We had the good fortune of connecting with Jo-Jo Jackson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jo-Jo, what’s your definition for success?
This is such a great question, as success can be perceived in so many ways depending on factors like cultural conditioning and family upbringing. In my definition, Success is not a quantifiable measurement such as how much money you earn, property you own; how many children you’ve birthed, degrees you’ve attained; the amount of fame you’ve acquired or anything of that material nature. For me, success is an experience that’s linked to feelings of contentment, fulfillment & satisfaction with doing your best.

I think it’s also important to mention that success isn’t a comparison but a reflection. To experience success means to cultivate awareness of your actions and attitudes as you partake in any new or ongoing endeavor. In my experience, the more I take time to consciously self-reflect on my attitudes & project purposeful intention into all my actions, the more I can experience success in my life. Easier said than done, but developing a growth mindset has empowered me to be more successful in my life projects.

Last thing I’ll mention about success is somewhat radical: it’s not dependent on the results of your effort; however, it is dependent on knowing in your highest truth that you did your best. Conventional fixed thinking would lead a person to believe that success is dependent upon desirable results, but if desire gets in the way it can cloud up clear perceptive awareness when left unchecked. When success becomes conflated with desires & wants, it can open the mental gates of binary thinking, egoism, envy and judgment, which can lead to unethical or immoral behavior in the name of success. The opposite of success isn’t necessarily failure as much as it’s an opportunity to approach a situation from a different angle. It’s hard to experience success when the results don’t turn out the way you desire, but–at least in my experience–recognizing that you put forth your best effort can be a powerful act of self-compassion.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ll start by sharing a little about what I do and my journey as a yoga teacher. In the wellness community I’m often known as “The Yogi Bassist.” I’m a self-employed Integrative Wellness Professional and I offer therapeutic yoga & guided meditation classes, sound meditation sessions, ayurvedic wellness counseling services, continuing education for yoga teachers and yoga student mentorships. My “brand” name came about around 2013-2014 when I was a touring bassist for this indie-lable band and “@yogibassist” was (and still is) my IG handle. During these earlier years I was a part-time yoga teacher, newspaper reporter & musician, and when I was on tour I’d share photos of myself doing various yoga postures in the different cities I visited & venues I performed.

Since my humble start as a new yoga teacher, I’ve completed advanced yoga teacher & ayurvedic wellness counselor certifications, emotional intelligence programs, evidence-based wellness programs, and somatic therapeutics programs; I’ve read a number of contemporary & classical yogic text, and I study Sanskrit & Nada Yoga. I recently recorded my first sound meditation album at Scarritt Bennett Center’s Wightman Chapel (stay tuned for the release date to be announced very soon) and my next horizon is applying for a Masters program in yoga therapy that starts Autumn 2022. While I offer a broad spectrum of integrative wellness practices, I specialize in a couple relatively unique offerings here in Nashville–those being Ayurveda & Nada Yoga.

Meaning “science of longevity/ life,” Ayurveda is a traditional Indian medical system that has eight major branches of clinical practice such as general therapeutics, ophthalmology, reproductive health, pediatrics & surgery. My practice is within the scope of general therapeutics as an Ayurvedic wellness counselor. I work one-on-one with folks to develop personalized ayurvedic plans to guide individuals into living more holistic lifestyles aligned with the harmonious energies of nature and their unique mind-body constitution. These customized wellness plans provide tools such as yoga therapy, various 5-senses therapies (sound therapies, aromatherapy, bodywork, acupuncture, etc.), the principles of ayurvedic dietetics & herbology, elevating spiritual awareness, and other integrative modalities.

I also practice & teach Nada yoga or the yoga of sound. Nada yoga is a broad range of musical & tonal yogic practices that includes kirtan, raga & japamantra. I specialize in leading japamantra meditation which can be described as therapeutic/ healing sound practice that guides the mind to become entrained in a certain mental pattern. Japamantra starts with repetitive vocalization of a specific intention or affirmation, then shifting that external chanting practice into an internalized sonic practice of deep inner listening. I accompany my japamantra practice with a “sound bath” of contemplative instruments such as the hypnotic drone of the tanpura, the whimsical dancing of Koshi chimes, or the waving splash of the tongue drum to guide the mind to an internal experience. Lately I began studying the traditional Indian musical systems to enrich my sound mediations with the mood-enhancing qualities of raga, which are like the various modes & scales of Western music theory but utilized in precise yet improvisation manners that are specific to the times of the day, seasons of the year and emotional qualities of human experience.

I love being able to utilize my musical talents for healing purposes; it’s a perfect & life-affirming union of my sense of self as a musician & yoga practitioner. However, my teaching hasn’t always felt so purposeful & established; my initial years of teaching yoga were actually rather challenging. The first studio I taught at was a trendy new hot studio in east Nashville I attended almost daily since it opened. When I finished my yoga teacher certification in 2014 I had a weekly class on the schedule immediately and I subbed classes as often as I could while part-timing as a reporter and playing bass in the band. One Tuesday evening I was abruptly kicked off the schedule after nearly a year of being a regular teacher at the studio. The owner emailed me a disparaging message that I needed “more practice” teaching hard-and-fast hot power vinyasa, criticized every aspect of my class including my playlist and concluded I was only suitable for teaching restorative classes. At the time I didn’t understand why it happened but I felt hurt, incompetent, angry, and exiled from a community I was part of since the studio opened the year prior—especially considering the studio owner would still use my image in her advertisements.

Since this first discouraging experience as a new teacher I’ve experienced a myriad of other disappointing experiences at a number of different studios; while experiencing discouraging things throughout my career are painful, they have in some way helped me refine my awareness & understanding of how to be a more equitable yoga teacher and human being. In the classical text the Bhagavad Gita, sloka 6.20 describes Yoga as a person’s ability to “see the Self through the self and rest in the Self, rejoicing.” Often this passage is rephrased as the popular saying “Yoga is the journey of the Self, through the self, to the Self.” For me, stepping on this journey has meant stepping into my highest potential, but that hasn’t been without constant challenge. However, the more I put forth active effort in cultivating my highest abilities, the more my intentions become reality.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh goodness, to be completely honest I’m not really sure what is going on anymore lately. Since the pandemic hit I feel like I don’t really go anywhere but I’ll see what I can think of! So if you’re coming into town I’d highly recommend attending a yoga class to ground back into present moment awareness after a day of traveling. Check out Hola Yoga in east Nashville there are a variety of classes from restorative to hot vinyasa. Spending time in nature is always a hit, so if you’re looking for unstructured playtime to hike & explore I love visiting the trails at the Warner Parks, Beaman Park or Radnor Lake. If you’re looking for a more curated nature experience visiting the botanical gardens at Cheekwood is great. My personal favorite nature trips are waterfalling, kayaking or paddleboard yoga in the summer!

For food I do have dietary guidelines; I’m a ovo-lacto vegetarian but I’m lactose intolerant so I tend to eat vegan when I dine out, although I do love a good omelet and I’ll also break for a good pastry. All this being said, I love meeting friends to eat at any of the veggie-friendly dining spots in Nashville from vegan soul food at the Southern V to contemporary plant-based dining at Avo. There are great ethnic vegetarian/ vegan dining options such as Woodlands, Jamaicaway, Gojo, Miss Saigon or Siam Cafe. As for cocktails & nightlife, I’m a big fan of Rosemary & Beauty Queen–that space is always cool plus their food menu is completely vegan and super tasty. I’m also a fan of Love+Exile it’s a wine & cocktail bar with a small bites menu & a dog run so your dog has a spot to hang out, too, plus they carry a unique Chilean red wine varietal called a “Pais” that I enjoy drinking.

There’s also so much live music to see here in Nashville! Spots like the Exit/ In, the Basement East, the 5 Spot or the Ryman are always hosting awesome live events. plus there are plenty of intimate performances at private venues where you can watch some great local shows such as my friend Sara Jean Kelley’s performance at Fort Houston.  Last I’ll mention is Nashville has a number of museums here such as the Frist, Jefferson Street Sound Museum, The National Museum of African American Music, The Country Music Hall of Fame or Lane Motor Museum. I enjoy a good museum visit; it’s so enriching and I’ve realized I haven’t been since the pandemic hit–time to change that.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people that have supported me throughout the years, I feel like I don’t know where to start. My teachers Michael Johnson in Asheville, NC, for being an influential mentor for so many years; Leah Lillios King in Nashville, TN, for allowing me a space to grow & flourish as a yoga teacher; Mas Vidal in Ojai, CA, for teaching me the wisdom of Ayurveda; Sheela Bringi of the Sacred Sound Lab for guiding me in how to voice the exquisite beauty of Nada Yoga; Michelle C. Johnson in NC for expanding my knowledge base of anti-racism & social justice work. I also want to shout out my loving partner Trevor Rock for being my foundation and my brothers Jason & Jay Jackson for being there for me as family.

I want to shout out some of my friends doing amazing work here in Nashville and beyond! I’m shouting out to Dr. Erin Fagot who is pioneering trans healthcare, Karen Renee Robb for creating a platform for sacred sound to be shared collectively, Chrissy Kirkwood for being an inclusive & genuine human being to everyone plus and A+ realtor, Erika Porter for being an advocate for equal pay in the local yoga community, Melissa Shah for being an advocate of lifting BIPOC voices in the yoga industry, and Renee Watkins for being an advocate of wellness in the Black community.

Last, I’ll shout out to all the yogis, sages, saints, scientists, thinkers, musicians, devotees and lineage keepers that have kept the traditions of yoga alive throughout several millennia. This practice that is able to sustain me wouldn’t be here without honoring the origins of yoga.

Website: https://www.theyogibassist.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yogibassist/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yogibassistnashville

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