By Felicia Tomasko
Masood Ali Khan (affectionately known as Moose) may be one of the hardest working musicians of the three-day weekend of the Tadasana Festival. It’s not only here when he is sharing his talent on the hang—a unique percussive/lyrical instrument from Switzerland; he often offers music and mantra with Yoga teachers in LA and around the world.
While many of us in the SoCal Yoga community are used to seeing Moose in the casual yet devotional environs of the Yoga scene, for more than two decades he’s also worked internationally as a fashion model. Moose attributes his stamina in the studio to the strength of his practice.
LA YOGA: Tell us about your first Yoga class?
Masood Ali Khan: I was 20 years old, living in London, and modeling for a company that made mannequins. I sat for an artist as he created a life-sized clay sculpture of me. The company offered Yoga classes but I felt like a baby giraffe trying to figure out its long limbs.
On a trip to LA, I took a class with Ana Forrest at her studio on Montana Avenue. I was out of my league but I got hooked. I practiced Yoga using Bikram’s book while in Paris and went to Yoga classes in New York City and Los Angeles. When I was in my 30′s in Amsterdam, I studied with Alyson Cook. In many ways she was my most challenging teacher ever—and also my favorite. Eventually she became my wife. Through Alyson and her fellow teachers at Svaha Yoga, I learned the deeper aspects of philosophy and was introduced to Kirtan—the call-and-response of sacred music.
LA YOGA: How are you able to maintain a practice of Yoga and/or meditation while you’re on the road and how do you incorporate practice in your life now?
MAK: Over the years, my yoga and meditation practice has changed in intensity and style. I have learned modifications and how to listen to my body’s needs rather than my ego’s desire.
On the road, I practice by myself or to Govindas’ audio classes. Once I started playing music with the hang in Alyson’s Yoga classes, I didn’t practice as much with my favorite teacher. Now with a twenty-one-month-old son, time management has become more challenging; it’s been hard to attend any class or even do a home practice. I enjoy whatever I can sneak in – my downward facing dog and plank poses have become a tunnel for him to crawl through. But whether it’s just a couple of stretches during the day or a full-length class, any conscious movement is good Yoga.
My practices of bhakti (devotion) and karma (selfless service) have been nourished even more. And nowadays, I am grateful for the therapeutic Yoga modifications and adjustments I receive from Yoga therapists Dr Eden Goldman and Terra Gold.
LA YOGA: How is your practice of Yoga and meditation helpful?
Masood Ali Khan: I studied profound spiritual concepts, how to meditate, and how to harness the Universal Energy that exists in everything. I use this energy for my own repair and rejuvenation as well as to help others. Incorporating Yoga and meditation in as many aspects of my life as possible helps me stay calm and not react to difficult working situations or people. Connection to the source helps me remember we are here to help each other and to access unconditional love.
I meditate whenever I can — in Yoga class, in the gym, on a bike, while running. In nightclubs, my friends and I meditate to prepare to play drums and dance all night. If I have to work after only a few hours of sleep, I meditate to energize myself; I find that 10 minutes of meditation is equivalent to two hours of sleep.
LA YOGA: How do you share your practice with others?
MAK: While traveling, I practice with colleagues: going through a simple asana sequence, teaching meditation, giving treatments, or even teaching a basic course of Universal Energy healing techniques, for which I am head of faculty at the International Open University for Complementary Medicine in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
In December, 2011, my first film as an actor, The Italian Key, was released. The director, producers, and most of the cast were avid meditators and it was the first time on a job when I was asked if I wanted to meditate with the group.
LA YOGA: Your life involves many forms of music, from guitar to percussion to even playing for large raves. How do your yoga practice and your music influence each other and your healing practice?
MAK: When I play music, my intention is to transmit unconditional love. While living in Amsterdam, I was playing conga, bongos and djembe with DJs to house, trance, and techno music. My best friends and I formed a drumming group called Global Love to raise energy consciousness and help the many ‘lost’ ravers in the dance scene.
We incorporated yogic union and meditation techniques to transfer Universal Energy to the people at the venue. We loved how the medium of tribal electronic music helps induce a meditative healing trance state without the use of drugs and how drumming induces a deep conscious connection with the soul.
Jumping from the dance club scene to the Yoga studio was a natural and welcome change. I now found a more concentrated conscious audience who are taking steps to better themselves.
LA YOGA: Many people in LA know you because of your hang drum music in Yoga classes and on stage at festivals including Bhakti Fest and this month’s Tadasana Festival. How did you get involved in playing the hang?
MAK: I was first introduced to the hang by a friend and fellow hang player, Davide Bianchi. I was on a location shoot in Switzerland and visited the hang makers PanArt just before they disconnected their phone and created a waiting list for the instrument. Presented with a choice of thirteen hangs, I chose the one that sounded different from the others. I was inspired by its ethnic sounding scale, hypnotic sound, and by the way it made me feel when I played it.
LA YOGA: When you play music live for a Yoga class, how do you organize the compositions?
MAK: I try to follow the style and flow of the class: with a slow introduction that becomes more intense as the energy increases, then slows down towards savasana. I add mantras and prayers to support the class. Even if I have a plan of what songs to play, sometimes my hands start to play a different song, so I just go with it and it becomes an improvised journey.
LA YOGA: What do you think about while playing?
MAK: I start every session with meditation and a prayer. I try to stay in that zone while keeping an eye on the class and the teacher to see where they are going. To sit and play in the meditative zone and vibrational field of the hang can be an almost intoxicating experience. Add to that repeating mantras and performing with incredible musicians; it all becomes exhilarating and humbling—leaving me full of gratitude.
LA YOGA: What do you listen to in your own practice?
MAK: I enjoy the yoga experience with or without music, be it silence, world grooves, electronic, funk, mantras, kirtan, or even my own albums.
LA YOGA: What inspired you to study energy work and how does it impact your work in fashion, your yoga practice, and your music?
MAK: My mother was a nurse, so helping people came naturally to me. I was accepted to pharmacy school but decided to model for just a year. Seven years later, I was close to rock bottom—burnt out physically and spiritually—until I found a way to recharge my energy on the go.
I was introduced to Reiki after I got burned in a Go-Karting race in Germany. After a profound experience during a treatment, I decided to learn two of the levels of the Reiki course and treated myself and others with surprising results. Then I studied a Universal Energy wellness system that incorporated meditation and profound spiritual information.
LA YOGA: Tell us about the inspiration for your albums?
MAK: My first was a collection of my first compositions and collaborations with Yoga Organix Producer and Musician David Schommer (aka Duke Mushroom) featuring Radha (of Govindas & Radha from Bhakti Yoga Shala) and Rachel Golub (Go-Ray). I was inspired by ballet, Bach, Stravinsky, flamenco, samba, African rhythms, trance, and dance music. Overall, it was sequenced to follow the progression of a strong vinyasa class.
The second album Hang with Angels was inspired after playing with Terra Gold’s beautiful rendition of “Asatoma.” It felt like a natural progression to make a savasana album to facilitate relaxation and healing.
LA YOGA: How do you manage to find a sense of balance with a family, a spiritual practice, and a job that involves a lot of travel and is fully ensconced in the material world?
MAK: It can be very difficult, especially if I have not practiced Yoga or meditation for a while. When modeling or acting, I intend for those who see my image to find their soul, mind, body, and connection to their source.
LA YOGA: When you’re in LA, what is a perfect day for you?
MAK: I love to have my son tap me on the head with a book before the sun comes up, waking me up to read. I love to make him breakfast, go to the park or beach and play with him without time pressure. I love to take yoga classes and play music with my favorite teachers and friends.
LA YOGA: You’ll be accompanying several classes at Tadasana. What are some of the aspects of this festival you’re looking forward to the most?
MAK: I am excited that it’s an amazing event that will raise the healing energy and consciousness of Santa Monica. I look forward to taking class and to seeing and hearing amazing artists perform and hopefully being able to jam with them.
Check out Masood’s schedule at the Tadasana Festival in Santa Monica at: tadasanafestival.com. For more information on his albums or schedule, visit: masoodalikhan.com.