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Written by Michael Mollura & Vanessa Harris   

Beginning Yoga for the Blink and Visually Impaired
Beginning Yoga for the Blink and Visually Impaired

Marty Klein & Gretchen Hein
Beginning Yoga for the Blink and Visually Impaired

While Yoga is a practice that integrates all of the senses as a means to being present, it does not mean that a disability in one of the senses makes a person any less able as a practitioner. When one of our senses that receives information from the outside world is at all diminished, it provides the opportunity to more fully concentrate on the others. In some ways, this actually facilitates the practice of Yoga, which asks of us to draw our attention inward. The five-disc set Beginning Yoga for the Blind and Visually Impaired is an encyclopedic resource to guide people who do not have the sense of sight to fully engage in a suitable and meaningful Yoga practice.

Partners in teaching and life, Marty Klein and Gretchen Hein united to create this instructional series when they recognized the dearth of attention in the Yoga community given to teaching those who are not able to rely on visual cues. Klein lost his sight when serving in US Air Force during the Vietnam Era. He subsequently sought out theories, groups and practices focused on health and well-being, studied massage and became a licensed massage therapist. He then began Yoga in the mid-80s. In his massage practice, Klein noticed the physical tension carried in the bodies of visually impaired people who walk through their day not knowing if their next step will bring an undesirable surprise. As a result, Klein and Hein created this Yoga tutorial with the intention of providing tools for people who are visually impaired to lessen their physical and mental tension through Yoga practice.

Hein, who has practiced Yoga since the mid-70s and is a yoga instructor and well-studied in the Kripalu, Iyengar and Anusara traditions, provides the detailed instructions for the postures in this series. Klein adds to the teaching by adding his personal insights into how the poses offer specific benefit both for people who are blind and for the body in general.

The Hatha Yoga practiced here incorporates the use of the wall, props (such as a chair and mat) and the floor to develop a sense of body awareness, alignment and position in space. Many basic types of movement are covered, from back extensions, forward bends, twists, kneeling and supine postures, and inversions, including a supported shoulder stand series.

The facilitators’ depth of Yogic knowledge and true understanding of what it means to be visually impaired creates a valuable tool for visually impaired students to create a rewarding personal Yoga practice.

While it is more focused on aiding someone who is visually impaired, this program could also be a good resource for teachers working with students who have visual deficits as it explains their unique situation and how to provide instruction through cueing senses other than the visual. Following the belief that no one should be deprived of Yoga, this is a good catalyst for people with visually impairments who have always wanted to make the jump towards their Yoga practice, but didn’t know where to leap. –– Reviewed by Vanessa M. Harris


Living Meditations: Guided Meditations
Living Meditations: Guided Meditations

David Harshada Wagner
Living Meditations: Guided Meditations
Inner Splendor Media

Despite years of an avid Yoga practice, I have always struggled with being as disciplined when it comes to meditation. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself fully encompassed in meditation when following Living Meditations: Guided Meditations with David Harshada Wagner. This CD has a series of four different meditation practices: two guided by Wagner’s voice, the other two led by musical instruments: a bansuri flute, then a tamboura. The eleven-minute opening practice guides your focus and awareness of the breath to areas of your body that might not otherwise receive your attention on any given day. In the second guided meditation, Wagner’s soothing voice leads you through light visualizations and breath as focal points for awareness in meditation.

My favorite in the series is the “Bansuri Flute Meditation.” The bansuri flute is a bamboo instrument commonly used in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. The transcendent bansuri carries deep traditional significance and is frequently featured in Indian mythology. Since this particular meditation has no words, it may seem intimidating for beginners, but if a person relaxes into it, the peace and beauty can be enjoyed by anyone.

The final meditation features the hypnotic sound of a tamboura, one of the most ancient instruments of India, which resembles the sitar in both look and sound. This extended meditation could be followed in your own home or would be a valuable asset for teachers to accompany meditation instruction.

Wagner’s series can help a beginner become introduced to meditation techniques and offers beautiful musical meditations for those who already have a practice. In time, you’ll find yourself thinking clearer and feeling calmer with the addition of this meditation practice. However you choose to fit meditation in your life, the practice segments on Living Meditation are beneficial to incorporate as part of a full Yoga practice, at the beginning of your day, end of your day, or any time in between. — Reviewed by Vanessa Harris

Dali Lama Renaissance
Dali Lama Renaissance

Dali Lama

White Swan Records

This important album was assembled and produced by Michel Tyabji and Rosa Costanza Tyabji as part of a documentary titled Dalai Lama Renaissance. The soundtrack album consists of twenty-six tracks of Tibetan-influenced chants and pieces of music that work as a perfect audio accompaniment to the visual images of the Dalai Lama. Each offering on this album is part of a collective providing a narrative that is overwhelmingly beautiful, compassionate and enlightened. There are numerous amazing artists on this collection and if you are a devotee, or just a supporter of the Dalai Lama’s journey, this album is a must-have.

Producer, music director and performer on many pieces, Tyabji has appeared playing drums and percussion throughout the world and is known for his work with legendary African artists including Ndala Kasheba and Garikayi Trikoti. Tyabiji is only one of many exceptional artists here, in the company of Larry Mitchell, Ralph “Kito” Rodriguez and composer, keyboardist and arranger Henry Medicine Bear Reid, all of whom produce music worth a listen. Tibetan singer/songwriter Techung plays traditional Tibetan instruments and prayers for the Dalai Lama on instrumental tracks and Roop Verma offers an inspired “Alap,” along with other gorgeous tracks. In “Bassant Blue,” and “Jog Jazz,” the New Delhi-based ensemble called Yoginis’ deep thoughtful drones were produced by Seattle-based composer Yogi McCaw. Also noteworthy, Lama Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche had me in tears with his delivery of “Lady of Great Bliss.”

Along with many of the musical tracks offered on this special CD, the listener can also enjoy hearing the words of His Holiness which helps to bring his message of “hope” home. I highly recommend this album for anyone interested in world music and a follower of the Dalai Lama’s journey throughout the world and hopefully back into his homeland someday soon. . –– Reviewed by Michael R. Mollura

Terry Oldfield Tears for Tibet
Terry Oldfield Tears for Tibet

Terry Oldfield
Tears for Tibet

New Earth

Terry Oldfield is a world-renowned artist who has been producing inspiring sacred music for many years with the intent to raise the level of awareness regarding critical issues including the fight for freedom for Tibet. Oldfield is best known for his skilled performances on the flute and pan pipes and in this release, he captures the natural brilliance of nature with every breath. There are two pieces on this album, each registering at twenty-four minutes or more.

The first, “Footprint of Buddha’s Children,” provides a stillness and an awakening of mindfulness through thoughtfully performed chilling ambience music. The piece is a journey that begins with the sound of the wind which then transitions into the soulful chants being offered to the Buddha. If one just sits back and allows Oldfield’s musical vision to manifest, there is the potentiality of falling into another world. Voices, instruments and sounds blend into a tapestry of enchanting landscapes that are heavenly and earthly. The sounds of the singing children over the drones and ethereal strings are stirring, sweet and hypnotic.

“Tears for Tibet,” the second track, is another conceptualized piece that incorporates a journey into the spirit of nature using the sounds of birds from a rainforest and whales from the depths of the sea which are then harmonized with Oldfield’s melodic flute passages. The best way to describe this CD is to say that it is extremely meditative, soulful and ethereal. I think it would be perfect for any environment that offers healing modalities, but I also recommend this album for meditation at home.

Oldfield has a cinematically influenced vision of the inner world of consciousness expressed through sound vibrations. I tend to think that many of New Age ambient albums are derivative and repetitive while this one engaged my mind and soul and captivated my spirit. –– Reviewed by Michael R. Mollura

Joey Lugassy Interim
Joey Lugassy Interim

Joey Lugassy

Joey Lugassy

Anyone in Los Angeles and into the Yoga scene, never mind the kirtan junkie circuit, knows Joey Lugassy not only for his warm friendly smile, but for his commitment to sacred music and his devotion to the bhakti teachings.

This release is Joey Lugassy’s debut chanting release (and an EP out in the “interim” while he is finishing his full-length album) which includes many of the chants he has been bringing into Yoga rooms and temples for the last year. Interim opens with “Prayer To Impermanence,” led by the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” with some accompanying dramatic slides on the cello by Los Angeles’ most called upon yogi cellist Eddie Young. The invocation is a powerful opening to an album whose every note is filled with plenty of authentic love and the bliss.

“Mother Love” is an intimate chant that is an ode to the deities Kali Ma and Durga, the creators of the universe. Lugassy uses his harmonium and warm singing inflections to lead his chants accompanied by cello, drums, sitar, flute, guitar and a choir of angelic bhakti singers. Many of the musicians here are LA Yoga staples, like Miles Shrewsbury who leads the rhythm with precise and always sweet taps on the tabla drums. With great effect, Marty Lieberman offers auspicious sitar depth in these recordings, along with Domonic Dean Breaux who always knows how to give a chant a festive charm with his flute playing.

Lugassy is distinctive for his swooning singing style that has a lot of charm and earthiness. He uses a strong harmony to back him up and does not try to over sing his chants. Lugassy’s strengths lie in his ability to allow the message of love and human kindness exude naturally from the vibrations of the mantras he delivers. I highly recommend this sweet offering to the Yoga community for any follower of the bhakti movement and for all yogis who enjoy a wanton choir of angels who “love to love.”
–– Reviewed by Michael R. Mollura

MoMo Loudiyi Loud Oasis
MoMo Loudiyi Loud Oasis

MoMo Loudiyi
Loud Oasis

Loud Oasis

MoMo Loudiyi is a welcome entity in the Los Angeles sacred music community. Yogis often find MoMo playing an assortment of creative guitars from all over the world or just providing musical support for anyone who is putting out the good word with love and respect. MoMo is a Moroccan guitarist and singer-songwriter who is influenced by a wide-ranging variety of musical traditions that reflect the festive nature of the sacred throughout the Middle East.

This album was recorded in Marrakech, Fes, Essaouira, Casablanca, Tangiers and Mohammedia – in addition to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. The diversity of these locations is a metaphor for the musical interests and the unconditional nature of using
music to provide an occasion for kindness, gratitude and celebration. The album begins with an energetic piece titled “Lawlaka” which translates to “Without You” in English and just as the heart and soul dances with the rhythms of life, MoMo’s music moves its listeners with emotional depth and culturally abundant artistic integrity.

The album features eleven tracks that are superbly produced and performed by MoMo. Every offering contains an energy that is collective and infectious. There are songs that sound influenced by Paul Simon as well as Ömer Faruk Tekbilek. This makes Loud Oasis such a special album as MoMo handles the transitions from musical styles beautifully and that is very difficult to pull off. MoMo plays with an extraordinary band of musicians who fuse sacred Sufi traditions as well popular Moroccan and Western melodies with confidence and authentic skill that cross boundaries. This team of artists who love music has a heartfelt ability to make listeners smile and celebrate the beautiful world that is life.

I highly recommend any one who enjoys world music that connects a variety of traditions with symmetry and skill. –– Reviewed by Michael R. Mollura


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