Rise: Music, Partnership, and Yoga

Kevin Paris, Chelsey Korus, and Matt Giordano share with Wanderlust how music, yoga, and partnership have changed their lives.

Below, Kevin Paris, creator of Rise, and Acro yogis Chelsey Korus and Matt Giordano share their thoughts with us.

Kevin Paris, musician, yogi, and creator of Rise, answers some of our questions below about his music, his yoga practice, and why music is an imperative part of life.

When did you become a musician? Why? Who were your influences?
When I was 15 years old I went to a Ben Harper concert with Jack Johnson opening, and knew that day I wanted to become a musician at least on some level. More than music, I wanted to contribute to something massive—to be able to bring people together and create an unforgettable, transformational experience for thousands of people through music, like Ben & Jack did that day.  They, along with Bob Marley and Bon Iver, are my biggest influences.

What brought you to yoga? How did you start playing live music for classes?
I took my first yoga classes while living in South Africa, but it wasn’t until I returned to the U.S. and took a class with a great playlist that I was hooked.  I realized how much the music altered my experience of the class and my ability to connect with myself, my emotions, my body, and the whole experience.

I knew I could play a lot of the songs on the playlist, so I asked the teacher if we could collaborate on a yoga and live music experience.  We did.  I fell in love with the flow. The collaboration.  The fusion of music, breath, movement, stillness, intensity, strength, and the silence between.  Every class is like jamming with a new band: The teacher, the students, the room, and us all jamming in unison, flowing and building off each other in a way never created before.  It’s spontaneous. It’s free. It’s healing. It’s Big Magic.

How has yoga changed or influenced your life?
Yoga to me is a state of relationship, so it has innately changed and influenced everything: My relationship with myself, others, music, life, movement, food, art, listening, ethics, the world… All things.

Are there similarities in the message of your music and your personal practice? Does one inspire the other?
Absolutely.  There is no separation between my music and my personal practice.  My music is my practice, and my practice informs my music. Both continuously, intrinsically build off another.

Most yoga teachers will tell you they are best at teaching what they are most in need of hearing or have spent the most time healing.  The same goes for me musically: Music is my medicine, my outlet, my practice.  I sing, write, and play what I need, and I’m deeply fortunate there’s such an amazing tribe who resonates with what the music offers all of us.

Why is music important for us, as a society? What does it do for you?
Big question… Music is an intrinsic part of society, because it is an intrinsic, inseparable part of us. Yogis believe the whole Universe was created by sound (the sound of Om). Sounds, when put together, create music (and life).

On a more visible scale, music as a platform, movement, and grand unifier is crucial to the world.  Look at influential musicians like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Fela Kuti, Bono, John Lennon, Willie Nelson, and thousands more. These are revolutionaries who harnessed the power of music to create global shifts in consciousness, societies, politics, equality, and beyond.

Music is also important as medicine: A powerful reality currently being embraced by more Western doctors who are only beginning to understand what shamans, yogis, and healers have been saying for thousands of years.

Broken down simply, sound and music are healing, medicinal modalities because:

  • Music is created by sound waves
  • Sound waves transfer energy through vibration
  • Other vibrations influence our vibrations through resonance.

Thus, music is a tool we can use to shift our own vibration.  In a state of dis-ease, our bodies are not in harmony.  Music (specific keys, pitches, and rhythms) can restore harmony in our bodies through resonance. All of this does not even begin to touch on the effects of music on stress reduction, which is also of course key to healing.

As a musician, how does music complement your practice? Do you have a favorite soundtrack or type of music that you listen to when you practice?
Like most people, it completely depends on my mood.  Some days it’s Bob Marley, Bon Iver, Krishna Das, or Trevor Hall; other days it’s EDM or hip hop,and other days still it’s ocean waves or silence (which are also musical).  Each set a different tone for the flow, each equally powerful in my opinion, just different.

If you weren’t practicing yoga and making music, you’d be:
Wondering what to do with my life!

Chelsey Korus, one of the two Acro yogis in the video, tells how her practice has changed her life:

The work done on my yoga mat in my personal practice prepares me for my work in the world. It brings me deeper into a sacred space of solitude, while lifting my eyes up and out towards a universe that I feel very connected to. When working in a partnership, your eyes are met by ONE person and that person will serve as your mirror: A mirror to your potential, your power, and your strength. As well as a mirror to your communication skills, your ability to listen, and your patterns. Meaning: The stuff we are working through on our mats gets amplified in partner work, and it does not come in short poetic dharma talks. It comes in the form of a living human being, offering their hands and feet to support you and you’ve just gotta TRUST and GO!

For Matt and myself, we have seen it all. In the beginning we would meet up in Central Park in NYC and everything was possible! It was a different time, acroyoga was fresh on the scene, so we would make up brand new tricks and sequences on the regular. Matt was (and still is) amazing at building trust and making me feel strong and safe enough to attempt the crazy things we were dreaming up. We would perform on the streets of Soho on concrete with nothing underneath us and I felt completely taken care of, no doubt that he would always catch me.

In the creation process it was interesting to observe the ways I wanted to “blame” myself or him for when things went wrong. We learned quickly that pointing fingers didn’t get us anywhere. Just like we learned in yoga, we started taking responsibility for our thoughts and words and how they effected the space around us. We realized that this was a team and every failure was “we” and every victory was “we”; never “me”. Naturally questions like “What can I do to support you better?” came out and it felt like a powerful shift. Working with Matt these seven years has taught me how to look someone in the eye, steady and grounded, and honestly say with confidence, “I got you.”

Matt Giordano, one of the two yogis in the video, explains how the practice of partner yoga can help deepen our lives:

I was on my own path for most of my life and my world existed mostly in my head: My plan, my goals, my feelings, my job. My Yoga practice helped me out of my head and into my body and the present moment. Then I discovered AcroYoga, which opened my heart in a new way. The practice helped me to feel other people. Suddenly their world merged with mine, and I was no longer alone but in a co-created experience.

For about seven years I have had the opportunity to have an ongoing Acro partnership with Chelsey Korus. Together we have learned about trust, dedication, and certainly communication. We have learned how our words, intentions, and actions create and affect each other’s experiences. We have learned how to speak honestly and ask for what we need. We have fearlessly been each other’s teacher and friend when it would have been easier to walk away from each other.

We have stood up to each other, stood for each other, and stood on each other.

Perhaps my greatest learning in these past seven years is that within partnership I have an opportunity to set myself up for success by creating a space for my partner to feel deeply in their power. This to me is the art of partnership of all forms, including our relationships with our colleagues at work and our intimate partnerships. I see it as a form of service, and that is reflected back to me in that I am surrounded by people who feel good and are empowered. Being surrounded by that energy is an amazing feeling.

How do you serve in this way? It start with total honesty and non-judgment. The honesty allows everyone around you to know what you want and need to feel good instead of guessing. Non-judgement allows others to be honest with you so you know what they’re needs are in order to feel safe, and empowered.

Lots of love and Joy to anyone entering in to this practice!

What will the festival inspire in you?

“Rise Up”  by Kevin Paris & Oscar Del Amor
iTunes:  apple.co/1Q5C8nS
Spotify:   http://bit.ly/1npVZVE
Kevin Paris:   www.kevinparismusic.com   / @kevinparismusic    /    FB
Oscar Del Amor:  www.oscardelamor.com   /  @oscardelamor    /    FB

Produced by Wanderlust Festival (https://wanderlust.com)
Filmed and Edited by Greenheart.TV (http://greenheart.tv/)
Accompanying text by Kristin Diversi