“We’re in this together,” writes award-winning journalist Lauren Lipton in the introduction to her new book, Yoga Bodies: Real People, Real Stories & The Power of Transformation. She and photographer Jaimie Baird seize the book’s pages to illustrate that conviction with unscripted images and candid testimony shared by an honest cross-section of real people and their tales of personal transformation. Featured within these pages are a selection of men, women, children (and yes, dogs), who embody the essence of yoga.
As many yoga instructors will acknowledge, their tasks do not begin and end with cueing asana and breath. There is this other hat that they wear (often at the finish of class) — that of the compassionate witness. It goes without saying that everyone comes to the mat with something, and with her book, Ms. Lipton really listens…quietly documenting these personal stories and curating them into a powerful collection.
Visually, Ms. Baird further echoes Lipton’s message. In her naturally lit portraits, she has elected to capture ease and exhale and candor with her lens, resisting the soft brushes and other post-processing fixes for perfection. Coupled alongside each yogi’s account, her images further plant the reader in the book’s rich narratives.
For example, meet Jim practicing his headstand variation. “As a blind person, it is my experience that how things feel, not how things look, matters most.” Turn the page, and we are introduced to Naomi (Watts) in navasana (boat pose) sharing how she has relaxed some of the physical exertion of her Ashtanga days in order to stretch and heal her aging body. There’s Betsy in monkey pose who speaks of the moment that the yogi in her was born. She goes on to share that moment as a harrowing (literal) fall from a cliff in northern Minnesota. Mid-fall she transforms herself to become “unbearably light.” We also are introduced to Babette and her big smile in cow face pose wondering why aging isn’t more celebrated in our society.
Yoga Bodies: Real People, Real Stories & The Power of Transformation offers a timely reminder of the sheer humanity that gathers people in the spontaneous community of yoga. It’s a book of inclusion; a gift that welcomes all. As one yogini Heather puts it, “Yoga builds self-esteem in a humble way, reminding us of our sameness, not our differences.”
Susan Currie is a Boston-based photographer, writer, yoga instructor and Associate Editor at LA YOGA. She teaches a host of creative workshops throughout the country. Susan’s new collection of poetic verse and images, GRACENOTES (Shanti Arts), will be published in November. See more of her work at www.susancurriecreative.com.