When did yoga get so big? For the third International Yoga Day — yes, the United Nations has given it a day, June 21 — India, where the ancient discipline originated, organized classes all over the country, and public yoga events were held across the globe, from South Africa to South Philadelphia.
In the United States, more than 36 million adults practice yoga, more than ever, according to a recent study in Yoga Journal. Faddish offshoots — goat yoga, baby yoga, beer yoga — keep springing up, aspiring yoga teachers are multiplying like Uber drivers and celebrity yogis have become the stuff of legend, scandal and even tabloids.
So when Francesco Mastalia decided to document yoga masters for his latest book, he not only found a timely subject, he also found no shortage of worthy subjects. The photographer, based in Rhinebeck, N.Y., happens to live in a yoga mecca, where ashrams and yoga centers dot the Hudson Valley and Rhinebeck’s Omega Institute draws serious practitioners from around the world.
Still, “Yoga: The Secret of Life,” (due Sept. 12 from powerHouse Books), a lush photo documentary of 108 leading yoga practitioners, morphed, in a fitting way, during the year and a half that Mr. Mastalia spent photographing. It became something much deeper, much more, than even he intended.
He started with the idea that yogis stretching and twisting themselves into various postures — the beauty, grace and strength of the human body transformed through rigorous physical practice — would be “beautiful to photograph.” But to those who live and breathe yoga, the practice is not an exercise regimen, but a spiritual journey. It’s the key to understanding their place in the universe.