“When Alexander the Great was busy conquering the world far and wide, he came at last to India.
When he was about to return to his country, he remembered that his
people had asked him to bring to them an Indian yogi. They had heard
a lot about yogis and were very desirous of seeing one, meeting him,
hearing him speak and receiving his blessings. Alexander was told
that the yogis dwelt in the forest.
In quest of a yogi he went to a forest. Sure enough, he found one
sitting underneath a tree, in deep meditation. He waited patiently
until the yogi opened his eyes. They shone with a strange, mystic
Reverently, Alexander requested the yogi to accompany him to Greece,
“I will give you everything you need or ask for. But, pray, do come
with me. My people would love to meet you!”
The yogi quietly answered, “I need nothing, I am happy where I am.”
This was the first time that anyone had turned down Alexander’s
request. He could not control himself. He flew into a rage.
And unsheathing his sword, he thundered, “Do you know who is
speaking to you? I am the great king Alexander. If you will not listen to me. I shall
kill you- cut you into pieces!”
Unperturbed, the yogi answered. “You cannot kill me. You can only
kill my body. And the body is but a garment I have worn. I am not
the body. I am that which dwells within the body.”
The yogi continued, “You say you are a king. May I tell you, who you
are? You are a slave of my slave!”
Stunned. Alexander asked. “How am I a slave of your slave?”
In a voice tender with compassion, the yogi explained. “I have
mastered anger. Anger is my slave. See, how easily you gave way to anger. You are a
slave of anger, and, therefore, a slave of my slave!”
This delightful story reminds me to never become a slave to my negative emotions, and most of all my temper. Pain and difficulty will always try to spark a reaction from you, but it’s up to you to respond as an ‘Alexander,’ or a ‘Yogi.’ The more we stoke the fires of anger, sadness, and struggle in our lives the more power we give them. In this case, Alexander may not have seen his anger as a weakness, but the yogi shed light on the strong influence that it had over Alexander’s life. As yogis, our practice is a bulletproof armor to stop the external forces that persuade us to define ourselves by these negative emotions. And that is truly powerful.
Last post I talked about was about some real, honest-to-goodness, less than perfect bodies doing yoga. Now let’s talk about this controversial video posted by Equinox, a luxury gym popular in Los Angeles and New York. Briohny Smyth is the scantily clad yoga instructor featured in the video that has put a bee in the bonnet of the yoga community.
It has to be said- the yoga in this video is remarkable. Her body is flawless and her alignment is outstanding. Some of the things she does seem to defy gravity, and personally it inspires me to work harder to experience these amazing benefits that yoga allows. I am not prudey, I think her body is a work of art and it was probably a serious, conscious decision to dress her like she is. I don’t know why anybody would be offended by that aspect of the video- if you’ve got HBO you’ve seen worse.
Yoga being accessible to everyone is important. I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated by these beautiful freaks of nature like Briohny Smyth. Yoga is not just for fit, flexible, skinny people. However we must consider who Equinoxs’ audience is. Equinox is known for its cutting edge workout strategies, (IntenSati, Urban Rebounding) and a plethora of ‘celebrity’ trainers and yogis such as Smyth. They attract the wealthy, athletic individual who wishes to perfect his or her body in an ilitest environment. That, to me, is far from the intention of yoga.
So it seems, it all depends on your perspective. I see it as inspiring and artful, while people considering beginning a yoga practice may find it intimidating. I hope all viewers can keep an open mind and maintain sense of self while watching this. Cheesy as it is- I like to respect that my yoga practice is a journey, not a destination. It makes accomplishing goals more gratifying and helps me appreciate all of the small successes along the way.
Someday I’ll have a perfect handstand, until then, I’ll work with what I’ve got.
What do you think?
An interesting collaboration of art and yoga by Anthony Prower and Hanna Birna Geirmunsdóttir of Reykjavík, Iceland. This book features a collection of breathtaking portraits taken all around Iceland. It’s easy to make yogis look great when they’re in Lululemon head to toe, but creating portraits that display people in this raw, very human sense is refreshing.
In a side-note, naked yoga is a real thing. Seattle Men’s Naked Yoga has regular nude classes, and insists it is a non-sexual, comfortable environment. I would be interested to know what the benefit of being nude in yoga class is?
The charm and niche of this book is not the fact that the yogis are nude, it’s that they’re real people. Not models, athletes, or contortionists. There are stretch marks, love-handles, boney legs and goose bumps. It comes back to the fact that yoga is for everyone. Yoga belongs to humanity.