Some ragas you ought to check out

If you’ve missed our coverage of Sangita Yoga and Naren Schreiner — well, you haven’t been paying attention, have you?

As we noted earlier this month, Naren has finished a new album of sacred chants . Now there’s a quick video about it, which is well worth you time on a calm Saturday. From the description:

In this video interview, Naren describes the project and the vision behind this groundbreaking album release. New Earth Records and Sangita Yoga Music present Naren’s newest album, Sangita Yoga: Sacred Chants of India, a compilation of sacred texts from India set to Naren’s original raga-based compositions, accompanied by guest musicians on tabla, santoor, sarangi, violin and cello.

And here’s the video. Enjoy:

Happy day off, unless you’re among those who have migrated your day off to Sunday.

Posted by Steve

It’s not Tuesday, but that’s OK: A Hanuman Chalisa with Tim Miller

Just wrapping up my day at work — or seeing how I can avoid practicing, perhaps — and I dug a little deeper than normal on the YouTube video lists and found the following video, which would be perfect for a Tuesday but, well, there’s no time like the present:

For those keeping count, that is our second Chalisa video of the week.

Posted by Steve

New Krishna Das Hanuman Chalisa: Sundara Chalisa. Get it free

Krishna Das has made a new Hanuman Chalisa available for free download. Link to that is right here.

Plus there’s new video:

Here’s info about it:

This version of Sri Hanuman Chalisa sung by Krishna Das was filmed at the Open Your Heart in Paradise Retreat Maui, Hawaii, December 2014.
Musicians: Krishna Das (harmonium & vocals), Arjun (tabla), Rick Frires (bass guitar), Nina Rao (kartals), David Nichtern (guitar), and Genevieve Walker (violin).
Audio recorded and mixed by Kevin Reilly.
Video filmed and edited by John Phaneuf.

Remember, he and Tim Miller are doing a first-ever retreat together in March.

Posted by Steve

The yoga of music goes to college

It’s not secret we’re big fans of Naren Schreiner, who leads Sangita Yoga — the Yoga of Music — and performed at last year’s Ashtanga Yoga Confluence and will be doing so again in May.

He brings a sweet, light, quietly devotional perspective to music, focusing it on honoring the Divine. (Yes, somehow quiet even though it is music. And from our experience, it seems like a lot of kirtan leaders are celebrating themselves when they sing and not you know who/what.)

So we are happy to pass on the following video, although we also have to say we aren’t fans of the location! (That’s for you college football fans… er… fan?)

Posted by Steve

Krishna Das announces release date for new album

We’ve covered Krishna Das pretty consistently, although we haven’t said much about his crowd-sourced new album, mainly because it was already well above its goal when we saw it — sort of suggesting it didn’t need the “Confluence bump.”

But now the new album, Kirtan Wallah, has a release date, so we’ll let you know. It’s coming April 15. Tax Day.

Hey. We just did tell you. It’ll be available both digitally and on CD. (Too bad no album release; albums sound better.)

Here’s a little description:

With the release of his 14th album, Kirtan Wallah-one who sings kirtan, KD offers a westward-leaning album, fully embracing his American roots in rock and country and yet embodying the spirit of deeply devotional Indian chants. There are some traditional melodies that would be right at home in an Indian temple, his rich baritone voice and harmonium leading the chants. But at its heart, this album is a natural confluence of KD’s musical streams, bansuri flute weaving its way through acoustic guitars and country swing, and tabla and kartals underscoring melodies that would fit well in the Townes Van Zandt catalog.

There’s a “4 a.m. Hanuman Chalia” on the track list.

Here’s an 11-minute video on the album’s making:

Posted by Steve

A couple of chances to share in sacred music

This one’s a bit of a provincial post. Apologies. But both of these events seem worth some highlighting.

First up, tomorrow — Sunday — in celebration of the full moon, the Pancha Vayus will be performing at the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Encinitas/Carlsbad. The free event begins at 7 p.m. Directions for those who need them are right here.

Secondly, and with a little more lead time, Naren Schreiner of Sangita Yoga — who performed at this year’s Confluence — is giving a class in Los Angeles this coming Friday, June 28. It’s happening at InYoga Center. Here’s how Naren describes it:

Next Friday, June 28th, I’ve been invited to give a class at InYoga Center on “The Yoga of Music” to their students, followed by a Kirtan and Bhajan presentation at 8:30pm.

I will present some beautiful traditional Indian bhajans and also lead the group in sacred kirtan.  The Center has a large and beautiful space, and so we’ll create a very sacred environment there.  My friend Robin Sukhadia will play tabla.

If you’re out in that part of LA, give some thought to attending.

Posted by Steve


Here’s the Krishna Das documentary trailer

We posted a few days ago that the trailer for the Krishna Das documentary, “One Track Heart”, had hit iTunes’ trailer page.

Well, you know how the Internet goes. From there it is just a step to its being on Youtube. So, without further adieu:

We did manage to get to Kino MacGregor’s Led Primary today, although we weren’t able to stay for her arm balance workshop. We may make it to her backbending one tomorrow, depending on some things. (Those things eventually will be made public!)

We’ll get something up about her Led class, likely tomorrow.

Update, March 28: Screenings are up at the film’s Facebook page.

Posted by Steve

Sangita Yoga on a cool San Diego evening

A wonderful addition to this year’s Confluence was having Naren from Sangita Yoga perform on Saturday night.

We’ve posted about him before: here (and especially here, about his album release).

Naren and his partners, notably Hansel on the tabla, bring an honest, traditional approach to their music. They emphasize the sacredness, and its long history, and how the music flows through our own understanding and inner workings.

His description on Saturday of kirtan’s being full of simple words so the audience can lose themselves in the devotion was the clearest, and really most beautiful, way of describing this bhakti practice that I’ve encountered. (I tend to want things more difficult. But here’s a time when simple is best.)

Below is just a taste, which doesn’t do them justice. This is from a song to Saraswati, which they always sing:

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga Yoga Confluence kirtan leader releases album

There’s news around the wonderful musician who will be performing at the 2013 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence (coming in less than three months now), Naren Schreiner.

He both has out a new CD / album / downloadable set of songs and a new website to accompany them.

You can get the songs at the website (no surprise!) right here. Here’s a little about the new album from the website:

In 2012, the Kali Mandir in Laguna Beach commissioned Naren and Sangita Yoga to oversee the musical direction of a traditional “Shyama Sangeet” album. Thus Esho Ma was born.

Naren was delighted when his first choice, Pankaj Mishra, agreed to play sarangi for the album. The sarangi is the most subtle and heart-stirring instrument for voice-accompaniment. A bowed string instrument, it is played by a very few in India.

The percussion was provided by Adi Keshava (Brian Campbell), an ardent devotee and gifted musician who studied tabla for over 9 years. For the album he played khol, which is a more traditional drum of Bengal, in order to preserve the authenticity of these old songs.

The recording features real acoustic tanpuras , traditional cymbals and a beautiful 4-reed harmonium, to create a rich and authentic sound-scape that compliments the devotional and mystical songs. The album is a journey into another world–one that is ancient, sacred, beautiful and mysteriously close to our own.

I feel it’s worth noting that the Kali Mandir temple was one of two that our Yatra leader, Robert Moses, pointed Bobbie and me to when we asked for suggestions to get us prepared for our trip.

I also should note that the last time I mentioned Naren is was while I was toying with the idea of attending a workshop he was leading. I was decidedly on the fence.

I went. And it was terrific. Naren covered both some practical aspects to bhajans and kirtans and their history and how they fit into the religious traditions of India. He is very traditional and respectful in his approach, but equally warm and inviting. It is in no way dogmatic — if one takes “traditional” that way. He brings a peaceful, open and devoted manner to both his teaching and his singing and playing. But it also was fun, easy-going and very helpful.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to follow up on the workshop with as much harmonium playing as I should have. The Yatra reading list — I’m nearly done with the book we were told we absolutely had to read — has dominated a chunk of my free time.

But, more importantly, the afternoon with Naren added depth and my understanding of music as an aspect of yoga and of devotion, and that will serve me well — I hope — during our Indian pilgrimage.

Naren also will be great at the Confluence, I can promise you. Give his site a look.

Posted by Steve

Practicing the yoga of judgement

One of the ongoing themes or threads (*cough* sutras *cough*) here has been what I’ll tongue-in-cheekingly call “the yoga of judgement.”

We’ve judged other forms of yoga (maybe a lot). We’ve talked about judging others’ Ashtanga practices. We — and commenters — have touched on whether practicing yoga’s supposed to make you less judgmental.

We, and not a few of those commenters, have come down on the side of: there’s nothing, really, in yoga’s tradition to suggest you vacate your right to being judgmental, or in this case a better word: discriminating.

Kailsasa Parampara, via

In fact, practicing yoga — and focusing your mind and regulating your breathing and controlling your senses — ought to make you more discriminating (in the “I can tell a good wine from a bad one” not “I discriminate against person A, B or C”). And being discriminating has all sorts of benefits, such as not being suckered in by a wayward guru, an ineffective yoga (asana) practice or any other fly-by-night operations.

It seems to me that fundamental to this discriminating perspective when it comes to the practice of yoga — at least as my discriminating perspective tells me — is a core of tradition, a clear parampara, a rooting in the classic yoga texts, thinkers and practitioners. That tradition gives you something against which to judge, to discriminate (even if you are reacting against that tradition).

If I can put it bluntly, I’m talking about the difference between Ashtanga and a flow class.

Often, the yoga styles we’ve judged around here, I think, take their lumps because they seem to toss out that tradition in favor of … oh, I don’t know, a rootlessness? Some kind of postmodern scoffing at the nature of tradition? (I’m certainly guilty of that perspective in my life.) Or perhaps just a marketing strategy that values new over old, free-of-Indian-influence over the burden of a religion (yoga without the Om, and thus without even a tradition to react against ultimately).

I’ve been thinking about this for two reasons:

  • The founders of 3D Yoga in the past week found and commented on our mostly lighthearted post about their particular form of very non-Ashtanga yoga. They added much depth to the discussion, and I appreciate their taking the time to comment.
  • On Sunday, I attended a kirtan workshop with the Sangita Yoga folk (who will be leading kirtan at the 2013 Confluence). There is a tremendous focus on the tradition of kirtan and sacred music, of bringing us from the West to the Indian practice of singing as opposed to bringing the Indian practice of singing to the West. (More on that experience this week.)

For Bobbie and me, the grounding in tradition is critical (as our Yatra with Namarupa ought to suggest). That isn’t to say it isn’t without trouble, without inner conflict, without … our discriminating about what works, what doesn’t, what feels right, what doesn’t, what we value and what we don’t.

We aren’t blindly following a tradition for tradition’s sake, in other words. But we are following a tradition.

And because the tradition I’m talking about is Ashtanga, what has been leaping to my mind as I think about this are the teachers (and students, but teachers especially) who at one point practiced Ashtanga but then went on to develop their own, often Ashtanga-based forms of yoga.

I suppose I can name them, because it isn’t any big secret: Shiva Rea, Bryan Kest, Seane Corn, among others.

Now, this is where you think I’m going to bash them. But I’m not. What I wonder — because my experience is so much the opposite — is why they got a taste of Ashtanga (and other forms of yoga, too) and then went a different direction, especially a direction of their own creation and refinement.

I wonder what was and is different about the experience that the senior teachers of Ashtanga compared to the experience of those who took aspects to Ashtanga and then made something new. Why did one stick with tradition and one not?

More generally, I wonder what is different between the experiences of those who root themselves in a more clearly defined yoga tradition and those who develop a newer form. Or about people leading kirtan with only traditional Indian instruments versus those who bring in electric guitars, rock drum sets, etc.

Of course, I recognize that yoga — and Hinduism as a broad umbrella term describing the religion of India — has a fluidity to it that allows for new strands to crop up, for gurus to have inspiration and set off to teach (and they succeed or fail based on how much their message resonates). The harmonium, after all, is pretty new to India and Indian music.

Things change. No doubt. No argument.

But whether those changes are good, are meaningful, whether they fit within a tradition or run against (for good reason or not), those are questions for …

The discriminating mind.

Posted by Steve