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Yogi on Tour

by Karlee Fain

Whoosh, slide. I unfurl my yoga mat backstage, on a slab of concrete where limelight and divine light will merge. Pop, pop, and my meditation chime has been replaced with the recorded gunshots that blast through a sound system so large, it takes an army of tractor trailers to haul it around the globe. Hum and heat, tour bus generators provide the white noise to cancel out the screams of the crowd and synchronize with my ujjayi breath. I giggle. Did the ancient monks who founded yoga mean 40 cities in 60 days when they shared the idea of meditation in motion with us?

When rappers start drinking coconut water and doing yoga before busting rhymes that contain more bleeps than lyrics on the radio, one thing is clear: There is a meditation revolution happening. As the wellness coach for one of the most prolific celebrity rap stars of our time, I’ve had the opportunity to witness this firsthand. Right now, the only thing louder than the bass pounding is the voice of my inner guidance telling me that our stream of consciousness is expanding.“Karlee,” it says, “unless you want to paddle upstream, best go with the flow.” But as I put my boat in the uncharted waters, I wonder: Where will this river take me?

I grew up at Kripalu, back when it was an ashram in Pennsylvania. We donned all white for weekly satsang, joyfully did Down Dog as if it were our jobs (or, in this case, seva), and, as kids, were told that carob was real chocolate. Suddenly, I find myself squeezing between people on a tour bus to massage a high-profile client clutching a Blackberry in one hand, with an assistant about to put some other device in the other. While these surroundings may be a far cry from the tranquil woods I grew up near and the devotees who raised me, being in this environment has taught me that there’s more Deepak in hip-hop than I could ever have imagined. The rapper Biggie Smalls told us, “Stay far from timid, only make moves when your heart’s in it, and live the phrase: Sky’s the limit.” It’s clear that the sky Biggie mentions continues to rise as both rap stars and yogis consistently expand the realm of what we once thought possible. From the mountains of India to the streets of Detroit, prophetic poets emerge from any and all places to help us expand our boundaries.

The triumphs of these rap stars, many of whom were raised in impoverished communities, speak to the power of focus, dedication, and inspired growth that can emerge if we choose to shine. In much the same way that my family gathered to chant with our guru, hip-hop fans also know the impact of gathering around those who have devoted their lives to celebrating that which makes them feel most alive. While our Sanskrit chorus didn’t hit the Top 40, the lyrics sung nightly by thousands of ticket holders carry with them a similar unity that empowers even the most timid of fans.

Again, I feel a strong force telling me, “If you think this is about rap, fame, or even the private jet you’re on right now, your foresight has been blinded by the glare from all this bling. This hip-hop empire is about channeling an energy greater than what we were told is possible, not just defying social standards, but creating entirely new benchmarks by which human success can be measured.” Indeed, these lyrics from the Kottonmouth Kings, a rap group, could have fallen from the lips of an ancient yogi: “You are a sacred being of light, projected into reality for a purpose! Demand the right to your moment in this holographic gift; with no rules, no borders, except for those you choose to accept and live by.”

I gave a talk last winter to a group of business owners about the power of integrating yoga into their livelihood. I asked them to consider what their yoga was, whether on or off the mat, to identify the activities they already engage in that help them feel most like themselves, and what gives them a conscious connection to prana, life force. Today, I ask a different question: What is your hip hop? Will you speak your truth even if it’s contrary to mainstream opinion? Will you embrace your talents, that which brings you the greatest joy, and dare to share that bliss with the world?

After the overnight drive, I step off the bus to bathe in the early daylight. I unwrap my organic protein bar and turn up the volume on my iPod. Right now, a good Sun Salutation will bring me the greatest joy, so I start here. I find the less I juxtapose the difference in these seemingly separate worlds I move in, the more time I have to bask in the truth they both offer. While I may not be in one place long enough to have a mailing address, yoga has never been about the external experience. I know it’s the internal journey that guides me home, and that has always been the case. Whoosh, slide … again my yoga mat opens to serve as the raft in this merging stream of consciousness.

Karlee Fain is a Kripalu-certified yoga teacher and licensed massage therapist. She offers life-enhancing, easy-access tools that lead individuals to healthier physical bodies, improved emotional well-being, and a broader sense of universal harmony and humor. Karlee’s DVD, Every Body Yoga, offers fresh and inspiring styles of movement to nurture all body types.