Surrounded by yogis, I am present. It is happening. All around me, consciousness shifts and transforms. While many see physical exercise or people sitting still in a room, that is merely the surface. There is something profound occurring before my lens.
On a purely physiological level, we know the effect of a pose: muscles are working, glands are activated, and organs are squeezed. Prana, or life force, circulates, replenishing with every breath. The brain is stimulated and cleared. With each movement, essential messages are communicated.
Practised on a regular basis, with intention, these superficial benefits alone will change one’s life. Yet the body is but a vehicle, the container through which yoga is known. There are vast resources within us that are unacknowledged and unexplored.
Each of us has immense wisdom, here and now, waiting to be tapped. Through the subtle work of sadhana (daily practice), clarity, intuition, and peace are revealed. We begin to grasp our true depths, to see the other as our self, to know the interconnected nature of reality.
Yoga becomes an experience of Union.
ON A PURELY somatic level, the body can without doubt act as a conduit to deeper levels of consciousness; and yet, award-winning, Minneapolis-based photographer, Andy Richter’s utterly exquisite photography leads us in itself unto a transcendental state. Indeed, the Indian sage, Bharata Muni in his treatise on the arts, Natya Shastra, gives credence in its theory of aesthetics to the way in which the beauty of artistic composition can lead the heart to an encounter with the divine, an interior feeling known as rasa.
And thus, Andy (born 1977) takes us on a deeply personal journey precipitated by his own yoga practice, through India and America, documenting his travels by means of his photographic lens. A pageant of yogic practitioners, engaged in both acrobatic feats and meditative stances, consequently captivate our very eyes: a hermit in a cave sitting silently in the lotus posture; yogis and yoginis contorted into eye-watering poses on their yoga mats; an elderly gentleman seated in a plush armchair of his sumptuous suburban home. Accompanied by the visual peppering of tilaka spices, holy ash and flower petals throughout this stunning monograph, Serpent in the Wilderness is a deeply visceral and sensory narrative of a spiritual pilgrimage, culminating in an outstanding piece of art.
Furthermore, despite the concatenation of movement—dancing, prostrations, asanas—and colour—yellow, ochre, tangerine—the concentration and purposefulness of each protagonist belie an inner stillness such that we too feel similarly transmuted, each portrait a penetrating portal into the very essence of the nature of Self. Indeed, the most truly meaningful way to imbibe the subtle depths of every picture is simply to rest on each conformation and allow the harmony of its complementary elements to inspire the arising of rasa within us, elevating the soul unto a state of union with universal reality and a higher vibration of consciousness.
Taking over five years to compile, Serpent in the Wildness is a meticulous record of a sincere and humble seeker whose peripatetic photographs bear testament to the power of physical exercise and mastery of contemplative discipline. As I turn the final page, with the words of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi encouraging me to discover my own self-realization resonating deep within me, I resolve to rekindle my own yoga routine and devote the rest of my life to the path of wisdom, humility and love.
Like the rays of the moon
the light of yoga is expanding.
All religions, beliefs and sects
are receiving shelter
under the kalpataru of yoga.
Towards the evolution of consciousness
yoga has done unforgettable work.
Yoga will become tomorrow’s culture
and will show
a new way of life for mankind.
—Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati
spread the light,
be the light.
Yoga allows you to find
a new kind of freedom
that you may not have known
—B. K. S. Iyengar
It is not necessary to meet
your guru on the physical plane.
The guru is not external.
—Neem Karoli Baba
Silence is not silent.
It speaks most eloquently.
Silence is not still.
It leads most perfectly.
The Sanskrit word yoga means to reconnect with our eternal essence. And the purpose of every aspect of yoga is to create a transformation of our character, a transformation of our perception of life, and a transformation of our consciousness, from arrogance to humility, from greed to generosity, from vengeance to forgiveness, from hate to love, from agitation to peace. And ultimately, in this world, from envy to compassion. Because unless those transformations take place, unless we tap into our own spiritual essence, our true nature, there can be no real fulfilment in life.
Your own Self-Realization
is the greatest service you can
render the world.
- Andy Richter’s website
- Kehrer Verlag Publisher
- Ditmar Bollaert: Arunachala Pradakshina
- Andrei Tarkovsky: Instant Light
- Ron Rosenstock: The Invisible Light
- Jerry Katz: Let the Scene See You
- Danila Tkachenko: Escape
- Ansel Adams: The Search for Beauty
- Roy Whenary: Open Awareness