as well as her graceful touch. There are many self-taught musicians whose work I dearly love, but when an artist such as Masako steps in with a lifetime of rigorous training, there is a palpable difference and often, at least for me, a much bigger “WOW!” factor. It has nothing to do with showmanship or playing speed (usually), but the effortless command of the instrument to successfully convey whatever that artist seeks to express.

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Tribute to Nature

In her liner notes, Masako explains the origins of this new music. Living in the northeastern mountains of the US, she often has reasons to drive south through the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains to New York City. The ongoing changes in the mountains, river, and sky keep the drive interesting, and Masako says that whenever she walks in the woods she encounters something special. “This album is a tribute to these mountains that I love.”

Peaceful Contentment Express to Perfection

Call of the Mountains begins with “Dawn,” a lovely piano solo meant to be both powerful and sensitive and to convey a sense of hope. Masako is successful on all accounts. “Kindness from Strangers” has a graceful flow that expresses “trail magic,” unexpected kindness from total strangers – a favorite! The dreamy “Watching the Clouds” begins as a piano solo and becomes a gentle quartet for piano, wind synthesizer (Premik), guitar (Ackerman), and percussion (Jeff Haynes). I really like this one, too! Masako says that “Reflections” is one of her own favorites and I can see why. Inspired the colors of fall foliage reflected in a pond or lake, the piece is mostly silky smooth with occasional bursts of sparkling color – gorgeous! “Purple Indulgence” was named for the Purple Loosestrife, a beautiful flowering plant that is an invasive plant species that can disrupt native vegetation. Nevertheless, the piece is a tranquil and leisurely flowing quartet for piano, bass (Levin), wind synth, and cello (Friesen). “Wildflowers” is a piano solo with  the simple beauty and grace of its inspiration. “Blue Blaze” picks up the rhythm and tempo a bit. Named for the trail markers that help to keep hikers from getting lost on the Appalachian Trail, the piece expresses freedom and a soul-satisfied joy – also a favorite.  “Smoky Rain” is more free-form, painting a peaceful aural picture in shades of blue-gray.  “Lullaby for the Hills” brings the album to a close with an enchanting trio for flugelhorn (Oster), cello, and piano. Saying that if she had to choose between an urban life always surrounded by friends or an often lonely life in the mountains, she’d choose the latter, the peaceful contentment of this music is expressed to perfection.

Masako is on her way to becoming a leader in the new age piano/contemporary classical genres.  Call of the Mountains is very highly recommended!

Masako’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Thirsty? Why Staying Hydrated Matters

Are you thirsty more than you care to admit? We need water to survive. All of the body’s cells, tissues, and organs require water to function…

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Are you thirsty more than you care to admit?

We need water to survive.  All of the body’s cells, tissues, and organs require water to function. Water helps the body maintain its temperature, remove waste, and lubricate joints. Drink up – water is essential for optimal health.

How do we lose water?

Did you know that water accounts for more than half of our body weight?  When we visit the bathroom, sweat, and breathe, we lose water.  When we’re working out, when it’s hot and sweaty outside, and when we’re sick – we lose water more rapidly. It’s important to replace the water we lose, or we can become dehydrated.

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Dehydration

Make sure to consume enough water. Experts suggest 6-8 eight ounce glasses daily. If you feel any of the following symptoms, you might just be dehydrated, according to FamilyDoctor.org.

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Extreme thirst
  • Headache
  • Feeling confused, dizzy or lightheaded
  • No tears when crying
  • Little or no urine, or urine that’s darker than normal

Water is a Great Workout Partner

  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you during the day.
  • Drink water before, during, and after a workout.
  • When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. Drink water as part of any weight-loss plan.
  • Set up a water schedule. For example, drink at at meals, or every hour or two hours.

What’s your plan for staying hydrated?

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Review: Kelly Andrew: Journey

There is very little not to like about Journey that concludes with the uplifting “Sail Away” making you realize that from contemporary instrumental to electronic to orchestral musical genres Kelly Andrew is a master of all three. And from that aspect alone Journey is a complete success of not only high class entertainment but one that allows you to see the inner working of a wonderful artist as you traveling through the creative musical mind of Kelly Andrew.

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by Michael Debbage

Released right around the same time in physical formats as the epic and bodacious Epoch Dawn, the more subdued Journey is Kelly Andrew’s most current release. Fortunately, the recording was finally made available in the cd format. Though somewhat more restrained than Epoch Dawn, Journey suffered a somewhat comparison complex but when measured and evaluated upon its own merits Journey reflects an artist that is capable of moving through multiple instrumental genres with the ease of a chameleon lizard adjusting to his own surroundings.

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Musical Journeys to be Discovered

Even within the recordings of Journey though it is a more mainstream effort there are multiple musical journeys and scenic routes to be discovered. The album opens with the highly accessible and super smooth “World Of Discovery” that brings to mind a typical David Arkenstone composition you would have found on his highly accessible 2002 Sketches From An American Journey. Keeping in mind to be compared with Mr. Arkenstone is the ultimate compliment. Equally impressive is the slower but highly melodic “Glistening Waters” and Celtic influenced “Expedition”.

Striking Musical Lanscapes

But no journey is status quo as your sceneries continually change and so does Kelly with the percussion and wordless driven exotica found on “Rainforest” that will have you gently swinging, swaying and moving. Additional striking musical landscapes can be found on the Middle Eastern influences discovered on “Into The Sun” or the even more mystical “Dancing Dunes”.

High Class Entertainment

Frankly there is very little not to like about Journey that concludes with the uplifting “Sail Away” making you realize that from contemporary instrumental to electronic to orchestral musical genres Kelly Andrew is a master of all three.  And from that aspect alone Journey is a complete success of not only high class entertainment but one that allows you to see the inner working of a wonderful artist as you traveling through the creative musical mind of Kelly Andrew.

Kelly’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  He is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Yoga and Weight Loss: Find Balance

The practice of even the gentlest style of yoga helps make everything in life a little easier — including weight loss. Overweight people who practiced yoga…

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The practice of even the gentlest style of yoga helps make everything in life a little easier — including weight loss.

Alan Kristal, lead researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, studied 15,000 adults in their 50s. His study showed that overweight people who practiced yoga at least once a week for 4 or more years lost an average of 5 pounds, while those who failed to practice packed on an average of 13.5 pounds. That’s a difference of almost 20 pounds.  And folks who practiced yoga regularly maintained their weight more effectively than those who did not.

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Stress Affects Weight Loss

Still, stress is a factor in weight loss. According to Harvard’s Medical Health Letter, “Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” push people toward overeating. And an American Psychological Association survey indicated that about one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale.”

Balance Playlist

If you’re stressed out more than you want to be or if you’re trying to get your diet under control, here’s a great 30 minute Pilgrimage Yoga Online playlist for getting into balance that you can practice in the morning, evening or over lunch at work. Yoga a great way to balance the stress of your day.

  1. Sun Salutations (10 min)

Surya Namaskar. Connect your breath to your movement as you flow through one of yoga’s most popular series of asanas, also known as sun salutations.

  1. Crow Pose (5 min)

Bakasana. Balance the weight of your body on bent arms.  Strengthen your arms and wrists and improve focus and balance.

  1. Tripod Headstand (5 min)

Sirsasana. Rest the crown of the head lightly on the floor as the body is completely inverted and held upright, supported by the forearms.

  1. Savasana (10 min)

Savasana. Savasana is consciously letting go, actively surrendering to gravity; being pulled into back into earth. Allowing ourselves to melt into harmony with all.

How are you using yoga for weight loss?

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Stressed at Work? Try Chair Yoga

If you’re stressed at work, one of the fastest ways to regain a sense of mindful clarity is to focus on your breath. Practice your pranayama (breathing)…

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If you’re stressed at work, one of the fastest ways to regain a sense of mindful clarity is to focus on your breath.  Practice your pranayama (breathing) in this 10 minute chair yoga video with Lena Schmidt. This includes a gentle twist and stretching of the joints. You can practice right at your desk.

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 10.09.11 AM

lena-schmidtLena holds degrees in ethnic studies and women’s studies and is dedicated to making yoga accessible to all. Lena’s background in gymnastics and dance has helped her finds the physicality of yoga to be a delightful and challenging way to move the body without competition.

Lena is intentional about taking yoga off the mat and loves finding the bridges between the heart and mind, the individual and community, and mindfulness and expression.

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How to Bring Yoga into the Workplace

We have lots of demands on our time and allocating time for yoga and mindfulness often falls low on our priority list. Research shows…

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We have lots of demands on our time and allocating time for yoga and mindfulness often falls low on our priority list. Research shows, however, that investing in yoga and mindfulness programs on company grounds helps staff work more productively and reduces the number of sick days.

The author of Mindful Work and New York Times reporter David Gelles see mindfulness on the rise: “I think mindfulness is being accepted in the workplace today because we need it more than ever, it seems. We are so stressed. We are so bombarded with constant information overload. We are so addicted to our technology that the promise of a technique that allows us to come back to the present moment and stop obsessing about whatever it we just read in our Twitter stream or what we’re about to post on our Facebook page has a unique and enduring allure that is totally understandable. I mean, after a totally frenetic workday here at The Times, the opportunity to quiet down is totally lovely.”

If you’re interested in setting up a company supported yoga studio where you work, here are some helpful suggestions.

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Be clear about your goals and the company’s interests

Providing wellness options for staff can take many forms. What are the you aiming at and what is the company willing to do?

• A room for yoga and meditation

• A visiting yoga/meditation teacher on hire

• A local yoga studio nearby that will offer classes at your office location

• Subsidize the cost of staff visits to a local yoga studio or meditation center

Share Pilgrimage Yoga Online

The quickest way to start an office yoga practice is to gather together friends during a lunch break and play the online yoga and meditation classes from Pilgrimage Yoga Online.  Interested staff can sign up for a membership at Pilgrimage Yoga Online and practice at home using our 300+ video classes.

Talk to Staff – Measure Interest

Talk with colleagues about starting a yoga or meditation program in the office and measure interest. If you take a survey, write down the results. If colleagues favor starting an in-office program, you can share the results with management as evidence for why you want to bring yoga and meditation practices into the workplace.

Speak to Human Resources

Once you’re clear on your objectives and have the support of staff, speak with the person who leads the human resources department. If you have a staff council representative, bring that person into the discussion. Explore the possibilities.

Employee-Supported Program

Even if your company is slow to support your yoga and meditation program, your fellow employees might want to share the cost of bringing in a yoga/meditation teacher to offer in-office classes a few times a week.

Whichever solution you choose, you and your colleagues can start an office yoga and meditation program today using the video classes and playlists at Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

Do you have questions on starting an office yoga practice? Write to us at Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

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Review: Eric Tingstad: Mississippi

I LOVE THIS ALBUM! Mississippi is primarily Eric Tingstad with some bass and percussion support from the very capable hands of Chris Leighton, Garey Shelton,…

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by Kathy Parsons

Okay, before I go any farther, let me just say I LOVE THIS ALBUM! There isn’t a piano to be found on any of the eleven tracks, but there is some very tasty organ.

Mississippi is primarily Eric Tingstad with some bass and percussion support from the very capable hands of Chris Leighton, Garey Shelton, James Clark, Ben Smith and TJ Morris – and Eric Robert on “organ and whirly.” Tingstad performs on a variety of electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, pedal steel guitar, and resophonic.

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Inspired by the American Landscape

He wrote in a recent blog post, “Mississippi is my musical expression of how we are inspired by, and relate to, our American landscape. This is my take on the region that has come to be known as the Cradle of American Music – centered in the delta, and expanding to include the Americana Music Triangle.” Tingstad composed all of the music except for his stunning arrangement of “Danny Boy,” and there isn’t a weak track on the whole album. As a reviewer, I have to admit that sometimes it feels like my ears are getting kind of jaded, but then something like Mississippi comes along that is so fresh, beautifully recorded, and full of life that I want to go back through the artist’s entire catalog to hear what else I’ve missed.

A Grammy Winner

To backtrack a bit, Eric Tingstad has been recording since 1982 and released fourteen albums with Nancy Rumbel (as Tingstad and Rumbel) on the Narada label from 1987-2004. After that, he chose to move on as an indie artist and producer and has been honored with many awards and nominations, including a Grammy win and a second Grammy nomination. Mississippi should increase those numbers!

Leaves My Soul Happy and Refreshed

The album begins with “Long Boats,” an upbeat and very rhythmic piece that sets the tone of the album. Banjo, pedal steel, electric and acoustic guitars plus organ and percussion give this blues-tinged piece an American flavor that no one could mistake as anything else. “Shakin’ in the Cradle” has some down-home finger-pickin’ with organ and electric guitar added for additional color. The title track is slow and sultry, and is a perfect musical description of the southern US. With hints of B.B. King and slow dances from decades ago, “Trail of Tears” gets me every time – a heartbreaker. “Skamania” picks up the tempo a bit and is full of fun – love the organ on this one! “Durango” takes on an air of mystery in a somewhat more southwestern musical style and has a completely infectious rhythm. The lively and sunny “Chester” brings this fantastic album to a close, leaving my ears as well as my soul refreshed and happy.

Sure to be one of my Top Favorites for 2015, Mississippi is available from www.erictingstad.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation.

Eric’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

 

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Getting Into a Yoga Mindset at Home

How do you get into a yoga mindset at home? We hear from Om Yoga founder Cyndi Lee is the author of five books and the inspiration for great yoga instructors.

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OM Yoga founder Cyndi Lee is the author of five books and one of the most influential yoga teachers in the U.S. She is the first female Western yoga teacher to fully integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism in her practice and teaching. Her OM Yoga Center in NYC has become a mecca for yogis worldwide.

The Path is the Practice

Cyndi recently shared her thoughts on the best way to get into the yoga mindset at home.

“The best way to get into yoga-mind is to do yoga. The path is the practice. But if you are anything like me, you might have resistance to doing your practice even though you know you want yourself to do it. I look to the traditions I was taught by my gurus and the first thing to do to prepare for practice is to clean your space. Sweep the floor, dust your altar, gather together props you want to use that day. Don’t make this such a big project that it keeps you from practicing; just let the process of cleaning be a way to honor your practice and cultivate appreciation and excitement for it. Now you have created a home shala, a home practice zone, and it will call you to participate in it.

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Start a Yoga Library and Read

Another way to prime the pump is to stimulate your yoga-mind by reading. Begin to develop a yoga library: biographies of great yogis; practice books; philosophy books. Start each practice with a little bit of reading right on your mat. And, of course, you can always use a yoga video. Sometimes I practice to my own videos and after a while I stop following my own instructions (!) but it gets me started and then I can flow as I like that day.”

Videos Let You Take a Second Look

She also offered advice for those practicing at home with yoga videos.

“Sure, it is ideal to have an excellent yoga teacher who can give you personalized hands-on adjustments and verbal instructions but that is just not always available. So, let’s do yoga anyway. And I really feel that so many of us yoga teachers who have been teaching for decades have gotten very good at giving articulate verbal instructions which means you don’t have to look at the screen all the time anyway. You know, if you were in a live yoga class with me, you would not be looking at me but you would be listening to me all the time. So in this way, a video class and a live class are very similar. A video also offers the opportunity to rewind and listen again, to take a second look and really integrate study with practice.”

How do you get into a yoga mindset at home?

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Wisdom: Prana — The Life-Force

One of the great secrets of yoga is that breath, body, mind and emotions are all intertwined. Pranayama literally means…

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One of the great secrets of yoga is that breath, body, mind and emotions are all intertwined. Pranayama literally means breath-control. By controlling your breath you will strengthen your body, find peace of mind and gain clarity in your emotions. In just minutes a day you can gain incredible results.

by Sujantra McKeever

To achieve a complete understanding of the forces at work in our existence let us begin with the primary life-force of the universe—prana. Prana is the great vital energy breathing and circulating through all of existence. Breathing, the most basic and fundamental function of the living organism, involves the intake and regulation of prana. Review our Pranayama online classes.

Primary Life-Force

Prana is the life-force of the nervous system upon which we depend for existence. Once we become aware of the power of prana and the significance of each breath we take, we gain an immediate insight into the underlying principles upon which various Eastern disciplines are based. These include the martial arts, Chinese medicine, Indian medicine, Hatha Yoga (a branch of yoga which seeks to gain illumination beginning with a perfection of the body through various physical poses, or asanas), breath control—pranayama (prana = life force, yama = control). These and other practices stress an awareness of prana and control of life-force, via breathing. Without this life-force coursing through our system, we will quickly die. All that we do—move, think, feel—is dependent upon prana.

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Five Categories

The life-breath, prana, when thought of as sustaining life in the human body, is classified into five main categories according to the various functions performed by the energy. The five categories into which life-force is classified are: apana, which moves in the region of the lower abdomen and trunk and presides over the lower functions; samana, which maintains the equilibrium of the vital forces and stokes the gastric fire and digestion; vyana, which distributes the vital energies derived from food and breath throughout the entire body; prana (here the word is used to note a particular aspect) which dwells in the upper part of the body and controls the heart and respiration, in effect, bringing the universal force into the physical system; and finally udana, which moves upward from the body to the crown of the head and controls the intake of food as well as channels the communication between the physical life and the greater life of the spirit.

Three Principle Channels

There are three principle channels, or nadis, through which life energy flows throughout the human organism. These channels are ida, pingala, and sushumna. Ida carries prana from the left nostril through the left side of the body and down to the base of the spine. Pingala carries prana from the right nostril through the right side of the body and down to the base of the spine. Ida is the nadi of the mood and Mercury and is felt in mildness, calmness and coolness; pingala is the nadi of the sun and Mars and is felt in power and heat. Our “health”—both emotional and physical—is based upon the balancing of these different aspects of our being: masculine-feminine, yin-yang, power-calm, heat-cool. This essential balance can be maintained and regulated through constant awareness of our breathing patterns and their regulation when necessary. This practice is known by the Sanskrit word pranayama.

Bring Balance

The regulation of breathing which occurs naturally is an excellent way to regulate prana and bring vigor and balance to our system these include times of deep, relaxed breathing such as the regulation of our breathing during and after exercise and developing a keen awareness of our breathing. Physical exercise brings peace, calmness and a natural balance to our system. Any further regulation of prana should only be done under the careful guidance of a knowledgeable yoga teacher.

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

 

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Review: Halpern and Diamond: Ambient Alchemy

Ambient Alchemy is a fourteen-piece collaboration by new age “superstar” Steven Halpern and “rising star” Michael Diamond with special…

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by Kathy Parsons

Ambient Alchemy is a fourteen-piece collaboration by new age “superstar” Steven Halpern and “rising star” Michael Diamond with special guest Michael Manring who appears on six tracks.

Sound Healing

The Grammy-nominated Halpern has had a very long career in the field of sound healing and composed the music for four of the tracks; he plays Rhodes piano, keyboards, and crystal bowls on this album. Michael Diamond has also had a very impressive career thus far as a musician, producer, and music journalist; he composed the other ten tracks and plays guitar, guitar synth, and keyboards. Manring is widely considered to be the best fretless bass player on the planet.

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“Space Music”

Most of the music on Ambient Alchemy can be classified as “space music,” with ethereal, floating sounds and the feeling of vast openness. It is music that can provide an unobtrusive background for working or quiet activities, and yet is rich enough for active listening – especially for the healing arts and deep relaxation.

Outstanding Production Quality

The production quality is outstanding, with clear sound that is never too bright or jarring and that has tremendous depth. It is very easy to let go while listening to this album, allowing your mind take you on a journey limited only by your own imagination.

Pure Enjoyment

Very peaceful and transporting, Ambient Alchemy is music with a purpose that can also be savored for pure enjoyment. 

Steven’s Website     Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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10 Ways to Increase Your Imagination

Imagination is a uniquely human ability to form ideas — new images and sensations in the mind that are not in our present perception…

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Imagination is a uniquely human ability to form ideas — new images and sensations in the mind that are not in our present perception through senses such as sight, hearing, or other senses.  Imagining is helpful if you’re practicing yoga or meditating at home or work. Just imagine yourself centered in the morning starting your day feeling calm and energized.

When I compose and improvise music, I am imagining sounds and then giving them physical form through my guitar, sounds on a recording and notes on a page.  When I’m writing a blog post, I’m reflecting on a subject and then an idea (hopefully) emerges in my minds eye.

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Imagination is helpful for envisioning our own success says Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, who described imagination as “a portal through which you can transcend the imposed limitations of this world. With wisdom and will, whatever you can imagine, and continue to imagine, can become real.”

We like these 10 ways to increase imagination for better creative thinking by Operation Meditation:

Open your mind to unexplored paths

Creativity is often tagged together with originality. To come up with new ideas may be challenging and even oftentimes daunting, as unexplored paths may pose unexpected threats. It is also an avenue where one can find genuine ideas that can result to a successful endeavor.

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Creativity and imagination is sparked by learning. One’s willingness to learn new things gauges one’s ability to accept and adapt to change. It improves one’s adaptability to imaginative reasoning and creative thinking.

Tell stories

People love to listen to stories and each person has a story to tell. Practice imaginative and creative thinking by telling as many stories as you can. Let it be descriptive. Let it allow you and your listener to visualize what is being told. Visualization is an important part of increasing imagination. Visualization is often perceived as one’s ability to create a clear and vivid picture in the mind. Yet this concept entails various senses as well. Visualization also involves one’s sense of touch, smell, taste, and other senses. Visualization enables you to imagine the story being told or the object being described. The more imaginative and creative the mind becomes, the more elaborate one’s visualizations can be.

Be curious

Learning new things sparks creativity and increases imagination. A part of learning new things is being curious. Children tend to be more imaginative because of their curious nature. Our inherent nature to seek answers or to learn new things does not disappear over age. Feed curiosity by learning and experiencing new things and notice how your imagination improves. Feed your curiosity by asking questions and build your ideas with the help of insight from others.

Don’t be afraid to try something new

It is often said that if you keep on doing the same things, then you will keep on receiving the same things. Challenge yourself to experience new things or embark on new adventures and endeavors.

Expand your interests

Creativity is fueled by passion. Expand your interests by shifting your focus to include other interests that you may be passionate about.

Develop your talents

Everyone has a set of skills or talents. Focus on developing and honing these talents to express your creativity and imagination in areas that you excel in or in things that you know how to do best.

Spend time with creative people

Synergize your energies by spending time with people who share the same interest as yours. Brainstorming, planning, or simply talking to people will keep creative juices running, giving new and fresh ideas.

Look at things differently

At the points when you feel tired or bored, and, and you feel that your creativity is running low, look at things in a new perspective. This will give you a fresh approach to things that may even trigger new ideas that you once thought were not possible.

Condition your mind to relax through meditation techniques

A well-rested mind has a higher potential to learn new things and come up with more creative ideas. There are various meditation methods that you can do to help increase imagination.

How are you increasing your imagination?

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Top 10 Yoga Mats

Whether you’re practicing yoga at home or at work, a yoga mat is essential for your practice…

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Whether you’re practicing yoga at home or at work, a yoga mat is essential for your practice.

Hover your mouse on the image below to explore Top 10 Yoga Mats.  What’s your favorite?

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Recipe: Refreshing Hibiscus and Berry Smoothie

Refreshing Hibiscus and Berry Smoothie is a light and refreshing smoothie that’s perfect on a warm day. It’s made with…

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by Casey Jade

A light and refreshing smoothie that’s perfect on a warm day. It’s made with a base of fresh hibiscus tea, and blended with berries and mint. As the weather starts to get warmer and you find your body craving light food, this is a perfect option.

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A Burst of Energy

Smoothies are wonderful because they’re quick to make and give you a burst of energy. This smoothie is great for a light breakfast or a refreshing afternoon tea.

Hibiscus Berry Smoothie Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 8 dried hibiscus flowers or 2 hibiscus tea bags
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 banana
  • 2 dates, pitted
  • 10 fresh mint leaves

Preparation

1. Add hibiscus flowers or tea bags to a bowl with boiling water. Leave to steep for 20 minutes. Strain and set aside until cool.

2. Add hibiscus tea, strawberries, raspberries, banana, dates and mint to a blender and mix until smooth.

3. Pour into glass and drink while cold. Add ice for an extra refreshing drink.

Casey is a yoga teacher and author of a popular food blog where she shares healthy recipes to help you look and feel amazing. Photo courtesy of the author.

Thanks to mindbodygreen.com for permission to reprint this excerpt. 


 

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The Power of Daily Meditation

Through meditation we explore a depth of awareness concerning ourselves, our lives and the world that would otherwise be rarely…

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by Sujantra McKeever

Through meditation we explore a depth of awareness concerning ourselves, our lives and the world that would otherwise be rarely accessed. The daily practice of meditation allows us time for self-reflection and contemplation. We are able to ask ourselves deep questions about who we are, what we are and why we are here. Meditation gives us the opportunity and space to inquire into ourselves, into our lives, into our existence.

A Spiritual Awakening

Meditation is a profound experience. It is not a method of building up our ego, but rather a time of spiritual awakening, of letting go of our deep-rooted sense of separativity and experiencing our intrinsic oneness with all of existence. Eventually, with persistence and determination we are able to touch the source of all creation. We consciously enter into the core of humanity’s quest from the beginning of time: Who am I? Where have I come from? What is my purpose? Who is my creator? The daily practice of meditation gives us an opportunity to pursue these questions.

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Create the World of Tomorrow

Our own daily meditation also has effect upon the world. The world is intricately woven. In a vibrant web of energy everything is interconnected. If you are able to achieve a calm and quiet mind, you will be bringing peacefulness, calmness, tolerance, and beauty into the world and this will affect everyone else in this intricately woven webs of existence. By reading the newspaper and watching the news, you can see that peace, harmony and oneness are seldom experienced in our modern world. Our world is full of hatred, jealousy, anger, resentment, war and conflict; these powers also have an effect upon each one of us. What type of energy do you want to be responsible for bringing into the earth consciousness? Each though, feeling and action of ours is a creation. Each one of us, everyday, is creating the world of tomorrow.

Reprinted with permission from Learn to Meditate by S.G. McKeever.

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

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Review: Kater and DeMaria: Heart of Silence

Heart of Silence is the first collaboration by pianist Peter Kater and Native American flutist Michael Brant DeMaria…

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by Kathy Parsons

Heart of Silence is the first collaboration by pianist Peter Kater and Native American flutist Michael Brant DeMaria. With fourteen Grammy nominations between them, this album seems very likely to place both artists firmly inside the Winners Circle for 2015. Both are widely-known for their deeply spiritual improvisations and the music for this album was created during meditative sessions. Each track is a free improvisation performed without any rehearsals or pre-planning. Kater and DeMaria chose which key they were going to play in and started recording. In turn, the intention is for the eight tracks to be listened to as meditations.

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A Masterpiece of Simplicity

The inspiration for Heart of Silence was DeMaria’s experience of having his mother die in his arms only to be revived by emergency cardiac surgery. Profoundly touched and changed by the experience, DeMaria wanted to find a way to express that experience musically – the mix of grief, connection, and love that was both ominous and comforting at the same time. He had three custom deep bass flutes made for this project, searching for the lowest sound he could find. The flute with the lowest tone used on this recording is five feet in length – a sub-bass A minor flute – and only one other such flute exists. It becomes a voice from the depths and a drone instrument to express the inexpressible. DeMaria says that his whole body vibrates when he plays this flute. Blended with Kater’s soulful piano, the duo has created a masterpiece of simplicity and profound meaning that should touch the spirit of anyone who experiences it.

Open, Free and Deeply Emotional

The music itself is very open, free, and deeply emotional. The sound of the deep bass flute is dark but also very warm and comforting. The percussive quality of the piano contrasts beautifully with the more rounded tones of the bass flute. Kater has often recorded and performed with Native American flutists, so it is no surprise that this album works so well. However, this is far from a duplication of previous work – DeMaria has his own musical style and message to convey – and the duo has created an album that is  unique and very personal. Although there are short breaks between the tracks, the album plays as a cohesive one hour listening/meditating experience and yet each piece stands alone as well.

Sure to be one of my Favorites for 2015, Heart of Silence is available from SoundsTrue.com, Amazon and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Sounds True     Peter’s Website     Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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How Yoga Can Improve Your Golf Game

As a TPI Level 3 Fitness Instructor and long time personal trainer and yoga instructor, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible…

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by Michael Brantl

As a TPI Level 3 Fitness Instructor and long time personal trainer and yoga instructor, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible fitness benefits that yoga provides for golfers of all levels. Golf conditioning yoga is one of the easiest ways to restore, improve, and maintain optimal functional movement patterns and maximize golf performance. Why? Because yoga or yoga asana (yoga for exercise) is ultimately about proper breathing patterns, and high levels of stability, internal strength, muscle endurance, and balance.

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Flexibility

Most yoga teachers and students mistakenly regard flexibility as the paramount goal of yoga. This is incorrect. When yoga conditioning for golf is practiced in a proper progression protocol, it creates natural improvements in functional flexibility. Functional Flexibility is a combination of Mobility – ROM (range of motion)  around a joint site, and Flexibility – Muscle Elasticity or Tensile Resilience of muscles or muscle groups being dynamically challenged to lengthen. I use the term functional flexibility because this is not about getting your leg behind your head. Yoga is not about extreme flexibility. In fact, that can be detrimental. I think this is one of the reasons so many male golfers avoid yoga/flexibility work. Lets take a look at how a golf conditioning yoga program can improve each component of fitness.

The following is an excerpt (Chapter 3) from my book, The Empowered Golfer – Yoga for Optimal Golf Performance

Chapter 3: The Components of Fitness (And Why Yoga Improves All of These)

Here are some of the generally agreed-upon or accepted ways to measure fitness in an individual. Golfers need all of these to perform at an optimal level. I will explain how yoga improves and increases all these various parameters of fitness.

Muscular Strength

Muscular Strength is the ability to exert force with the muscles in a given exercise. This can
be measured by a certain number of reps for that particular exercise. For golfers, generally an 8 reps maximum is used.

Yoga poses require a high level of muscular strength. Many yoga poses utilize the weight of the body against gravity to exert force. This produces higher levels of muscular strength. Golfers need above average amounts of muscular strength to achieve a powerful golf swing.

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Muscular Endurance

Muscular Endurance is the ability to hold an isometric position (i.e. a wall squat) or to perform a certain number of repetitions of a certain exercise. Isometric refers to muscular effort involving stationary muscle endurance; in other words, effort without dynamic movement. The ability to hold isometric muscular contractions while performing a yoga pose for an extended time frame (30 secs. to several minutes) increases muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is very important for golfers. It gives golfers the ability to perform at a high level for a sustained period of time, such as in a round, tournament, season, career, or lifetime.

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Functional Flexibility/Mobility

Functional Flexibility/Mobility is the ability to move muscles and joints at different angles and ranges of motion (ROM) specific to the task or athletic movement at hand. In this instance, the athletic movement is the golf swing. Flexibility refers to the tensile elasticity of the muscles, mobility to the ROM at the joint sites. Yoga poses provide a vast array of shapes that both strengthen and stretch the body at many different angles in all ranges of motion.

A regular yoga practice will increase functional flexibility and therefore naturally improve mobility.
This may be the most important fitness component for a golfer to enhance and maintain. Speed in golf is determined by the ability to accelerate in a controlled fashion. Flexible muscles move faster and help enhance mobility in the joints. Increases in clubhead speed and better accuracy are easily achieved when a golfer has higher levels of functional flexibility/mobility.

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Balance

Balance is the ability to sustain our center of gravity when external forces are placed upon it. In sports, an opponent could throw you out of balance. In golf, the wind or an awkward, uneven lie can significantly challenge balance. Balance is also our ability to maintain grounding energy and our center of gravity while moving (golf, tennis, etc.).

Stability

Stability is the ability to sustain balance in different areas of the body and remain in balance while different body parts are moving, or when external forces are placed upon the body. The speed of the golf swing can take us out of balance if we are not stable.

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Yoga improves both balance and stability dramatically. Most of the standard standing poses in yoga require a tremendous amount of stability and balance. Any of the one-legged balancing poses or arm balancing postures requires even higher levels of balance and stability. Golfers obviously need high levels of balance and stability in order to create and maintain a powerful, reliable golf swing. Regular practice of yoga provides this.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular Endurance is the ability to sustain an increased level of aerobic exertion over an extended time frame. Any form of exercise has some effect on this. Yoga works directly on this because deep breathing is the primary focus of the yoga presented in this book. Yoga poses require sustained, powerful levels of isometric muscular contractions. When this is merged with deep and full yogic breathing, it increases the ability to utilize and access more lung tissue, which increases lung capacity.

This form of cardiovascular conditioning is actually more refined than aerobic exercise. Traditional cardio or aerobic exercise utilizes increases in heart rate to overload the cardiovascular system. Basic cardio work like a brisk walk is excellent for circulation, but it does not provide the access to the lung tissue that refined yogic breathing will stimulate. Both forms work well and should be used regularly to improve overall fitness. Golfers need above average cardiovascular endurance to achieve peak performance.

Body Composition

Body Composition is the ratio of lean tissue (muscle) to fat tissue (adipose) in the body. Yoga poses utilize dynamic isolated active stretching and strength routines that sculpt and shape the body. This changes the internal fabric of connective muscle tissue. Appearance also changes: as the ratio of lean tissue to fat is increased, the body naturally shifts things around. The more fit the golfer, the easier it is to maintain appropriate levels of body fat for their age group and gender. This is not about being skinny, and I don’t get too carried away with this one as a trainer and a yoga teacher. Life and golf are about the ability to function at an optimal level for a long period of time, not an unattainable perfect physical appearance.

The golf swing is a complex movement pattern, a blend of stability and mobility. In the golf swing, some joints are challenged to provide stability: feet, knees, pelvis, and shoulder blades. Other joints are required to be mobile: ankles, hips, spine, and shoulder joint. Proper kinematic sequencing is necessary to perform with both distance and accuracy. I like the model the Titleist Performance Institute uses of how the joints are stacked from bottom to top in terms of stability/mobility in the golf swing:

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As you can see, the pattern is stable, then mobile. Obviously, if something is askew at one of these
joint sites, then golf dysfunction of some kind is bound to occur. Yoga is a blend of strength/endurance (stability) and flexibility (mobility), and immediately provides the golfer with higher levels of both of these. Yoga will finely tune your body, and when the body is finely tuned, better golf is easily achievable.

Yoga and Fitness

If you are a golfer, you are an athlete. If you are an athlete, you need to be fit. There are many ways to get fit. Yoga is an excellent and important part of your fitness regimen for golf. The benefits of yoga and the yoga described in this book will immediately carry over to your golf game and your life. Obviously, the more time and energy spent on the discipline of yoga, the quicker the improvement. All components of your fitness will improve with regular yoga. As to what constitutes “regular” yoga, four or more sessions per week, with adequate rest or off days, is regular yoga.

Many people, especially men, think that yoga is all about flexibility. People say “Oh, I’m tight. I can’t do yoga.” That is exactly why they should do yoga! Ultimately, yoga requires strength, endurance, core power, stability, and mobility before it requires flexibility. That is why I use the words Functional Flexibility, which refers to joint mobility as well as muscle elasticity (flexibility).

The amount of flexibility we need and have is relative to many factors: skeletal design, space around the joint sites due to skeletal design (especially hips and shoulders), current levels of fitness, exercise history, injuries, and surgeries. Notice I did not mention age. Age can be a factor, but there is so much variability in what people can do at a certain age. Most of the variances are due to the amounts of activity people get at any time period in their lifespan. Besides, the golf ball doesn’t know how old you are. The golf ball knows physics and the laws of dynamic energy. The faster and more efficiently you swing, the straighter and farther the ball flies. Being fit highly increases your chances of playing better golf.

Exercise and Aging

The benefits of exercise exactly counteract what we think of as the results of aging. Increases in muscle strength, muscle endurance, bone density, levels of energy, lung capacity, and ranges of motion are
just some of the benefits of regular exercise, regular movement, and a more active lifestyle. Obviously, aging has some effect on overall fitness, but it is inactivity that causes the more dramatic decreases in all parameters of fitness and overall health than any other factor. I’ve had people say to me, when looking at a picture of themselves at a younger age, “Look at what happened to me.” Did it really happen to you, or were you just lazy and stopped moving, and that is what caused the dramatic shift? Do something now, right now! Go for a walk, lift some weights, do some yoga, walk the golf course, anything, please! It’s your life, and you can make the changes you need to by exercising on a regular basis. It is way harder to be sick than to exercise. You are never too old, and it is never too late.

Michael Brantl is co-owner of Jayani Yoga, Inc. in Pennington, New Jersey. Mike is a TPI Level 3 Certified Fitness Instructor, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and a Certified ACSM Health Fitness Specialist.

For more information about Mike and his book The Empowered Golfer – Yoga for Optimal Golf Performance, please visit his website: www.epgfitness.com.  

Photos courtesy: Michael Brantl.

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80 Years: Happy Birthday Dalai Lama!

On July 6th we celebrated the 80th birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk…

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On July 6th we celebrated the 80th birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet.  The teachings of the Buddha as practiced and taught in Tibet we call Tibetan Buddhism.  We celebrate his inspiration in his own words:

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”

“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.”

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.”

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.”

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”

Photo credit: Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

 

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Review: Todd Boston: “Touched by the Sun”

Touched By the Sun is the second release from multi-instrumentalist/composer Todd Boston, following his 2010 debut, Alive. Produced by Will Ackerman and co-produced…

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by Kathy Parsons

Touched By the Sun is the second release from multi-instrumentalist/composer Todd Boston, TB Face Smile CRfollowing his 2010 debut, Alive. Produced by Will Ackerman and co-produced by Tom Eaton and Boston, the album features an impressive list of contributing musicians that include Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello, Snatam Kaur‘s vocals, Ramesh Kannan on tabla and cajon, and Michael Manring and Tony Levin on basses. Boston performs on guitars, dotar, flutes and bass and composed all twelve pieces, some of which were arranged by Ackerman.

A Very Positive, Uplifting Energy

With such a stellar group of collaborating artists, it is no wonder that both the music and the sound quality are truly exceptional. Boston has studied with the masters of a dizzying range of musical genres, and his compositions reflect an assimilation of many cultural styles. All of the music has a very positive, uplifting energy, and it’s fascinating how Boston shifts from Eastern stylings to Americana without missing a beat.

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Songs of Joy that Lift the Spirit

Touched By the Sun begins with a short prelude for dotar and cello that establishes the eclectic tone of the album. Hypnotic with a hint of mystery, it’s a great start! “Twilight,” features guitar, dotar (a simple Indian lute), flute, cello, tabla, cajon, and bass. The gentle finger-picking style on guitar gives the piece a very relaxed and contented feeling that is enhanced by Friesen’s soulful cello. “Celtic Heart” is a favorite. Guitar, cello, bass and percussion combine to create a folk feeling that overflows with emotion and passion. Darker than most of the other tracks, it really sings! “Sol Rising” goes in the other direction with a song of joy and new beginnings that lifts the spirit and lets it soar. “The Brightest Night” begins as a peaceful guitar solo and gradually evolves into a guitar/cello/violin trio with supporting percussion. I really like this one, too! “Under the Orion Sky” would be perfect in a film showing open fields or meadows or any kind of peaceful, serene setting. Love it! “Full Moon” picks up the tempo and energy level tempered with a haunting, mystical quality. Guitars, flutes, violin, tabla, cajon, and fretless bass cast a hypnotic spell. “Cascading” is just Boston and his guitar, with dotar adding occasional embellishments (also Boston). Peaceful serenity at its best! “Waves” was recorded on the day of the Japanese tsunami (3/11/11) after watching videos of the massive destruction. Intense yet very beautiful, this piece is dedicated to the memory of guitarist Michael Hedges. The last track on this exceptional album is the title track. Guitars, bass, Snatam Kaur’s elegant voice, violin, and light percussion soothe and uplift, leaving the listener refreshed and with a sense of well-being.

A Wonderful Musical Journey

Todd Boston has created a wonderful musical journey for everyone who loves soulful guitar and world music styles with substance and beauty. Touched By the Sun is available from www.toddboston.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!

Todd’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Success Starts with an Idea

Every great achievement starts with an idea. Ideas come to us with a possibility of successfully bringing them to life…

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Every great achievement starts with an idea. Ideas come to us with a possibility of successfully bringing them to life in ways that others can share in them.  The late comic genius Robin Williams said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Often an idea stimulates a more complete vision about something on your mind: a new yoga posture, a song, a book, a poem, dance, a life shift, whatever. Sometimes an idea feels like a perfect solution. The right idea can bring one’s dreams closer to reality.

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Ideas are Gifts

They pop into our minds from nothingness. When I pick up my guitar at any given moment and start playing extemporaneously, like magic – music flows.  Music is coursing through my consciousness like a stream all the time.  A guitar in my hands is a soundboard for the flow of ideas, an aural reflection of my inner consciousness and what I am feeling inside a given moment.

Value and savor your ideas for they are far from trivial. Write them down in a creative journal or record them so you can return to them.  Even if they suck at the outset, they are instructive and evolutionary; they are build-able and often morph to power the successes to which one aspires.

Ideas are essence

Ideas are essence. They take time to grow into physical reality. “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else,” noted artist Pablo Picasso.  Give yourself time, patience and perseverance and allow unformed ideas to grow into their full potential.

Meditation and Contemplation

 I find that meditation really helps open my creative channels. Quietude helps me hear and see the flow of ideas.

Practice

Practice and perfecting your craft enables the flow of ideas. The time you devote to practice generates an inner momentum for your ideas to come through and your dreams to come true. So work hard.

Trusting Your Ideas

Contemplate an idea in a quiet place. Imagine life with the idea fully manifest. How does it feel to you?  Treat ideas as gifts and may they transform your life for the better.

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20 Affirmations for Achieving Happiness

Visualize Health and Success – Feeling happy is more than a state of mind. Like yoga, it requires practice and seeing the brighter…

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Are you using the power of positive thinking in your life?

Visualize Health and Success

Feeling happy is more than a state of mind. Like yoga, it requires practice and seeing the brighter side of life at every moment.  Always visualize health and success in your life and positive outcomes from your actions. And believe that you will eventually rise above any obstacles and difficulties on your life path.

Embrace the Brighter Side of Life

We like these affirmations by author Marc Chernoff that you can use to focus on the bright side of life and achieve positive results from all your actions.

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Exercise the Mind

“Just like every muscle in the body, the mind needs to be exercised to gain strength.  It needs to be worked consistently to grow and develop over time.  If you haven’t pushed your mind in thousands of little ways over time, of course it’ll crumble on the one day that things get really challenging,” suggests Chernoff.

Repeat these affirmations aloud or silently until they are imprinted inside your subconscious mind.

  1. “I cannot control everything that happens to me; I can only control the way I respond to what happens.  In my response is my power.”
  2. “I will not get caught up in what could’ve been or should’ve been.  I will look instead at the power and possibility of what is, right now.”
  3. “I have to accept whatever comes my way, and the only important thing is that I meet it with the best I have to give.”
  4. “Making mistakes is always better than faking perfections.”
  5. “I will never be as good as everyone tells me when I win, and I will never be as bad as I think when I lose.”
  6. “I will think less about managing my problems and more about managing my mindset.  I will keep it positive.”
  7. “A challenge only becomes an obstacle if I bow to it.”
  8. “I will get back up.  Again, and again.  The faster I recover from setbacks, the faster I’ll get where I’m going in life.”
  9. “I will not try to hide from my fears, because I know they are not there to scare me.  They are there to let me know that something is worth it.”
  10. “There is a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion.  Life is too short.  I will invest in the activities that deeply move me.”
  11. “If I don’t have time for what matters, I will stop doing things that don’t.”
  12. “I cannot build a reputation and legacy for myself based on what I am going to (maybe) do someday.”
  13. “The future can be different than the present, and I have the power to make it so, right now.”
  14. “Happiness will come to me when it comes from me.”
  15. “Getting ahead is essential, and I will never get ahead of anyone (including my past self) as long as I try to get even with them.”
  16. “I will focus on making myself better, not on thinking that I am better.”
  17. “I will be too busy working on my own grass to notice if yours is greener.”
  18. “I will eat like I love myself.  Move like I love myself.  Speak like I love myself.  Live like I love myself.  Today.:
  19. “My next step in the right direction doesn’t have to be a big one.”
  20. “All the small victories are worth celebrating, every step of the way.  It’s the small things done well that make a big, exciting life in the end.”

How are you using the positive thinking and affirmations in your life?

Thanks to Marc and Angel Chernoff, authors of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.

 

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Recipe: Insanely Simple Curried Chickpea Salad

This protein-packed, uber-simple recipe is ideal for taking to work for a lunch on a bed of greens, in a butter lettuce…

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by Roberto Martin

This protein-packed, uber-simple recipe is ideal for taking to work for a lunch on a bed of greens, in a butter lettuce cup, or just eaten with crackers. It can be used as a sandwich filler, a wrap, or scooped onto seasoned sliced tomatoes when they are in season. It’s super versatile. My 9-year-old likes it, and that’s saying something.

Curried Chickpea Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked then cooked until very tender, or two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 celery ribs, diced small
  • 1 large organic Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced small
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 2 whole scallions, green parts thinly sliced and white parts minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Preparation

1. Place half of the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse them once or twice to chop them up a bit. This can also be done in a bowl with a potato masher.

2. Place the chickpeas and the rest of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and mix them with a rubber spatula until well combined.

3. Season the salad with salt and pepper then cover and refrigerate it for 30 minutes minimum before serving.

Roberto Martin is the author of the New York Times bestseller Vegan Cooking for Carnivores, and Roberto’s New Vegan Cooking, and is the Owner and Head Chef of Elevate, a Los Angeles-based vegan restaurant. As a personal chef (working with celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi), he focuses on nutrition and health. Martin lives with his family in Southern California.  Thanks to mindbodygreen.com for permission to excerpt.

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Review: Winds of Samsara: Ricky Kej & Wouter Kellerman

Winds of Samsara is a glorious collaboration by keyboardist/composer Ricky Kej, flutist Wouter Kellerman and a crew of about 120 musicians …

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by Kathy Parsons

Winds of Samsara is a glorious collaboration by keyboardist/composer Ricky Kej, flutist Wouter Kellerman and a crew of about 120 musicians from five continents. With musical instruments and stylings from all over the world, this is clearly a world music album. Several of the tracks have a very strong Indian influence, reflecting Kej’s cultural background, but there is also a gorgeous arrangement of “Greensleeves,” a track by Australia’s wonderful Fiona Joy, and a Nocturne by Chopin. Impossibly diverse? In less capable hands, perhaps, but this album works seamlessly and beautifully from the first note to the last. With themes of peace and global harmony as well as musical tributes to Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi, Winds of Samsara is a richly rewarding experience from an emotional and spiritual as well as a musical perspective. I predict that this one will shoot up the charts very quickly!

An Incredible Album

Winds of Samsara begins with “Mahatma,” a piece with diverse musical elements that come together as one to symbolize the late visionary’s message of world peace, non-violence and love. Guests artists on this track include guitarist Ciro Hurtado and vocalist Prakash Sontakke, but it is Kellerman’s flute that makes it soar. “New Earth Calling” scales back the production a bit, but not the beauty or effectiveness of the music. “Crystal Moon” is the first piece Kellerman ever composed. Haunting and graceful, it features Kellerman on flute and fife, accompanied by guitars, keyboards, and percussion. “Madiba” is the family name of Nelson Mandela, and this piece expresses the feelings of gratitude the two composers have for the great leader. Both powerful and very gentle, it’s a favorite. “Heaven Is Here” is a new arrangement of “Pieces of Heaven” from Kej’s 2013 release,Shanti Orchestra. It is also the first piece Kej and Kellerman worked on together. With ethereal vocals and the universal spirit of love, it’s a deeply emotional stand-out.

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“River of Time” remembers a lost loved one and was composed by Phresh Makhene and Kellerman in a distinctive African style. “Remembrance” is set to the old English folk song, “Greensleeves.” Inspired by the universal and timeless quality the song, it is sung here by Indian and African voices. “Journey to Higher Grounds” is another favorite. An ode to positivity, progress, and resilience, Kellerman’s flute goes heavenward as strings, piano, and keyboards give it wings. “Grace” brings in one of my favorite artists, Fiona Joy, with her original composition and playing her new Stuart and Sons grand piano. Backed by Kellerman’s flute, Kej’s keyboards and bass, santoor and vocals, the song elegantly  enchants as it touches the heart. “Nocturne” was a real surprise! (This is Chopin’s C# minor Nocturne, not the better-known Nocturne in Eb.) I don’t generally like my classics messed with much, but this arrangement is stellar with Michael Lewin on piano, Kellerman on flute, an Indian choir, and the Seattle Pro Musica choir. What a stunning ending for an incredible album!

2014 Grammy Winner – Best New Age Album

Winds of Samsara won the Grammy for Best New Age Album! It is available from www.WindsOfSamsara.com. Very highly recommended!

Ricky’s Website     Wouter’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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The Weather is Beautiful; Why am I Feeling Depressed?!?

Since the weather has become humid, many people have been complaining of depression and lack of motivation. The nicholassun is bright, the weather is warm, the flowers…

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by Nicholas Sieben, M.S., L.Ac.

Since the weather has become humid, many people have been complaining of depression and lack of motivation. The nicholassun is bright, the weather is warm, the flowers are in bloom? Why the blues?

I think many of us are reacting to the climate: the same type of humid-hot weather inside us is resonating with the weather outside, causing lethargy.

The Weather Outside and the Weather Inside

The problem comes from blockage in the chest. The Lungs are feeling stifled and our energy feels depleted. The Classics of Chinese Medicine speak about our relationship to nature. We are part of nature. Therefore, what’s inside us reacts to what’s outside of us. Symptoms that occur with a particular type of weather indicates we are harboring the same type of weather within. This is the nature of weather in our bodies: it only gives us problems when the surrounding environment is also expressing a similar state.

Chinese Medicine

So for those of us who are struggling with Damp Heat: some insight into the problem can be helpful. Chinese Medicine views all conditions physically, mentally/emotionally and spiritually. Chinese Medicine is a physical science, as well as a philosophical system. What is happening physically in our bodies can give insight into what we need to do mentally and emotionally to evolve and heal. The same is true when we are experiencing mental-emotional systems. They are signs of some physical imbalance in our bodies.

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Damp- Heat

Damp-heat is philosophically seen as desires that are being dampened: we want to do or express something, but for some reason we’re not able to. Something is holding us back: the dampness. Or, it can come from something we are holding onto, which is creating heat from being stagnant. The dampness is a response to control the heat. The dampness can also be our resistance to fully letting something go. Or, the dampness can be our confusion about a situation: we don’t quite know what to let go of, or which direction to go. If it sounds sticky, it is! That is exactly the type of environment that is created internally. The heat thickens and dries the fluids in the chest and abdomen into a thick-sticky mess. This interferes with vitality, sinks the mood, and can even lead to digestive problems.

Damp-heat can also be the result of a bug caught in a prior season that we have not fully eradicated. The bug is kept in the chest, waiting to be expelled. For some reason, the body lacks the energy to fully expel the problem. The chest and diaphragm tighten to keep the problem from moving deeper into the abdomen. Chest tightness creates depression. It also blocks the chest, which is the area where the energy for the body undergoes its final production before it is circulated throughout the body.

When the chest is blocked, a whole host of symptoms can occur, including depression and lethargy.

Focus on Letting Go

To move past the sense of stuckness which comes with Damp-Heat blockage in the chest, we must focus on opening our chest, and letting go. We must also be careful not to consume foods that will further complicate the condition: excessive dampening or heating foods. Spicy foods, tropical fruits, hard cheeses, alcohol and fried foods can all exacerbate the problem: they will create more dampness and more heat. We may crave these things, and feel comforted by them; but after the rush of pleasure or ease, they will make the problem worse.

Talk About It

We must also be willing to talk and get things “off our chest.” Exercise that makes us sweat is helpful, including Tai Ji, Yoga or Qi Gong. We probably won’t feel like it, but we should do it anyway: to get things moving. Even stretching the arms high above the head can help: to release the diaphragm.

Get Energy Moving

An emotional release can also be helpful: to watch a tear-jerking movie or read a poem that moves us, or listen to some music that will move our hearts. Anything to get the energy in the chest moving!

Acupuncture

Acupuncture treatment can also be helpful. If the chest is blocked and unable to release, the help of an energetic medical system can provide the needed boost to open up. Chances are: we just need a little adjustment to get back on tract.

Nicholas Sieben has been working as a healer for over 10 years. He has a Master of Science degree in Acupuncture from the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences.  He continues to study under the internationally renowned Jeffrey C. Yuen, Taoist priest and Master of Chinese Medicine: 88th generation Taoist lineage: Yu Ching Huang Lao Pai. His mission is to promote greater freedom of body, mind and spirit through compassionate self-awareness. Through the use of ancient medical practices and the spiritual philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism, Nicholas helps illuminate the path to healing.

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The Ultimate Green Juice

Juicing Offers Life Enhancing Benefits – According to weight loss expert Joe Cross, “Juicing offers many life-enhancing…

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Who juices?

Juicing Offers Life Enhancing Benefits

According to weight loss expert Joe Cross, “Juicing offers many life-enhancing health benefits including a faster, more efficient way to absorb immune boosting nutrients naturally found in fruits and vegetables.  It provides a way to access digestive enzymes typically locked away in the fiber matrix of whole fruits and vegetables.”

The founder of Moon Juice, Amanda Chantal Bacon believes that food is equal part art and medicine; as much about pleasure as healing.  Her ultimate green juice, which she describes below, has five key ingredients. “My Goodness Greens juice leans toward the practical and potent; it was the impetus for my own healing journey and exemplified what consuming plants could do for our bodies and minds.”

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Ultimate Green Juice

  1. Celery

Celery is a great juice-producer and can be used with all the rest of the leafy greens as a vehicle — alternate celery stalks with celery leaves in the juicer for juiciest results. Celery’s green, ribbed stalks are rich in minerals, amino acids, and B vitamins. Its alkaline minerals calm the nervous system, serving as an alkalizing, rehydrating nerve tonic with electrolytes.

  1. Parsley

Historically, parsley has been honored as a medical cure-all. Extremely high in chlorophyll, it contains more vitamin C than any other vegetable, which helps with iron absorption, and is also high in iron, magnesium and potassium. Wonderful for teeth and eyes, parsley is a diuretic and a uterine tonic that will help regulate menstruation, as well as a general stimulant and aid to digestion.

  1. Spinach

These dark green leaves are loaded with vitamins K and A, folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, minerals, amino acids, and iron. Spinach mitigates toxins in the body and leaves us with beautiful skin. It’s particularly good for treating acne, improving hair growth, aiding alkalinity, healing wounds, gum maintenance, constipation, depression, fatigue, weakness and regulating the thyroid gland.

  1. Dandelion

Dandelion is rich in calcium and great for bone health. It’s the best liver cleanser, and it heals, tones and protects both the liver and the gall bladder by producing bile. It’s also great for blood sugar maintenance, it’s a germicidal and fungicidal, it’s lovely for the skin and intestinal maintenance and it’s a powerful diuretic and rich in iron to improve your energy and treat anemia.

  1. Kale

Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, contains more calcium than milk and is way more bio-available, and is especially good for the eyes, skin, and muscles, and is a super anti-carcinogen.

What’s your favorite juice recipe?

Thanks to mindbodygreen.com for permission to reprint this excerpt.

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Review: Shambhu: “Dreaming of Now”

Dreaming Of Now not only matches Shambhu’s first offering but frankly abundantly exceeds it. But be ready to just follow the musical escapade…

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by Michael Debbage

Shambhu’s impressive 2010 debut took many by surprise however a follow up album especially after a strong debut is always a difficult position to be in. shambhu_Pilgrimage -SMALLNevertheless, Dreaming Of Now not only avoids the dreaded sophomore jinx but it will put to rest any doubt that Sacred Love was just a fleeting musical moment. In fact Dreaming Of Now not only matches Shambhu’s first offering but frankly abundantly exceeds it. But be ready to just follow the musical escapade you are about to embark on as the guitarist continues his boundless musical exploration yet creating a complete unified musical vision.

A Smorgasbord of Musical Dishes

Once again Shambhu teams up with Will Ackerman behind the production board along with several musical guests including the more obvious choices of Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello and Jeff Oster on flugelhorn. Add in the instruments such as the saxophone, flutes and various levels of percussion and combine that with Shambhu’s tasty guitar work on both acoustic and electric and you have all the ingredients for a smorgasbord of musical dishes all for your listening consumption.

Simply Heavenly

The album opens with the optimistic “Waterfall” that cascades and flows with the joy of George Brooks’s saxophone countering with Friesen’s cello all anchored around Shambhu’s melodic guitar work. It completely sets the tone of Dreaming Of Now that is simply heavenly. Followed immediately by the more moody “Windows Of Time” that then flings you into the toe tapping breezy “Starbucks Landing” will keep you keenly aware that this artist, much like his debut, refuses to pigeon hole himself into one specific musical style. “Starbucks Landing” focuses on the electric guitar and no it is not Carlos Santana but our very own Shambhu’s letting loose.

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Dreamy Moments

Dreaming Of Now is not without its dreamy moments that can be best found on the title track with Premik Russell Tubbs’ flute work floating effortlessly with Shambhu’s softly shaded acoustic work. This less complicated composition is utterly mesmerizing. The lighter musical hues can also be found on “Country Aire”, “Devodance” or even better yet the naked and stark yet gorgeous closer “Sanctuary” where Shambhu shows us he is capable of doing a superfine William Ackerman like performance but in his own musical tongue.

You Will Like from Start to Finish

Shambhu lost his element of surprise after his strong debut, however this does not take away from the absolute beauty found on Dreaming Of Now. With absolutely no filler, Shambhu’s follow up effort shows an artist that has not only blossomed but has also formally announced himself as a ready for prime time musician. The only question is in which genre? It does not matter as Shambhu takes elements of World, Smooth Jazz, New Age and Meditative qualities to create a musical experience that you will like from start to finish making it one of 2013’s finest releases.

Shambhu’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  He is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Celebrate International Day of Yoga – June 21st

The United Nations and the world are joining together on June 21st for an International Day of Yoga. This is a day…

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The United Nations and the world are joining together on June 21st for an International Day of Yoga. This is a day to recommit to a lifetime of health and wellness through yoga practice. It’s also a great time to share the wellness that yoga brings by inviting family and friends into the Pilgrimage Yoga Online community.

Why Do You Love Yoga?

When yoga students were asked why they love yoga practice, here are some of their answers:

“Yoga stretches my muscles and makes my back feel good.”

“Yoga helps me to bliss out.”

“Yoga brings me back into balance with my true nature.”

“Yoga gives me time for myself”

Transform Body and Mind

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India and which aims to transform both body and mind.

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Discover A Sense of Oneness

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was instrumental in gaining the support of the United Nations for this day. noted: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, restraint and fulfillment, harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. ”

The First Yogi

Yogi and mystic, Sadhguru noted the importance of this day in the yogic tradition: “On the day of the summer solstice, Adiyogi [the first yogi] turned south and first set his eyes on the Saptarishis or Seven Sages, who were his first disciples to carry the science of yoga to many parts of the world. It is wonderful that June 21 marks this momentous event in the history of humanity.”

We agree. So how are you celebrating International Yoga Day?

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A Beat You Can Breathe To: Yoga and Music

Music Affects Our Emotions – We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously…

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by JC Peters

Have you ever noticed the music yoga teachers play in class?

Music Affects Our Emotions

We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously,  elevating us, calling forth an old memory, or even causing us to squeeze on the gas pedal a little harder. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, explains that the parts of our brains that understand music are intertwined with our limbic (emotional) and motor (movement) systems. Sacks writes, “Rhythm in this sense, the integration of sound and movement, can play a great role in coordinating and invigorating basic locomotor movement.” No wonder we can’t help tapping our toes when a certain song comes on the radio.

Your Breath

In Vinyasa or Flow yoga, we intend very clearly to connect with the rhythm of the breath. We breathe Ujjayi, a slowed down, smoothed out breath that sounds a bit like a whisper, and link every transitional movement to either an inhale or an exhale. Your breath becomes a dance partner, and when you are really in the zone, your breath leads the dance.

Classically, Ujjayi breath is a four count inhale and exhale. Some teachers count the breath out loud, but a good song in 4/4 time with a steady tempo can get everyone in the room breathing together effortlessly. The yoga playlist is an unsung art: if we listen with our bodies, a good groove can help, while an irregular beat can throw us off. What we need is a beat we can breathe to.

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Yoga Playlist

The yoga playlist can also set musical moods, from calm and contemplative to fiery and intense. Since we hear music both physically and emotionally, we must be mindful about using it in a practice with such physical and emotional resonances. Whether it’s Tibetan monks chanting or Avril Lavigne, we must acknowledge that the music we choose creates an emotional flavor for our slow dance with the breath.

Many of my students love my yoga playlists, but I’m also aware that some of them must really, deeply hate them. Everyone has their preferences, and some people like their yoga in silence, with the steady beat of the heart as their only metronome. It’s good to acknowledge that you can’t please all the people all the time, but in the end, the music isn’t for my students. It’s for me.

Entrainment

If you put a few pendulums in a room together, swinging at different phases, they somehow hear or feel each other and sync up. This is called entrainment, and it also happens in a yoga class. As the teacher, I need to be the pendulum whose rhythm everyone else matches up with. No matter what’s going on in my life, and even if no one else notices the actual tunes, I know my playlist will get me in sync with the tempo and mood I am trying to share.

In your teaching or home practice, explore how music affects your movement. Some songs even make me want to do backbends or inversions, while others make me crave deep, seated forward folds. There’s a secret language in the music that can accompany our dance with breath. As the poet Mary Oliver has said, “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”

This post was originally published on Spirituality & Health. To view the original post, click here.

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Corporate Wellness Programs Pay for Themselves

Are you thinking about starting a yoga, meditation or wellness program at your company? Whether we like it or not, work can be stressful…

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by S. Neil Vineberg

Are you thinking about starting a yoga, meditation or wellness program at your company?

Whether we like it or not, work can be stressful. New York Times reporter David Gelles described his experience as a reporter at the Financial Times in his new book, Mindful Work. “The job, instantly, was overwhelming. For the first three months I had breakfast meetings, lunches, and after-work drinks on top of long days at the office. Anytime a deal broke, or was even rumored, I was expected to match the story or take it forward. It was exhausting, and I noticed my stress levels ratcheting up. Luckily, I knew what to do. Though mindfulness works best as a preventive medicine, it can also prove an effective remedy. And after a few intense weeks of M&A reporting, I sensed it was time to recommit to meditation.”

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Google, Apple, Target, and Aetna are among top companies engaging in corporate wellness programs that include yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices to reduce the cost of health care, increase employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, and increase job satisfaction.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online has helped companies plan and offer corporate wellness programs that include in-office and online yoga, and wellness and meditation classes that are available to every employee.

The benefit of corporate wellness programs can be as high as $3 for every dollar invested, says Ron Goetzel, director of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies (IHPS) at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The Wellness Council of America suggests that a company needs an operating plan for creating and managing a wellness program, and they offer 7 essential steps you can take:

  • Write A Vision/Mission Statement For The Wellness Program That Incorporates The Organization’s Core Philosophies
  • Set Specific Program Goals and Measurable Objectives That Are Linked To The Company’s Strategic Priorities
  • Set a Timeline For Implementation
  • Establish Roles And Responsibilities for team members who are engaged
  • Create a Budget To Carry Out The Program
  • Market and Promote The Wellness Program In-House
  • Create Evaluation Procedures To Measure The Stated Goals And Objectives.

Interested in starting a wellness program at your company?

Contact the corporate wellness group at Pilgrimage Yoga Online for more information.

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Helping People Fall in Love While Saving the World

I’m a socially conscious tech entrepreneur with an immense passion for giving back and a love for living a healthy lifestyle. I founded Neqtr…

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by Sonya Davis

I’m a socially conscious tech entrepreneur with an immense passion for giving back and a love for living a healthy lifestyle.

I founded Neqtr, an invite-only relationship app that helps conscious people find love while giving back and doing something positive for themselves or the community. We match up people through the causes and lifestyles they have in common. We help them meet at planned dates, like yoga, volunteering, meditation, surfing, etc.

Shared Passions Bring People Together

Neqtr was created because many people like myself are incredibly unfulfilled by the available dating options. We want to find a partner who we can share passions with — it’s the foundation for a healthy, happy relationship. We don’t want to have to drag our partners to yoga, we want them to want to go. And if we do see someone intriguing in our class, we’re generally too shy to say hello. That’s where Neqtr’s matching algorithm and planned dates come in.

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Find Love Doing What You Love

We believe that if you give love, you’ll get love and find love by doing what you love. We’ve also partnered up with 35+ non-profits to aid in our planned date options and spread the love further. Plus, it makes a guy 10 times sexier to see him helping underprivileged children, cleaning a beach, busting out some awesome yoga poses, or getting centered in a meditation practice. Just sayin’.

A Love Movement

I’ve made a point to do gutsy humanitarian projects in countries like Nepal, where I filmed a documentary about child slave labor, and raised enough money through a punk rock benefit show to rebuild a Buddhist nunnery in the Himalayas, thus starting a women’s movement in the neighboring towns. I also write a couple of blogs and help people up their style and confidence. My goal is to create a love movement and help give people the sense that finding a partner is possible while doing good.

Sonya Davis is CEO/Founder of Neqtr. She also practices yoga with Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

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3 Ways to Motivate Your Yoga Practice at Home

On a recent post-nap early evening I struggled to consciousness wondering how in the world I was going to coerce myself…

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On a recent post-nap early evening I struggled to consciousness wondering how in the world I was going to coerce myself into

doing some yoga. I had plans for later that evening and I wanted to be as conscious as possible to enjoy the evening’s activities.

I had already gotten in a cardio workout earlier in the day and knew that 20-30 minutes of yoga would get me feeling great but as I struggled to consciousness I knew the challenge ahead of me. My body only wanted more sleep and my mind was not interested in any discipline.

5 minutes of yoga works wonders!

The first thing I decided upon was that I would remove all pressure from myself by setting the goal at five minutes of yoga. Deep down I know that once I get going yoga feels to good to stop but in this case the challenge is getting going and so I set the five-minute goal. That worked.

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The next thing I did as I lay on the couch was think of something that I really enjoy that I could link to my minutes of yoga… music. I decided to put on one of my favorite groups for my five minute practice: Monk Party. It’s upbeat and dynamic yet soulful sound would make five minutes seem like nothing.

At this point I had turned the corner. This yoga practice was going to manifest. The trump card was fresh air. I realized that my sleeping had made the room a bit stale and the thought of fresh air motivated me to activity. I got up, opened the front door, air played from my iphone to my stereo system and started my very doable five-minute session.

Savasana

I know the way I am and my plan worked. Sure enough twenty-five minutes later was winding down a great yoga practice with a deep relaxation savasana that would carry me into a great evening!

Know thyself…and it’s easy to motivate!

Namaste!

Sujantra founded Pilgrimage Yoga Online designed to make yoga accessible to everyone in the comfort of their home. He is the author of 5 books and has taught meditation to over 25,000 people. He guides the Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio in San Diego, CA and studied meditation for 27 years with Sri Chinmoy.

 

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Review: Fiona Joy: Signature – Solo

Breathtaking ClaritySignature – Solo is Fiona Joy’s long-awaited (by me, anyway!) first solo piano album, and what a beautiful surprise…

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Breathtaking Clarity

Signature – Solo is Fiona Joy’s long-awaited (by me, anyway!) first solo piano album, and what a beautiful surprise it is! phoca_thumb_l_fionataamp3_500Produced and recorded by Cookie Marenco, founder of Blue Coast Records, Signature is being released in several formats, including audiophile SACD and high resolution downloads. (My review copy is a “standard” CD, but the sound quality is still amazing!) A classically-trained pianist from Australia, Fiona Joy has created an impressive collection of recordings beginning with her 2004 release, Portrait of a Waterfall as Fiona Joy Hawkins. Some of her more recent albums were recorded at Imaginary Road Studio and co-produced with Will Ackerman, who refers to Fiona Joy as “one of the brightest lights in contemporary instrumental music.”Signature was recorded on an 1885 Steinway piano, and every nuance comes through in breathtaking clarity. The album features a solo version of “Grace,” which was included in the 2014 Grammy winning Winds of Samsara by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman, and a duet version of “Once Upon Impossible” that features Lawrence Blatt on acoustic guitar as well as Fiona’s ethereal vocals. Nine of the ten tracks are purely solo piano at its colorful, expressive best.

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No Ordinary Solo Piano Album

Signature – Solo begins with “Ceremony,” a lively, upbeat piece that sets the tone of the album and tips listeners off that this is no ordinary solo piano album. “Grace” is likely to become one of Fiona Joy’s “signature” pieces, as it occasionally refers to some of her earlier pieces that haven’t been as widely heard as her more recent work. It’s a wonderful piece as either a piano solo or an ensemble piece, but I really love the solo version. The melancholy “Fair Not” has a flowing left hand that gives it a subtle energy. Dark and very expressive, this is somewhat different from much of Fiona’s other music. There are two versions of “Once Upon Impossible” – a piano solo that is poignant and heartfelt, and the second that includes Fiona’s vocals and light guitar accompaniment by Lawrence Blatt, a fine artist/composer in his own right. Both are exceptional. “Calling Earth” is a somewhat shortened version of “Earthbound” from 600 Years in a Moment.“Invisible Train” is my favorite track. High energy and very spirited, I hope sheet music is planned for this one! The elegant title track is slow, pensive and very heartfelt – gorgeous! As its title suggests, “From the Mist” is cool and has no hard edges – very fluid and free, colored in muted shades of gray and blue. “Little Star” concludes this very special album with a sweet and tender piece that tells its story simply and without a lot of embellishment.

Elegant Touch and Soulful Playing

I truly hope this is just the first in a series of solo piano albums from Fiona Joy. Her elegant touch and soulful playing have always made her one of my favorites. I have been fortunate to have Fiona Joy perform two house concerts in my home, so I have been able to watch her play several times – always a treat that needs to be shared! The “normal” CD and downloads are available from Amazon and iTunes. The audiophile recordings are available from Blue Coast Records. Very highly recommended!

Fiona’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     Blue Coast Records     Fiona’s Artist Page

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Get Your Skin Summer Ready!

Bring Your Skin and Hair Back to Life – Spring is one of my favorite seasons; I can probably relate…

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by Jen Freitas

Bring Your Skin and Hair Back to Life

Spring is one of my favorite seasons; I can probably relate that to how much I detest winter. Finally I see buds on trees, tulips popping up, and the sweetest thing of all, is the sound of the birds singing in the morning. I love watching the entire world start to come back to life after a long, cold winter!

But there’s one thing that I don’t love about spring, and that’s the transition from the thick, cozy clothing of winter to lighter warm-weather clothes that tend to show a bit of skin. Skin, unless properly prepped, can look and feel dry, flaky, and pale—and don’t forget about the mane, which can be frizzy and dull! Luckily, with a bit of at home beauty TLC, you can bring your skin and hair back to life just in time to bury your gray and black tights in the back of your drawer and pull out the sleeveless shirts and bright summer dresses!

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Here are 2 of my favorite DIY, all-natural beauty treatments for the perfect spring makeover:

Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub

The first step to spring weather ready skin is to literally shed your winter skin! This exfoliating scrub does a superb job, plus it incorporates one of my favorite natural beauty superstars, coconut oil.

Here’s the how to:

Mix 3 tablespoons of coconut oil with ½ cup sugar. I use organic cane sugar. If you want a gentler scrub, you could opt for oats instead!

In the shower, use your hands to scrub the mixture vigorously all over your body. Rinse off with warm water then towel dry. Your skin will feel silky smooth and hydrated, as some of the coconut oil will stay on your skin and act as an intensive moisturizer.

You could add a few drops of Lavender essential oil for some scent, if you would like. Plus, it will contribute to the spa like feeling. 

Dry Brushing

This is a great daily tip to carry with you through all seasons. Purchase a long handled brush made for dry brushing. It should be made with natural fibers. Gently run it over your entire body every morning. This will help remove dead skin cells, which contribute to dry, flaky skin. It will also stimulate blood flow, improving circulation and assist your body in detoxifying.

Easy peasy! Now bring it on Mother Nature! This winter was too long!

 Do you have any natural at home beauty tricks that you incorporate in your daily life or as you prepare for the warmer weather?

Thanks to author Jen Freitas, founder and president of The Truth Beauty Company. Jen is a leader in the field of eco-friendly and cruelty free Beauty. She is also a Holistic Skin Care Consultant, avid Beauty Blogger, public speaker and mother.

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