Off the Mat and Into the World. {Photo Project}

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There is a yogic saying that “often our most challenging practice begins when we step off of the mat.”

In its essence, it is the idea of transferring the peace and mindfulness cultivated within the practice of yoga into every day life.

What if we could retain that same enlightened experience that yoga can connect us to when someone cuts us off in traffic?

How about when standing in the horribly long line at the grocery store?

Or what about looking larger, when we are faced with decisions of war? Why not take the peace cultivated on the mat into every day life off the mat?

Well, we decided to make it our mission to take these sentiments on a global tour: Off the Mat and Into the World

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Who is we and what is this about?

I (Sarah) am an artist, photographer, and teacher from the Bay Area in California. While I might not have the most glamorous asana practice, yoga has transformed my life as it has so many others.

I have been inspired through some major transition to dedicate myself to the documentation of this beautiful practice.

About five months ago, I met an incredibly adventurous and inspiring man that I happened upon watching hockey in a bar and I recall distinctly turning my eyes to him with cool clarity and more confidence than I have ever experienced in my life and asking, “Want to go to Ireland with me?”

Without a moment of hesitation, he returned my gaze with an effortless ease and responded, “Sure!”, but we could only imagine that Ireland would quickly turn into Ireland, the UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Spain, Greece, India, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and wherever else the wind might blow us.

I sensed, on that otherwise ordinary evening, the integrity in Camron’s affirmation and I realized that I was sitting across from someone who not only inspired a sense of fearlessness within me, but who was willing to take on the world with a mirrored spirit of adventure.

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Not three months prior I had experienced the indescribable pain of losing a dear friend from this plain of existence. There is nothing like loss to remind us how much of a blink we are in this Universe. So, why not make the most of that blink?

Camron’s calmness and assured center of being, mixed with my tenacious drive for experience, illuminated a possibility of what could only be the most exciting decision I have ever made:

Quit my job as I know it, zip life up into an 80L pack, and set sail around the world to photograph yogis across all walks of life and experience their practices off the mat.

It took only a click and we had one-way tickets in our names along with a bon voyage date: January 1st, 2015.

We have since been met with the most unbelievable support of the yogic community and it is a testimony to the beautiful way that yoga can truly transform a world that so often is bustling too fast to breathe.

People all over the globe began sharing their photos and stories with us and inviting us to their home countries, willing to host humble travelers just to share their practices.

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It is an ultimate inspiration that has helped us strengthen our resolve to cast aside fear and dive head first (though our friends think us slightly mad) into the compassionate arms of the world.

There is unity in this world beyond what I have ever imagined, and it comes in the form of Yoga.

In many ways this is a project of compassion and hope, one to invigorate the human spirit with a sense of one-ness. We are committed to sharing this incredible adventure in the hope that its stories, however human and full of likely missteps, will in some way inform our world with that much more understanding of the human condition; its follies, strengths, challenges and inspirations.

There is a way to change the world. It’s time to step off the mat.

 

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: courtesy of the authors

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

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Sarah Wells

Sarah Wells is a California born photographer, artist, and yogi. She has been practicing the art of photography for five years, working commercially and teaching locally in the Bay Area.

Sarah will receive her BFA in Photography from San Jose State University in December of this year and credits the program with launching her artistic career. She teaches art and photography for the Palo Alto Art Center and is thrilled to be a current Local Teaching Artist for the Pablove Shutterbugs program, teaching photography to pediatric cancer patients at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Recently, Sarah has teamed up with professional climber, footballer, writer, and natural- born adventurer Camron Clausen in an effort to manifest a journey across continents to bring together a visual and written story of human experience: Off the Mat and Into the World.

Check out their website and find them on Instagram.

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