Photo by Drew Xeron

Photo by Drew Xeron

Robert Piper: You have great personality and charisma. I just saw you play. After the show, you gave your wrist band away to a fan, who was deaf. Then you gave your shirt to another person who asked. You’ve really followed your bliss in your life and you been able to make a career out of it.

MC Yogi: Yes. I mean, you mention following your bliss, and I’m a huge fan of Joseph Campbell. My path, my life, my career has really been a journey from moving from, in a sense, darkness to light. From pain to joy through the experience of yoga and meditation. It’s an ongoing adventure that’s unfolding every day.

Just a couple days ago a very dear friend of mine, Shyamdas, passed away. He was in India. This journey is so mysterious because you never know when one chapter is going to end and another chapter is going to begin. Right now I’m just feeling super grateful to be here, really missing my friend. Wishing I could see him again. I also trust that he’s on to the next chapter and that he’s blessed.

RP: I’m sorry to hear that. We really never know what’s going to happen in our life. Can you talk about gratitude?

MC Yogi: Yes, well, the mind is a very intricate machine. It can store memories, past impressions, grudges, criticisms, judgments. It can hold a lot of stuff. In general, it’s only really good at holding onto one thing at a time. Which is why, when we have a lot going on, we feel sort of stressed and we feel tension because the mind is busy trying to figure out what it should focus on first.

Yoga is really the practice of seeing what’s most important. Focusing on that first. Then it helps everything else sort of fall into alignment. When we put gratitude first, what happens is we kind of shift the chemistry of the mind.

We move from being acidic or egotistic to alkaline or divine. Because when we’re being grateful it means that we’re acknowledging that life is a gift, that life is a blessing, that this body is only here for a short period of time and it really shifts the whole internal landscape of the mind and it puts things into perspective and it allows us to get our bearings. To get a firm footing in what’s real, and then go from there.

RP: When you were a teenager you were a troublemaker. Can you talk about how yoga and meditation impacted your life during this time?

MC Yogi: Well, if you’re spiraling rapidly in a direction, all of a sudden you have that realization that, I could move in the other direction, and it’s like you have that tiny little shift and you start to move in the opposite direction.

That’s kind of what happened to me. I saw that like in my life, a lot of the kids I grew up with went to jail, were selling drugs, some committed suicide, some went off to war. Some took drugs and they were never the same afterwards.

I was sort of quickly headed down that path and my parents sort of put me in a reform school after I got arrested, went to jail a couple of times. When I found yoga, I realized that I can direct my own mind through my yoga practice and meditation. I can actually create my own mood.

That was a huge awakening for me. Before I was relying heavily on like drugs and external substances to affect my mood and to relax. The reality is that life, for all of us, is pretty stressful and we all need ways to cope.

I don’t really begrudge anyone who uses substances, I just feel that yoga is a more sustainable way to find peace because it’s from the inside out.

RP: What would you say about music and how it influences the mind?

MC Yogi: Sound is one of the best most powerful tools. All the ancient traditions confirm that in the beginning was the word. Sound sort of predates form. Sound is a subtle form of speech and then more subtle than sound is silence and that’s like the realm of being.

If we can change from that deeper place—for instance, if I am constantly going around telling myself and everybody that I’m a failure and I’m worthless, that’s a reflection of the thoughts I’m having. The moment that I’m able to shift at the level of my mind and start seeing that I have something to offer, life is important, and I want to contribute, then that tiny subtle shift from the inside can have a profound affect on my external life.

That’s what I’ve found through yoga: yoga helps us to sort of rewire the mind so that we can literally become more mindful of the conversation we’re having on the back end, what we’re telling ourselves.

RP: You deal with rejection, so you have to have a one track mind and say, “This is what I love to do no matter what.” Can you talk about the strategy that you use?

MC Yogi: Krishna Das had an album, I think it was his second album, called One Track Heart, and essentially it refers to that: to have that sort of one-pointed attention, where you’re fixed on one thing and then that affects everything else.

For me, my yoga practice is like putting a one in front of a lot of zeros. Without my practice, everything quickly becomes chaotic. The moment I remember to breathe and connect to what’s real, connect to love, get grounded, get present, then everything has a way of sort of falling into place. Yoga teaches you aim for the highest first, and the highest is always love. From there everything else will follow.

RP: I love that. Have you got any major events coming up?

MC Yogi: We’re going to be in Jamaica for the Jamaica Yoga Conference, which I’m really excited about. We’re going to be at all the Wanderlust Festivals this year, which I absolutely love. Those are all mountaintop experiences—they literally take place on mountains. In the fall, we’re going to be with our friend Sianna Sherman. We’re going to lead a five-day intensive at our studio [Yoga Toes Studio] in Point Reyes, so I’m excited about that.

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