Back when I first trained to be a yoga teacher, I discovered an amazing artist named MC YOGI.
I’m not big on gurus, but I am all about role models, and he is definitely one of mine.
MC YOGI is true to himself, does what he loves, and practices real yoga all the time.
Friday night, I got to see him live, and this #thankyouthursday, I am grateful.
Back in the days when I was a teenager*
Okay, I wasn’t actually a teenager when I first heard “Give Love,” but I definitely had the emotional maturity of one.
I was actually 27, a couple months into teacher training, and going through an extremely confusing and challenging time in my personal life. (Which, by the way, seems to be a common theme among yoga teachers in training.¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
I forget exactly how MC YOGI’s track landed on my musical radar, but it was love at first listen.
I remember blasting it in my headphones as I walked to the studio to teach my first-ever class, the song’s uplifting message and catchy rhythm giving me the confidence boost I needed to positively focus instead of freak out.
Then, after I graduated and got additional training to work with children and teens as well as underserved populations (think: shelters), I played an MC YOGI track in every class I could.
Sometimes that track was “Give Love,” and more often it was “Shanti (Peace Out),” because, just, show me a chiller song for savasana. (Or “resting pose,” as I taught it to those suspicious of Sanskrit.)
The yoga hip-hop just kept coming, thank goodness
By then I’d discovered Elephant Power, which introduced me to a host of yogic legends I would not otherwise have been inclined to learn about.
(For a newcomer to the lore, stories of Indian gods and goddesses can seem awfully bizarre. But, presented in hip-hop format, I find them captivating.)
About a year later, MC YOGI released Pilgrimage, and I became instantly obsessed with a song called “Sun Light.”
I would play it on repeat in the subway car en route to work, pumping myself up for another day at a desk job. I’d glance around at my zoned out companions on the train and wonder how they’d feel if they could hear the same joy and reassurance that was echoing in my ears.
And when Mantras, Beats, & Meditations dropped in 2014, I was like, “FINALLY, someone is accurately explaining the complexities of yoga’s framework and philosophy in a way that is catchy and accessible.”
A good deal of what I’d learned in my studies over the years—e.g., info about the body’s chakras and yoga’s eight limbs—was suddenly available as a playlist, which is pretty impressive.
But, for me, MC YOGI became a true hero when he proclaimed in 2015 that Only Love Is Real.
Only Love Is Real
You guys. Are you ready for some truth?
Like, the truest truth of all the truths? Because here it is:
ONLY LOVE IS REAL.
I had sensed that fact for some time—or at the very least, understood that love is the bottom line, greater than fear, pretty much the only thing worth living for, etc.
And then, suddenly, just like that, the truest truth was named out loud and in my ears, with a kickass beat to boot.
As it happens, my 2015 was off to a bit of a tough start.
So I am not exaggerating when I say that the release of Only Love Is Real completely turned my year around. In fact, to quote myself via the Instagram caption of a #thankyouthursday past:
I am grateful for top quality affirmation that #OnlyLoveIsReal. The most powerful art I’ve heard in a long time and it showed up right when I needed it. So thankful @mcyogi is committed to doing his thing bc each album is better than the last and this one is an energetic game changer for sure. #raisingconsciousness #hiphopstyle #loveisalighthouse #inlovewetrust #ThankYouThursday
I am not even going to try to say anything else about this album because, truly, each and every song means something significant to me.
(But, okay, fine, I was and am especially drawn to “Lighthouse” and “Young Warrior” and obviously the title track, “Only Love Is Real.”)
Inspired by MC YOGI’s masterpiece of a record, I decided that regardless of my current circumstances I was nonetheless determined to be a spiritual warrior.
I therefore promptly designed a custom tee shirt proclaiming exactly that. And some 2.5 years later, I wore my Spiritual Warrior shirt to Friday’s show.
MC YOGI, just like love, is the real deal
Friday’s show was awesome, in the truest sense of the word.
Or, actually, I should say, “shows.”
Because as fate (or free will?) would have it, I got to see MC YOGI twice.
Of course as soon as I learned he’d be performing, I bought two tickets. Because goodness is always better when shared, right?
But that was back in June, and life happens and availabilities shift and on the day of the show it was clear I would be attending solo.
AND THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT!!!
Because when I called the box office to donate my extra ticket, I learned that I could instead swap it out for the second performance later that evening. (A second show was added after the first one sold out.)
So, yeah. Twice.
Which is how I ended up with a blessed book. (More on that later.)
You should probably read Spiritual Graffiti
MC YOGI published a book.
As I well know, that is not easy to do.
But he did it, and he did it well.
Spiritual Graffiti is, basically, a testament to the transformative power of love. With yoga and hip-hop.
Before reading his book, I hadn’t really considered the back story to MC YOGI’s amazing music. I just appreciated his work deeply and left it at that.
Now, though, I have even more appreciation and respect for him than I did before.
Because, look, anyone who chooses to follow the path can be a yogi. Isn’t that wonderful? We are so lucky.
But this guy is, like, a YOGI. (The capital letters in his stage name are warranted!)
A little bit of background, or, a brief teaser of a book you should probably read:
MC YOGI just so happened (or was destined?) to grow up in northern California in the Straight Outta Compton era. By the time he hit high school, the safest place for him to live was in a group home for at-risk youth.
And then his dad introduced him to yoga.
Real, old-school yoga—like, long before Lululemon.
His foundational teacher was Larry Schultz, who learned Ashtanga from Pattabhi Jois himself, and is probably best known for developing a style of yoga called Rocket, which is basically the blueprint for all modern vinyasa, NBD.
(Oh, and side note: you know how Rocket got invented? The massively famous rock band the Grateful Dead asked Larry to teach them yoga for the road, and when they found the Ashtanga practice to be too rigorous, he created a sequence that Bob Weir named The Rocket, supposedly because “it gets you there quicker, man!” How cool is that? I’m telling you, music + yoga leads to everything good.)
By the time MC YOGI was twenty-two he’d done teacher training and traveled to India—although he wasn’t MC YOGI yet.
That came later, when after marrying his love-at-first-sight wife, Amanda, he heard a classic Beastie Boys song at their reception (held in the yoga studio they co-owned, of course).
The song was “Brass Monkey,” and as he celebrated, his gaze landed on a statue of Hanuman on the studio’s altar—aka, a brass monkey.
It was then he realized all his passions could merge.
All our passions can merge
Of course, Friday night, I didn’t know all that. I just knew that I was totally psyched to experience live what I had been vibing to for years.
MC YOGI did not disappoint. In person, he was relaxed and kind, playful and peaceful.
Before segueing into familiar tracks, he would freeflow with ease and delight. During the second show, I took a bunch of poor-quality (and possibly prohibited?) videos, which I have chosen not to upload.
But I have been enjoying them on my own, and in particular would like to share the transcript of one of his impromptu hip-hop poems:
Through the voice of our soul, we can create social change.
Now, words are important, actions are very important, but there is also revolutionary movement—being the change.
So being the change means
you don’t even have to talk or do anything but
if you show up in a place of love and compassion
with that energy of connection
see that spiritual vision
see through the division
the division is a mirage
it’s used as a tool to divide and conquer, bait and switch
keep us looking over here while they take this
so the true revolutionary stays in the center
loves both sides, stays rooted in the middle
it’s simple but it takes great strength to go the length.
Moments later, he transitioned to the opening lyrics of “Be the Change,” which is his tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
(A song that, I later learned in Spiritual Graffiti, he wrote while STAYING AT GANDHI’S ASHRAM, because of course he did. The frickin’ home of Satyagraha!)
And at the end of the evening, after sharing “Sun Light” and “Only Love Is Real” and so many other of my favorites, MC YOGI closed out with none other than “Give Love.”
We can be the change
You can see why this post had to be so long, right?
Aren’t you glad you know this man exists?
And while his art is absolutely an inspiration, his existence is the real gift.
Because our presence is our present. Period, really.
The way we choose to show up in day-to-day reality IS the change we will see in the world—or not see, as the case may be.
Some days it is hard to believe that it is enough for me to “just” be. I am doing SO many things differently.
Sometimes it’s scary—sometimes the scary part is even how natural it feels to honor my intuition above all, to follow my understanding of God and my heart and nothing else.
My path is so surely unfolding and I don’t know where it leads.
But when I look at MC YOGI, I see proof that I am going somewhere good, that if I keep up my discipline and discernment and devotion, there is no way I won’t end up exactly where I’m meant to be.
That is true for all of us.
And that is the sort of change we can all be excited to see.
Love > fear,
p.s. Oh yeah, about the blessed book: Between the two shows, I bought a copy of Spiritual Graffiti and met MC YOGI, who graffiti-autographed it for me. And during the second show—the show I wasn’t “supposed” to be at—he referenced said book and I slid my copy onto the stage and he read an excerpt to the crowd before giving it back to me. So basically he blessed my book! And although I try not to be too attached to physical objects I am definitely attached to that book now, just saying.
*Yes, that’s a Tribe reference. Well done, you.