I’m really lucky to know to take a deep breath and remind myself that we’re all doing the best we can.

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“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 (Chronicle 2017).  She and photographer Jaimie Baird honor that promise from start to finish in the book’s 160 pages.  With unscripted images and candid testimony shared by an honest cross-section of real people and their tales of personal transformation, it’s an honest illustration of the sheer humanity that gathers people in the spontaneous community of yoga.  Men, women, children (and yes, dogs), who embody the essence of yoga are featured throughout this book of inclusion.

As many yoga instructors will acknowledge, our tasks do not begin and end with cueing asana and breath.  There is this whole other hat that we wear (often at the finish of class), that of the compassionate witness.  It goes without saying that everyone comes to the mat with some thing, and with her book Ms. Lipton listens… quietly documenting these personal stories and curating them into a powerful collection.  Without further adieu, let’s lean in to some of their unscripted accounts…

Meet Marsha…

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Photo by, Jaimie Baird

 

I had done some yoga on and off, but it was in dialysis that I had this miraculous calling to help people understand that they’re never separate from their essence, and that their essence is really this divine energy. You can be as close to death as I was and have this prana, this life force, flowing through you.

Meet Dana…

Photo by, Jaimie Baird

Photo by, Jaimie Baird

 

When I was twenty-five, I opened a restaurant, Trixie’s, in Hell’s Kitchen, right off of Times Square in New York. It became a huge hit. I had all this success at a young age; I was happy, but my happiness was conditional, and I realized that to last, it had to come from a deeper place… I longed to create a more meaningful life. I’m grateful now for all of my experimentation, because I wouldn’t have found yoga without it. Now I own my own yoga studio and get to party in a new way.

Meet Leo Rising…

Photo by, Jaimie Baird

Photo by, Jaimie Baird

 

In astrology, your rising sign is your personality sign. It represents the best qualities that you present to the public, whether you’re aware of them or not. My name is my biggest affirmation: Leo, rise. Leo, go. Leo, show up… I feel like I’m a mystic, that I have always had the ability to sense other levels of consciousness. But I’m also very modern… Yoga integrates those two sides of me, the extraordinary and the ordinary.

Meet Kay Kay…

Photo by, Jaimie Baird

Photo by, Jaimie Baird

 

I get pissy sometimes, just like everybody else does, when I’m dealing with everyday life and other human beings are pushing my limits. Yoga teaches me to notice when the mind goes there and to bring it back to something positive… I’m really lucky to know to take a deep breath and remind myself that we’re all doing the best we can.

Meet Halle…

Photo by, Jaimie Baird

Photo by, Jaimie Baird

When you teach hot yoga, you really have to make sure your students stay hydrated and drink, and I’m not talking about wine coolers… You are responsible for all of your students’ well-being in a class. When one of them has trouble, you take care of them, but you still have to keep the space for everyone else there.

“Yoga is a gift of many perspectives. Offering a captivating cross-section of today’s thriving yoga community, Yoga Bodies presents more than 80 practitioners of all ages, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and skill levels — real people, with real stories to share about how yoga has touched their lives.”  Yoga Bodies: Real People, Real Stories & The Power of Transformation (by Lauren Lipton, with photographs by Jaimie Baird, Chronicle 2017) excerpted by permission.  Read our full book review at LA YOGA Magazine.

 

Author Susan Currie is Managing Editor at BOSTON YOGA and an Associate Editor at LA YOGA magazine. Beyond her contributions to these publications, her words and images have been featured in the Boston Globe, Elephant Journal, Yogi Times, the Huffington Post, Spirit of St. Bart’s and on the cover of the book Moving into Meditation (Shambala) by Anne Cushman. 

Susan is also the creator of the Daily Inhale and an RYT 200 registered yoga instructor. She unpacks her various professional experiences through creative (and yoga) workshops she leads throughout the country. Her new book, Once Divided (Shanti Arts 2016), a blend of visual and verse, is now available in wide release. GRACENOTES, its follow-up, will be published in 2017.