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Singing Mantra – Continuing the Inquiry into Cultural Appropriation and Yoga by Emma Dines

Last December I recorded five songs that I sing for students at the end of my classes, while they rest in savasana, a final resting pose. We have been releasing the songs periodically throughout the last year on our blog. You can listen to and download all of them on Soundcloud. This last song is actually a mantra, called the Gayatri Mantra. It is one of the oldest Vedic chants, and this version that I sing is a shortened version of the original.

It is interesting and a bit uncomfortable that I am releasing this song now, after posting a reflection about cultural appropriation and yoga in December. In that post, I wrote, When I first began teaching yoga six years ago, I was excited about the philosophical content I was learning and eagerly shared my interpretations/understanding of Tantra with my yoga students. I taught my students to sing mantras, and told them stories of Hindu deities. Now, looking back on that, I feel embarrassed. I would describe my early teaching as uninformed cultural misappropriation. Whatever cultural aspects of yoga I was sharing, they had been taught to me by white teachers, some of whom were scholars, but nevertheless, I was taking aspects of Hindu religious culture and teaching them as if they were mine.” Continue reading

100 Faces- 10 Years of QSY

This post was written by QSY Director, Leena Miller Cressman.

This fall, Queen Street Yoga turns 10! It’s a significant milestone as a small business and as a community. According to this article by Forbes, only about one-third of small business survive 10 or more years. Yippee, beating the odds! In addition to throwing an awesome party to celebrate (more on that later on), I wanted to share some of the story of how Queen Street Yoga came to be what it is today.

DSC_6433Just over ten years ago Meaghan Johnson, a Kitchener native, founded the studio. From the story I remember Meaghan telling me, at the time she wasn’t planning to open a large yoga studio. However, someone tipped her off about this beautiful space with glowing hardwood floors, big windows and high ceilings that used to be a dance studio, but now was sitting vacant. (Before it was a dance studio our space was a club called Pop the Gator- if anyone has photos or stories about that send them our way!) Meaghan arranged to visit the vacant space, and upon walking into the space she exclaimed, “Well shit, now I have to open a yoga studio. This space is too perfect.”

image (5)The studio opened with a staff of several other teachers in addition to Meaghan, and always had an emphasis on mindful, alignment-based yoga, with a grassroots community feel. Meaghan once told me that she opened the studio with about $1,000 and slowly invested and grew the business from there. This gradual model of growth, alongside a lot of community support, thoughtful offerings, and caring, dedicated students, teachers and administrators is why we’re still open and still growing today, ten years later. Continue reading

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Bring Me Little Water [Emma’s Savasana Songs + Free Download]

Cowboy Plumbing- Toronto National Forest by Al_HikesAZThis song is called “Bring Me Little Water Sylvie” and was written by American folk and blues musician Lead Belly. It has been performed and recorded by many groups. Some of my favourite recordings are by Sweet Honey in the Rock and The Wailin’ Jennys.

I love the quality of soft yearning this song evokes. I usually sing it at the end of classes when there is a strong quality of stillness. I hope you enjoy my version of this song! Continue reading

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Om Mani Padme Hum (Emma’s Savasana Songs + Free Download)

This post is brought to you by Emma. Listen to her recording of the song below, and read on about her personal connection to this particular mantra.

Om Mani Padme Hum

In university I was deeply interested in Tibetan Buddhism. I began to study with a Buddhist nun at the Kitchener Public Library every week. In my third year of university I was fortunate enough to participate in a study-abroad program at a spiritual community in Northern Scotland. Right across the road from the wind turbines, green roofs and colourful gardens of the Findhorn Foundation community, was the Shambhala Retreat Centre, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation centre. Every morning I rose early and walked down the gravel path to attend meditation in the colourful meditation hall. It was at the Shambhala Retreat Centre that I learned the Om Mani Padme Hum chant, and connected it to my meditation practice. Continue reading

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In This Heart (Emma’s Savasana Songs + Free Download)

This post is brought to you by Emma!

Just before Christmas, I spent an afternoon in a friend’s basement recording studio. QSY students have been asking me for years to record the songs that I sing for them in savasana. I recorded five songs, and will be releasing them periodically here on the blog. Each song will be available as a free download, a gift from the studio to each of you. Thank you for being such consistent and caring members of our studio community!

Continue reading

The Making of a Yoga Mix Tape

Abe Novy - I got the rhymes

Eric recently graduated from our 2014 Yoga Teacher Training. Throughout the program he has been interested in how music can enhance yoga (both home practice and teaching with music in the background). In this post he shares some ideas for creating a stellar yoga practice mix, and shares one of his own mix tapes.

Like so many things in yoga, opinions vary about the wisdom of sequencing a practice to music. I find certain kinds of music to be unbeatable ingredients for laying down a solid foundational layer in many practice spaces and themes. Well-curated songs can support strong, steady and rhythmic breath, plus provide non-verbal cues to keep a yogi’s mind intent through particular poses or tough portions of a sequence. For practicality’s sake, songs are also great organizing devices for what to teach when and for how long.

At the same time, I agree that music can present a distraction. I’ve been using a few basic filtering rules to choose songs that feel capable of overcoming this legit concern:

1.     Avoid songs with lyrics – they can ignite inner dialogue and/or other faraway life experiences that can unexpectedly take anyone out of the practice room.

2.     Don’t ever accept vanilla new age music or pick something just because it’s Indian.

Continue reading