Action Figures - Yoga Journal

Action Figures

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Once a fiery lyricist attacking war, violence, racism, and unjust governments, musician Michael Franti has in recent years mellowed his tune but not his message. Franti says his softening is due in large part to his yoga practice. Whereas once there was anger raging through the music of the Spearhead frontman, there's now more talk of love, compassion, and caring for the world. To spread his message, a calmer, more peaceful Franti collaborates with Jivamukti Yoga cofounders Sharon Gannon and David Life on a new DVD called Power to the Peaceful Yoga.

"A lot of times people don't equate yoga with politics or with being politically active," says Gannon, during an engaging 20-minute discussion in the DVD's special features. "But the word 'politics' simply means that you care about others that you live with. That's what it means to be political: that you care." The heart of the video, Gannon and Life's asana instruction in a classic Jivamukti sequence (accompanied by Franti's music), is designed to inspire students to connect to something larger than themselves. Beginners may not want to start with this DVD, as the instruction is sometimes quick, and the more complicated poses aren't explained in fine detail.

While Gannon and Life's proficiency in demonstrating poses is not surprising, Franti shows impressive mastery of some tricky arm balances, including Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose). Franti, who first tried yoga to deal with the stresses of life on the road, says yoga makes his music and political views clearer and better because it connects him more closely to his true Self.

The DVD features Franti playing solo acoustic versions of two songs that convey the core of his political commitment. "Bomb the World" soulfully decries the insanity of war (with lyrics that are regularly borrowed by Iraq War protesters). "Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong" urges you to see the humanity in all people and draws connections between internal and external peace. This theme is central to Franti's annual Power to the Peaceful yoga and music festival in San Francisco. Last year's event included a "yoga jam," much like the one that is featured on this DVD, led in part by Gannon and Life. (Check for details.)

While they share similar political views, Life, Gannon, and Franti steer clear of dictating which causes deserve your attention. As Life puts it, meaningful politics emerges when you connect deeply to your Self. "We want to apply ourselves to change from a soulful place," Life says, "not acting out of fury or judgment." And, he insists, the best way to inspire such change is by setting a conscious intention that your life and yoga practice serve a greater good. Now that's powerful.