My Life as a Yogi

Model, musician, actor and spiritual mentor Masood Ali Khan on what he has learned from three decades as a yoga devotee.

Words by John Pearson

Masood Ali Khan has lived an extraordinary life as a renowned fashion model, musician, actor, veritable yogi and spiritual seeker.

Born in London and now a resident of Los Angeles, California, he has traveled the world learning from the best yoga and meditation masters. And he is now a respected mentor in his own right, and has earned international acclaim for his calming music compositions and teachings.

Here Masood — AKA Moose — shares his insight and wisdom from his practice; shining his light on the fight for equality, and finding peace for himself and his son Taj during these challenging times.

Masood Ali Khan // 📸: Robert Sturman

Masood Ali Khan // 📸: Robert Sturman

How long have you practiced yoga and what have you learned through that time?

I took my very first class in 1987 in London. I felt like a baby giraffe trying to stand up and drink water. Then in LA 1990, I took a class with Anna Forrest in Santa Monica. I was then gifted Bikram Choudhury’s yoga book which I practiced for six months, as I lived in Paris at that time and was on the road, so I learned a lot of the postures from his book as there were no other yoga studios that I could find that I could drop into practice without taking a six-week course. Which is a lost initiation yet probably the best way to begin.

I was dedicated for many years to this self-practice and it made me feel good, calmer, energized, grounded and stronger, and even though I only went three times to a Bikram studio. Then in 1996, I moved to NYC. Yoga studios were more accessible and I expanded my asana practice. Asana is the embodied sacred posture that integrates the body with the mind, heart and soul, one of the eight limbs [aspects/practices] described in the Yoga Sutras. Also around this time I had finished my Reiki levels in energy healing, yet craved a mediation practice to train my mind to be focused. I was ready, and the teacher came to me as Master Luong Minh Dang, the Vietnamese founder of Spiritual Human Yoga. The school has transformed and evolved over the years and is my daily practice still to this day to infuse prana — the universal life force energy — and deep prayer into all the music, concert performances, and photo and film shoots and environments I am present in.

Masood Ali Khan // 📸: Steven Lyon

Masood Ali Khan // 📸: Steven Lyon

My asana practice was superficial over the following years until I moved to Amsterdam. And in 2001, I met a light-hearted American yoga teacher Alyson Cook teaching at Svaha Yoga. She introduced me to the deeper aspects of Bhakti Yoga, the devotional branch of yoga, rich with mantra, chanting, music, and a deeper understanding of the deities along with strong focus on alignment. I was already playing percussion, drumming in clubs and raves around the world, and so to drum for very conscious people on a path of self-awareness was a delightful seva [to be of service] compared to performing in a nightclub.

There I experienced the biggest American names of Bhakti music — Krishna Das, Jai Uttal and Bhagavan Das. Their musical accessibility inspired me more to play and sing mantras. Since then, Yoga is now all-encompassing and could never again be just a physical movement practice.

Yoga for me is now a practice in authenticity, integrity, and compassion. I moved to Los Angeles in the mid-2000s, fully immersed in the thriving LA yoga and music community, and I released acclaimed music albums, one of which was a collaboration with Yogi Cameron, an ex-model buddy. I was fortunate to have met Sianna Sherman of the Rasa Yoga Collective, a yoga school that also brings into the teacher training social justice, anti-racism, while deeply honoring of the roots of yoga. Sianna was acclaimed by Yoga Journal as “one of 21 young yoga teachers shaping the future of yoga worldwide.” I have just completed Rasa Yoga’s 500-hour teacher training and also teach mantras and music within the school. We are now beloveds and host yoga and couples retreats and pilgrimages around the world.

Moose at the 2019 Hanuman Festival

Moose at the 2019 Hanuman Festival

Tell us about the men’s groups you are a part of and what they have brought to your life?

I stepped into the world of men’s groups with Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, author of ‘To Be A Man’, ‘Bringing Your Shadow Out Of The Dark‘ and ‘Spiritual Bypassing‘. A psychospiritual therapist that Sianna and I had worked with. He is very skillful at navigating people and couples to explore through the ‘shadow’ aspects of life. The emotions or power which have been disowned or rejected by emotional wounds of fear, shame, grief and other life experiences.

Honestly, it still is the most profound healing and liberating work I have ever done. To explore the blocks, fears, resistances, and triggers that we have held our hearts since childhood takes a lot of courage and vulnerability. The rewards are a better understanding of the self, expanded emotional intelligence, emotional intimacy, and clearer communication with others.

Ultimately, for all healing and freedom, being in a group of men to work on ourselves helps our communication skills and to be in the right relationship with our family, partners, and also to not transfer the unrecognized wounds to our children. This is essential work for everyone to explore, especially anyone with leadership or teaching positions in groups. It’s an easy trap to fall into and revel in playing the part of being superior to others in some way. So many people fall into it and take advantage of their position or their perceived sense of superiority.

The emotional alignment I found is why I started a men’s group called Rasa Heart Warriors. It includes drumming, vocalizing, functional movement, shadow work, and sharing to help form community, trust, and release pressure from the wounds we hold. The idea that men are supposed to be strong or to be this or that and not sensitive is as harmful as saying women are supposed to be the opposite.

Masood Ali Khan // 📸: Steven Lyon

Masood Ali Khan // 📸: Steven Lyon

Are you most focussed on your acting work or your wellness pursuits?

I have to focus on what comes to me. I was happy to have great lead parts in two movies ‘The Italian Key’ and ‘The Fast and The Fierce’ alongside [Highlander star] Adrian Paul.

But as the movie and TV industry is catching up with the times for racial diversity without stereotyping, I find myself still waiting for parts that don’t need me to put on an Indian accent. They are coming in, I could exhaust myself to pursue and produce, but I use my time to be creative with my music and educate myself more in yoga, health and most importantly the social justice training, and skills to dismantle racism and cultural appropriation to support my son and our future on this planet.

Moose playing the hand pan // 📸: Laurent Velazquez

Moose playing the hand pan // 📸: Laurent Velazquez

Where do you find yourself in respect to what is going on in the world now, politically, racially and on subjects of diversity and inclusion? Are you optimistic?

On reflection much of my life growing up in the diverse multicultural London was actually in survival mode from the internalized racism that I did not know how to express and change other than rationalize and accept. With the deep shadow work in men’s groups, I was able to connect the dots of what childhood emotional wounds inflicted from racism were playing out in my life.

The great awakening that is happening with the help of Black Lives Matter has brought awareness, clarity and has magnified the systemic racism due to colonialism to all the world.

It has been painful to recognize where the unconscious biases are at play in many aspects of our daily lives (the list is long and encompasses everything you could think of) that people with melanated skin have had to deal with just to survive. Even with my melanated brown skin, privilege, social location, years of experience, and notoriety has not given the more known advertising or upper tier pay in the modeling, acting or yoga world of my white peers. And only now these issues are coming to white people to be aware of and be educated.

There is always hope. And I have that hope that humanity is rising up with intelligence and genius to make change for the collective and not for just a few; where the wealthy vote for humanity and not just for their tax breaks; where heroic stories will be told about the melanated skins of the world; where critical thinking and discernment will lead to conversations that leads to action to help those that are forgotten or have not been allowed to speak and be heard; where the indigenous people and their deep and long-standing cultures are respected and uplifted for their beneficial qualities for sustainable life and connection to nature.

Moose at Burning Man // 📸: Laura Kimpton

Moose at Burning Man // 📸: Laura Kimpton

How long have you practiced music?

I always wanted to play the piano and guitar but my school wouldn’t let me learn unless I had my own guitar. My mother couldn’t afford a guitar or lessons and that was one of my memories of being excluded at my school.

So with the gratitude of modeling I could finally buy a classical guitar and learned while on the road. That was challenging with all the flights, then I took up the harmonica, then came djembes, congas, bongos during the nightclub rave days, and over the last 12 years the ever enchanting Swiss-invented hand pan that I have played during hundreds of hours of yoga classes.

Masood Ali Khan // 📸: Philippe Lee

Masood Ali Khan // 📸: Philippe Lee

When and how do you find peace?

It’s truly hard to find peace with so much happening in the world. We have a survival mechanism to detach and not feel pain.

So peace is in the small gifts of gratitude to be savored and cherished. Holding, playing and cuddling my son, being in nature, moving my body, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink and a few good minutes of meditation. It’s a daily practice, even moment to moment or experience to experience.

Moose at Stone Henge // 📸: Julie Ansiau

Moose at Stone Henge // 📸: Julie Ansiau

What’s your idea of a perfect day ?

Naturally waking up, walking or doing a yoga practice or workout. Singing, playing music allowing the spontaneous creativity flow. I love to cook and be of service to my son and beloved. I love to be working on a shoot or project, learning for others and sharing wisdom.

I love to drive past the ocean or nature, to see old friends and be open to appreciating culture and the arts. To be in full gratitude for life.

Moose in Gran Canaria // 📸: Crismo Botha

Moose in Gran Canaria // 📸: Crismo Botha

Who in life do you most admire and why?

This year so many new people came into my path that have transformed my way of thinking and understanding.

My mentor Robert Augustus Master for his work in psychology with shadow, men and relationships. Michelle Casandra Johnson for her book ‘Skill in Action‘ and her education in dismantling racism.

Ibram X Kendi for his anti-racism work and a clear message of ‘there is no neutral, you are either anti-racist or racist.’

All the activists that have shared their blood, hearts and lives to protect the earth and support with true kindness for all oppressed people.

And I admire my parents for their courage and resilience, fleeing their birth city Delhi, India during the 1947 partition riots when the British left India. They have a story that has not been told like so many refugees around the modern world, fleeing for their lives due to the dehumanization from a dominant society inspired by systemic racism.

I admire my son for his joy and his fortitude during these uncertain, challenging times. And never ending admiration to my beloved Sianna for holding loving space in our relationship, continual learning in emotional intimacy, spirituality and social justice for the benefit of all.

Learn more about Moose’s music and groups at masoodalikhan.com, and on Instagram at @moosealikhan and @masoodalikhanmusic

John is a world-renowned male model who has been the face of countless leading fashion houses. During his 36-year modeling career he has also moonlighted as an actor, writer, restauranteur, editor, and producer. He co-founded Mr Feelgood to provide a safe space for candid discussion and sharing ideas.

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