Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Music of Namaste - Tim McCauley - Namaste Yoga

Music of Namaste
Tim McCauley
Namaste TV Yoga

Transformative, that is the one word that I would use to describe this amazing cd composed and performed by Tim McCauley. I was first intrigued by it after completing the Namaste Yoga Complete Series 3. This is an awesome album to have. It has 11 tracks that vary in length from 5:08 to 7:39 in length. The tracks are:

Exalted Warrior
The Circle
Water Light
Heart Opening
Riding the Wind

Since I received it I have listened to it through dozens of times. I have put it on a few times for my personal practice time on the mat. And I have used it a few times for prayer and meditation. But what I have used it for most is as a little oasis in a stressful day. Standing at my desk and they day has become hectic and not what I had planned, I can put on my headphones hit play and slow my breathing, regain my focus and even if I just close my eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes these songs help to re-enter and rebalance me to get back at it. Even as I am writing this review I have it playing in the background.

It is simply just a wonderful album to have in your collection either for mat time, meditation or even just relaxing with a good book. Pick it up I am sure you will enjoy it! And let's see how it helps transforms you or where it transports you.

Products by Namaste TV:
DVD's or Direct Downloads:

Namaste TV Season 1 Complete
Namaste TV Season 1 Part 1
Namaste TV Season 1 Part 2

Namaste TV Season 2 Complete
Namaste TV Season 2 Part 1
Namaste TV Season 2 Part 2

Namaste TV Season 3 Complete
Namaste TV Season 3 Part 1
Namaste TV Season 3 Part 2

Namaste: The Five Elements in Yoga

The Music of Namaste
Kate Potter & Dirje Child's Four Contem Plations: The Alchemy 0f Stillness

Direct Download Only:
Yoga Videos For Beginners by Namaste TV

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Need - Joelle Charbonneau

Joelle Charbonneau
HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780544416697

I have read a few books by Joelle Charbonneau, and to be honest have liked them all. But this book was amazing. Of the 110 books I have read to date this year it is one of the best! I had a really hard time putting it down. The premise is rather intriguing, but the plot and characters are incredibly well done. The big questions is how far will you go to get something you want or think you need. 

The students at Nottawa High School in Wisconsin are drawn into a complicated plot. A new social networking site has popped up called 'Need' and you simply make a request. If it is a want you will be given a task and you will get what you requested. If it is a need the system will notify you that it is being worked on. But the stakes quickly rise. The first few members only needed to invite members to the site. Soon the tasks and consequences get much, much higher. 

Most teenagers have complicated lives, school, friends, cliques, work, family and more. But for Kaylee it is even more so, her brother is sick, her father has disappeared, and she has alienated most people in town trying to get them tested to see if they match her brother. 

As the requirements to get your request escalate life in this small town starts changing. So there are bodies, and Kaylee seems to be the only one making the connection. And then her life is threatened. Can she solve the riddle and figure out who is behind Need or will she become another statistic in the escalating experiment? 

This story takes a look at the darkest facets of human nature, and of social medial with anonymity mask what you are doing. There is an old saying "No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better." And the students in Nottawa are manipulated into a devastating high stakes game.

This is a dark gripping tale and I had a really hard time putting it down and reflected upon the story for days afterwards. Another excellent read by Joelle!

Books by Joelle Charbonneau:

The Testing:
The Testing Guide - Short Story Prequel
The Testing - The Testing Book #1
Independent Study - The Testing Book #2
Graduation Day - The Testing Book #3

The Skating Series:
Skating on the Edge
Skating Over the Line
Skating Around the Law
Skating Under the Wire

The Glee Club Series:
Murder for Choir
End Me A Tenor
A Chorus Lineup

Author Profile and Interview with Joelle Charbonneau

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Word by Word - Sarah A. Reinhard - Slowing Down with the Hail Mary

Word by Word:
Slowing Down with the Hail Mary
Sarah A. Reinhard
Ave Maria Press
ISBN 978-594716409

I received an email asking me if I would be interested in reviewing this book. Knowing Sarah I jumped at the opportunity without even asking any questions. Once I got the book I realized it was an anthology of sorts. This amazing books takes the prayer of the Hail Mary and breaks it down word by word. I must say it was an amazing journey and one I plan on taking again. I know I will reread this book likely a number of times!

There are 42 contributors to this project, some I knew about before and had read their words and was greatly excited to read their contributions. A few I had heard of but had yet to read and some I had never heard of. I can say I have already got books by three of the contributors just from how powerful their pieces in this volume were. The contributors in the order they appear are:

Fr. Patrick Toner
Deacon Tom Fox
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe
Carol Ann Chybowski
Kate Wicker
Mary C. Gildersleeve
Brandon Vogt
Mark Szewczak
Nancy Carpentier Brown
Jeff Young
Maria Morera Johnson
Fr. James Tucker
Julie Davis
Jeffrey Miller
Jennifer Fitz
Ginny Kubitz Moyer
Michelle Reitemeyer
Christine Johnson
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe
Pat Gohn
Lisa M. Hendey
Dorian Speed
Kevin Lowry
Walt Staples
Karina Fabian
Barb Szyszkiewicz
Michelle Buckman
Val J. Bianco
Arwen Mosher
Miriel Thomas Reneau
Lisa Mladinich
Sarah Vabulas
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle
Ellen Gable Hrkach
Peggy Bowes
Daria Sockey
Susie Lloyd
Karen Edmisten
Shelly Henley Kelly
Cat Hodge
Paula Huston
Fr. Patrick Toner
and an amazing Appendix Titles for Mary by Deacon Tom Fox

The contributions are an amazing mix, from clergy, laity, men and women, married, single with and without children. As I was reading numerous times I took quotes and emailed them to friends thinking how perfect the quote would be for a person at that point in time. I highlighted almost 50 passages during my first read through and will use some of those in the rest of this review to highlight how excellent this book really is.

Sarah in the introduction states: "You might say it's become my blankie prayer. Just as my children cling to their worn-soft, faded blankies, so I cling to my Blessed Mother's skirt through this prayer. When my heart aches, I cry out a Hail Mary. When I need to be held in my sorrow, it's a Hail Mary that comes out. When I'm worried or troubled, the words I can't find on my own shape up as a Hail Mary." This echoes with me so much. She goes on to say "I pray it unconsciously, the way my children grab my hand without even knowing it when we're walking side by side. It's a comfort to me, and I'm so blessed to have it. When I don't have words for the desires of my heart, I always have the Hail Mary. When I'm lonely or sad or just at odds with the world, I have the Hail Mary. In the Hail Mary, I find so very many spiritual delights, not the least of which is how it leads me, irrevocably, closer to Mary's Son." I find that I am the same way, it is my default prayer, my first in the morning and my last at night. Next Sarah exclaims: "Of course, I couldn't resist considering my favorite prayer in light of this word-by-word approach. What would it be like to pray the Hail Mary deliberately, carefully weighing the importance and significance of every one of the forty-two words?"

I have found from the time I have read the introduction to this book my prayers especially The Hail Mary and The Our Father my prayers have slowed down. Sometimes even pausing with every word. I have also slowed down my three children as they pray their nightly prayers. Sarah says: "There's a new message for me each time I approach the Hail Mary slowly. A calmness is cultivated that forces me to live in the present moment in a way so few things in my modern life of gadgets and responsibilities require." I am finding this also as I slow my prayers down, and this book has been a great tool for that. Finally She states: "We'll take a journey together through the Hail Mary, word by word. The prayer will expand as we work our way from Hail to Amen. You may find yourself uncomfortable, inspired, confused, or even overwhelmed. Embrace that experience and let Mary guide you to her Son through it." So come along see what else really hit me from the book and hopefully from these samples you will find that deeper connection to Mary and through her to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Carol Ann Chybowski in the first chapter on 'of' asks us to reflect on these questions: "As you pray, ask yourself: What am I of? Where do I come from? And to whom do I belong?" Do you relflect upon these questions.

Jennifer Fitz in her chapter on 'women' stated "And if some of us women are called to biological motherhood-the business of bringing forth newly created bodies and souls-all of us are called to spiritual motherhood. Grandmother, aunt, sister, daughter, colleague-whatever our title, we have a lifelong mission. An eternal mission, as the intercession of the saintly women in heaven attests." To me this was one of the most powerful passages in the book. I have shared it with a few friends and family and all the women I shared it with were touched.

Later in the book it says "As Catholics, we have been raised to understand Mary in that endearing way. We embrace her not only because of the important role she played but also because we know she can sympathize with our family problems." Michelle Buckman in penning these words might know how many mothers and fathers these words will impact but they have greatly impacted me.

Recalling a story Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle says this "Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom I knew personally for about ten years, had a very close relationship with Mary and taught me a simple yet profound prayer that I pray often: "Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me now." Mother Teresa stressed that Mother Mary wants to mother us sinners and wants us to call upon her often. She wants to be our Mother. Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me now!" This chapter on 'sinners' was amazing and what I really needed to read that day.

"The Hail Mary is a beautiful and powerful prayer. In the first part, we recite the words of the archangel Gabriel and then those of Elizabeth. In the second part, we ask Mary to pray for us. And to pray for us now." Ellen Gable Hrkach in her chapter on 'now' pens these words. How many of us pray in the now, or even live in the now. This was one of my favorite chapters in the book. (Not that there was a bad one, but some impacted me more now than others.) Ellen goes on and later says "Now is a good time to take stock in our spiritual life. Now is a good time to take care of our bodies, our minds, and, most importantly, our souls." Will you do so?

Susie Lloyd in her chapters on the last 'the' uses a number of examples from Winnie the Pooh I am looking forward to reading her chapter with my children  and seeing if they get it. It is a splendid little chapter.

Fr. Patrick Toner writing on 'amen' says: "The Church teaches lex orandi lex credendi, or "what you pray is what you believe." The Amen at the end of any prayer is like signing your name to the Declaration of Independence: you've put your life on the line. Live all of your Amens." What do you believe, what do you pray, how do you pray?

This book was wonderful. Unlike most books I read it slowly over a few weeks and have already gone back and started it again. It is an excellent read and I highly recommend it!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Namaste TV Yoga - Season 3 Complete Series

Namaste TV Yoga
Season 3 Complete Series
Designed and Narrated by Erica Blitz
Directed by Ian Kerr
Original music by Tim McCauley
Cast: Michelle Brunet, Camilla Lee, Emily Millen, Amanda Riches, Aili Storen and Judy Swens

I am always open to trying new styles of yoga, new teachers and new practices. That being said, the style in these videos is very different from what I would normally practice or even what I teach myself. I do not think you could get much more different from DDP Yoga than Namaste TV. But often something different is exactly what you need. I can say having done all of these workouts at least once now that they will end up being a regular part of my practice. 

The description of this season on Namaste TV's website is that "is more than just an exercise video- it's an experience that will calm your mind, strengthen your body and inspire your soul. Master yoga teacher Erica Blitz guides you through 13 classes, all filmed amid the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest." And does it ever deliver on that promise. These are excellent classes and I can honestly highly recommend them. It does not matter if you purchase the DVD's or the digital downloads you will not be disappointed! And now a quick mini review of each episode.

Episode 301 Soften the Edges
Hips and Hamstrings
This was an awesome flow. As my first introduction to Namaste TV it was a wonderful experience. I broke a light sweat and really felt the engagement during the flow. This style is faster than most styles I practice but slower than some I have tried. To be honest it is a very nice middle ground. I know I will be coming back to this flow often.

(Note: you can try this first episode for free here.)

Episode 302 Align Your Axis
This was much more intense than episode 301. There were 2 moves I have not encountered before, which is always exciting and a learning experience. The pace was excellent, at the end I could not believe that the 20 minutes had passed. 

Episode 303 Warrior Wisdom
Hip Opening Sequence
This was an awesome sequence. Two odd parts were no guided transitions from warmup to flow, or from flow to cool down. But even with that it was an excellent practice. It was a great workout and the cool down was incredible. 

Episode 304 Release and Restore 
A Sequence for Your Spine
This was another really good sequence. There were a lot of chair poses during the flow part of this video. Great transitions from warm up to flow and then to cool down. I can see doing this towards the end of the day often to close out my practice for the day.

Episode 305 Create Your Calm
A Grounding Flow for Hips and Hamstrings
I love that when Erica designed these sequences, that she things of small things, like when doing cross legged forward folds, she has us switch which leg is in front and does the pose again. It is some of these small details that make this video and the whole series so great.

Episode 306 Reflect and Connect
Open Your Shoulders, Hips and Hamstrings
There was a lot more floor work on this one. Very different from the first 5 videos. It is an excellent sequence. With some subtle variations to work into the Shoulders, Hips and Hamstrings in different ways. 

Episode 307 Balance and Bend
Balance and Connect
This video has an awesome warmup. There is the addition of mudra's for the first time this season. The balance sequence is just wonderful. One of my favorite video's in the whole season. 

Episode 308 Bhakti Flow
Open Your Upper Back and Shoulders
This is another of my favorites from the series. Even without the guided transition from warmup to flow. There are a lot of eagle arm variations in this sequence and also a few full eagle poses. Just an excellent flow!

Episode 309 Open and Ground
Stretch Your Shoulders and 
Strengthen Your Upper Back
This was one of the hardest flows in the series. It is a great sequence. A number of sphinx and dolphin poses add a lot of variety into this video. This one is intense compared to some of the others.

Episode 310 Stabilize and Center
Strengthen Your Core and Open Your Hips
This was a good flow. It combines elements used in many of the others. I enjoy the subtle variations offered across the different videos in the series. Could really feel this one in the core after all the boat poses.

Episode 311 Prana Flow
Open Your Shoulders and Hips
This was nearly a perfect flow. It was seamless from warmup into flow to cool down. Absolutely wonderful practice. Loved this one.

Episode 312 Grace and Gratitude
Backbending Practice
This was a good practice. But from other practices I have done the backbending was pretty minimal. I was concerned before beginning what the backbending would included but there was nothing to be concerned about. It is good but not one of my favorites. 

Episode 313 Reconnect and Refine
Hip Opening and Abdominal Strengthening
We encounter full bow pose for the first time this season. There is a lot of time on the mat, and far less standing work in this sequence. Physically it is much more demanding than some of the other videos. 

The length of these videos at 22 minutes each is excellent for short practice or stinging them together into a longer session. You can also combine them with other practice to round out your time on the mat. Some of the sequences start to feel familiar across the videos but that is to be expected and in many ways is a benefit as you become more and more familiar with Erica's style. The Top Pros and Cons of these videos are:

One of the best things about these videos is their length, you can choose to do any one of the 22 minute sequences by itself or string a few of them together into a longer practice. You could even use these to supplement other styles of practice for an awesome change up. Some of the sequences start to feel familiar across the videos but that is to be expected and in many ways is a benefit as you become more and more familiar with Erica's style. The Top 3 Pros and Cons of these videos are:

Awesome flows
Amazing cinematography 
Incredible production quality
4K resolution for large displays
Focus on balancing both sides in poses others often do not

All women cast
Very few modifications offered
Even smaller resolution direct download are large files for 20 minutes classes.

These 13 classes are great. I highly enjoyed them and know I will come back to them often. The cinematography is incredible, following the same flow with between one and three examples on screen, in city scapes, nature, on water. The videos are amazing to watch let alone practice with. And the original compositions by Tim McCauley perfectly accompany both the practice and videography. And I am looking forward to trying more from Namaste TV. You will not be disappointed by these great 22 minute practices!

(Note: As of November 2015 they now offer streaming or download on digital purchases. I have tested it and what an awesome feature!)

Products by Namaste TV:
DVD's or Direct Downloads:

Namaste TV Season 1 Complete
Namaste TV Season 1 Part 1
Namaste TV Season 1 Part 2

Namaste TV Season 2 Complete
Namaste TV Season 2 Part 1
Namaste TV Season 2 Part 2

Namaste TV Season 3 Complete
Namaste TV Season 3 Part 1
Namaste TV Season 3 Part 2

Namaste: The Five Elements in Yoga

The Music of Namaste
Kate Potter & Dirje Child's Four Contem Plations: The Alchemy 0f Stillness

Direct Download Only:
Yoga Videos For Beginners by Namaste TV

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
Harper Collins
ISBN 9781443434867

It has been a long time since someone bought me a book not on a wish list. If they all end up being as good as this one I might start asking for surprise books. That is what this book was a complete surprise. My wife bought it and give it to me in the car on the way out of town, I had read almost 100 pages before we got to our destination. It has been a few days now since I finished reading it and I cannot stop thinking about the story and the characters.

This story is told in many parts, and is really many stories that come together like streams then flow apart again. The main part of the story is set in year 20, that is 20 years after the Georgia Flu wipes out an estimated 99% of the world's population in a very short time. Because of the lack of manpower, within days services start failing. Water, hydro, the internet all stop working. Civilization has crumbled. The Travelling Symphony work a territory traveling and putting on Shakespeare plays and performing concerts. One of the towns they have frequented is 'under new management' and their fortunes have taken a turn for the worse.

The story is told back and forth across time. Sometimes stories pre collapse, and sometimes people remembering stuff pre year 20. The main stories follow some key characters, world famous actor Arthur Leadner, Jeevan a paramedic in training the night the flu hits who tries to save Arthur on stage in Toronto. Miranda who was Arthur's first wife and the author of the graphic novels Station Eleven, Clark, who is Arthur's oldest friend and Kristen who is with the Traveling Symphony, and in the time before as a child was on stage with Arthur, and the strange 'prophet' of the light.

This story is amazing on a few levels, first it is a post-apocalyptic story that showcases lives, before during and after the collapse of all we know. Second the characters are wonderfully written. Years ago I head Madeleine L'Engle speak and she mentioned that her characters were alive and real to her, and often she got insights to what they were up to now. I wish we could know some of that for these characters, where are they in year 25, what are they up to, what successes and what failures have they faced. I keep thinking about them and their world and wondering what happens next. That is a sign of a great fiction novel, it entertains, it makes you think, and you keep coming back to it.

A few years back Emily's earlier book The Singer's Gun ended up in my to be read pile and I just never seemed to get around to it. That was my loss. With how much I enjoyed this book I know I will be reading Emily's three other novels soon! This book was a thrilling read and I highly recommend it!

Books by Emily St. John Mandel:
Station Eleven
The Lola Quartet
The Singer's Gun
Last Night in Montreal