Soften and Enjoy

You have hopefully heard it said many times that when we practice for ourselves we practice for…

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by Courtney Yezzi

You have hopefully heard it said many times that when we practice for ourselves we practice for the benefit of all beings. The effort, thought and energy we put into our practice first creates a positive impact on our life force and then goes out into the universe to create a positive impact on the world around us. Isn’t that amazing concept!?

Up the Vibration

If this is the case wouldn’t we want to practice next to the most positive, fluid thinking, relaxed, intelligent yogis in the room to catch that vibe first? Wouldn’t we want to be those yogis who exude life force energy and a peacefulness that UP’s the vibration in the room? Sure we all would and we all do want that for ourselves and want that for others. So how? Simply, let go and receive.

Relax and Receive

One thing I emphasis in my classes to help get into that flow state of UPing the vibe and generating positive life force is to soften. So many students come into the yoga room with very serious faces or rigid bodies ready for a good workout or to beat their overactive minds into submission for an hour. That tension and mindset can be palpable to others in the room and for sure is palpable to the formless spirit inside. When students are taking themselves too seriously in class I will ask that we all take a satisfying breath in and soften the outer form so the formlessness inside can start to move and enjoy itself. To allow the magical and medicinal properties of the asana practice to take over and move through us all. To allow the over tight, overworked and unnecessary tensors to relax and receive the potency of the practice.

Let Go

Many more of the magical benefits of asana will show up for us when we let go stop taking ourselves so seriously and soften ourselves to happiness and even silliness at times so energy can flow through us with ease. As much as asana is about concentration and meditation it is about enjoying to the fullest capacity the time you have set aside to befriend yourself and learn yourself anew. This is one way we can up our vibration and send it out into the world.

 

Courtney YezziCourtney Yezzi has taught at Pilgrimage since 2008. She teaches the full array of classes from our power classes to our gentle classes. She understands yoga as a tool on the great journey to self-awakening. Courtney is an inspired yogi who is constantly focusing on sharing her highest with her students.

“To my shining spirit and the shining spirits of others who I will meet on this path. May our hearts beat joyfully together as we journey forward.”

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OM – A Mantra for Every Moment

A mantra is a sound or vibration that you can use to journey into the realm of meditation or find calm inside any moment. A mantra represents…

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A mantra is a sound or vibration that you can use to journey into the realm of meditation or find calm inside any moment. A mantra represents an aspect of the Highest, and each mantra has a special significance and inner power.

Vibrational Harmony

OM (AUM)  is said to be the soundless sound of the universe. Chanting OM helps us get into a vibrational harmony with the universe so it’s the ideal way to start and finish one’s yoga practice or meditation session. Om is also the perfect antidote to finding calm inside any stressful situation at home or work.

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Repeat A Mantra Every Day

“If you want quick results in your inner spiritual life, you should repeat a mantra every day without fail, for a least half an hour: fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening,” says spiritual yogi Sri Chinmoy.  “There can be no mantra more powerful than the mother of all mantras, AUM.”

If you want to get the best results, repeat OM every day. To learn more about the power of mantras, watch our De-Stress with Mantra video.

Chant: “Ommmmmmmmmm”.

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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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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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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.

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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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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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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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Review: Paul Avgerinos: “Bhakti”

Calming, Joyful, and Uplifting – Bhakti is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist…

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Paul-Avgerinos

by Kathy Parsons

Calming, Joyful, and Uplifting

Bhakti is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Avgerinos’ nineteenth album to date. Best-known for his ambient music, Avgerinos goes in a different direction with Bhakti (a Sanskrit word that means love and devotion). Avgerinos has practiced yoga, meditation, chanting and devotional singing all of his life and became a student of a Bhakti yoga guru from India when he was sixteen. He has been very active in a small Christian church for the past twenty years although he was raised in the Greek Orthodox church. Using a combination of Eastern and Western musical traditions and instruments as well as chanting and singing, Avgerinos has brought all of those influences together into a musical celebration of love and devotion. Calling it a “must have for energizing any yoga practice,” Bhakti is very calming, joyful, and uplifting. Avgerinos sings several of the tracks – a first in almost ten years – and also plays bass, a variety of guitars, keyboards, and did the sound design. Guest artists appear on sarod, EWI, “angelic” vocals, sitar, and violin. All of this is backed by “Bollywood” beats and Christian Sanskrit mantras. Warm and accessible, this is music that should appeal to a broad audience for both its spiritual and musical offerings. Six of the eleven tracks are primarily instrumental although most of those have wordless vocals. All have a strong Indian influence.

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Ambient and Meditative

Appropriately, Bhakti begins with “Invocation,” a very peaceful opening that sets the spiritual tone of the album. “Shanti Om” is more of a chant sung by beautiful, ethereal voices with a simple but very rhythmic background that becomes more complex as the piece evolves. “Love and Devotion” combines Sanskrit and English lyrics in an upbeat, joyful song with jazz flute passages and a catchy beat. “Om Namah Christaya” is a favorite. Voices are layered (including Avgerinos’) in a very peaceful chant/song backed with a strong rhythm that gives the song a quality that is very serene as well as invigorating. “A Path with Heart” is my favorite of the instrumentals. A bit more Western in its approach, Eastern instrumentation combines beautifully with ambient keyboard sounds – very soothing. “Hare Jesu” again puts Avergerinos’ voice in the forefront in a chant that is both Christian and Hindu – fascinating! Although angelic voices are utilized, “Joy of Being” is primarily an instrumental that is sometimes melodic and sometimes ambient. “Forgiveness and Healing” is a 9-minute track that goes even more ambient and meditative. The closing track, “Peaceful Contentment” provides well over ten minutes of tranquility – gentle and blissful throughout.

Enlightening Listening Experience

Bhakti is quite an unusual but very enlightening listening experience. Paul Avgerinos is likely to garner a great deal of attention and probably another round of awards with this one! It is available from Amazon and 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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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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Review: Jeff Oster: “Next”

A Masterful Collection – Jeff Oster’s Next (as in “the next big thing”) is a masterful collection of tunes that blurs the lines…

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Jeff OsterA Masterful Collection

Jeff Oster’s Next (as in “the next big thing”) is a masterful collection of tunes that blurs the lines between jazz, chill, funk and ambient/new age as if boundaries simply didn’t exist. It is certainly one of the most entertaining albums of recent years, one that is polished to a chromium sheen by the ace production/engineering team of Ackerman and Eaton (I shouldn’t have to give you their first names at this point), suffused with genuine warmth and humanity, and overflowing with a sense that the many musicians on the album had a great time recording it. And what a cast of players Oster assembled for Next! A huge tip of my hat to all of ’em: Chuck Rainey (bass), Tony Levin (bass), Michael Manring (fretless bass), Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (drums), Philip Aaberg (piano), Catherine Marie Charlton (piano), Ricky Kej (keyboards and bass), Vanil Veigas (sarangi), Nile Rodgers (guitar), Todd Boston (guitar), Taylor Barefoot (guitar), Scott Tarulli (guitar), Carl Weingarten (slide guitar), Shambhu Vineberg (guitar), Britt Thomas Brady (Fender Rhodes, guitar and keyboards), Melissa Kaplan (vocals), Jeff Taboloff (tenor sax), Noah Wilding (vocals), and Ackerman (guitar) and Eaton (keyboards, guitar, bass, percussion). Whew!

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Almost Eerily Perfect

Even with all these sterling talents on Next, the unifying factor throughout the album’s twelve tracks is Oster’s flugelhorn and trumpet playing which, frankly, has never been better. Oster’s control of nuance and tone is almost eerily perfect, it’s just so sublime and fluid. It doesn’t matter what the music calls for, be it funky licks, soothing ambientish soundscapes, or blues-tinted jazz runs, he is not just up to the task but excels at it. Other than a very solid cover of the classic tune “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (made famous by Bonnie Raitt) and two other tracks (“And We Dance,” co-written by the artist and Will Ackerman and “On Mother’s Day,” a compositional collaboration between Oster and Shambhu) Oster penned the remaining nine tunes which makes Next even more of an accomplishment.

Laid-Back Relaxation

For me, Next excels at one thing more than anything else—creating an atmosphere of laid-back relaxation without resorting to “relaxation music” clichés. Even when Oster and crew “kick it” in the funky opening title track, the expert way the song is mixed (spot-on laying of the drums and bass in the mix) brings the tune in as nicely chilled funk as opposed to a “tear the roof off the sucka” funk a la George Clinton. “Night Train to Sofia” washes over the listener with a flowing jazziness laced with a sense of bluesy longing. The drums and bass impart a noticeable rhythm which ties in nicely with the titular reference without directly aping the sound of steel wheels on rails. Kaplan’s vocals cry out in muted fashion like a distant siren song, calling to her lover. Superb stuff! “Gardens of Varanasi” features Veigas’ sarangi playing (an Asian string instrument) which casts a subtle world fusion shadow but the mood of the cut is more jazz-oriented by the ending with a mellow beat and Oster’s fluid lead melody. Eaton’s Fender Rhodes that kicks off “Turn Left at San Pancho” places the cut in a fantastic slightly-retro jazz vein (think vintage era Bob James) and once again, the solid drum/bass rhythm section lays down a solid groove over which Oster plays one of the album’s catchiest refrains.

Outstanding Musicianship, Sterling Production

Track after track, Next delights with outstanding musicianship, sterling production, and some of the tastiest horn licks that Oster has ever committed to a recording.  “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is every bit as soulful and sorrowfully romantic as Raitt’s version while “Ibiza Sunrise” sounds like you would think it would, unfurling slowly over a downtempo groove with layers of synthesizers, guitar and vocals and Oster’s flugelhorn circling above it all like a graceful bird gliding over the titular island’s coastline. “Avenue D” pulses with one of the more uptempo beats on the album, set aglow with Eaton’s twinkling Fender Rhodes’ keys while Oster’s trumpet and flugelhorn intertwine with a graceful sense of subdued joy. Carefully placed environmental sound effects enhance the carefree nature of the song and Todd Boston’s tasty guitar solo in the bridge adds yet another playful dash of spice. “The Mystery of B” slows way down with an ambient-like sensibility, an atmospheric blending of flugelhorn, bass, guitar, piano, and assorted keyboards that flows ever so patiently, slowly building to a mild elevation of drama. “Heroes” is the most dynamic track on the album with Charlton’s piano and Taboloff’s sax providing the opening mellow passage before the song comes to life with a more pronounced bass-heavy beat and percolating synthesizers over which Oster and guitarist Taylor Barefoot set things afire, eventually joined by Taboloff before the track ends. Next comes to a perfect ending with the restrained “And We Dance,” a beautiful duet with Ackerman playing his trademark warm, introspective acoustic guitar and Oster blissing out on flugelhorn.

A Landmark Album

When I have to review an album as outstanding as Next, I worry that my praise will come off as gushing hyperbole, or even worse, sycophantic ramblings. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t state thatNext is flat-out amazing. Certainly this is Jeff Oster’s best recording to date (which is no small thing in and of itself). But it’s more than that. It is a landmark album that should hold almost universal appeal to anyone who has even a mild love for jazz or chill, as well as groove-oriented instrumental music. Next truly is the “next big thing.” I wouldn’t want to be Jeff Oster, though, ’cause I have no idea how he will top this! It’s hard to improve on perfection!

Next is available at Amazon, iTunes, and CDBaby.

The music: http://music.jeffoster.com

NEXT Video Trailer : https://youtu.be/aZH7QiqolR0

Soundcloud Playlist: https://soundcloud.com/jeffosternext

Thanks to Bill Binkleman who writes for Wind and Wire.  Bill has been writing ambient, New Age and instrumental music reviews since 1997. 

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Review: Heidi Breyer: “Letters from Far Away”

Only another two year lapse and once again we are invited to another recording from the delightful and adventurous pianist Heidi Breyer.

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Reviewed by Michael Debbage

heidibreyerOnly another two year lapse and once again we are invited to another recording from the delightful and adventurous pianist Heidi Breyer. Last time around Breyer pushed the envelope with the addition of a few vocal performances. This time out she wanted to strip it down to create her first solo piano album however decided to make it a double album concept with the second disc presenting the same songs fleshed out with various instrumentation. The results are magical.

Velvety and Elegant

While the discs are not labeled as disc one and two clearly the initial concept was to go it alone and while the performances are velvety and elegant, when accompanied with varying instrumentation the emotional factor though still reserved is nevertheless moving. With Breyer co-producing with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton the performances themselves though not limited to Ackerman’s A Team session players include the usual suspects of Jill Haley on the English Horn, Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, Noah Wilding on vocals and even Ackerman on guitar.

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Not One Weak Moment

Haley and Friesen are the first to appear on the slow rhythmically delicious opening track entitled “All The Good Things” as they combined effortless with Breyer’s simple but emotive piano work. Frankly, “All The Good Things” could easily have referred to the stellar compositions that follow as there is not one weak moment found as it appears Breyer has completely outdone herself. This review would get hideously long speaking about the high points that pictorially would look  like the Alps. So skipping forward just inhale the quiet moments of Breyer’s piano work as she brings the emotive factor up slowly but gradually in complete harmony with Noah Wilding’s wordless vocals on “First Impressions”. At one point there are two voices which would likely be Breyer herself harmonizing with Wilding. Another more than stellar moment can be found on “Touchstone” where Breyer’s playing is more vibrant and progressive than usual. With the album concept focused on the story of two lovers it is this song that strongly suggests the meeting of their heart, mind and soul. Equally as energetic is “Welton” with the album coming to a close with highly reflective “Starry Pond”.

Nothing Short of Astonishing

Breyer’s latest ambitious creation shy of the cardboard packaging is nothing short of astonishing and is without a doubt her most impressive recording to date. When you consider the fact that her discography to date is already a treasure chest, speaking this highly of Letters From Far Away only makes this her crown jewel until she outdoes herself again. Considering the bravado of Breyer’s track record there should never be a doubt.

Heidi’s Website    Amazon    iTunes    CD Baby    Heidi’s Artist Page

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

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Review: Ann Licater: “Doorway to a Dream”

Doorway To a Dream is Native American and World flutist Ann Licater’s follow-up to her award-winning 2007 debut, Following the Call.

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Ann Licater_World Flutist_Photoby_DArcy Allison_TeasleyA Healing Dream

Doorway To a Dream is Native American and World flutist Ann Licater’s follow-up to her award-winning 2007 debut, Following the Call. The album is an invitation to embark on “a healing dream journey to the infinite expanses of  your imagination and the sacred spaces within.” Licater is joined by an impressive ensemble of musicians that includes Jose Neto, Jeff Oster, Peter Phippen, and Shambhu. Licater performs on six different types of flutes, including wood and clay instruments and silver alto flute. She studied Native American flute with R. Carlos Nakai and facilitates “Flute For the Soul” workshops where participants explore how contemporary replicas of ancient wood and clay flutes can be used as tools for personal discovery, spiritual practice, and relaxation. Each of the fourteen tracks has its own special meaning along the dream journey, and it is recommended that Doorway To a Dream be listened to from beginning to end for an inspirational meditation for unwinding and escaping into the dream.

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Relax and Surrender

Doorway To a Dream begins with the title track, which offers a seductive invitation to relax and surrender to the music. Flute, ambient sounds and delicate wind chimes begin our journey. “Shades of Light” is a gentle flute duet that takes us through the “doorway.” “Into the Heart” is a favorite. Light percussion creates a rhythmic backdrop for the haunting and almost mournful flute. “Xiao Garden” is a gorgeous flute solo that takes the listener deeper into a dream state. “Angel Bird” is another favorite, and features Shambhu on acoustic guitar – very light and carefree. I also really like “Bridges In Time,” with slow, graceful flute backed by ambient sounds – very dreamy and flowing. Jose Neto joins Licater on “Earth to Sky” playing Coral electric sitar which has a fascinating sound. Troy Arnett adds some lovely piano as well. “Divine Love” is a rapturous flute duet that has  background keyboard washes for additional color. Jeff Oster appears on “Radiance” with his distinctive flugelhorn – a very unusual but beautiful combination of instruments. “Floating” brings us to the end of our dream journey, bathed in light and deeply refreshed. Piano (William Hoshal) and ethereal keyboard washes create a dreamscape for Licater’s delicate flute.

Musical Tranquility

Doorway To a Dream offers the listener a very soothing hour of musical tranquility. It’s available from www.annlicater.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!

Ann’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 blog.

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Savasana – A pose for everyone!

Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right (Savasana save me!). My new puppy chewed the leg of an antique…

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Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right (Savasana save me!). My new puppy chewed the leg of an antique chair I got from my grandmother, the apartment I was looking to rent got taken and then my car wouldn’t start. Late for work again!

I decided after work to make a healthy choice instead of going to the local pub, so I checked out another Pilgrimage online yoga class since it was so helpful before. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really feel like “working out”. Then I saw Heather Fenwick 10 minute Savasana pose and thought – now there’s something I can handle!

What is Savasana?

Savasana, or corpse pose, is a conscious letting go and allowing the body to melt into the ground. It is the final pose in most yoga classes and is a restorative pose, which means you just lay there and your body restores itself – That’s for me! I sometimes see people leaving a yoga class when it’s time for Savasana, but from what I’ve heard, it’s really important to finish your practice with Savasana so your body has a chance to restore itself.

Benefits

Heather’s video was like a guided relaxation. She “talked” to all her body parts and told them, (in a nice way), to relax. I found this very helpful because you can find out if there are any leftover tension spots and let them know to “chill out.”

After a while, I just listened to Heather’s voice as I released the tension from the day and let my mind and body rest. I thought, now this is a yoga pose I could get good at – then I didn’t have any more thoughts –just peace.

Savasana in everyday life

A lot of yoga poses can be done in a variety of settings, like the workplace. Savasana is a bit more tricky, since you should be lying down. I don’t know about your workplace, but there’s nowhere to lie down where I work. However, it’s a great pose to do at home or outside in a park or at the beach.

As I continue to do yoga, I realize the benefits of Savasana. For me, it is especially soothing after a class or after having done other poses. However, after watching this video I learned Savasana can be an important, relaxing pose unto itself.

Namaste.

(To watch Heather’s Savasana video, CLICK HERE).

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