When I began singing kirtan music and teaching yoga, I struggled to find my voice. I wanted so badly to sound like my Indian teachers, to sound “authentic.” My epiphany came when I realized that the most authentic approach to sharing yoga is to honor its origins while simultaneously giving voice to the influences stirring in my own heart and soul….Read the full article here
Under a sparkling blue May sky at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, in the same week that BB King, Pearl Jam, Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis Costello, Dr. John, The Black Crowes and hundreds of other international, national, and regional musical acts entertained tens of thousands of fans, Sean Johnson—kirtan singer, yoga teacher, and owner of Wild Lotus Yoga Studio in New Orleans, climbed upon the stage with his two band mates and a harmonium and sang the devotional music of India. Read the full article here.
“Devaloka is a veritable kirtan cauldron of simmering, bubbling, delectable chants that fluidly traverse the myriad of musical styles Sean & the band bring to the stage. The gumbo feeling they bring from the gulf jives well with the musical blendings that bring to mind Grateful Dead jams, a little Santana spice in the percussion section, and an all around endearing space that draws you in with each listen. All in all, it’s understandable why other chanting luminaries like Jai Uttal are so eager to endorse this group, as Sean manages to spread his bayou magic from ocean to ocean, inside and out. In Jai’s words, “Sean’s voice is a warm soothing river of serenity”. Diving right in is the recommended plan.” – Lloyd Barde, Music Editor, Common Ground Magazine, San Francisco
“Make space for gratitude and inspiration with a beautiful home altar that celebrates the loves of your life and the qualities you want to embrace in yourself… Every morning, Sean Johnson, yoga teacher and the founder of Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band, sits in front of his altar to sing, meditate, and recenter himself. Johnson created the altar inside of a sealed brick fireplace in the living room of the New Orleans home he shares with his partner, Farah. The altar’s location, Johnson says, is as symbolic as the objects he has placed there. “Like a fireplace, the altar is a hearth to me,” he says. “It’s where I go to kindle my soul and my connection to what is meaningful and inspiring.” – By Lauren Ladoceour See the full article here.
“Traditionally kirtan is a form of participatory sacred music from India. As yoga has spread beyond India, a growing group of international musicians are creating kirtan music that integrates mantras with instrumentation from a variety of cultures and genres. For example, we express kirtan from our own American and New Orleans roots merging mantras with rock, funk, and soulful grooves.
More universally, I believe kirtan is just another word for a transcendent musical experience where a crowd of people is invited to actually participate and sing, rather than just be a spectator. I’ve experienced this kind of interaction in many genres of music including gospel services, rock concerts, Irish pubs, and more.” Read the full article here.
“The least likely and perhaps most powerful version of “I’ll Fly Away” came from Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. As he droned it as a private dirge in the Lagniappe Stage, his intensity silenced the talkers and sat those who wanted to dance or rhythmically clap, which would have forced a beat on a version that worked just fine without one.”– Alex Rawls, Editor
The Scene: The symbol of the lotus flower as a thing of beauty that emerges out of the mud has a special resonance for the yoga community in New Orleans. Sean Johnson, whose Wild Lotus studio was one of the first to reopen in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina, says that he’s seen the city’s interest in yoga blossom in the wake of the devastation. “In 2005, there were five or six studios here. Now, there are 22 studios in the city, across a full range of traditions,”says Johnson, the lead singer of the kirtan group Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. “So many people lost the things they relied on for stability in their lives, and turned to yoga for sustenance. Many people have told us they don’t know how they would have survived in those first few years after the storm without yoga.”
Cat McCarthy, owner of Nola Yoga, attributes the increasing vitality of the New Orleans yoga community to the practice’s ability to help people feel at home in difficult circumstances. “After Katrina, this city needed such healing, and then there was the oil spill,”she says, referring to the 205.8 million gallons of oil spilled in the Deepwater Horizon accident of 2010. “I really think that’s why people have embraced yoga the way they have. Yoga is about learning to respond more skillfully to the things that happen.”
The 55,000-square-foot New Orleans Healing Center, which will house myriad health and wellness services, is scheduled to open downtown at press time. It will include an offshoot of Wild Lotus Yoga, a co-op grocery store, and affordable holistic wellness services. “The idea was to bring the yoga lifestyle to the people who need it the most,”says Johnson.
In a city famous for street music, Mardi Gras parades, and Jazz Fest, it makes sense that people would embrace yoga as another way to celebrate life. A number of yoga-related live-music events take place throughout the year.
Fun Fact: Yoga is part of the curriculum at some New Orleans charter schools, including Pride College Prep, as the city seeks to rebuild and reform a school system devastated by Katrina.
Shout Out: ”It’s such a sensual place,”says Geoffrey Roniger, owner of Freret Street Yoga. “The climate is so conducive to the practice—your pores are open, your muscles feel easy to move. Yoga here is so natural, so easy.” Read full article here
Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band with singers from JC and Company perform “I’ll Fly Away” on News with a Twist. Watch the video here.