Look Deeply

Yoganonymous has posted an article by Andrea Manitsas titled, “Asana: The New Body Image Problem?

This article brings up many good points for discussion and learning.  The original photo used (shown here) brings up other one-handed flying catpoints.  Because some might miss the photo issue in the comments, I’ll sum it up:

The photo was stolen.  Megan, the individual in the photo, is an acrobat who also practices yoga.  Here is what she said of the photo, “The ‘pose’ in this photo is not an asana, it is an action shot of me playfully performing acrobatics on the beach, an artful expression the photographer and I co-created that was not intended to be used for any purpose related to yoga.”

The image seems to have been stolen from the photographer’s website and then sold to the stock photo site iStock.  Yoganonymous (not the article’s author), trusted the stock photo site and purchased the photo.  When Yoganonymous learned of the gaffe with the photo, they changed it.  To their credit, iStock also removed the image from their inventory.

The point, which is salient to both the article and the picture, Photo from Asana and Mudrais that these issues are much more complex when we look at them deeply.  Should those who can execute complex asana stop?  My body executes some odd prana kriya, or so I’ve been told, should I stop?  The images of Bapuji’s kriya would definitely fall into this same category.

Sadhana used to be an extremely private thing.  It was unusual for Bapuji to invite Gurudev into his meditation room to watch his sadhana.  Why was it so private?  Likely to prevent exactly what is happening.  It would also allow the students’ focus to be on their own practice rather than trying to emulate some mentalized ideal.  Now, however, the one-handed flying cat asana is already out of the bag; so, what do we do?

We already have yogis who don’t fit the fantasized ideal yoga body posting their pictures.  Perhaps it is also time for those of us, like myself; whose knees may never come near the ground in cobbler pose, to post our pictures.  That still focuses only on the posture but it would provide some balance.  It would help illustrate that perfection of the posture is not the purpose of yoga.  How do we share the stillness, the peace, of yoga through pictures though?  For that, I have no easy answer.  Pictures are worth a thousand words but even a thousand words are incapable of sharing the experience of yoga; just as a painting of a candle can never light a darkened room.

What about the original photo that was used for the article?  Enjoy the photo and feel gratitude that it was shared with you.  Recognize that when you read more into the image than what your eyes can see, you are seeing a mirror of yourself.  It has nothing to do with the image you see.  For those of us that are publishing online, be careful of the images you use.  Yoganonymous did nothing wrong when they posted the original image, they had no reason to believe it was not a stock photo.  They did everything right when they learned the photographer had not given permission for the photo to be used, let alone sold on iStock; they removed the image.  As to iStock’s role in this, I cannot say more than that they have removed the image from their site.  I know that, as I write this, I am more conscious of the images I use and try to use my own images.  Still, there may be images of questionable source here as well, let alone those missing credits.  I have to revisit what I have posted in the past and make corrections where needed.

Lastly, when we say “I have real yoga and what you have is not” in any form, we most definitely do not have yoga.  Instead of yoga, we are creating separation.  There is only one path of yoga and that path is life.  Each of us is walking the path at our own pace but everyone is on it.  If we are all on the path, what need is there to criticize or demean?  Rather, let us offer love, kindness and help to each other.

Jai Bhagwan

Handstand on the beach.   Model: Megan T.   Photographer: Meghan Meredith    source: Megan T.   used with permission
Bapuji in Half Pillow.   Model: Swami Kripalu   Photographer: Unknown   source: Asana and Mudra by Swami Kripalu   used under Creative Commons liscense