I have to tell you, I feel so enthusiastic for this bold idea, I embarrass myself.
It’s a perfect vehicle to explore the dynamic meaning in which yoga continuously re-invents itself, from Vamana Rishi and his banana leaf days to the modern-day—where yoga is a hip antidote to the stresses of modern life and cheaper than a bar if you want to pick up cool boho chicks.
Add beautiful people and amazing yoga postures to this rich tapestry of tradition and evolution, and even the most jaded celebrities will scramble to be seen at the premiere.
Yoga is the answer to every modern ailment and attracts all demographics.
Instructors can teach after just two weeks of online training. The new ones don’t call postures by their Sanskrit names—though you’ll hear namaste, which means, “hey!”
Otherwise, there are Ph.D. Buddhist monks from the moon who espouse the minutiae of yoga through metaphors that are way beyond the understanding of the average student.
Hundreds of people fill classes, in itty bitty yogawear®, or oddly perfect designer Rasta fare, complete with matching prayer beads. Music is as important as the postures. Teachers wear microphones. Men check out the girls and the girls all want a piece of their teacher and he just loves that.
Hot rooms are for you, if you want to imagine what your fellow students look like in the shower with their clothes on, and S&M-themed Iyengar rooms rock the goths and people who read 50 Shades of Grey in the waiting area.
Lulamon is a brand that Chinese factories rip off for the black market in Bankok and HongKong, where practicing yoga makes you look as good as American.
The music is hot (like, Britney Spears-hot) and crazy loud. You’ll hear Rihanna, the Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce. It’s about giving the students a buzz from the rhythms and the sweat.
Students and teachers alike are groomed, athletic, tanned and perfect.
Actors perform complicated yoga postures, because they’re hot. Their musical number ends with an exhale, letting it all go and a namaste.
A reporter interviews the living saints of modern yoga, Madonna and Sting. They talk about how yoga changed their image and even their sex life. And that’s why their next albums are so hot!
Move back in time to 1990
Instructors search in earnest for training. Many are expats who have returned from living in India, having pursued their spiritual search. Yoga centers are simple places and difficult to find.
Kirtan is a buzz word mostly unknown, even to teachers. Many centers don’t believe they really need curtains.
Students are health and fitness enthusiasts with a spiritual bent or on a quest to search for meaning to their lives. They are interested in going to India, memorize the meaning of namaste and learn to draw the om symbol. Some take classes to improve their audition chances for this new thing called Cirque du Soleil.
Yoga moves into the gym scene. Baron Baptiste shows up in a head band and killer muscles. He’s one of the first to break the hippie-yoga genre. Baptiste shouts cookie-cutter proverbs and makes you believe that yoga is the best workout you will ever have. Yoga is about strength, and you can do a whole workout in the comfort of your living room if you buy one of his videos.
There’s a rumor about this guy who does this unchanging yoga routine in freakish rooms that are heated to the temperature of India in a heat wave. That will never take off!
B.K.S. Iyengar is having his day in the sun. He’s the poster boy for yoga in America, with many enthusiastic students flocking to Pune to take his class, and come home to tell everybody that they took his class—in Pune.
Ashtanga is the strong, steady current upon which pop yoga grows. It is unchanging and simple.
The actors will wear ordinary clothes or be the smelly Rasta misfit at the front of the class who hasn’t quite left the Goa full moon party of his mind.
Deva Premal makes a grand entrance to sing a powerful number, followed by anybody who had a song on a Putumayo CD. Their songs will be about finding their essence or setting their spirit free.
The music number closes with an om bell and actors fall silent and meditate to the three distinct tones that symbolize the shape of om.
A reporter interviews the living saint of modern yoga, Deepak Chopra. He says of yoga:
“Every breath you take. Every move you make. Every bond you break. I’ll be watching you.”
He offers mind-body courses at his institute or you can buy one of his many books at the local yoga center’s book signing.
Move back in time to 1970
Woodstock, August 1969.
The scene opens with hippies multiplying fruitfully in the back of Kombis and in the surrounding commune. Yoga is a naked affair as often as it is practiced in bell-bottoms. This is the only social group who knows about yoga.
Yoga is about feeling the universal love, you know mahn? It is to bond with the life forces of the universe and not buy into the capitalist, bourgeois ideas of the oppressive government. Poses are limited to sun salutations and iconic floor postures, such as lotus.
Actors are semi-naked with flowers painted on their midriffs. Half the yoga group makes out with each other while the other half recites affirmations as they move fluidly through misaligned postures. There is no yoga teacher, but the commune leader who moonlights as the resident midwife, herbal doctor, psychologist and impregnator is who people follow.
Actors sing songs of Ravi Shankar and John Lennon. They don’t know what namaste is, but om is simply the grooviest thing.
A reporter interviews the leader of the commune, Praram Ram Somosa Govinda Ganesh. Asked what yoga means to him, he replies:
“It’s the miracle of life, mahn. We are all one, and it’s insanity to believe different. What is mine is yours, you know. Speaking of which, I need to borrow your wife. She looks like she needs to be enlightened. By me, you know?”
Move back in time to 1920
The set location moves to India.
It’s hot—not Brittney Spears kinda hot; just dusty, sweaty hot with flies that stick on you.
Young boys live in a school, the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India and learn morals, ethics and academic subjects under shady trees. Each day is book-ended by yoga tradition. Yoga develops their strength, mental fortitude and spiritual stillness; the path will harden what is soft, and soften what can harden.
There are no yoga centers. Instead, students seek out a teacher or attend schools such as the Yogoda.
Gandhi visits the school for a day at the invitation of the head of the school, his friend, Paramahansa Yogananda.
Actors wear cotton shirts and dhotis. They recite devotional Indian songs. Their yoga practice is without fanfare. Postures are moved into and out of with the same attention that is given to eating or studying.
A reporter interviews the living saint of modern yoga, Krishnamacharya. Asked what yoga means to him, he replies:
“Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.”
Move back in time to 300 B.C.
Patanjali sits in deep meditation under a shade tree behind Trincomalee Harbor in Sri Lanka.
Light brings attention to the shifting of time through the day. Then at dusk, after what seems an eternity, inspiration comes to him from within. Patanjali quickly stands and moves into postures that seem dictated by the subtle wisdom within his breath.
He is agile and fluid though he appears very old.
We witness his realization of the truth of all truths about matters of our existence. Patanjali marks a scratch into his skin until he bleeds. With a small fish bone he writes his realizations down onto banana leaves. The bliss of epiphany manifests as a bright aura around his body.
The actor wears plain traditional Indian garb. The song is simple and blissful without accompaniment. He sings about his existence that is but for the grace of God.
A reporter interviews the living saint of yoga, Patanjali. Asked what yoga means to him, he simply replies:
“Only with a calm mind can the true nature of existence be realized.”
He grins to the reporter and walks away with the lightest of movements which seem to defy gravity.
There is no more, or less, to yoga than that.
Chantelle Jahara Pinto writes as The Presidentess on her blog. She publishes weekly articles and is working on a novel. Chantelle is an Ashtanga yoga practitioner and yoga teacher. She is a kriyaban, a passionate meditator and health enthusiast, and studies Tao, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy. She has enjoyed many years as a luxury spa and retreat manager. Dedicating her life to create other-world or better-world experiences is a theme that continues to run through her life. She has traveled extensively and worked in numerous exotic locations around the world. She currently lives in Rio de Janeiro.
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Photos by Taro Taylor and Tiare Scott
Asst. Ed: Amy Cushing/Ed: Kate Bartolotta