You know yoga has arrived when yoga teachers are up at the mic giving a TED talk.
This past October, the Bay Area’s very own yoga teacher-rapper-extraordinaire MC Yogi took the stage at Madrone Studios in the Mission to address a room full of movers, thinkers, and shakers as part of an event called TED X City 2.0. The event was created to bring together bright, urban visionaries to speak about how to create more sustainable cities. I caught up with the MC Yogi this week to ask him about the experience, and how yoga teaches us in the Bay Area to be more sustainable.
SFBG What was it like getting up in front of all of those people at Madrone Studios?
MC YOGI It was awesome. I didn’t even know I was going to be giving a talk to be honest. I thought I was just going to come perform and sing a song, but then they asked me last minute if I’d like to come on a little early and talk, and I was like, that would be amazing. The audience was great, a full spectrum of different walks of life: young people, techie people, older hippies, architects and designers.
SFBG Why did they ask you to speak?
MC YOGI The theme of the day had to do with building more sustainable cities. Sustainability is mentioned a lot in the yoga tradition. Also, the new video that I showed on stage -- Be the Change: The Story of Mahatma Gandhi -- is a tribute to Gandhi, who was a huge proponent for sustainability.
SFBG Tell us about the video.
MC YOGI The song in the video is from my latest album, Pilgrimage. It took me and my friend Michael Rosen a year to produce this video -- it was a labor of love.
SFBG How did Gandhi promote sustainability?
MC YOGI It was the way that he engaged people that opposed him. He always had this undercurrent of love. I think that’s a testament to someone who has a deep spiritual practice -- when you can see the one shining in everything. I think it's natural to try to bring out the best in everyone else. It's not me against you. It's about the greater good. Gandhi really took the time to listen and understand where everyone was coming from. The only way we are going to be able to sustain healthy cities is to hear all of the different sides and really practice deep listening.
SFBG How do yoga and music connect to sustainability?
MC YOGI In music, you always have tension and resolve. It’s the same with yoga. Tension is what holds everything together. You need tension to hold a family together, to hold a democracy together. But it has to be good tension. In a healthy democracy, there’s good debate. Not everyone has to agree, but as long as there’s respect and love, and we can appreciate from learning other people’s perspectives. Then we can start to see how everything contributes to the whole.
SFBG How can yoga help people to be more sustainable in the Bay Area?
MC YOGI Yoga is very empowering. When you practice yoga and meditation, and bring your attention to the breath and the postures, you start to realize how much influence you have over yourself. You become more aware of the food you eat and how far you’re driving to practice and other lifestyle choices. Like Gandhi, yoga teaches us that it’s important to hear different opinions and views. San Franciso is already an amazing testament of diversity. People come here from all over the world because they feel free to be themselves and practice their thing. But we have to remember that even though we all have the right to express our thing, we don’t have the right to do that at the expense of someone else.
SFBG What is the significance of a yoga teacher being asked to participate in a forum like this one?
MC YOGI It shows how yoga has become such a huge part of urban life. Yoga teachers are pillars in their communities. The modern teacher has kind of become like a therapist, a bartender, a DJ. They have the ability to influence a lot of people. But at the end of the day they are just people too. It’s important to remember that.
SFBG How does the community benefit from having yoga involved in a public forum?
MC YOGI It’s said that anytime you even hear the word yoga, it’s considered a blessing. It’s like hearing the word love. Just to hear that word, it’s good karma.
This year, MC Yogi’s latest album Pilgrimage debuted at number one on Itunes world music, and remained one of the top 25 world music albums of the year. MC Yogi owns Yoga Toes, a yoga studio in Point Reyes, with his wife Amanda.
Karen Macklin is a yoga teacher and multi-genre writer in San Francisco. She's been up-dogging her way down the yogic path for over a decade, and is a lifelong lover of the word. To learn more about her teaching schedule and writing life, visit her site at www.karenmacklin.com. Follow On the Om Front on Facebook:www.facebook.com/ontheomfront