“I practice yoga regularly, and one thing I know to be true is that yoga opens my mind,” says photographer and Yoga practitioner Robert Sturman. “Through the asanas (yoga posture), I have become more aware of my own actions and how my steps in this world leave traces. I have faced everything on my mat. I had no choice. I think that’s exactly what yoga does ”.
Sturman believes in the universality of yoga and has traveled the world photographing yogis through physical and cultural diversities. “All around us, there are people everywhere creating the life they want to live,” he says. “Yoga has a way of bringing us closer to our hearts.” From New York to Nairobi, from Kathmandu to Havana, his photographs capture professionals, prisoners, warriors and children, united in their connection with yoga.
These are some of the portraits photographed by Robert Sturman:
1. Jacob Parit Noomek: Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya.
“It’s not just yoga when you’re on the mat. The yoga is in you, ”says Jacob Parit Noomek, a Maasai warrior and yoga teacher at the foot of the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya.
Through the Yoga Africa Project, he became a yoga teacher and is now helping to bring yoga to the different peoples of the region. When asked why he calls himself a warrior, he says it is because he has a strong connection to where he comes from and a great desire to move on.
2. Amy Pastore: Yersey Coast, United States.
“When you are pregnant, your center of balance changes daily. I think of it as nature’s way of preparing you for the big change when the baby comes and the center of your universe is now walking outside of you, ”says Amy Pastore, Yoga teacher and practitioner.
“Yoga reminds me of what is really important in life and helps me put aside what is not. It connects me to my source, giving me faith in something greater. I feel a sense of freedom in that.
3. Patricia Hudacsko: New Yersey, United States.
“Something that Yoga can help us as we age is undoubtedly in the physical aspect, in keeping the joints and in particular the spine flexible,” says Patricia Hudacsko, a yoga teacher in New Jersey.
There is a saying that you are only as young as your spine is flexible. To expose that, I have to say that you are as young as your spine and mind are as flexible. Yoga provides the means to realize our true nature, which is love.
«Aging is a process of letting go. We learn to give up our attachment to the “I’ll be happy when …” mentality and to appreciate what we have right now. With yoga we experiment, try new things, do something different, both on our mat and in our day-to-day life. With yoga as a tool, 65 is truly the new 40.
4. R. Askari Johnson: San Quentin State Prison, California, United States
One mistake many of us make when we think of a prisoner, especially one serving a life sentence, is that they have all been convicted of a crime of violence. Many people are not aware of the three strikes law, Sturman says of the inmates he met and photographed at California’s San Quentin State Prison.
Three strikes and you’re out of society for life. They are sitting there trying not to rot, and waiting for the hour and a half yoga class that they are allowed to attend once a week. “
«Do you want to punish a human being? Bring them to your own conscience. These men who have taken the brave step to come to this thing called yoga, which is not necessarily seen as the most masculine recreational activity in the prison system, have something inside of them that yearns to crumble. My camera is a voice for that man.
5. MC Yogi: Whistler, Canada.
MC Yogi calls himself an ambassador of yoga today. The yoga teacher and hip-hop musician infuses Hindu philosophy into his work and performances.
“MC Yogi and I took a hike to the top of Whistler Mountain in Canada. Many people know him as a rapper in the yoga world, spreading peace and love, but he is rarely portrayed practicing yoga and he has a beautiful practice, “says Sturman.
6. Ninie Ahmad-Forget: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
“Malaysia banned yoga for Muslims, who made up 60% of its population, in 2008. The ban was lifted shortly after, but yoga studios were warned not to include chanting and meditation in their classes,” says the yoga teacher in Malaysia Ninie.
“Our spiritual life in this temporary body is too short not to try to extend breath and health to the highest that has been lent to us – whatever name we all call it -“.
«I am from Malaysia and I am Muslim. And I do yoga. And I pray. And I sing and meditate, in any language… I see God in all his creation, with my head covered or not, in my revealing clothing or not. My religion teaches love, respect and kindness, therefore, yoga is in all religions, at least in mine.
7. Officer Milo: California, United States
“In the most difficult moments all we have to do is breathe. Inhale, hold. Exhale, hold. And repeat, ”says Officer Milo, a yogi and police officer who works in the Sturman California neighborhood itself.
“He takes yoga off the mat and embodies what all police officers were originally titled Peace Officers,” says Sturman.
“The news often bombards us with the negativity surrounding police officers. While this is necessary to hold human beings accountable for unacceptable behavior, this is so necessary to share, celebrate, and praise human beings who live lives of excellence, always aiming for what is possible.
8. Unnamed female prisoners: Langata Women’s Prison, Nairobi, Kenya.
“The Kenyan women’s prison brought me unexpected joy, when inmates, many of whom are HIV positive, shared that yoga has become a rare source of happiness in their daily lives,” says Sturman.
“After the yoga class the women are asked to paint what they feel. Most of them wrote about how much they loved yoga. I tried to capture this joy and the calming effects that this practice is bringing into your current reality, ”Sturman said.
9. Tommy Valencia: California, United States.
Tommy is a yogi whose leg had to be amputated two years ago due to several blood clots in his left leg. Her devotion to yoga has helped her cultivate a strong foundation, Sturman says.
“No matter how much pain and discomfort I’m going to have in the day, I get up, go out and go live the day I have,” says Tommy.
«Yoga provides me with a centrifugal force of mind, body and soul to a breath through my physical integrity that goes beyond the questions of understanding how, it gives me answers to all the possibilities of how to feel complete with nature as my guide. “
10. Danielle Brown: Coasts of Long Island, United States.
“Most people choose to take this trip with me in bad weather. And then it’s the adventurous soul that will insist, ”says Sturman.
For Danielle, the subject of this image, “yoga means a journey into the depths of connection. It begins with an unlocking of the embankment and captures the trail of the magnificence of nature.