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Michael O'Neill's 'On Yoga' captures the practice's bends and curves

"There is no modern yoga; there is just yoga in modern times."

That's a line from the new Taschen book "On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace" by photographer Michael O'Neill.

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The book's recent release coincides with an exhibition of 80-plus large-scale photographs at the Taschen Gallery, marking O'Neill's first Los Angeles show. The photographer captures yoga in an important moment of transition with his portraits of famous practitioners such as Donna Karan, Sting and Christy Turlington Burns and influential yogis such as Rodney Yee and the now deceased teachers B.K.S. Iyengar and Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.

O'Neill, a commercial and editorial photographer famous for his shots of the famous, spent a decade photographing yoga's influential leaders. Images span the globe from India to New York, as well as portraits taken this spring at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles.

Stairway to Where?, vrischikasana (scorpion pose) done in Haridwar, India, on March 10, 2009.
Stairway to Where?, vrischikasana (scorpion pose) done in Haridwar, India, on March 10, 2009. (Michael O'Neill / Taschen)

"All I wanted to do was to pay homage to yoga's classical lineage and understand this unique moment before it slips away," O'Neill said.

Devotees such as O'Neill see yoga growing worldwide as a physical practice, but they see a parallel decline in understanding about its origins, spiritual dimensions and purpose as a means to unite the mind, body and spirit. The book aims to capture not just images of practitioners famous and not, but also yoga's essence.

The exhibition also offers a unique opportunity to practice yoga alongside portraits of world-class masters in such joint-bending poses as vatayanasana (horse face pose), which adorns the book's cover.

Bhagirathasana (pose of the sage Bhagiratha), Eddie Stern. Taken on Crosby Street, New York City, Jan. 21, 2014.
Bhagirathasana (pose of the sage Bhagiratha), Eddie Stern. Taken on Crosby Street, New York City, Jan. 21, 2014. (Michael O'Neill / Taschen)

During the exhibition, the gallery is hosting a free weekly yoga class within the exhibition area for the first 35 people who show up. Hatha flow yoga classes with Maud Nadler of Yoga Works are 9 to 10 a.m. Dec. 12 and 19 and Jan. 2. Vinyasa-style yoga classes with Donovan Vriens-McGrath take place from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 17 and Jan. 7.

The exhibition runs through Jan. 7 at the Taschen Gallery, 8070 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.

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