Guerrilla Yoga.

Via Bernadette Birney
on Oct 6, 2011
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It’s a chilly, grey October afternoon and I am drinking Riesling on the roof of The Gansevoort Hotel in downtown Manhattan. The wind off the Hudson River raises tiny goosebumps on my bare legs.  I should be freezing my ass off in this ridiculous miniscule, filmy dress I’m wearing but I don’t feel a thing. Just pure exhilaration. I clink plastic wineglasses with friends Megan Marie and Jen Weaver, who are sitting across our corner rooftop table.  Robert Sturman is drinking a beer.  We are regrouping from a morning of shooting photos that aren’t quite working.

Sturman is an artist who is acclaimed for his photographs of yogis.  “In the 19th century the painter Degas was obsessed with ballerinas.  I’m obsessed with yogis,” he tells me.  His work isn’t limited to yogis, though.  He has traveled the world capturing beauty and, among other creative accomplishments, was the official visual artist of the 47th Annual GRAMMY® Awards.  Basically–the guy is an artistic genius.

That’s why we’re all here.  This is a far cry from the enchanted forest of Connecticut, where Robert was shooting earlier in the week. Just a few days ago–barefoot in the mud–we posed alongside a secret pond, and lay down in autumn’s first fallen leaves, pretending to be wood nymphs.  Now he wants some NYC work for his portfolio.  We’ve been wandering around the city all morning looking for visually inspiring settings.  So far this morning I have arm-balanced with my cheek resting on the pavement at the corner of 39th Street, and done Crow Pose atop a police barricade.  Jen did a carefully precarious headstand on top of that same police barricade.  She is one ballsy chick, our Jen.

We finish our drink.  The light is beginning to change, and so is the mood.  Robert has hit his groove.

“Are you guys ready to do some work?” Robert asks us.

We are.

It’s guerrilla yoga.  At Times Square we wait for a light change before darting out to shoot in the middle of the street.  Somehow, Megan pulls this off in 6 inch, spindly Manolo Blahnik heels.  Robert almost gets hit by a bus but the shot is worth it.  When the light changes and a police car pulls up, we successfully disappear into the crowd.

Over the next couple of hours we yogis fling ourselves upside down on street corners, backbend in train stations and leap for shots. Robert peers through the lens of his camera, composing.
“How about me in full scorpion on top of The Empire State building?”

“How ’bout me in handstand on the back of a speeding train?” we joke.  The ideas get more and more outrageous as the afternoon wears on, and our inhibitions shrink.  When we handstand our dresses fall down over our heads.  Passers by stop to gawk but we don’t care.

We will do anything for art.

Normally I hate having my picture taken but this is fun.  So what if I am normally unphotogenic and awkward looking?  For an afternoon, I have stepped into somebody else’s life.  Tomorrow I will go back to stressing about being overly busy, over-committed, and worrying about what’s going to happen in the next 6 months. Just for today, I feel talented.  I feel pretty.  I feel like a princess. This is an afternoon I will never forget.

All too soon it’s time for Megan to get back and pick up the kids.

Hungry, exhausted, cold, needing to pee, and happy, we head back to Grand Central Station.   We board trains back to our every day lives and wonder if got any good shots.






About Bernadette Birney

Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut. / Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential. / Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a Lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog .


3 Responses to “Guerrilla Yoga.”

  1. Yogini5 says:

    "Strike a pose
    Strike a pose
    Vogue, vogue, vogue
    Vogue, vogue, vogue

    Look around everywhere you turn is heartache
    It's everywhere that you go [look around]
    You try everything you can to escape
    The pain of life that you know [life that you know]

    When all else fails and you long to be
    Something better than you are today
    I know a place where you can get away …"


  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  3. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Sounds like a GREAT time!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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