The art in the asanas

Updated: Jul 07, 2019, 11:45 IST | Samiksha Mishra

A new book by Pragya Bhatt with pictures by engineer-photographer Joel Koechlin, draws on myth and history to tell the yoga story

The art in the asanas
Pragya Bhatt

While we have a treasure trove of books that throw light on how yoga is good for our spiritual and mental well-being, the art, culture and context of this practice, sometimes tend to be overlooked.

Beyond Asanas (Penguin Random House), a recently-released book on the myths and legends behind the ancient, yogic postures, hopes to bridge that gap. Written by yoga instructor Pragya Bhatt with photographs by Joel Koechlin, actor Kalki Koechlin's father, the book, which takes us through 30 asanas, also spells out the historical and mythological context behind their names, while explaining how to get the postures right, and discussing their benefits and contraindications.

Joel Koechlin

Before collaborating on this book, Bhatt and Koechlin shared the same sentiments on the current books that were available on yoga.

Where it was difficult for Bhatt to find a book that could suffice her curiosity about the history and diversity of the practice, Koechlin found himself distressed every time he looked at the photographs that these books featured. "When Pragya and I sat to discuss the book, I was very clear that we should get pictures with more depth, elegance and context to the story that she wanted to tell. It was during that time, that I had been frequently visiting Hampi, a heritage site in Karnataka. That's how I came up with the idea of presenting yoga as an art-form in connection with nature," says Koechlin.

In the book, Koechlin trains his lens on Bhatt, as she performs the asanas amidst the ancient temples and rocky landscape of Hampi. "When it came to the pictures, I wanted someone who could portray yoga in a very raw and artistic way, and that's how Joel came on board," says Bhatt, who is a computer engineer, but gave up her corporate career to pursue a future in the arts. A certified yoga instructor, she conducts private training sessions, while pursuing her masters in the same field now.

Pragya Bhattt
Adho mukha svanasana; Pics courtsey/ Joel Koechlin for Beyond Asanas, Penguin Random House)

Both Bhatt and Koechlin were very thrilled about the whole process of shooting for the book. "The point of view of the shoot was interesting because of the context - rain, mountains, nature and breathtaking scenery," says Koechlin.

The photographer has led a life, which he prefers calling, "un-definable". He is an aerospace engineer and also holds a degree in photography from Switzerland's prestigious The Advanced school of Applied Arts. He has travelled and worked in different fields majorly in Paris, France and is now settled in India, as a freelance photographer. "I have lived a long and complicated life. I have never been able to solidify myself in a particular personality. Yet, I have everything, because I believe that more than the profession, it is the experience and a certain knowledge that you should strive for," says Koechlin, adding, "It is this experience and knowledge that prepares us for new challenges."

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