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Musician Michael Franti connects with Spokane fans through impromptu outdoor yoga class before Tuesday night concert

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 12, 2017, 9:27 p.m.

Singer Michael Franti, center, and some 50 people perform yoga Tuesday at the Gathering Place in Spokane. Franti joined the group before his Tuesday evening concert at the Knitting Factory. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Singer Michael Franti, center, and some 50 people perform yoga Tuesday at the Gathering Place in Spokane. Franti joined the group before his Tuesday evening concert at the Knitting Factory. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

With the waterfalls providing a calming soundtrack, some 50 people came together at the Gathering Place in Downtown Spokane on Tuesday for an impromptu yoga class with musician Michael Franti before his concert at the Knitting Factory.

This yoga class acted as a meet up between fans and Franti, who tries to host events like Tuesday’s class before every show on his “Love out Loud” tour.

“The reason that we do it is one word: community,” Franti said after class. “We believe that right now, with everything that’s happening in the world that’s dividing people, socially, politically, religious, sexuality, so many different things, the environment, it’s important to have powerful, positive experiences where people just come together and hang out.”

The 75-minute-long class was organized by Avant Yoga’s Kelly Marie Dawson and Isaiah Ashley, Harmony Yoga’s Erin Wert and Rinzen Shay Kruger, who teaches at Gonzaga University and Mellow Monkey Yoga. Coil Studio’s Susan Jane Hall sang at the beginning and end of the class.

Dawson was contacted by a member of Franti’s team about arranging a yoga class late Monday night. She and the rest of the instructors then worked through the day Tuesday to get a permit and promote the class.

“The whole thing was totally spontaneous,” Dawson said. “But we allow yoga to happen and rally the community together, the tribe, really, and what an appropriate place. Then we’ll head up to the show… That’s the beautiful thing about Spokane because we are a community, we come together.”

Mellow Monkey Yoga owner Sara Teal heard about the class from an instructor and quickly got down to the Gathering Place.

“Everything came together at the last minute,” she said. “They were lucky to get a permit so quickly.”

Dawson spoke about the power of intention and yoga as she opened the class.

“Yoga heals, yoga brings up emotion,” she said. “Yoga allows us to create whatever we desire. If you would have told me two days ago I would have been standing before you, I would have never believed it in my wildest dreams.

“With intention and desire and the will, I am standing in front of you today. I’m a firm believer in the power of intention.”

Ashley then led the class through a meditation in which participants encouraged each part of their body to relax in between breaths.

“Enjoy the looseness you feel in your mind,” he said. “Enjoy the relaxation you feel in your body.”

After reading an Anne Hillman poem, Kruger then led the group through poses like warrior one, half-moon, wheel, happy baby and lizard lunge during the asana portion of the class.

After resting in shavasana and taking a few group photos at Franti’s insistence, the class enjoyed a potluck dinner.

“It was wonderful,” Elana Rosenfeld, who traveled to Spokane from British Columbia for the show, said after class. “It was beautiful to be outside and it was beautiful to be with all these strangers.”

After class, Franti reflected on his yoga practice, which began 16 years ago to the day Tuesday. Years of constant traveling and bad food on tour left him sore. He went into his first yoga class and came out feeling transformed.

Day after day on tour, he would find a different yoga class to attend. Eventually, he opened his own yoga hotel in Bali.

“It’s something that I believe is a great practice for people of all walks of life,” he said. “Apart from a mat, you don’t really need anything, just your body. You don’t even need a mat, really. It’s a great way to transform.”

Franti said yoga gets him in the right mindset to perform and has helped him build both internal and external connections.

“When I first started practicing yoga, I thought it would be a great way to clear my mind,” he said. “Then I started to learn that it was a great way for me to look inside at what I’m struggling with and be able to come to grips with it so I can better connect to other people.”