Saturday, November 20, 2010

Album Review: Norah Jones ...Featuring

Confession: I haven't bought  a Norah Jones album since Come Away With Me (2002). I still listen to that album (or tracks off of it) regularly, though. Jones's soft ballads make a great soundtrack for life when you want to slow down or relax a bit. So when I had the opportunity to review her new album ...Featuring, I signed up immediately*. In fact, I signed up so quickly that I didn't even realize this was a compilation album.

It turns out the collection includes songs performed with a variety of artists from a broad range of genres (from rock to country and blue grass, to hip hop and rap and everything in between), as well as performances from her side projects El Madmo and The Little Willies. The tracks were recorded throughout her career and, placed side-by-side in a single album, you can clearly see just how musically flexible Jones can be.

I've been listening to ...Featuring over and over since it arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago, and each time I listen I discover something new. It occurs to me that I've listened to and enjoyed many of these songs before, songs like Q-Tip's "Life is Better" and The Foo Fighters' "Virginia Moon", but wedged among sons like El Madmo's "Bull Rider" and Jones' own version of Blue Bayou featuring M. Ward, even the familiar songs have a fresh feel to them. It's an eclectic mix that on the surface seems discordant and jumbled. But I enjoyed the variety of sounds and voices, all connected by the cool, sultry voice of Norah Jones.

I'll definitely be putting my favorite holiday song, "Baby It's Cold Outside" (covered by Willie Nelson) on repeat this season. And since everything in my life seems to come back to yoga these days, I've can't help thinking as each track plays which yoga class playlist it'll go on. Talib Kweli's "Soon the New Day" will be perfect for a Vinyasa Flow class and Ray Charles' "Here We Go Again" has to be included at the end for lower-key stretching and cool down. I think that's what I like most about this album. There's something on it that fits every musical mood, something that will connect with everyone. My one worry for ...Featuring is that, unless there are a lot of die-hard Jones fans out there who have as eclectic music tastes as I do, there's not enough of a single sound on the album to connect with any one group of listeners. That won't stop me from recommending it, though. I think everyone could stand to broaden their musical horizons a bit, and this album is a safe, comfortable way to do that.

For more info about Norah Jones and her music, check out her website or find her on Facebook and YouTube.

*Disclosure: You can rest assured that all opinions expressed in this review are my own. However, I received a free copy of ...Featuring through One2One Network and by writing this review I was entered in a contest to win a gift card.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

When Doubt Creeps In

Last weekend I spent three days with my fellow yoga teacher trainees practice teaching, learning new postures and assists, discussing the ethics of yoga (the yamas), practicing mindfulness, and meditating. It was an awesome weekend filled with love, laughter, hard work, and doubt. Yes, I said doubt.

Every now and then I'd glance around the room and wonder what I was doing there. Am I really cut out to become a yoga teacher? Do I have what it will take to knowledgeably, accurately and gently teach others not just the physical but also the mental, ethical and spiritual aspects of yoga that I'm only now beginning to wrap my own mind and body around? Will I ever learn all those Sanskrit terms?

Sometimes I'm not sure what to do with this doubt. I try not to judge it, knowing that it rarely lasts long. I remind myself that every yoga teacher started as a beginner student. I begin to trust that in time I will grow into the teacher role, just as I have grown into the student I am now. I remember that I have a teacher's heart, that I love sharing knowledge and experiences with others, that I have always imagined I would teach in some form throughout my life.

When the doubt passes, I see myself changing. I look back over the eight weeks since our last training weekend and I can see vividly how much I've learned and accomplished in just two months. Poses that I thought were completely out of my reach, that I was sure I'd never be able to achieve, are now part of my regular practice. Just last night, I balanced in Crow (Bakasana) for 10 full breaths. Two weeks ago, I pushed myself fully into Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) and remained there, steady for 10 deep breaths, as well.

Of course, some postures (Head Stand, most of the arm balances, and even Bow) are still out of my reach. And there will always be days when even the postures that usually come easily, like Tree (Vrksasana) and Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), are more challenging than I expect. It's those things, those perceived failures, that I too often focus on. I judge as good or bad everything I attempt, and it's the bad on which I usually dwell.

So with my intention set on ahimsa (one of the yamas, meaning nonviolence or to do no harm), I will try to recognize my self-judgment and let it pass. Until our next training session, just a few weeks away, I will be kind to myself, knowing that every day, even when it's not noticeable, I am growing like a tree, my roots sinking into the ground and my branches sprouting new off-shoots toward the sun.

(Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

This piece was cross-posted at, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).

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