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Michael Franti brings yoga mats and music to the masses

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Soulshine Yoga and Music Tour headliner Michael Franti on yoga: "It's the only thing that keeps me from being a total jerk."
  • Soulshine Yoga and Music Tour headliner Michael Franti on yoga: "It's the only thing that keeps me from being a total jerk."

Sure, Michael Franti is extremely talented and walks around barefoot most of the time. But in other ways he's just like us, ready to throw open his window, like the character Howard Beale in Network, and swear he's "not gonna take it anymore."

That's where yoga comes in, and in a big way. Franti and his band Spearhead are back out on the road with their Soulshine Yoga and Music Tour, which will feature a pre-show event in which he plays a handful of acoustic numbers and "physically participates" with fans in a professionally led yoga session.

Why yoga?

"It's the only thing that keeps me from being a total jerk to the people that I love," he laughs. "When I feel super stressed out like I'm going crazy, I get on my yoga mat, and 45 minutes later I feel like I can at least approach things from a place of not being totally pissed off."

In addition to yoga, the current tour will be promoting last year's Soulrocker album, which sends its message of unity and hope through songs like "We Are All Earthlings," "Still Standing" and "Good to Be Alive Today."

"There are so many things that we see that are in a state of crisis right now," says Franti, who views that as both a challenge and an opportunity. "If you want to help the world, right now it's like shooting ducks in a barrel."

Still, all the good karma Franti has earned through his activism, music and positive energy hasn't shielded him from personal hardship.

"Three years ago, my son went into the doctor for a routine checkup, and we found out he has a chronic kidney illness," he recalls. "And by the time we found out he'd already lost 50 percent of his kidney function. And yeah it's a really hard thing. You sit there and go, why this kid? He's the nicest kid ever, and he's my kid."

But there turned out to be a positive side, as well. "Slowly but surely, our family started to pick up the pieces," says the musician. "It's actually become something that brought our family together. Something I thought was going to destroy us brought us together as a family, and my son just graduated high school."

In 2013, Franti formed the organization Do It for the Love (doitforthelove.org), which brings those with serious conditions to see concerts by their favorite artists. The project grew out of his own experience with Steve and Hope Dezember, whose story he tells in a documentary called 11:59. Steve suffers from advanced Lou Gehrig's disease and really wanted to see Franti play. Then, while they were all onstage, something special happened.

"Steve says to his wife, 'I want to get up and dance.' With all her strength she lifted his body up out of his wheelchair, and they had this beautiful slow dance in front of 20,000 people."

Songs, believes Franti, can offer examples of how to get through adversity and find new ways of being. "And that's an important thing," he says, "because we don't always hear it from politicians or on the news."

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