On yoga, on life: a review

Have you got Netflix? If you have, I highly recommend a film on there called ‘On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace’. It’s about a bloke called Michael O’Neill who used to photograph Hollywood stars. In a nutshell: he got injured, was told he’d never use his arm again, found yoga and meditation, his arm recovered.

As a result, he decided to devote his time photographing yogis. The film features interviews with teachers talking about yoga philosophy. They are wonderful. The kundalini teacher Gurmukh talking about fear of death, Eddie Stern on community and peace. Swamis explaining how we are not our body and how yoga is every minute of the day. I particularly remember one teacher saying that we’ll only be happy when we let go of desire. It’s the wanting that makes us unhappy.

Not so great are the clips of him taking photos of young yogis doing extreme poses in front of beautiful scenery – silhouetted against a sunset, a grafitti’d wall, the New York skyline. Skimpy clothes. Why do it? Why conform to a yoga stereotype? If these teachers are saying yoga is so much more than the physical body, why bring it back to that?

Kumbh Mela, 2010

Anyway, it was good to watch. He visited the Kumbh Mela – the massive Hindu pilgrimage that takes place at different locations along sacred rivers. I had the honour of being part of the Kumbh on Ma Ganga in Haridwar, India, in 2010 – something I’ll never forget.

I finished the film and took a moment to consider my current life with a one-year old baby and how my life has changed since I took my dip in the Ganga eight years ago. I felt that I had drifted away from yoga somewhat. I’m struggling to get on my mat and there are a lot of pooey nappies.

But then I thought a little more: this is my yoga at the moment. It’s not the beautiful asanas but it’s the day-to-day grittiness of life. One Swami in the film explained Bhakti yoga – the yoga of devotion. I’d also say it’s Karma yoga – giving without any expectation of reward. I am devoting myself to my son and my family.

Can I care for him in a way that is kind and caring? We do our gratitude practice while he has his bedtime milk. We chant along to Swami Vishnudevananda in the car on the way to the local soft play centre.

And while I haven’t managed an unaided headstand for over a year now, it’ll come back at some point. I’m happy if I manage a few sun salutations and standing poses.

So if you have Netflix, watch it. But please pay more attention to the words of wisdom than the cliched contortions…

Have you seen it? What are you thoughts?

(Thank you to my Berkhamsted buddy Laura for suggesting I look it up.)

6 Replies to “On yoga, on life: a review”

  1. Om Clare,

    Long time no see, yet always a pleasure to read your posts when they drop in!

    I too am having trouble getting on my mat at the moment, and I have only myself to look after! So, I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself… and not least since, as you say, our practice, if it is to have any value or integrity at all, must extend beyond the mat… and it sounds like yours does!!!

    Much peace and love,


  2. (my first post!) Watched it a little while ago and my thoughts were similar. However, there is often a compromise between the beauty of an image and the truth of the story. The most impressive are those that combine both.

    My major gripe is that the vast majority of “yoga” examples published are of young, attractive, thin and bendy people. As a relative (and old) beginner still, I contend that we may learn more from imperfect examples, and we can certainly empathise with them better.

    And don’t forget what you are doing now is your present. Your mat and practice will always wait for you

    x Maurice

    1. Hello Dear Maurice. Congratulations on your first post! Thank you for your comments. I couldn’t agree more about the young, thin, bendy people. It’s a stereotype that needs to be undone.
      Sending love,
      Clare x

  3. Love this Claire and I’m half way through the documentary! You are always a yogi, an inspiring one. The more I dive deep into the yoga practice the less I care about the instagram yogis on rocks wearing Lulu lemon Lycra…there is loads I’ll never manage in terms of asanas but how I’ve changed as a person and what I’ve learnt is never ending …thanks for sharing! Xxx

  4. Yeah I didn’t get why they included the scantily clad asana displays either.
    Parenting as karma yoga is a great way to look at it!
    Love your honesty as ever

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.