Michael Franti Says Music Belongs In Your Yoga Class

Email a Friend
Michael Franti is a musician and yogi.

As the founder and leader of Spearhead, Michael Franti has enjoyed a long-lasting career making genre-blending songs that feel equally uplifting and socially conscious. But for the past 13 years, Franti has also devoted a lot of time to another passion -- yoga.

"I used to have to go to a lot of massage and physical therapy to try to work stuff out of my body," he told us on Soundcheck. "Now that I take care of myself, I don't need to do that anymore. I know where to stretch when I'm feeling it." 

After inviting more and more fans to do yoga with him at sound check before his shows, Franti decided to create the Soulshine Music and Yoga tour -- a traveling festival that carves out time for a music-filled yoga practice before the concert begins. 

We talk with Franti as well as yoga instructor Nicole Newman, founder of Yoga for the Arts in New York City, about the potential benefits that musicians can reap from yoga -- and about whether music has a place in the yoga classroom. 

Interview Highlights:

Franti on why he stopped smoking pot after getting into yoga: 

"When I first started practicing, I smoked lots of pot. I would smoke from 11 in the morning until whenever I had to sleep. I would get on the yoga mat in the morning, and I'd get into down dog, and I would just feel hung over.... Eventually, I unintentionally weaned myself from probably 12 years of pot addiction, just by wanting to be on the mat more than I wanted to feel cruddy all the time. That really changed my life." 

Michael Franti on why he thinks music belongs in the yoga classroom: 

"Yoga is really about putting ourselves into challenging positions and then learning to breathe through them, and learning to quiet our minds.... There's a lot of people who feel that you can do that without the distraction in music. I believe that music and yoga are both accessing the windows that open the soul. Our mind gets really taxed, our body gets really tired, and its our soul in those moments that opens up and goes, 'You can go a little bit further.' I feel that the two really can complement each other."

Franti on why the motto of his tour is "music and yoga for all": 

There's this misconception about yoga -- that you have to be skinny, you have to be wearing Lululemon pants, you have to sit cross-legged for an hour and hum some mantra. And yoga is really for everybody and for all shapes and sizes and experiences. 

Nicole Newman on how yoga can help a musician's injuries:

"Any asymmetrical instrument is going to pose its own set of challenges, but each instrument has a unique set of challenges. Yoga can help prevent these injuries from their onset and also help to rehabilitate them, especially if they're caught in the early stages.

 Learning to recruit the larger muscles to help the smaller muscles is a major thing, because just using the smaller muscles and not knowing how they connect to the whole can also lead to some problems down the road."