Watch a behind-the-scenes video with Bibi McGill.
Bibi McGill: The Down-low on her Ashtanga Yoga Practice
Yoga Journal: Give us the 411 on your yoga training.
Bibi McGill: I completed my 250-hour teacher training in 2004, in Koh Samui, Thailand, with Paul Dallaghan, an Ashtangi from Ireland. I chose his school because I couldn’t find one in California (where I was living at the time) with study of meditation, Sanskrit, anatomy, philosophy, and history. I didn’t want the watered-down approach. Now I am a regular staff member at Root Whole Body, one of the best yoga studios in Portland, Oregon. I am also a head facilitator of a 1o-day yoga retreat in Hawaii.
YJ: What drew you initially to Ashtanga?
BM: I began my practice in 1998, and when I started touring, around 2001, I would ask the concierge at every hotel about the nearest yoga. There was “yoga” in every country, but sometimes it was something else, like jumping around to marching-band music. When I discovered Ashtanga, I realized I could learn the sequence and have my own practice that was always consistent wherever I went.
YJ: You have said that yoga is for everybody. Do you think some yoga studios, teachers, and media are sending out a different message right now?
BM: I think, especially in the West, we don’t try to reach people outside of thin, 3o-to-4o-year-old women making a certain amount of money. I think we need to stop going to the same demographic and start going to the people who need healing. The truth is, everybody needs yoga and everybody can do yoga. It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity or weight is, whether you have one leg, are blind, or are in a wheelchair. I encourage everybody to be there. I tell people they shouldn’t worry about what’s happening on the mat next to them, that yoga is about bringing balance to your body and getting in touch with the divine nature within you.
Staying Grounded in Life’s Busyness
YJ: You are so grounded. Do you attribute that to being a disciplined yogi?
BM: I am an artist and I am creative; I am a Scorpio, so I definitely have a tendency to be very emotional and all over the place. I would not be able to do what I do and be grounded or focused if I didn’t commit myself to my yoga practices, which are not only physical. They are also the breathwork, what I eat, cleaning my sinuses, all of those things. It’s all eight limbs of yoga that I try to incorporate into my life. No matter what, the first moments of my day are dedicated to breath, meditation, and silence.
YJ: What’s next for you … in yoga and life?
BM: I am really grateful to have this wonderful job, touring and playing music with Beyoncé. But that’s not always going to be there. I am moving toward more sacred music and am going to do an album that is mostly guitar but includes kirtan artists. I’d like for it to be out by the end of 2015, for my fiftieth year on this planet! I’d also like to go back to teaching yoga more regularly. And there are my kale chips—Bibi Kale Chips—and jewelry line—with L George Designs. Within the next year, you are going to start seeing Bibi Kale Chips in more flavors and in more places than Portland and Hawaii.
YJ: Your jewelry designs use healing stones. Has that been of interest for long?
BM: Absolutely. And sacred music, essential oils, crystals … I have been into my connection to the earth for a long time. I have always had an interest in things that we can’t see but that are real.
YJ: Do you get the chance to talk about these things with your tourmates?
BM: Yes. I have been with this group for eight years. With each year that goes by, I am asked more and more questions about what I believe and how I live. Eight years ago, burning sage and sweet grass and drawing angel cards was voodoo. But this last tour, the girls in the band were like, “Yeah, do that sage thing,” and, “Bibi, what crystal do I use for this? What essential oil do I use for that?” Playing with Beyoncé and Pink and different groups, I also interact with fans who are curious about yoga. We are all waking up; we are all learning more.
Bibi McGill on Natural Beauty
YJ: We talk a lot about natural beauty in this issue. How do you define beauty?
BM: There is beauty all around us— in nature, in imperfection, everywhere. For people, I think beauty starts and is cultivated from within. Beautiful people take care of themselves—spiritually, emotionally, physically, and energetically —and live with respect and integrity. They are aware of the things they say, who they hang out with, what kinds of food they put into their bodies, and what kinds of thoughts they’re thinking.
YJ: And what about your tattoos? Do they express beauty to you?
BM: I didn’t realize it until recently, but my tattoos are how I have documented my life—certain things I’ve gone through, transformations, or times when I’ve needed strength or peace. There is a koi moving up my arm, or upstream, for when I needed peace in times of adversity. And there is a female samurai, for strength. It’s how I’ve expressed my beauty from the inside out.
See also Kathryn Budig on Self-Discovery