Even over the phone, Asa Dustin sounds peaceful. The founder of At Om Yoga Studio in Concord is discussing an upcoming event that blends music and what he terms “the mysticism of the sacred and magical art of yoga.”
During the event, Dustin will conduct a yoga class as Minnesota experimental chamber pop band Cloud Cult performs. Integrating contemporary music with shakti flow yoga classes is something he’s done at his studio for more than seven years.
“One of the primary goals of yoga is self-evolution, and I think this is the next phase of integrating yoga into Western culture,” said the Contoocook native, who has made pilgrimages to the Far East and studied Buddhism with the Dalai Lama.
Class cuing will be subtler to avoid competing with the music, so Dustin feels that some experience is best for participants.
“Or a courageous spirit is fine as well,” he said, adding that comfortable seating is available for observers. “You can still participate in the energetic exchange, the collective experience of it, without performing. It’s more meditative than a rock show, but it’s also a very visually vibrant experience.”
Two painters will work throughout the event, creating masterful works of art as Dustin leads his students. The class is bookended by Irene Soléa performing kirtan, a call-and-response devotional music rooted in India’s bhakti traditions. A Boston-based musical therapist specializing in emotional Sanskrit, Soléa recently released an album called Beloved.
Meanwhile, Cloud Cult released the album Love last year. So the two performers will provide a unique harmony.
“Love and the beloved are integrally linked,” Dustin said. “Irene will initiate the class into a collective vibrational experience, then Cloud Cult will play spontaneous ambient grateful music, while we practice yoga.”
Cloud Cult accompanied a class last year; this will be its second appearance. Dustin was introduced to the band through a friend.
“I’m floored by their music; the brilliance of their lyricism speaks so infinitely to the path of awakening,” said Dustin, noting that members of the band are also adherents. “They are practitioners; the cello player often accompanies classes. For years, I’ve been creating playlists to accompany my classes and will include Cloud Cult on many of them.”
Normally an eight-piece, Cloud Cult will perform as a smaller acoustic unit led by founder Craig Minowa. A prototypical DIY effort, the band self-releases records, lives on a geothermal-powered organic farm, and tours in a biodiesel bus. As they did in 2013, the group will release a new album at the event — Unplug.
Upcoming At Om music and yoga events include Girish, performing Friday, May 16. The California-based kirtan artist was the first performer to visit the studio back in 2007, and has returned annually ever since. Toronto devotional artist Brenda McMorrow will lead chants for an evening class on Friday, May 30, and a morning session the next day. John de Kadt will also appear. It’s a good mix, Dustin said.
“Each musician has different influences, but they all have a folk rock element.”
Net proceeds from the class will benefit Peace and Paws, a Hillsborough organization that’s rescued and found new homes for over 2,000 dogs.
“Most of the live music events are done for charity,” Dustin said.
Whether coming to observe or participate, people should open their minds and embrace the experience as one with relaxation at its core.
“In shakti flow yoga,” Dustin said, “there’s no difference between practice and play.”
As seen in the April 10, 2014 issue of the Hippo.