Amy Thiessen is taking a break from singing about breakups.
Not that the Calgary-based singer-songwriter is taking things lightly these days. Far from it.
Thiessen, who has two folk records to her name, is set to release a full-length album called Pray, finally melding her two loves: music and yoga. In each of the eight tracks, Thiessen features her artistic interpretation of a Vedic mantra, singing in both Sanskrit and English. There are some heavy themes — learning to face obstacles and grow from them, opening yourself up to transformation, to name just a couple — but the songs are meant to be accessible, whether you’re listening as you practice yoga or as you’re cooking dinner.
“It’s a devotional album that takes mantra and prayer into a more contemporary context,” Thiessen says. “The lineage of yoga is really rich, but it’s also a lot to take in if you’re foreign from it. I’d like to create a gateway to the tradition.”
For those who know Thiessen’s folk music, her new sound — created with a loop pedal, keyboard, guitar and drum machine — may seem like an unexpected departure. To her, singing mantras is a natural progression. The longtime yoga devotee has studied in India, taught for well over a decade and says that yoga and mantras helped her through some of the darkest times of her life.
“It’s how I healed and changed a lot of things in my life,” she says.
“I miss folk music, but I’ve never enjoyed making music in my life nearly as much as I have producing my own. When I started doing this, it was like, ‘Oh, this is my work,’” she says. “The reason I work with mantras, and this is a challenging point for some, is that the sounds and syllables connect to the energetic body. It helps people move and heal in ways that they can’t cognitively understand.”
And Thiessen is eager to help. On Saturday, Jan. 20, she’ll launch her album at a yoga event called Intend that she and her friend, Danielle Dixon, have organized. Though the day will showcase a variety of classes, teachers and yoga styles, Intend’s goal is singular: to help people set meaningful intentions. Thiessen will perform music from Pray during two full-length yoga classes to “help drop people into a deeper state.” The good vibes won’t stop there, either; the women are planning another three events this year to create an ongoing support system for everyone who attends.
Providing support is something Thiessen plans to take to a whole new level. As she promotes and tours her new album, she’ll also work towards applying for a Master’s degree in psychology. Her end goal? To work in hospice.
“I know it’s a huge, heavy thing to say, but I want to help people face their fears of death,” she says. “If I can create bridges through music, that will be amazing. That is what I want to do.”
Intend takes place Saturday, Jan. 20 at 502 2 Street S.W. All ages, skill levels and abilities are welcome. For more details and to buy tickets, which are $65 in advance or $75 at the door, head to www.youryogacollective.com.
Michelle Magnan McIvor is a Calgary-based writer. A former health and wellness columnist with the Calgary Herald, she has written for publications such as Maclean’s, Canadian Business, Chatelaine, Flare, Avenue and Reader’s Digest. You can find Michelle on Twitter, Instagram and, most days, drinking coffee somewhere in Mission.