Thursday, October 4, 2012

Falling in Love with Your Life

Teaching at Abhaya Yoga, Brooklyn  (Photo-Katie Claire for Abhaya Yoga)

When it rains in summer I think about Krishna.

As I left this morning to teach, I watched the sun fading behind storm clouds and on my walk to the studio a few heavy drops landed before the entire sky exploded from its own heat. Whatever plan I had for the class was gone, having been blurred and dispersed by the downpour.


So…  Once upon a time, I told my class, the monsoon came to the cow-herding town of Vrindavan. The plants bloomed – a passionate chaos of fecundity. The most lavishly-petalled flowers and fruits burst forth in every conceivable jewel tone within the deep ripe green of the jungle. Some glowed red like embers, others were stained with shocking spills of pink and orange, and a few shone with the intoxicating midnight blue of Krishna’s skin. The jungle vines grew rapidly into thick tangles as the cows in the nearby pastures grew fat and healthy from the grass.

Adding to the exuberance of the landscape, Krishna played a few notes of love on his flute; some were as deep and private as the darkest earth and others were thin, reedy and wistful like a bird’s cry. The Gopis, Krishna’s beloved milkmaids, began to swoon with love, dropping their milk pails and abandoning their chores to follow the trail of Krishna’s music into the forest, the bright colors of their saris mingling with the plants so that they looked like moving blossoms. They began to play games deep in the forest as Krishna flirted and seduced them one by one, until each had discarded her clothing to bathe naked in the lake.

Krishna plays with the Gopis in the Forest

To tease them, Krishna gathered up their clothing and climbed high up into a tree then called down to them. “Look,” he said, I’m up here!” and playfully waved an armful of sari silk at them. Their love-dampened eyes lifted. They smiled and laughed. In love, in love, in love… with the music, with the forest, with Krishna. The waters surrounded them and the waters trickled down on them, filtered by the leaves and vines of the forest. They were lost in love.

Krishna Steals the Gopis’ Clothing as They Swim in the Lake

Imagine, I said to my class, that the story is happening inside of you. This is your inner landscape. You are the seducer and the seduced. The forest is your heart and the lake is your consciousness. You are the ripe earthiness of the forest floor and the cultured beauty of the women’s woven saris. You are the placid unquestioning cows and the yearning and intoxicated women. The music is your breath and you are falling in love with yourself. The purpose of your practice is to follow the breath in order to weave your own story.

So what is the story of your practice? How can you fall ever more deeply in love with your life? And how can you inhabit this inner landscape so thoroughly that it stays with you through whatever challenges you encounter and wherever you choose to go?

Thick overhead
clouds of the monsoon,
a delight to this feverish heart.
Season of rain,
season of uncontrolled whispers—the Dark One’s returning!
O swollen heart,
O sky brimming with moisture—
tongued lightning first
and then thunder,
convulsive spatters of rain
and then wind, chasing the summertime heat.

Mira says: Dark One,
I’ve waited—
it’s time to take my songs
into the street.

~Mirabai -The Dark One is Krishna (translation by Andrew Schelling)

Forest, 2010 (©
Photo of me teaching is courtesy Katie Claire at Abhaya Yoga, Brooklyn, NY

Monday, September 3, 2012

Finding the Words for Pain

At the Met with Rodin and Robert Sturman two months post-op, Photo:

On Knees, Discomfort, and Language

I have spent the past few months thinking about pain, searching for words to describe its various tones and shadows. I have the luxury of doing this since the discomfort I am in is not ultimately as serious as many other experiences of bodily discomfort. But as an asana teacher, having an injury that offers an ongoing experience of what we refer to as pain calls upon many other significant aspects of my yoga—my meditation practices, my breath, my ability to observe and analyze, and my capacity to be receptive to the needs of my body.

A few months ago I was walking up some stairs when I felt a brief sharp sensation in my left knee and then a wet flooding feeling. Just like that, I had torn my left lateral meniscus. I spent a few weeks gathering medical opinions, curtailed my travel schedule, and scheduled the operation. I adjusted during this period, wearing a knee brace and moving in a very frontal manner. I became extremely verbally precise in my teaching since I could no longer just kick out a demo. Then I had the operation, and, despite my being assured a rapid recovery, I was sidelined with swelling and inflammation that has continued to surge unpredictably.
Post-Op Still Life on my Couch
I’ve been insisting that I am not in pain but in discomfort. To me, pain is something that you want to curl, arch, and crawl away from. It is sharp or piercing—hitting nerve endings and causing involuntary reflexive movement. Discomfort is what more accurately describes the bloated feeling in my knee that feels as if lead has been poured into it. I’ve described the sensation as a water balloon pressed to its limit and about to burst. I also mentioned to my doctor, when I called to say that I needed it reexamined and possibly drained, that my knee felt as if it had just consumed a sickeningly excessive Thanksgiving dinner.

By now I’ve been told by more than one medical expert that I have a “high pain threshold,” but I think that it’s just that I have so many different definitions of what pain is that I find it hard to describe my current state so simply. Pain is too general and too vague a term. To me, pain is not a singular experience, but a vast range of very particular sensations for which we lack specific language, so these sensations are best conveyed through metaphor, simile, or anecdote, as I have written above.
Pain Scale
Here are examples of different types of pain experiences: when I smash my toe against a piece of furniture, that thudding, nauseating sensation is pain. The piercing slice of a paper cut is pain. When I was little and snapped two bones in my arm, that shock and crunch was pain. When I had to have a chunk of my jaw cut out to remove my impacted wisdom teeth, that grinding feeling that gripped me in convulsive waves was pain. For the most part what I’m experiencing right now is a dense, stretched to the limit sensation of discomfort.
Pain Scale
In the past few months I have filled out countless sheets of questions asking me to rate my pain level. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your pain when you bend your knee to 90ยบ? When you squat? When you run? When you walk? When you stand? I’ve been crossing out the word pain and replacing it with the word discomfort. Only one of the questionnaires I’ve filled out has asked me to describe the quality or nature of my pain with examples of descriptive words to circle.  There is a problem with the vocabulary—we need a more effective semantics of pain.

Is it just because I am an asana teacher who spends enormous amounts of time working with my body that I notice this? It seems to me that there is a confounding of pain with discomfort. And just as there is a wide range of discomfort experiences, there is an equally vast spectrum of pain.
Pre-op teaching in Barcelona, left leg outstretched. Someday Lotus Pose will return...
I still have a way to go in my healing process, which is frustrating, but should ultimately be okay. Have I learned from this? Yes. I’ve learned the obvious things such as compassion and patience, but I’ve learned even more about language and how it shapes our ways of thinking. Some of what I’ve learned I will gladly abandon, relieved to spend more time moving on my mat and less time thinking on my couch, forgetful of this brief period of agitated mental movement within the stillness of sedentary days.

My deepest thanks to Robert Sturman for creating beautiful photos within the post-op limitations of my practice.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

You Are Invited - Bending Light: One Goddess - Three Reflections

 Kamaksi, The One Whose Eyes are Desire

For quite a while, I've wanted to offer a retreat with my teacher and good friend of many years, Dr. Douglas Brooks. I thought about it frequently, knowing that so many of his students and friends ask this of him, and finally realized that if I didn't ask, then he could never say course. And so I did and then he did.

I was thrilled. When I asked him what sort of topic he thought we might choose for the retreat, he responded, "Whatever you like." After a decade of study together, I had compiled a mile-long list of topics I wished to study with him, and had to contemplate it for a while.  

 Minaksi of Madurai, Warrior Princess

I thought about how the time I have spent with Douglas in South India has so sweetly and powerfully turned me inside-out and shown me deeper layers of myself. I thought about my profound love for and connection to Chidambaram and the way in which I feel so surprisingly at home wandering the grounds of this great temple and at the foot of Shiva Nataraja. I remembered how, after each visit, my teaching has been infused with the beauty of what I have experienced there, and my passion for teaching yoga is reignited.

Akhilandesvari, Mother of the Universe. She is Never Not Broken.

When I was in Tamil Nadu this past summer, I was determined to acquire a goddess murti. I have Natarajas big and small, and other forms of Shiva, but I felt lacking in the devi department. I found a beautiful one who now sits prettily in my apartment, her foot poised and hovering over a sricakra. I realized that this was what I wanted to study.

I wrote to Douglas that I was torn between studying three forms of Shiva Nataraja's beloved: Kamaksi, Minaksi, and Akilandesvari. They were so different, yet so significant - how to choose? He wrote back saying, "Do the three.  They are all you.

And just as they are all me, they are also all you...and you...and you. 

So with great happiness, we invite you to:

Bending Light: One Goddess - Three Reflections
a Yoga Retreat with

Douglas Brooks &  Susanna Harwood Rubin
May 31 - June 3

Kamaksi is the goddess whose eyes are desire, Minaksi is a warrior princess, and Akhilandesvari is known as mother of the universe. All three goddesses are forms of Shiva’s beloved, and are intimately associated with the sricakra, the Devi’s most sublime emanation. These Goddesses are nothing less than your very self, showing how to be empowered in your desire, sovereign over your strength and how to wear your own fractured presence as a mark of beauty.

In our practice and study together we will learn the stories of the Goddesses, advance our meditation, learn mudra, mantra, and step into the invitation of greatness so sweetly offered by the Shakti. No previous experience is expected or required.  Bring an open mind, a welcoming heart, and a desire to dream what more there is than waking consciousness, the inner light and shadow of your own possibilities.


Each day we will have lecture by Douglas on the three Goddesses, asana practice with Susanna weaving each lecture’s theme into the body, and time to relax, swim, canoe, hike, & enjoy the lush spring beauty of Lake Rahasya.

Lake Rahasya Retreat House in Bristol, NY is a modern log cabin on 20 acres in the hills of the Finger Lakes. The picture windows in the yoga room overlook the lake and hills. 

DATES - Thursday, May 31 – Sunday, June 3, 2012
REGISTRATION & MORE DETAILs–Vishali Varga - Rahasya Retreats website 
QUESTIONS – contact Susanna -
COST - $575 before May 1 / $625 after May 1. $250 deposit holds your spot. Balance due May 9. This includes all accommodations, meals & snacks, daily lecture with Douglas and asana practice with Susanna, and all of Lake Rahasya Retreat’s amenities. Cost without accommodations is $450


Join Us.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yoga Coalition

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Students,

Well. 2012 sure has delivered on its promise of enormous change! In the last month, an overwhelming cascade of events has impacted the Anusara yoga community. All of us are still processing these events in our own ways, and it’s probably not a stretch to say that we are surprised to find ourselves in this place.

Yoga Coalition is a group of yoga teachers who have recently distanced themselves from John Friend and Anusara, Inc. Regardless of our transitions from Anusara, Inc., we are as committed as ever to excellence in the art of teaching yoga, and to our local and global communities. As the dust settles from these recent experiences, we find ourselves asking:

What now?

We find the deep camaraderie we developed as co-creators of Anusara yoga is stronger than ever, and we know these bonds help us both to serve others and to evolve ourselves. Change has invigorated our creativity and our self-awareness, so we don’t wish to replicate the old structure, or to create without careful consideration. Instead, we want to initiate a movement toward a new paradigm of collectivity that we can grow organically over time, one based on our education and shared wisdom.

Moving forward, we know we won’t have a perfectly unified vision. This is a good thing–it allows room for more than one voice, and gives us the freedom to grow, independently and together.
We hope to collaborate and build on existing relationships, in a decentralized way that fosters creativity and allows grassroots initiative. Some of us may collaborate on projects and programs to empower our students. Some may focus on building bridges to the larger yoga community. Some of us may work to re-imagine what a serious yogic education, with a true standard of excellence, looks like.

Perhaps you feel the same?

If so, you are welcome to learn more on a website we’ve started together,, and a Facebook group by the same name. There is no obligation, other than a sincere desire to move forward, to participate in honest conversation, and to practice with integrity.


Bernadette Birney
Abe Christensen
Laura Christensen
Betsey Downing
Sue Elkind
Justin Faircloth
Sarah Faircloth
Nealy Fischer
Kelley Gardner
Beryl Herrin
Kendra Hodgson
Marc Holzman
Amy Ippoliti
Naime Jezzeny
Jordan Louise Kirk
Martin Kirk
Chris Magenta
Emma Magenta
Noah Maze
Cat McCarthy
Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin
Joe Miller
Natalie Miller
Stacey Millner-Collins
Katie Myer
Sara Rose Page
Darren Rhodes
Susanna Harwood Rubin
Christina Sell
Tracy Silver
Lara Demberg Voloto

Participating Studios
Be Yoga, Charlotte NC
The Bindu, Cornelius NC
City Yoga, Columbia SC
Dig Yoga, Lambertville NJ & Philadelphia PA
NOLA YOGA, New Orleans LA
South Mountain Yoga, South Orange NJ
Vikasa Yoga, Cold Spring NY
Willow Street Yoga, Takoma Park & Silver Spring MD
Yoga Evolution, Jenkintown PA
Yoga Oasis, Tucson AZ
Yoga Sanctuary, North Hampton MA

Monday, February 27, 2012

Leaving Anusara.


This has been the longest time I have gone without publishing a piece of writing in over two years. I kept trying to write this piece and that piece, and frankly, I have  pages of fabulously rich notes, scribbles, and thoughts to play with at some point. What has prevented me from drawing them coherently into an interesting piece of writing has been the bottom falling out of a central component of my life, namely Anusara Yoga. If you’re reading this, you know the rough outline of what has happened or perhaps you know the gritty details or the hints and shadows of them. In any case, every time I attempted to develop a piece of writing for the past few weeks, it felt forced, stilted, beside the point.

I realized tonight, as I wrote my resignation letter, that this would be a purging of blocked words, a letting go of things so that I could clear the way for new words to come, new ways of thinking to coalesce. And as I type this now, I feel relieved, renewed. I am creating instead of leaving, forming instead of dissolving. I’m entering the upswing of a new cycle.

The following is my letter to my community. Some people will like that I published it here and others will not. I wrote a piece here last year in which I spoke about the need to smash apart the old to begin again, and so this is what I’ve done. This is the way I need to deal with it to feel complete. Putting something into words makes it feel real to me. It seals the commitment. To those of you I love who are staying and those I love who have left, I hope it’s ok with you all. It’s the best I have to offer at the moment.

Chidambaram OM

Dear Friends,
This evening I came to a calm, yet profoundly sad decision to end my business affiliation with Anusara Yoga. This has been a painful process for me, involving the same anxiety, sleeplessness, and tears that so many of you are also experiencing. I love our system of asana and believe it to be the most elegant and intelligent one out there. I deeply love and admire our community as well, and for over ten years now I have been in a continual state of wonderment over the ocean of talent, intellect, and creativity that I have encountered in Anusara teachers and students. I cannot imagine my life without it and without all of you.

Furthermore, and the toughest point in all of this, is that I truly love, admire, and respect John. He has been supportive of me in many ways, and his teaching has helped me to heal when I was going through a couple of tough times. He has changed my life for the better. I am amazed at what he created, and I am forever grateful.

After several days of emotional turmoil, I realized that I was resisting leaving because of my deep love for the practice and for our community. The problem was, I had fallen out of love with the organization. Did you ever end a relationship because you and the other person were playing with different rulebooks? This is what I’m talking about. And this is why I have to leave.

I would like to be very clear. My resignation is a painful and carefully thought-out decision. It is a decision whose roots are in thoughts, feelings, and experiences that I’ve had over a few years. The events and revelations of the past couple of weeks have sealed it, but that tiny seed of thought indicating my eventual departure has been gestating for a while.

I pulled away from the initial cascade of resignations that began Sunday, feeling that I did not want to make a major life decision quickly, simply because so many of my close friends had left. What is necessary for me in any major life event is to get quiet, to make sure that I am in a thoughtful and grounded place, and to act from that place with informed certainty. I wrote, I meditated, I taught, I spoke with friends and family, and I’m in that place right now.

My reasons for leaving are rooted in my belief that an organization cannot successfully and healthily exist when one person has control over so many. I have felt like a bit of an outlier in the past few years because I have resisted some of Anusara’s philosophical underpinnings, specifically the Shiva-Shakti Primer. I have also disagreed with some of its financial initiatives, such as the 10% dues we are asked to pay on yoga products, when so many of us can barely make a living.

I have not felt empowered to publicly contest either of these policies without potentially damaging my career within Anusara, Inc., and that is a huge problem. I am a person who once spent six months on a picket line at the Museum of Modern Art fighting for my rights, and for me to feel, at this point in my life, that I can’t voice my dissent is not healthy. A silently fuming person is not the person who I wish to be. A person who says one thing and then does another is also not who I want to be. I believe in boundaries but I don’t believe in constraints. There is a difference. In addition, I feel that there has been a culture of fear and secrecy that is the opposite of the transparency I embrace. There are far too many moments for me to cite here, but I welcome anyone’s questions for clarification. This is about my personal integrity and about how I want to move through the world.
I am still a certified Anusara Yoga teacher, although I will be relinquishing my license. I will fulfill the teaching commitments that I have planned in the next few months that offer credit hours to those attending.

There is no other style of asana I wish to teach. I firmly believe that this brilliant alignment system is the best there is out there. I will continue to teach exactly how I teach right now. I will honor all that I have learned from John and from everyone, both teachers and students, who have been with me through this wild and beautiful ride. I love you all. Thank you. I’ll see you on the other side.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

- Rumi
With Love and Gratitude,

My Decade of Beauty – Building the Palace Within.

Douglas with the Dikshitar Priests during the Homa, Chidambaram, Dec 2010 - photo Frank Andolino

How deeply do you wish to participate in your life?

To my teacher Douglas Brooks

Ten years ago today I sat in a room with 26 other people and listened as you said to us: You are sufficient unto yourself. Everything you truly need is present. The question is: How deeply do you wish to participate in your life?

This was day one of my Anusara Yoga Teacher Training, and I could say that I didn’t know then how much my life would change, which might make for a better story or at least build more drama for a later moment of epiphany, but the reality is that I did realize in this moment that my life had just shifted. I had no idea of what was to come, but I knew that I had stepped into something seismically upending.

My Eka Pada Koundinyasana by the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, July 2011

What I did not know was that throughout the next decade I would begin to shift my identity away from the Susanna whose life revolved around the art world, organizing my weekly schedule around openings in Chelsea and my annual schedule around my residencies and exhibitions. I did not imagine that I would walk away from a highly coveted position at MoMA in order to teach yoga classes in the East Village and Soho, then in Paris and in Rome. At that point I could not have pictured myself meditating in a temple in South India and wanting to be nowhere other than exactly where I was. This paradigm-shifting moment ten years ago was not something that I had consciously sought out, yet clearly, beneath the surface, I had cultivated an internal space for it to take root and blossom. And I recognized it when it happened – that’s the thing.

Dancing on the steps of Palani Temple, Dec 2010

At this time last year I was returning from pilgrimage in Tamil Nadu with you. In an article I wrote upon my return, I proposed this: Make a pilgrimage within yourself. Treat this year like a journey. Visit every place you can find that resides within you. And then honor your experience, regardless of what you find along the way.

Dikshitars Priests at our Rudra Homa, Chidambaram, Dec 2010 - photo Frank Andolino

I had just moved through the humid and darkly ecstatic interiors of Tiruchendur. I had climbed past waves of camphor smoke, pressing the folds of my sari against my leg to mount the hundreds of steps to the top of Palani. I had woken up day after day before dawn in anticipation of the cacophonous temple music that preceded each sunrise, then stained the soles of my feet red with the spilled kumkum at Tillai Kali Amman Temple. I had craned my neck toward the Cit Saba in Chidambaram, my body sweat-soaked and immobilized by so many other bodies, all of us yearning for a glimpse of the dancer’s face gleaming behind the flames of the arathi, and pressing against the grate to see the rahasya as the Dikshitar priests drew open the curtain.

The external experience merged with my internal process, which was sometimes ferociously passionate, and at other times sweetly bewildering. I have written about all this and more, but the sensory experience still inhabits me so thoroughly that I soften my eyes and I am there with you now as I write these words.

During the Homa, Chidambaram, Dec 2010 - photo Frank Andolino

I have another teacher who showed me how people like me, whose minds are ever moving, ever flickering, sending off sparks of energy in all directions, can build palaces within ourselves with rooms upon rooms in which to meditate. In those rooms I can arrange things to create particular environments. Then I can go back and change it all around, redecorate to structure my meditations and to expand them. I have different rooms for different purposes and the content of the rooms gets rearranged when it suits me. Everywhere I’ve ever been and everything I’ve ever done resides in this inner landscape, my interior palace. This is the site on which I broke ground that day ten years ago. Although I was never not building it, that day was when I cut the ribbon and walked in. That was the day I began to lay claim to the palace within.

Roof of the Cit Saba (Hall of Consciousness), Chidambaram, Dec 2010 - photo Frank Andolino

I have already written that once you have been to Chidambaram, the temple takes up residence within you. And so it has. My friend Harrison Williams told me a couple of days ago that he dreamt of the temple, walking endlessly through its elaborate corridors. He remembered, with precision, where certain stones were cracked and loose and he could feel them beneath the soles of his feet in his dream as he made his way through, pausing to offer mantra and mudra at Ganesh, then Subrahmanya, at Dakshina Moorthi, and at the feet of Nataraja, just as you showed us.

Chidambaram Nataraja Temple Corridor, Dec 2010 - photo Frank Andolino

You have told us how in the north, the traditions tend to revolve around Tirtha – a place such as a river or mountain as a site of pilgrimage, whereas the southern traditions invite us to the temple to pay homage and to receive Darshan, the exchange of glances between the deity and ourselves. Inside of me I have temples, I have palaces, I have forests and fields. As I traverse my inner landscape, I wander across dry clear plains, rest in dense green thickets, and wind my way through the labyrinthine temples that have assembled themselves within me.

Tirukalakundram-view while walking up to the temple, 2010

There are so many places to pause, so many reasons to bow down. Nothing has become simple and streamlined in my creative and spiritual practices. On the contrary, everything has become infinitely more complex and so wildly beautiful. This is our tradition, which utterly suits me. And for this, on our tenth anniversary of study together, Douglas, I thank you again and again and again.

Satsang with Douglas Brooks, Swamimalai Dec 2008
Special thanks to Frank Andolino for the his beautiful photos of our time in Chidambaram.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Double Life (or…Doing the Yoga of Art)

My Hummingbird Sky installation at Studio Salon – With Eastern Eyes  Nov 2011
"So you're not going to make art any more? You're just going to do yoga?"

I said something out loud about myself the other night that surprised me. It wasn’t that I was unaware of its truth, but the fact that I articulated it is as precisely and as forcefully as I did was somewhat arresting. I was perched on a stool at an art opening just in front of an installation of mine that ran along the side of a wall. I had been included in an exhibition called Studio Salon – With Eastern Eyes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Four of us had work in the exhibition and I was speaking with another one of the artists who, like me, had spent time in India and who combined her life as an artist with her life as a yogi. This was clearly reflected in our work and we immediately found that we had volumes to talk about.

We were discussing the art world and I was remarking upon the ways in which my relationship to it had changed since I had become a yoga teacher. I said, At this point, my artwork serves my yoga. I paused and looked at those words hovering in the space between us, startled that I had said them out loud. And then the funniest thing happened – some taut internal sensation gave way, and I felt utterly happy.

My Pink Victorine installation at  Studio Salon – With Eastern Eyes  Nov 2011
What I had said was some sort of art world treason. Most people in the art world don’t even want to hear that you have a day job. You are supposed to do whatever it takes to make your work and the work is the point. But any job you hold is supposed to be disposable, as opposed to a career or a lifestyle choice. Artists work as art movers, as waiters, as temps. There’s a good reason for this since all of these jobs involve marketable skills, but minimal commitment. You can take off for a residency or an exhibition in another city, knowing that you can find a new position when you return. Your job is supposed to serve your work.

Art is something like a religion involving sacrifice and single-mindedness. This works for many artists, and it functioned well for me for many years. But at a certain point in time, in the midst of my deepening involvement in yoga, this way of being and thinking ceased to sit comfortably for me, and somewhere in there a significant shift happened.

MoMA Sculpture Garden Garudasana
I have spent years trying to keep my yoga life and my art world life separate. I have told myself the story that the art world doesn’t want to have anything to do with my yoga life for a long time, and that I somehow wouldn’t be taken seriously as an artist anymore if I revealed the depths of my commitment to yoga. The link to the yoga part of my website is slightly hidden in my belief that the yogis will happily dig through the artwork to find it, but that it’s probably best if the art world doesn’t see it.

And frankly, there are good reasons why I’ve nurtured this separation (or dodged the connection), namely because this assumption of mine has proven art world conversation after art world conversation to be accurate, and also because there’s a lot of terrible yoga-driven art out there. I have huge issues with the rainbow-y aesthetic and low-end psychedelia of much of the art I see in the yoga world. It makes me cringe.

In front of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (the best painting ever)
I spent years lecturing and writing for the Museum of Modern Art, and unabashedly still worship at the altar of Picasso. I made highly cerebral and conceptual work for years until yoga smoothed its brittle edges and filled it with both color and a greater physicality. I continue to be a tough critic of art that I see in Chelsea Galleries and can analyze in seconds what concepts artists are exploring, while being wildly over-opinionated about whether or not it seems to be working.

For the most part, the art world seems to find it interesting and vaguely provocative that I can organize my body parts into interesting shapes and patterns, and certain people ask my advice about beginning a yoga practice, but a number of my friends continue to be perplexed about the extent of my involvement in it. I was asked just a couple of years ago by a good friend, So you’re not going to make art any more? You’re just going to do yoga? I was taken aback and scrambled uncomfortably to explain that no, this was not the case AT ALL. But now if someone said that to me, I would just shrug it off, because beneath the question is a belief system that is simply different from mine. How do you debate in two different languages? Additionally, I’m so deeply in love with my yoga practice that I simply don’t care what people think about it anymore.

Puja with Dakshina Moorthi - with Douglas Brooks, July 2011
So how does my artwork serve my yoga? First of all, what needs saying is that yoga for me is far more than a physical practice. In addition to asana, my philosophical studies, meditation, pranayama, mantra, and mudra practices are huge parts of my daily life. The ideas that I explore and encounter in my studies of Hindu Tantra are mind-bendingly complex and can be applied to every conceivable aspect of my life. They are fascinating. And moving. And beautiful. And aesthetically ecstatic.

Inner Landscape #6 - one of my drawings
It is from this place of delighted inquiry and close attention that I make art now. This is how the art serves the yoga. The yoga is the thing that connects every aspect of my life – every breath, every gesture, every moment, every creative impulse, every line inscribed on paper, every delineated form. When I create from this place, I offer my best self. Everything that I am making right now is emerging from a fullness that was not previously realized or acknowledged, but now constitutes my center. And for that reason, I am making the best work of my life.

Hummingbird Sky Bakasana at Studio Salon – With Eastern Eyes  Nov 2011