Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Inspires Me: YogiTunes CEO Alex King-Harris

Hi all... I got the chance to hang with the Gaiam crew at the SF Yoga Journal Conference just last month... which was super cool btw!

They do this really cool video blog series called "What Inspires You?" - a couple minutes to talk about the thing that you find to be most inspiring to you in life.

I chose to talk about kids... one of the things I do outside of running YogiTunes and being a music producer/performer, is work with kids as a mentor.  I have an 11 year old step-son, and am actively involved in kids aged 8-18 in a local program called 'Boys to Men'.

Yoga of Bass @ Wanderlust Vermont

I’m stoked to say that this year Claire and I will be teaching at Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Vermont for the first time. Wanderlust’s Yoga & Music theme is something we really resonate with and it’s the meeting point of these two passions that forms the basis of all three of the workshops we will be presenting there, including the Yoga of Bass.

We’re going to be teaching at the Vermont festival but there are 3 Wanderlust Festivals around the country as well. And Wanderlust isn’t the only Yoga festival that’s enjoying a boom right now either. They’re sprouting up any where there’s an empty field like magic mushrooms from cow dung in June! Festivals like Hanuman Festival, Bhaktifest, Evolve Yoga and Music festival are also flying the flag for the Yoga massive.

EarthRise Warrior Flow Instructional Yoga Sequence by Derek Beres

The setting for this DVD, which is muted and minimal, makes it immediately clear that EarthRise Warrior Flow by Derek Beres, featuring EarthRise SoundSystem’s ‘The Yoga Sessions’, is not about beautiful and exotic locations. It's all about the music and the flow.

This open level yoga practice is jam-packed with poses and offers sophisticated sequencing that any flow-based yoga instructor looking for inspiration will love. Each of the twelve mixes on the disc has a specific focus or theme whether it’s a series of twists and hip openers all starting from downward facing dog in Desh Nayad, combination of standing and forearm balances in Rama, or a very fluid and freeing backbend mix in Daylight As Sunset. Be forewarned, however, that the floor work in Makyen Ghrir Allah is far more difficult than Sasha Dmochowski makes it look.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Boston's Irene Solea offers Kirtan/live music classes in Denver, Colorado

Denver is quickly becoming a top U.S. location for Kirtan and Yogic music. Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Dave Stringer, Shantala, Wah! and many more have visited the Mile High City in the last year. Local Kirtan leaders including Scott & Shanti Medina, Vamadeva, Dakini Ma and Tom Fuhrmann are putting Colorado on the chant map.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yoga of Bass

Comments by YogiTunes founder, Rara Avis
I recently had the absolute pleasure of meeting Darin McFayden and Claire Thompson, who together have developed an amazing practice called 'The Yoga of Bass'. It draws parallels between the spirituality found in the yogic path with that of the musical & artistic lifestyle.

Through my own intensive studies of music history, I also realized that music and art have been considered sacred channels to the divine in almost every culture previous to ours... yet with the modern day commodification of all things profitable, sanctuary has been diluted and often replaced with a formulaic repetition of 'creative' expression that at times borders on the profane.

Darin, more commonly known as Freq Nasty is a prolific, talented DJ/Producer who hails from the UK.  He has been setting the tone of bass oriented music for many years and I for one have been on several dance floors late at night that have been rocked to their spiritual core by the sounds emanating from the speakers during Darin's memorable performances.  Claire is a gifted yoga teacher who aside from studying and teacher various healing arts, also sings with the Dub Kirtan All Stars which is a project created by Darin and our dear friend David Starfire and is aimed at fusing the electronic underground with the magic of kirtan.

How sound can help quiet the mind...

In my first YT Blog I pondered the question of why we love music so much and how it supports yoga and our spiritual practice.  In this second entry I am beginning to explore reasons why or how music, or sound for that matter, might help us quiet the mind and aid in the process of awakening.  There are at least three ways I have come to realize yoga music might help end our discursive thoughts, and no doubt there are more.

First, certain sound frequencies are said to be spiritual in their own right.  They are said to cause the human mind to resonate at a frequency that puts us in touch with deeper levels of consciousness.  Then the loud and distracting (not to say annoying) mind stream becomes quiet.  Several videos featuring these frequencies are posted on You Tube and they are quite soothing.  Some, like the one located at the following link, are said to also activate chakras or the pineal gland.  It has a nice kaleidoscopic visual with it.

 Probably, the truth is as we focus the attention on any single thing, be it a tone or a candle flame or the breath, the mind settles down or seems to as our attention is turned away from the inner dialogue.  But this attention is not easy to hold.  Zen practitioners know this, who use counting of each breath as a means to turn the attention from the distraction of discursive thought.  At first, one might make it only to 5 or 10 before the grocery list or the tape of an old argument kicks in.

These sound tones are also excellent for focusing attention for a few minutes.  But, this is just a tone at one frequency.  Music we know moves from note to note and each different note in a scale is essentially a wave at a different frequency.  In fact, the way multiple frequencies are arranged in order is one component of music, melody, which we admire and enjoy.  Music also has rhythm plus the timbre of various instruments, tempo, and other components.  So the single frequency approach doesn’t really account for why music as a whole might help us to awaken.  

Some cynical people also might wonder (I wonder) if we are expected to believe that just buying a CD or downloading a track of a certain frequency and listening to it can bring one to awakening or Samadhi.  A few people seem to awaken spontaneously, but for most the process of transformation requires considerable effort.  I can believe it might give one an experience of peace or quietness that could be part of one’s practice or upon which one could build.  However, it still doesn’t completely account for the attraction and effect of music.  There must be something more to it.  

Check out Bodhiron's playlist @ the YogiTunes Music Store!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gratitude for Gayatri

I sat on a mountaintop (a mountain for a Midwesterner, a hill for mountain folk) in Baja Mexico, looking out onto the Pacific, trying to meditate for 8 hours in fast and in silence. In practicing Satya (truthfulness), I must admit my silent and still attempts at meditation are challenging to say the least – I create an instant ADHD monkey child mind when I first try.

Around hour two, I found a random pair of pants, from where I don’t know. I had matches for some incense with me and so to avoid clarity, I built a little fire and literally burned the pants (saving the mountain from mysterious clothing litter) as a symbol of burning up distraction. That worked to still the mind for a bit because I was doing something and yet I still couldn’t settle into the silence. Now I was just laughing at the nonsense of having a pants burning on a mountaintop in Mexico. Oh the things we humans concoct just to avoid reality!

Next, I noticed a rock that was somehow shaped like a recliner. That was a place I could really relax and get still and quiet, or so I thought. A beautiful sea bird began to call. I watched it swoop and dive and circle. Then my mind jumped to stories about the bird. Was it migrating? Where was the nest? Was it a male or female? Did it have babies? Would I ever have babies? If I did have a baby, what would it look like? On and on and on it went. My mind was not still, my mind was not clear. Cultivating space in the mind was elusive.

Finally, I recalled the mantra that was passed to me during my first yoga training - the Gayatri Mantra. I had my mala beads with me and I chanted aloud 108 times. There was space. There was silence. There was everything and nothing all at once. It was my first glimpse at true meditation. I suddenly understood that meditating was not about being blank, but about energetic space for creative flow, creative unity, creative compassion. I felt free.

For me, the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra cultivated the space for enhanced awareness and increased understanding. Why did it work? I believe that practicing a mantra gives an active and devotional focus for the mind so that it can then let go. Think of Yin yoga or restorative practice – you remain in a supported position with props so that the muscles and deep tissues of the body have some support so that the nerves will eventually allow them to let go. Why should it be different for the mind? After all, the brain is an organ of activity and part of our physical existence.

I’ve been singing the Gayatri Mantra to my son as part of our nightly bedtime ritual for nearly two years. Last night he sang it with me. Even so young, he becomes calm and serene as we finish, mentally ready for sleep. I wonder if the Gayatri Mantra has the same resonance of focus and then release that it had on me on my mountaintop. I cannot know for sure, but it seems to help him find peace.

I present this not only to illustrate the effect of mantra on your meditative or yoga practice, but to show that Bhakti yoga is beneficial to all, regardless of age or time constraints. Taking 3-5 minutes a day to chant can be your practice even in the busy circumstances of modern life. I cannot accept it when someone says they have no time for yoga. All of life is yoga to a yogi.

While there may not be space to do asana everyday or to have 8-hour meditations, the soothing of mantra can take minutes. You can chant while you run or walk, you can chant in the shower, in the car, in the restroom. You can practice mantra whenever and wherever you need space and calm.

If you don’t have a mantra, I offer you the Gayatri Mantra. There are many great sources to learn the meaning and significance – I will leave that for your own discovery. If you already have a mantra, commit to practicing it every day for two weeks and then make a note of how it felt or any changes noted.

Written by Kirsten Hedden

Check out her YogiTunes page!~:

Celebrate Earth Day w/ Shantala in Denver!

Shantala to celebrate Earth Day with a concert in Denver Sunday April 22

Benjy and Heather Wertheimer lead kirtan (sacred chanting) worldwide as the duo Shantala, with soul-stirring vocals, sacred lyrics and exotic instrumentation. Catch them Sunday April 22, 6 p.m., at Kindness Yoga on Broadway, Denver.

The weaving of Benjy’s Indian classical singing and instrumentation with Heather’s soaring vocals is freshly original and profoundly moving. Together they create music with beauty, passion, and reverence. Shantala has performed and recorded internationally with such sacred music luminaries as Krishna Das, Deva Premal & Miten, and Jai Uttal. In summer 2008, they were named as one of the top “Wallahs to Watch” by Yoga + Joyful Living. Kirtan is a celebration of spirit through the chanting of sacred names, carrying the audience into a state of heightened awareness, bliss, and devotion. The audience is invited to participate fully through call-and-response chanting, dance, and meditation.

Date: Sunday, April 22, 2012
Time: 6:00pm (doors open at 5:30pm)
Location: Kindness Yoga, Denver, Broadway Studio
Cost: $20 early-bird/ $25 at-the-door

Click here for info and here for tickets! 

Check out their latest album: