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THANK YOU BEX FETHERSTONE EDITOR
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CONTRIBUTORS AMY TOBIN BEN MOUNT BRIOHNY SMYTH CHELONE WOLF CHRIZTINA MARIE DICE IIDA-KLEIN ELEONORA ZAMPATTI ELIZABETH MARTI EMMA HEWITT EXHALE TO INHALE GOLDIE HANNAH BLOOMFIELD
JAMES ARMITAGE JASON REINHART KELLY ISAAC KINDRED SHEELER OZZIE HAMBLEN MC YOGI RIVA G ROBERT STURMAN SHAWN THOMSON WERKSHOP
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EDITOR'S LETTER Bring your yoga out to fight
his issue we’re looking at yoga reaching new spaces. So what have we got? Well, world-renowned DJs (some with very gold teeth), women who’ve had every ounce of strength squeezed out of them and then come back stronger than ever, and yogis bringing online communities together in real-life spaces. Very good, I hear you say, lots of unexpected people and places, but what does that have to do with me? Well, maybe just an interesting read, would have been my original answer, but I would have been wrong. Check out this issue’s Accidental Yogi, who asks us “what if we could all grab yoga by the toes and gently tease it into all those little corners and crevices in life that are difficult, scary or just damn near impossible?” And it’s a good question. In our sixth edition, we meet some characters who’ve faced their demons with yoga. So why not try remembering that next time you have a fight with your friend, next time you feel your road-rage a-comin’, or next time you’re preparing for a big exam. Bring your yoga out to fight for you. Whether it’s a dab of pranayama or a minute of meditation, display your yogic prowess and watch that demon cower and shrink away.
Bex Fetherstone Editor
Riva G. by JASON REINHART
JASON REINHART Photographer Interview We chat with Jason about his 'photographer's eye' and how he brings out the best in yoga... How did you come to photography? When did you pick up your first camera? I took a photography class in
high school but never kept up with it, that was back in the days of film. About five years ago I got my first DSLR camera and started shooting again. I liked the fact that I could shoot as much as I wanted without the expense of developing film. I learnt what worked and what didnâ€™t work immediately. I am a self-taught photographer and like to experiment.
How did you end up shooting photos of yogis? Do you practice yourself? I began concentrating on yoga
photography about three years ago, after contacting Kino MacGregor (@KinoYoga) and Kerri Verna (@BeachYogaGirl) while I was in South Florida visiting friends. After shooting those two yogis, I saw the beauty of capturing yogis; it allows a photographer to express the harmony between man and nature. After my third photo shoot I decided to give yoga a try and Iâ€™ve found that understanding yoga has helped my photography hugely.
How do you think your camera sheds a new light on yoga? Some of my work shows the beauty of the
body alongside the beauty of the world and I think that this expresses the harmony of yogis with their
Shawn Thomson by JASON REINHART
surroundings. In other areas of my work I show yogis calm and peaceful yet in completely contrasting surroundings, such as in front of the raging waves of the ocean or on a busy city street. By capturing photos of yogis both in sync with their surroundings and in contrast to them, the yogi and I are able to share the experience of ‘being’ in every situation, no matter what is going outside of ourselves. And equally how do you think yoga brings out something new in photography? What yoga brings to photogra-
phy is the demonstration that we can bring beauty, peace and calm into the world around us. Yoga photography encompasses the natural beauty of the world, human beauty, the current state of the world we live in, and people’s reaction to it. In yoga photography several, and sometimes all of these elements come together to tell a story that shows the physical, mental, and spiritual make-up of a person that both enjoys the world as it is and works to make it a better place. I believe that is a story that needs to be told. Tell us about the surroundings you take your yoga photographs in. I look for natural and man-
made elements that show the yogi both in sync and in contrast to their surroundings. My favourite thing to do is to show people something they see every day in a different way.
Your photographs seem to have a unique ‘style’ – how did you develop this style and do you have any reasons for using it? My ‘style’ has developed over time, I’m
a self-taught photographer. I’ve experimented and tried different views, technical camera settings, ways of using the light, and editing methods, but in the end, we all have a knack for something in life and for me it seems to be taking photographs that other people enjoy. Having said that, being selftaught is not an easy road to travel and I would encourage anyone with an interest in photography to explore formal training. I continue daily to develop my 'photographer’s eye' and I’ve learnt that I don’t just have to do that on my own, there are plenty of people out there with interesting things to teach me.
Kindred Sheeler by JASON REINHART
Yoga can be a form of retreating from the hustle and bustle of the everyday and reflecting. Does being behind a camera offer the same sort of space or does it draw you more into the world around you? Jeez, that’s
an interesting question! I have never thought about it before. For me, it’s more a form of retreating. When you are behind the camera you see the world as you want to see it in your photo. You experience a period of very intense concentration where you bring everything into alignment and pull everything into focus. As you see start to see the reality in front of you match up with the scene in your mind, in that moment, everything is calm.
Can you tell us the story behind one of the photos you selected for us, or the story behind your favorite photo? My absolute favorite yoga photo I’ve ever tak-
en was of my now good friend Riva G. Riva and I met that first time on a chilly October morning, just before sunrise on the Brooklyn Bridge (p15). The sunrise couldn’t have been any more beautiful. The lighting was perfect and as the sun rose, the bridge started to get more foot and bike traffic, it was like watching the world come alive. Do you take photos for others, or for yourself? For
others more than for myself. The reason for this is that photo sessions are collaborations between the yogi and me. We each bring our best into a session and we both come to the sessions, not to satisfy ourselves or each other, but to inspire someone neither of us have ever met.
What do you want your viewers to take from your work?
My desire is to create not only a visually appealing photo but one that inspires viewers. I think at some point everyone experiences what I call a “centring moment”, a moment when we reflect on who we are, what we are capable of doing, and we look at how we fit into the world around us. I would like to have just one person look at one of my photos and experience for themselves their “centring moment”.
Elizabeth Marti by JASON REINHART Wearing leggings by WERKSHOP
Shawn Thomson by JASON REINHART
GRIME & GARAGE Playlist
et ready before you stick this on, 'cos it's fast and ferocious. In homage to the theme of the unexpected, we've brought you a strong and sweaty list of the songs you're probably least likely to associate with your yoga practice. Switch on these grimy garage beats for a super-charged sixty minutes on the mat.
Hot Hands Darius
Cape Town (Panana Remix) Clubfeet
3 x Sun Salute A
Imagine (Asylum Remix) Shola Ama
3 x Sun Salute B
Flowers Sweet Female Attitude
Moving Too Fast Artful Dodger Why? (Matt Jan Lamont Mix) Mis-Teeq Way We Are Kove Gotta Get Thru This Daniel Bedingfield Halcyon 7" Orbital
Lambeth Burial Often (Kygo Remix) The Weeknd
Playing With Fire Plan B Hell Is Round The Corner Tricky Teardrop Massive Attack
GRAB YOGA BY THE TOES WORDS THE ACCIDENTAL YOGI
“Gently tease it into all those corners and crevices in life”.
bout a week ago I attended an absolutely terrifying meeting. No matter how much I prepared, practised and preened myself to within an inch of my life, I could not calm my jittery nerves or steady my jelly legs. I arrived about an hour early (just in case) and proceeded to pace up and down a nearby road, panic stricken. With around fifteen minutes to go, I couldn’t take it any more and so, as an absolute last resort, I sat myself down on a bench and started some alternate-nostril breathing. I must have looked absolutely ridiculous, and I felt it too, but sure enough, after a couple of minutes of blocking out the world around me, steadying my gaze and focussing on the stuff keeping me going, my breath, my legs had solidified a little. I attempted to compose myself and made my way to a glossy building with a glossy conference room and pretty glossy people. Soon enough the questions were coming and I myself wasn’t feeling so glossy, but rather than flap and fluff up my answers, I yoga-ed my way through the meeting, breathing deeply, staying present, and focussing on the little movements of my body. And then, for some reason
I can’t even remember, the topic of yoga actually came up and the fairly austere man at the end of the table, clad in a business suit and tie, lit up. “I’ve been doing yoga for years,” he beamed, and then he promptly pulled his chair out from the table slightly, lifted his leg, hitched up his silky trousers and proceeded to lodge said leg behind his head. I don’t know whether it was the humour of the completely unlikely juxtaposition of ‘man in suit’ with ‘man with leg behind head’, or if it was because the focus was now most definitely not on me, but I suddenly felt at ease. Of course the rest of my meeting went swimmingly, simply because yoga made me realise that it was no longer the end of the world if it didn’t. What if we could all grab yoga by the toes and gently tease it into those little corners and crevices in life that are difficult, scary or just damn near impossible? How different life might be. I’m not suggesting we headstand our way through driving tests, or sit through that important interview in lotus, but try dragging yoga off the mat and into a space where you thought it was unwelcome, because if you can face yourself on the mat, you can most definitely face that scary someone or something off it.
Shawn Thomson by JASON REINHART
Dice Iida-Klein by ROBERT STURMAN
Dice Iida-Klein by ROBERT STURMAN
lmost a year ago now, in Draze’s first ever issue, we spoke to Equinox yogini Briohny Smyth, who graced our first front cover and our first feature-interview pages. Twelve months on and it’s nearly Draze’s first birthday, so to celebrate we chatted to Briohny’s husband and Bryce Yoga co-founder, Dice Iida-Klein. Fortunately, we’re at the stage where nearly as many men as women seem to be practising yoga, but even world-renowned teacher Dice states that he too thought that yoga was all about being bendy. And then he found inversions and yoga made him “feel like a kid again”. Briohny sneakily tells me that although he’d never admit to it, Dice’s teaching style is completely different to a lot of the other guy yogis out there and that he’s a great inspiration to many of them, and I can see why. Dice believes that yoga is a balancing act between playfulness and discipline, between the body and the mind and his ultimate goal is to help fellow yogis bridge the gap between the two. We chat about being upside-down, being online, bridging that gap and the yoga balancing act... Tell us about your yoga journey. What were you doing before yoga, when did you start and how did you decide it was the thing for you?
My yoga journey started when I graduated from UCLA in June 2007 and began working for a popular athletic apparel company. There I was able to try a yoga class for free, at the time I would never have paid to do yoga because, like many others, I believed it was about being flexible, which I definitely wasn't. My first yoga class kicked my butt! I was so physically exhausted that I couldn’t think. My mind, which was normally filled with chatter, was silent. I had never felt so good in my life and I wanted that feeling to continue, so I began practising regularly and haven’t stopped since. Teacher training followed a few months later and I was lucky enough to begin teaching full-time shortly after that.
Before yoga, I didn’t understand that there was a mental and even spiritual side to all things movement-based, and to life in general. Yoga has introduced me to the idea of self-discovery and I’m just beginning on this path. Understanding my reactions and conditioning has been a definite challenge, but I’m beginning to realise that it’s about being happy as much as you can. It's about feeling love and spreading love as much as possible, not because it’s easy, but because life is just better that way. I’m so lucky to be able to do what I do for a ‘living’, but I’d be practising regardless of whether I was teaching or not. Being a student is always my main priority because continuing to learn and be inspired by others is what it’s all about. How would you describe your teaching style?
I think my teaching style is first and foremost adapting, evolving and changing. To say that it is specifically ‘my’ teaching style seems wrong to me. I derive inspiration from so many different teachers and friends and I love exploring different modalities from acrobatics and calisthenics, Iyengar yoga and ashtanga yoga, and this is what makes up the yoga I share with others. I began with an immense love for all things vinyasa flow, but I also loved alignment and the general ‘heart-felt’ style of anusara yoga. Just like my practice changes, what I share changes all the time. We’ve done a couple of your online classes - you love to be upside-down! When did you discover the world the other way up and what did it do for you?
I discovered inversions and arm balances through teachers like Brock & Krista Cahill, Chris Chavez, Raghunath Cappo, and many others in Los Angeles. Prior to that I had never attempted handstands, or things of that nature. When I finally realised that the yoga practice was not only about stretching, I was
hooked. Being upside down, literally and figuratively, has allowed me to dive deeper into understanding myself. I believe that the confidence-building aspect of inversions is the reason why many people are in love with them, but having said all of that, savasana or warrior is no less beautiful than an inversion or arm balance, it’s just what got me in the yoga door. Speaking of online classes, what are your views on the positives of the myriad of yoga stuff, from programmes to Pinterest boards, available online nowadays?
This is definitely a popular topic amongst all the yoga groups across the globe. It seems that within the yogic philosophy there is always talk of change, growth, and continuous re-evaluation. I’d like to think that all of the online avenues for yoga are great examples of this change and evolution. When I began teaching yoga, the social media and online realm already existed, but not to the magnitude that it does today. It can get distracting at times but I also find yoga on the internet to be very inspiring and I’m lucky that I get to share what I love so much with others around the globe. It allows everyone to express themselves and that is always an amazing thing, self-expression is an essential part of life! Do you think there are any negatives?
Just like yoga teaches us that there is always more than one side, or one path, there are always going to be positives and negatives to anything. You just can’t let the negatives get you down, or else you’ll get stuck in a vicious cycle. Photography is art. Yoga is art. The two go very well together and we have the choice over whether to compare ourselves to others or to be inspired by them.
Dice Iida-Klein by ROBERT STURMAN
You guys have just completed your first ‘IG Getaway’ retreat, tell us all about it - what’s the idea behind it and how has it gone down?
My wife Briohny and our friend and fellow teacher Ali Owens came up with the idea about a year ago. We are so inspired by the many different people who practise yoga and movement on Instagram, and we wanted to be able to selfishly take their classes all in one area! The ‘IG’ in ‘IG Getaway’ actually stands for Inspiration Generation, rather than Instagram. The idea behind the IG Getaway was bringing an online community to life and Ali had the beautiful idea to bring people to Los Angeles to discover the yoga scene. We also wanted yogis to practise with all of our teachers who don’t have Instagram accounts, as they are the teachers that we consider to be our inspirations in the flesh. Participants are able to experience some amazing restaurants in the area, sightsee through Santa Monica and Venice beach, and of course practice in some phenomenal studios and places here in Los Angeles. The Getaway this year was the first, and we couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. We were able to connect with so many inspirational practitioners and teachers. We look forward to next year, where we can bring even more yogis from the online community and the local community together. What’s it like having two yoga teachers in the household? Do you and Briohny teach in a similar way or do you have different views?
Bri and I both love yoga, and to be able to share our passion together is such a privilege. We are able to constantly support, but also push one another to elevate and self-reflect on our yoga, but more importantly in our lives. The beauty of having two views is that you get to learn about the different aspects of
the yoga practice, aspects that you might never otherwise encounter in your own body or mind. When we teach together, we believe it is a blessing to have different views, as long as they are both respected in an equal manner. There is never one way, and teaching together has been a profound way to discover this, both as a couple and on an individual level. How do the kids fit into your yoga practice? Is it possible to get them involved or do you have to get your yoga fix early in the morning or late at night?
Taylor and Syd enjoy the yoga practice, but it is hard to hold their attention for longer than half an hour! We play different yoga games, using animal names for poses and running around like different animals. We do practise together as a family, but both Bri and I also practise solo, normally later in the evening when everyone is asleep. With kids, you have to fit in your practice when you can, wherever you can! We hear you're about to get a year older! What’s changed for you in the last 12 months?
Things change and evolve all the time, and although it scares me, it’s something that I appreciate more and more. The process of self-reflection has become much more of a part of my life since discovering yoga. I’m a shy person without a true understanding of why, and I’ve begun to look into what the ‘why’. This may sound a little deep, or personal, but it’s true. I have a lot to work on and the truth is, I’m discovering that self-inquiry is not an easy thing. But with the help of my family, specifically my wife, I’m realising that it is an essential part to success in the relationships you cultivate outside of your home, in your community and most importantly with the people that you love.
Dice Iida-Klein by ROBERT STURMAN
Light & Dark Discussions of domestic violence featuring Eleonora Zampatti & Exhale to Inhale
On a grey weekday, I open my computer and flick through the photographs of Eleonora Zampatti, Italian-born yoga teacher and survivor of domestic abuse. My first thought, rightly or wrongly, is how extremely beautiful she is, and it’s ironic and perhaps telling of the destruction wreaked by domestic violence, that as we begin chatting later on in the week, one of the first things she tells me is how ugly she felt for so much of her life. From an early age Eleonora suffered from a series of complex medical issues with her ovaries and she describes to me how she felt a “disconnection from her femininity” growing up. What this meant in practical terms was disordered eating, depression and a fatal lack of self-esteem, symptoms she now recognises as those that led her straight into the arms of abusive men. After fleeing Italy, aged 27, to escape the clutches of her first abusive relationship and to experience a culture which she thought might be more “freeing”, Eleonora found herself in the US. Far from being an escape though, before long, her cycle of abusive relationships reared its ugly head once again. Eleonora’s new man was wealthy and things started to turn sour when she was expected to keep up with his extravagant lifestyle. Teaching up to eleven yoga classes a day just to pay her keep, and simultaneously dealing with serious emotional abuse, Eleonora was ill and broken. The further she slipped into this lifestyle the more she felt that her partner was her “only reality”. “I was having panic attacks, I was isolated and alone,” she explainss. A group of Eleonora’s yoga students noticed that something wasn’t right. “It was after a few months of getting to know these ladies that some of them started to tell me they thought something was wrong,” Eleonora recalls, “but at the time I wasn’t ready to admit it, I couldn’t admit to anyone that it was wrong. It’s easy to find excuses to stay with someone when the abuse starts out as emotional abuse, and it’s almost impossibly hard to recognise the bigger picture of what’s happening to you.”
Eleonora was at a yoga conference when she met the first person she felt she could truly trust, a fellow yogini covered in tattoos. The two hit it off instantly and, after parting ways, Eleonora was invited to visit her new friend in New Jersey. Over an hour away from her New York home, Eleonora’s controlling partner vetoed the trip instantly, but somehow she summoned the strength to ignore his rules and take that first fateful journey. Overwhelmed by the beauty of its surroundings and the kind nature of its people, Eleonora knew instantly that she wanted to live in New Jersey. On her return to New York, she broached the subject with her partner, “I want to live in New Jersey,” she recalls telling him, “do you think you could live in New Jersey?” Instead of a discussion, or even an argument, her partner threw a table at her. “That’s when I finally admitted that something was wrong,” she says, “you’re never abused enough to admit you’re abused. You only admit it when it’s too late.” With the knowledge that she had to get out, Eleonora continued to take trips to New Jersey on her own, and eventually told her partner that she was leaving him to make the move to her new city. Things weren’t easy though, far from it. With barely enough money to survive, Eleonora continued to teach in New York, commuting for over 4 hours each day without a coat, which she’d left with her ex-partner along with most of her other possessions. “I was just surviving”, she tells me, “I had barely any belongings, and no money. I was only sleeping a couple of hours each night and I had absolutely no self-esteem.” She recalls how hard it was, despite the abuse, to stay away from her ex. “I just wanted to go back to him”, she says, “he had so much power over me and it felt like things were harder than ever.” On one day back in New York and in the middle of her teaching schedule, Eleonora suffered a serious panic attack. With no family in the US and nobody else to turn to, Eleonora believed that her ex-partner would recognise her extreme fragility and take care of her and so she put her trust in him once
again. But rather than giving her the care that she sought, he used her fragility as an opportunity to humiliate and shame her. At a time when she had most needed love, she had been abused once again. She dragged herself out of bed the next morning and left for New Jersey for the final time, knowing in her heart that this time there was no going back. “It wasn’t easy”, she recalls, “but I started trying to connect with people more in New Jersey, teaching less in New York and more near my home so that I could build some sort of network around myself.” Eleonora started to concentrate more on her own yoga practice, taking a different approach to the activity which she’d always seen as inherently physical. “I started to be less pushy with myself when I was exercising, and I realised that when I really listened to my body, I could use its movement to tap into my emotions.” As Eleonora was beginning to build her strength, she felt compelled to show others that they too could access their emotions and open themselves up to support, whatever their situation, through moving their bodies. “In a funny way I wanted to help people break down,” explains Eleonora. She goes on to say that society encourages us to be brave and to be strong, but that this strength often ends up being a mask that we present to the world and allows us to ignore the darker feelings within ourselves. “Not admitting to or acknowledging darkness is not real strength,” she tells me, “but if you can allow yourself to be vulnerable and access any darkness that you’re experiencing, if you allow yourself to break down those feelings, that’s when you become stronger.” And so Eleonora’s Ode to The Moon programme was born. “In my first class there were just four students,” she recalls, “but that didn’t bother me, I was helping myself as much as I was helping my students, I was understanding my own darkness.” She had named the programme Ode to the Moon in acknowledgement of the idea of renewal through cycles of darkness and light, and the programme’s
classes tap into both strength and flexibility, with the aim of allowing practitioners to access spots of vulnerability and teaching them to be comfortable with that vulnerability. “It’s about tapping into darkness and learning to be okay with it,” says Eleonora. And as Eleonora grew from strength to strength, so did her programme. After a year and a half of hard work and fundraising Eleonora offered her programme to a local association dealing with domestic abuse, and her classes grew not only in numbers, but in scope too. Her public Ode to the Moon classes, attended by victims and non-victims alike, now work to raise awareness of the issue of domestic violence in the state of New Jersey and take place alongside Eleonora’s development of specialised programmes for delivery in domestic abuse shelters. Eleonora is not alone in her recognition of the benefits of yoga for those suffering from domestic abuse and Exhale to Inhale, a volunteer-run organisation founded by Zoë LePage, brings yoga to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in New York City, Westchester and the Hudson Valley, providing free weekly classes at fifteen partner facilities in the area. Just this year the organisation has brought specialist yoga classes to over 600 survivors. “Trauma is held in the physical body as well as in the brain, and although spoken therapy is great, sometimes its just not enough,” explains Exhale to Inhale Director, Amy Tobin. Dr Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), couldn’t agree more. “What most people do not realize is that trauma is not the story of something awful that happened in the past, but the residue of imprints left behind in people’s sensory and hormonal systems,” explains Dr Van der Kolk, “most trauma-sensitive people need some form of body-oriented psychotherapy or bodywork to regain a sense of safety in their bodies.” A study conducted by Dr Van der Kolk, which ex-
plored the efficacy of yoga as a tool to decrease the symptoms of PTSD, found that at the end of a 10week trial, 52% of the PTSD sufferers participating in the yoga programme no longer met criteria for PTSD, compared to just 21% in the control group. Dr Van der Kolk explains how important it is for trauma-sensitive students to be taught by teachers who are skilled in facilitating self-regulation techniques and Amy explains to me how Exhale to Inhale’s classes are designed to deal with the specific needs of this group. “The main aim of Exhale to Inhale classes is to work on the mind-body connection,” Amy explains. Each class is what she describes as “invitational”, with choices being given to students throughout the class about what they might like to do with their bodies. “Every movement is predicated with ‘if this feels good’ or ‘if you like’”, Amy tells me, “to give practitioners power over their own bodies.” This is a big step and often a challenge for students who haven’t always had the power to choose what they do with their bodies. Classes are also set up in a way that gives students “as few surprises as possible”. “We don’t have teachers wandering around the classroom, and if they need to move to close a blind they will give a warning to their students,” Amy explains. “We don’t do hands on adjustments either and so our teachers have to be very articulate in what they’re saying.” Amy describes the feedback from classes as “heartwarmingly positive”, with practitioners reporting improved sleep, improved concentration and reduced anxiety. Like Eleonora, world-renowned yoga teacher and survivor of domestic abuse, Liz Arch describes how yoga helped her access both her “outer and inner strength.” “I felt voiceless and choiceless,” she recalls, “domestic violence is known as a silent epidemic, and I stayed silent out of fear. Fear of retaliation and fear of being judged.” “It’s very difficult to just leave the situation you’re
in if you are suffering from domestic abuse,” agrees Eleonora, “you need strength to admit abuse, and when you’re abused it’s so hard to find that strength.” Eleonora wants Ode to the Moon to be the programme that might be able to garner that strength in people, “if the programme only serves to give people that strength, to be a step on the way, then I will be happy,” she says. And so what about Eleonora’s own personal journey? “Things were a mess when I first got to New Jersey,” she recalls, “but slowly, by using yoga to allow myself to be vulnerable, I started to regain my strength.” Eleonora applied for an O-1 American visa, which is awarded to those with ‘extraordinary ability or achievement’, and with her Ode to the Moon programme in full swing, several months later she was granted her visa. “And you know what?” Eleonora asks me, “on the day I was granted my visa, I nailed my first handstand!” Before we finish chatting, I want to tell Eleonora my first thought about her beauty and how strong I think she is but just as I’m about to, I realise that I don’t need to. Through yoga she has healed herself, and it doesn’t matter what I or anybody else might think, because now she knows how beautiful and strong she is. “He’d always tell me that I was ugly and that I wasn’t good enough, and I believed it,” she says, “but now, it’s different, it’s about the way I feel, and I feel beautiful.” If you are suffering from any of the issues discussed in this article please don’t stay silent. Please contact: UK: National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 US: National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233. To donate visit exhaletoinhale.org/donate/
Model ELEONORA RACHELE ZAMPATTI Hair & Makeup MASHA JERAMAZ Photography CLAIRE SHEPROW of FINDORION PHOTOGRAPHY
Goldie / Verse / M
Goldie & Verse by CHELONE WOLF
MC Yogi T Talk Yoga & Yogangster
he first thing that Goldie, superstar of the breakbeat jungle movement of the 1990 and successful DJ and graffiti artist, tells me is that he’s “having a really heavy couple of weeks”. Having earned his name as a result of his solid gold teeth, and his reputation as a result of his artistic prowess and b-boy attitude, you might think that he’s referring to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but you’d be mistaken. Goldie’s ‘heavy couple of weeks’ is five DJ sets over two days at the UK’s V Festival, followed by successive gigs in Brixton, Ibiza and then Croatia by the end of the week. For those not so well versed in the world of drum and bass djing, that’s a lot of hours stood on a podium expelling all of the energy you possess to musically please a large and noisy crowd of fans. Rewind a couple of days and I’m chatting to Ben Mount, a.k.a Ben Verse or ‘Verse’, MC of electronic/drum and bass band Pendulum. It’s 10am on a Saturday morning and he has literally just stepped off a plane at Heathrow. Just this week he’s been in Ibiza and then Budapest, where he had “a late gig without much sleep”, and all of this is shortly to be followed by two more gigs at V Festival in the UK. So they’ve got the rock ‘n’ roll part mastered, but what about the sex and drugs? Well, rather unexpectedly, two of the UK's superstar DJs' energy is coming from somewhere else altogether. Try swapping out sex and drugs for svasana and downward dog and you're somewhere closer to the mark. “It’s a good job I put four sessions of yoga in the week before,” Goldie laughs, “I wouldn’t have had the energy otherwise,” whilst Verse tells me “this is why I do yoga you see!” The pair practice hot yoga three or four times a week and both credit their practice with saving them from earlier addictions and vices and keeping them on the right path in the later years of their careers. The first time Goldie tried yoga was about twenty years ago when he passed by a studio and decided to give it a go, “I was in and out within five minutes, I absolutely hated it,” he recalls. For the next fifteen
Goldie & Verse by CHELONE WOLF
years Goldie struggled through a lot of fighting, a lot of drugs, a difficult divorce and was witness to “things that would make your toes curl” until he crossed paths with yoga once again and was given a chance to, as he says, 'rewrite the book'. “During that time I reached absolute rock bottom,” he tells me, “but I’m so grateful because that’s what brought me to yoga. I lost so much money, but I gained so much wealth.” It was Goldie who then persuaded Verse to give yoga a go. Verse tells me that he’d managed to get off drugs but needed something to replace them with, and thanks to Goldie, yoga became that thing. Speaking of yoga as a tool for addiction recovery, Goldie tells me that he thinks society needs to change in order to keep up with culture. “We need new ways to tackle addictions,” he tells me, “and the perception of yoga being just for tree hugging hippies is naïve.” Goldie says that, for him, yoga brought “discipline to chaos.” He goes on to say that, apart from drugs, he’s never had anything as consistent as yoga in his life, “the amazing thing is that yoga has overpowered all of the drugs and I’ve conquered the things I don’t need and therefore conquered the person I used to be.” After a five year stint in the hot yoga world, Goldie is just discovering vinyasa flow, but he talks at length to me about the importance of different forms of yoga. “Different types of yoga suit different types of people. Hot yoga suited me, it was full-on and hard and at the same time it cleansed me and made me face some massive demons that I couldn’t hide from in the hot room in front of the mirror.” Goldie doesn’t like the fact that there’s “a lot of politics surrounding yoga”, and as a graffiti artist he compares it to what goes on in the art world. “Will the art world please just get off its high horse for a second and accept that graffiti is an art form,” he sighs, “and it’s the same with yoga. We’re in the
western world and yoga is here, it’s not still sitting in India in the middle of nowhere, and so it needs to adapt. At the end of the day, any yoga is good yoga.” Goldie laughs at the fact that he’s coming up to fifty and only just wants to master handstands. “How ridiculous is that,” he scoffs, but it’s not ridiculous at all, because although it’s taken time, Goldie feels like he needed to come to yoga in the way that he has, otherwise he never would have ended up where he is. That said, he’s passionate about the idea of bringing yoga to young people and tells me frankly that he thinks the school system is outdated and collapsing and urgently needs to change. “Why aren’t things like yoga, graffiti and parkour being included in the national curriculum?” he asks, and this is something that fellow yogi and musician Nicholas Giacomini, a.k.a MC Yogi, couldn’t agree with more. With a name like MC Yogi, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he grew up sitting in lotus and surrounded by candles, but the reality is very different. Raised in what he calls a very “normal and stable” family, Giacomini’s parents went through divorce in his early years and the family structure he had known and loved was pulled out from under his feet. For Giacomini, the pressures of this were too much to bear, and quickly transformed themselves into drugs, truancy, gangs and arrests. Through his family’s troubles he remembers growing up with hip hop as his escape. After hearing his first hip hop track at the age of six, he began writing his own raps and performing in informal battles with friends a few years later. But with this passion came darkness and Giacomini talks about those years as a time when he began to dip his toes into “music that was lot more poisonous, where the lyrics were a lot more negative and could have a huge influence on a young person’s mindset”. After getting mixed up in gangs, by the age of twelve, Giacomini was skipping school, going missing from
home, taking drugs and carrying a gun. Three school exclusions and a too many arrests took its toll on Giacomini’s family and eventually he went to live in a group home for at risk youth. Initially kicked out for a drug-related incident, after realising that the group home might be his only chance at salvation, he wrote a letter asking to be reinstated into the programme, and subsequently remained there for nearly three years.
And so whose responsibility is it to expand yoga? “Look at something like rap culture,” Goldie says, “when it first came about, people would go and make their own mixtape and try and sell it anywhere they could, on the street and in train stations, just to get everyone hearing it. There’s a gap for that sort of attitude in yoga, it should be our responsibility to spread it.” And that’s where Goldie’s brand Yogangster comes in.
It was when Giacomini left the group home at seventeen, that he went to live with his father and noticed a transformation in his dad. “My dad must have been doing yoga for a while,” he explains, “he was looking great, eating healthily and making good choices and so I asked him what he’d been doing to end up that way. He said it was yoga.” But instead of encouraging his son to join him and try yoga for himself which would have, in Giacomini’s own words, made him “run a mile in the other direction”, he told him that he probably wouldn’t like it because it was “kind of hard”. “That’s when my ears pricked up,” MC Yogi laughs, “my dad’s telling me I’m not going to like something so I’m definitely going to give it a try.”
“Yogangster is tongue in cheek," he laughs. Throughout my life I’ve seen stuff that would make you shudder, the attitude of ‘bad lads’ is very ‘go and get it’” Goldie explains, “just imagine if we could keep that attitude but use it for positivity. That’s what Yogangster is about.” He goes on to say that he’s had comments from people who have told him it’s dangerous to associate the idea of yoga with gangsters, but he tells me unashamedly that he thinks those people need to “get a grip”. Yogangster is about taking ownership of the idea of the gangster and transforming it for the positive, and as Goldie says, it’s about “celebrating the transformation that yoga can bring about, that I’ve experienced first hand. ”
The rest is history and as his practice developed, he realised that everything he was learning in yoga was beginning to blend with his love for hip-hop. It was several years later that he suddenly realised that he could use hip hop to rap about yoga and yogic philosophy and MC Yogi was born. “I just wish so bad that I could have found yoga when I was thirteen or fourteen,” he explains, and Goldie almost exactly echoes that thought, “I started yoga at forty-fucking-four!” he tells me, “if someone had just dragged me into a studio when I was little my life would have been so different. We need to give these tools to children before it’s too late for them.”
Goldie tells me that, after all he’s been through, he can see that he’s really, really, blessed. Yoga has taught him to take the bad things and transform them to good and Yogangster is “a way to celebrate that transformation”. Goldie sums up this transformation perfectly when, in his cheeky chappie way, he tells me, “what we do today creates tomorrow, and I’ll probably burst into tears when I go to my 7am yoga class on my fiftieth birthday, because I honestly thought I wouldn’t be here at fifty. When people talked about the present I used to think it was a load of fucking codswallop, but with time I’ve become one of those people. Heaven for me is this moment, and hell is not being able to remember it when I’m dead, so I better make the most of it now.”
Goldie & Verse by CHELONE WOLF
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Goldie by CHELONE WOLF
Published on Aug 31, 2015
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