Throughout Los Angeles, there are creative artists who are bringing their yoga practice to life in innovative ways. Neosoul artist Dorian is one of those people. Through his frequent collaborations with teachers, and through his music (self-help set to song), he offers inspiration in all of his work.
Neosoul Artist Dorian on Yoga
How did you begin your yoga practice?
My acting career introduced me to yoga and ultimately to singing. My coaches used yoga to help me to relax, to become aware of my body, emotions, and thoughts and to bring me into the present moment for stage work and film.
I have an active imagination and emotional life. I use my memories – all of my experiences – for my acting work. On a perfect day, yoga allows me access to all of this without losing my mind or being controlled by any of it.
I could walk through the city to the theatre (when I was living on the East Coast) or drive to a film set or an audition in LA. In these moments, I could have the character’s stuff going on inside me and still function and see that all of it was just energy moving through me – mine and the character’s merged together! I began to see clearly how this practice could help me in my personal life. So, yoga became more than a practice for just performing, but for life.
Where are some of the places that you practice now?
The Tree in South LA has all kinds of classes and workshops and I benefit from all of them. I learned there that everybody has a right to yoga. Yoga doesn’t belong to the rich or the famous or a particular economic class or race or body type. Yoga belongs to everybody. I also make the beautiful drive out to Hieroglyphics Yoga Studio in Altadena when I can.
What is your go-to daily practice?
It’s tough to get out to a studio every morning in LA traffic. So, for over 10 years I’ve rocked a home practice with Rodney Yee’s videos that he created through Gaiam. Right now, I’m loving his A. M. Yoga for Your Week 15-20 min videos for each day of the week. I alternate weight training at the gym with my home practice yoga.
Dorian and Neosoul Music
What inspires your music?
The music on my albums EVERYDAY WARRIOR: Acoustic-Neosoul for Your Soul and TURN IT INTO GOLD, like all of my music, was inspired by self-help books or philosophies that help me live a better way or whatever I’m going through at a particular time in my life. I write songs based upon what I need to hear at any given time.
For example, Angelenos know what a mind scrambler LA traffic can be. I could allow being stuck in 405 freeway traffic to cause a meltdown or I can use it to practice everything I’ve learned to stay centered and grounded and in a positive mind frame.
So, I wrote a song called ‘Traffic’ that people can groove to, but that also encourages folks to take care of themselves mentally in the midst traffic.
My music is reminiscent of artists I grew up listening to: Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Michael Jackson and many more. Plus current artists like India Aria, Jill Scott, John Legend and Michael Franti.
I write neo soul music. It’s new soul music based on the oldies but goodies traditional soul music I was raised on growing up in Washington, D.C..
How did you get started in music?
I was studying for my Master’s Degree in Acting at the University of California, San Diego where they made actors take singing lessons even if you didn’t consider yourself a singer. (And I didn’t consider myself a singer, at all!) But, once I started singing, I couldn’t stop.
I’d been going through a tough time most of my life undoing a lot of the negative thought patterns associated with being a gay man, battling demons from childhood—and athough I was never diagnosed, battling bouts of depression.
Acting had always helped me by allowing me to channel my pain and life struggles to tell other people’s stories. But, when I started singing, I’d found the perfect vehicle to tell my own story: a song.
I believe that I was at one of the lowest points of my life when I discovered that I could sing. The added miracle was that I also discovered that I could write music.
The music that poured out of me during that time lifted me up to some of my highest heights.
Messages in Music
My music always lifts me higher because I write what I need to hear. Lyrics with messages like:
“You can make it through the day! Let love inspire a way.”
“Just breathe, baby! Let your heart light the way!”
“I was born to run free. I was born to be me.”
I’m always coaching myself through life experiences through my music.
I joke with people and say, “I write self help books! I just sing mine in the form of songs that people can dance and groove to!”
The fact that I’m, now actually writing a self-help book based upon the songs on my debut album Everyday Warrior is mind-blowing! It’s called Everyday Warrior: The Book for your Soul–Lyrics, Stories, and Inspirational Thoughts. The book will tell the personal stories behind the songs on that album. I also plan to do workshops with it.
Do you sing in the shower?
Yep! Ever since I was a kid. My shower singing sessions were so loud they used to drive my poor mother up a wall. To this day, I still sing in the shower and in public restrooms, too, not only because the acoustics are so great, but because there’s something therapeutic about bathing in the sound of my own voice reverberating off the walls. It just feels so doggone good!
How do music and yoga connect for you?
I knew I wanted to do more than sing in bars and clubs. I wanted to also share my music in venues that supported health and wellness.
So, when I experienced Michael Franti singing at a yoga flow in the parking lot of The Greek Theatre here in LA before his concert, I thought to myself, “That’s what I want to do!”
With yoga and live music, you’re essentially combining two powerful healing modalities. It’s a double dose of soul medicine. Especially if the music has conscious lyrics that inspire and uplift people. This practice sets my soul on fire!
Musical Collaborations with Yoga
How do you go about choosing the music to play for an event or a class?
I don’t play an instrument. I sing on a mic to live to instrumental tracks of my music played on a concert level speaker system. My yoga teachers are mic’ed via headset so that they can be heard easily.
I send MP3s of all my music to whatever yoga teacher I’m collaborating with and then they let me know what songs they want me to sing and in what order! Or if the yoga teacher is too busy for that, I ask them questions about their flow and then I build a music playlist to support that.
What are some significant collaborations?
Lululemon Athletica in Studio City was the first place I ever did my live music and yoga event! They were offering free yoga every Sunday and I went to their store manager and said, “Hey, I wanna rock my neosoul music during an entire yoga flow with one of my yogi teacher buddies, can I try it out?” and they said, “Sure!” So, the LA tour of my Live Neosoul and Yoga event began from a collaboration with that company’s store.
Some of the Yoga teachers I rock with on my events include: James Woods AKA ‘Dat Yoga Dude’, Ariana Bates, Stefanosis Hansraj Singh, and June Elizabeth Williams (Elizabeth June). They know my music so well that they incorporate my lyrics into their instruction. Sometimes they’ll do fun stuff like have people snap their fingers while in warrior pose or break into a free style dance moment or even start a sing-along. It becomes more than just a class, but a real musical experience.
Would you describe a moment or an experience when music inspired you?
Anytime I’m listening to Rickie Byars Beckwith of the Agape International Spiritual Center, India Arie, or Michael Franti, or some of my old school soul favorites, I’m inspired! These are all indie singer/ songwriters that have demonstrated the power of writing music that people can be empowered by.
What do you love about living in Los Angeles?
That even though one type of vibe in LA has most people hustling to the become the next big industry star, there’s another vibe that encourages people to let go of the hustle and just be true to their soul!
And the fact that summer never really ends, here! I grew up on the east coast and survived some rough winters. So, being able to be in an urban environment surrounded by the incredible natural beauty of SoCal and the sunshine year round is good for me! I’m also a vegan. I’ve traveled all over the country and LA’s got other cities beat when it comes to fresh organic vegan food choices.
Where do you go when you want to reconnect and recharge?
Santa Monica! That stretch of beach between the SAMO Pier and Venice Beach.
Learn more about Neosoul artist Dorian
Learn more about neosoul artist Dorian and his live musical collaborations and his music on his website: dorianneosoul.com.
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.