When was the last time you did yoga to the melodies of Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye, or Kanye West? Is it even possible to reach a state of calm with Yeezy rapping in your soundscape?
If you'd asked me that last question over a month ago, I would've told you the answer is no. But after attending a yoga class with Russell Simmons himself at his new yoga studio, Tantris, in Hollywood, I'm now reconsidering.
What happens when you combine the diverse passions of a hip hop mogul turned yogi like Simmons? Don't tell the most traditional of Indian gurus this, but you get totally amazing "Let's Get it On" yoga. It's raw; it's fun; it's sensual; it's playful; it doesn't take itself that seriously. People gyrate. People vibe. People laugh. And people are loose. It was one of the least "serious" yoga classes I've been to well, ever, making it one of the most refreshing yoga classes I've been to well, ever. Beyond that, because I was so loose, I think I actually vinyasa flowed way harder than I realized. The next day, " it hurts so good" sensations hit me with each movement of my appendages. Thanks, Uncle Rush! Less is more, yeah?
That's not to say that it's all fun and games (and Kanye rhymes) at Tantris. Having attended a Simmons-led meditation session and lecture on spirituality after my totally tantrictastic yoga class, I saw some of Simmons' more serious side, especially when the lecture shifted to the topic of veganism. Simmons believes that the meat industry is "the largest karmic disaster on Earth," and he wants you to know that, too. So he lectured and answered questions for about half an hour on how to live a vegan lifestyle, something he believes not just to be possible for everyone in the room but essential to the survival of everyone on the planet. No big deal.
Regardless of your feelings one way or another on veganism from the outset, Simmons' enthusiasm for the spiritual path is highly evident and infectious, even to the most initially casual of attendees. Whether you attend a lecture or not, in the space, you'll likely feel Simmons' connection to his own spirituality.
From the moment you walk in the entrance, decorative wooden doors stand on either side of you, welcoming you, indicating that you've entered a new spirit, mind, and body space. This isn't your average Beverly Hills establishment.
Stepping in a little further, you'll note that representations of Indian symbols, gods, goddesses, and gurus abound at Tantris, reminding you that yes, though at one point you may be cat-cowing to "Killing Me Softly," you are actually engaging in a centuries-old ancient practice originating in India. Simmons' devotion to the great spiritual masters on the subcontinent is not to be questioned.
Perhaps the most interesting of design touches in the space are the window coverings in the yoga room. Etched in metal, the beautifully geometric patterns incorporate the symbols of many major world religions including the Christian cross, the Star of David, the Muslim crescent moon, and the Hindu om. Intentionally or not, Simmons has created a "temple of all religions," just like one of his preferred Indian masters, Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda's Hollywood temple, located not too far away on Sunset Boulevard, is a snapshot of the time it was built: 1942. Simmons' temple, similarly, is a snapshot of our times. Aside from the hip-hop/ R&B pulsing through parts of it, it's filled with people of color, making it less demographically representative of its immediate Beverly Hills surroundings and more representative of the larger multicultural city we're all a part of. Thank God, goodness, and guru.
Moving from the yoga room to the blue room, you'll see framed portraits of Indian masters, an extensive panoramic view of the natural surroundings outside, and a comfy bean bag chair to collapse on.
In fact, sitting on that bean bag chair after yoga class with Simmons, I asked him, "What was the intention behind the design of this space? Can you sum it up with one adjective?"
And peaceful it was.
In my freshly blissed-out state, I made my way back to the wooden doors, stopping to grab a serving of vegan fried "chicken," vegan mac and cheese, and collard greens, all part of the "Supersoul Sunday" festivities I'd just taken part in.
A "namaste" flew out from my chest cavity, actually from my heart chakra to be perfectly specific to the lingo of the studio, and I was back out in the hustle and flow of L.A. A little lighter. A little clearer. A little happier.