Russell Simmons on Yoga, Veganism, and Why ‘normal Is Bullshit’

Russell Simmons
Jeff Neira / Getty Images

Russell Simmons is in a studio, but there aren’t any mics or control panels around. The rap flows have been traded for yoga flows.

Simmons, 59, opened his yoga studio, Tantris, last year and brought his enthusiasm for the yogi way of life to the masses. Now he’s expanding the brand with a premium men’s line of activewear, launching this fall. The mogul is once again turning his lifestyle into a business.

How would you describe your new men’s activewear line?

Guys like comfortable shit, and every piece in the line is comfortable. Also, it’s insanely bold. Every time I put on the Buddha pants, I joke that if I go out in them I may get arrested. But that shit is hot.

Why yoga and meditation?

Life’s goal is to realize pure awareness. It’s hard not to be full of bliss if you’re fully awake and present in each moment. If you can be present there’s no fear, no anxiety, no reason to worry—you can truly enjoy the works of your life. Whether it’s washing dishes in a kitchen or counting numbers as an accountant, you’ll be totally sucked into whatever you’re doing, and all the worry and anxiety will mean less and less.

How do you work through negativity and failure?

When you’re faced with negativity, take the opposite road. Yoga requires you to smile through the hardest poses. You’re in pain and pissed at the teacher for making you stay in the pose, but you’re smiling. That’s life—smiling through the tough parts because you know they’ll make you better.

That’s not an easy lesson for most people to learn.

I tell my daughter she needs to do what’s good for herself and say no to the partying. She’ll say, “I know, Daddy,” and I tell her, “If you knew, motherfucker, you’d do it!” We all know better, but we don’t choose better. I was a cokehead, a heroin addict. At night you get coked up knowing you’re going to feel terrible in the morning. You have to make the habit of doing what’s difficult now to make you better. It’s easy to do the right thing when you’re used to it.

What’s changed the most about you since the Def Jam days?

My nickname was Rush—I used to rush a lot, and now I rush a lot less. I needed to slow myself down so I could see the world. My diet’s changed—I’m vegan. And my physical practice has changed—I work the 14 parts of the body every day. Yoga reverses the aging process. I feel better now than I ever did.

Why did you become vegan?

There’s nothing about animal products that’s good. They make you sick as shit. I had a nutritionist say, “There’s something good in Twinkies, but does that mean Twinkies are good for you?” So, you eat what’s “normal” and you party because it’s “normal,” even though it’s bad for you? Normal is not good. Normal is bullshit.

The music you made years ago is still so relevant today. Why is that?

“Fight the Power” and “Fuck the Police” are as applicable now as they were then. At the time, they inspired dialogue we needed. Now, again, people aren’t talking about the things we need to talk about. There’s no discussion about Muslims until they become newsworthy, and then there’s a lot of talk about race. If we just talked about it from the start, there wouldn’t be any fear. Racism and fear caused people to vote for Trump. They were inspired by the fear of what they didn’t understand because we didn’t have the dialogue when we needed it.

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