September 17, 2011

Rock, Roll, and Ashtanga Yoga: An Interview with Aimee Echo. ~ Deborah Crooks

Aimee Echo was a hub of goodwill, wellness, and fun among yoga students practicing at the Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, last winter.

As a yogini on her way to becoming authorized to teach in the Sri K Pattahbi Jois tradition of Ashtanga, she gracefully brought a parallel life of rock ‘n’ roll to her dedication to the tradition and practice of Ashtanga yoga. As someone keenly interested in how one walks the line between late-night club stages and early morning Mysore studio intensity, I asked her about her life in yoga and music.

Q: How did you start practicing Ashtanga yoga and why? Did you think you’d travel to India and teach early on?

AE: I was pretty stressed out and waiting for my first album with my band theSTART to be released and my friend suggested I try yoga. I don’t know what gods were smiling on me but the first yoga class I went to was at Noah Williams and Kimberly Flynn’s first incarnation of their Ashtanga Yoga Shala in Sunset Junction in Los Angeles. Ashtanga Yoga, on my first try! It was mind blowing and life altering. I practiced everyday with them and learned Mysore-style, one pose at a time. They had classes starting at 7am, 9am, and 11am. I went to the 11am class as I was a total vampire rock-and-roll girl and getting up any earlier was a despicable thought at the time. We called that class the Rock and Roll hour as there were so many musicians in that place at that time, and so many inspiring people in general.

I knew very early on I wanted to teach. It was so transformational for me, the practice, I wanted to scream about it from the rooftops! India seemed like a remote fantasy—a place I would get to in some other lifetime. My life was so manic with touring and records and what not. I didn’t believe I could make a trip to India at that time. One night I had this very vivid dream of Guruji-—this is before I had met and practiced with him—and when I told Noah about the dream the next morning, he said “It’s time for you to go to India.” It was 5 more years before I would get there, now I can’t stay away!

Q: You’ve been involved with or a part of a number of bands—how would you describe your latest project?

AE: I have been doing a few shows with my Normandie project—think Blonde Redhead, The Kills, Placebo, et al. She is a moodier, heavier, darker little sister to the bombastic sometimes poppy, dance rock of theSTART, which has been my main band for 12 years. theSTART is also about to come out of its too long resting phase. It feels a bit like waking a sleeping bear. Once we shake her who knows what she will do!

Q: Have you ever found it difficult to integrate yoga with your music life? Can you say if your practice informs your music? Do you take it on the road?

AE: It’s almost impossible to integrate my touring life, my late night life, and my musical life with my practice. It’s also impossible for me to survive that life without it! I wouldn’t say my practice informs my music but it definitely allows me to be still enough to receive inspiration, if you know what I mean.

Q: You mentioned getting some newfound clarity on your most recent trip to India. Can you talk about how you’ll apply it to your music life?

AE: The clarity is still manifesting, I suppose. I have just been so focused on being a yoga teacher, which has been so fulfilling lately, that maybe I haven’t needed much more MUSIC. We finally played our first shows as Normandie in July after a year off the stage. It was interesting. I was still somewhat disconnected from that part of myself even though I was making the sounds come out of my body. The music industry to me feels like an abusive spouse. When it’s good, it’s really, really good. When it’s bad, it’s awful. It beat me about the head so many times I had to run for my life. I am still trying to find a way to get the true love back. Reconnect. Integrate the two sides of myself. Stop running. It’s getting closer now, though, I can feel the stirrings.

Q: What do your fans and students have to look forward from you in the coming months?

AE: The Ashtanga Yoga Long Beach Mysore program will be on hold for a bit as I have been invited to teach the early morning Mysore Program at Jois Yoga in Encinitas in the fall. Early next year, I’ll heading back to Mysore, India for a bit to study with my teacher R. Sharath Jois.

Musically, Jamie Miller, my man and songwriting partner of 13 years, and I are working on a collection of songs we will call “The Way Out,” which we intend to self-release sometime in the spring next year. As the beloved Penny Lane in the film Almost Famous says “It’s all happening…”

For more information about Aimee Echo’s musical pursuit check out theStart and Normandie. For information about her classes at Jois Yoga, see here.

Deborah Crooks is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer, singer-songwriter and performer. She has practiced Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois for nearly 10 years, thrice traveling to Mysore, India to deepen her practice, studying with Jois and his grandson Sharath Rangaswamy. A former managing editor at Inside Communications in Boulder, CO, her articles have appeared in Yoga Journal, Common Ground, Bare Your Soul: The Thinking Girl’s Guide to Enlightenment and many other publications. To learn more, visit www.deborahcrooks.com.

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