The Path Of A Yogi: Bibi McGill Takes It From The Road To The Mat
I met Bibi McGill at the Arise Festival in Loveland, Colorado after her DJ set where she spun the world from her fingertips and it landed in our hearts. I instantly recognized her as a modernized version of the Hindu goddess Saraswati as she effortlessly (so it seemed) created a flowing mix of world beats. She was wearing a pair of white jeans and a white Run DMC T’shirt. Saraswati would also wear white. Saraswati flows as language, insight and sound. Bibi has a graceful but confident presence on stage, her smile is as wide as an LP, her hair as wild and free as she is.
Bibi made a name for herself as Beyonce’s lead guitarist and music director, but she made herself through persistence, perseverance, and a deep seeded yoga practice.
As a child, growing up in Denver, her parents encouraged her to pursue her passions. She was a natural athlete, but ended up narrowing her focus to music. Bibi was the kid that started the bands. She arranged and held auditions. And once the band was ready to play, Bibi hung a thousand flyers around town promoting the band she created. She prepared herself to be a leader.
And lead she did, as the lead guitarist and music director for one of the most recognized women in Pop music, Bibi led Beyonce’s band, the Suga Mama’s for 8 years, from 2006 until her last tour with them in 2014, the Mrs. Carter tour. Bibi’s guitar prowess is often compared to Jimi Hendrix, but she laughs it off. She says that “that’s probably just because we both have an Afro.” She doesn’t care what people think. She is driven instead by her own highest joy, and the joy of sharing that with others.
All good things come to an end, so new beginnings can sprout and grow. So, it was during this final tour, Bibi would share her other passions and practices of Yoga, nutrition and plant medicine with the Beyonce crew, and they would embrace them.
Touring with Beyonce was lucrative, but Bibi would have to drop everything at home to go on tour. And though she maintained her yoga practice on the road, touring is exhausting. Her parents are aging, and she wanted to be closer to home, closer to her family, and spending time in her garden. Bibi McGill made the leap to a more self-directed, self sufficient, and self sustaining career as a yoga instructor, DJ, producer and free strumming guitarist.
Long before Bibi found yoga, she practiced bodybuilding. Then she discovered yoga and kung fu. Bibi dabbled in different styles of yoga along the way, though she hesitated to label them because they are all about the inward presence and focus on breath. She enjoyed Kundilini, but she wanted to move her body more. Bibi settled into her practice of Ashtanga vinyasa because it was the one that she found encouraged self practice, because it is a series that you follow, learn, and repeat daily. It promotes inner and outer strength. Bibi says, “if your life is not changing, then you are not doing yoga.” She is baffled by the whole yoga selfie surge. “Yoga isn’t about perfecting some pose. That was not the intention of asana. Quit looking on the outside and instead work on your heart to find balance, compassion, kindness and focus.”
Into her yoga classes, Bibi integrates her love and appreciation of music through sacred sound, by way of the Native American flute, Tibetan singing bowls, the didgeridoo and the hand pan. Movement and breath ride the sound current, and are absorbed and released by the body creating a peaceful path to healing.
Bibi encourages us to listen to our bodies. Sometimes we need more vegetables. Sometimes we need to drink more water. Her passion for eating good clean food led her to start her own Kale Chip company a couple of years ago, Bibi’s Kale Chips. She did realize, however, that making food was not her passion, and that has been shelved for the time being.
Seeing Bibi live as a DJ at the Arise Festival was as high energy as the sun that blazed overhead. Her nieces were front and center. Bibi’s family are her biggest fans. Bibi describes her style as a mix of glitch hop-electronic dub step- mantra- world- love step- bass- tribal. I heard it all melting perfectly together like a sundae at her Sunday afternoon set at Arise. She even welcomed 12 year old Itzcuauhtli to rap a verse about standing up for the environment and inspiring change.
I asked her about her general approach with working with other artists, pointing to giving this young Earth Guardian a moment on stage and she responded, “I love collaboration and working together. The days of the lone wolf are over. I am all about building bridges between the youth and the elders.” She continued on about the thread that connects the elders wisdom and experience with the spark of energy and change in the youth.
Whether the venue is yoga or the music stage, you will find this woman who flows like Saraswati, and you will be inspired either to dance or simply to breathe into the moment. Perhaps, if you catch her at the right gig, you’ll find both!
Photo: Richard Pilnick