Yogis weren’t peaceful at all – proof here

Of course I (kind of) suspected that 2.000 years ago the average yogi didn’t wear Lululemons and OM-t-shirts. And probably they weren’t unrolling their sticky mats with a loud ‘bang’ on the rocky surface, annoying all fellow yogis in the surrounding Himalayan caves. But this? No, really – I wasn’t prepared for this.

Yogis weren’t peaceful. The Battle at Thaneshwar, a watercolor from the Mughal dynasty in 1590, shatters the stereotype of yogis as perfectly peaceful: it depicts bands of armed yogis battling over bathing rights at a sacred river.

Messy business. Probably being flexible really paid off!

Messy business. Probably being flexible really paid off!

The archetype of a yogi. Surely, they were hiding their proper yoga equipment somewhere. Or maybe, yoga involved other stuff than stretching. Maybe they were doing pranayama, studying the scriptures, meditating and living an ascetic life? Hum. 

Can someone put some Krishna Das please?

Can someone put some Krishna Das please?

Yoginis were agents of otherworldly powers who could help win battles. Or at least this is what the Indo-Islamic rulers of Bijapur thought in the 17th century.

Yogini in Karnataka, India, Bijapur ~1603.

Yogini in Karnataka, India, Bijapur ~1603.

If like me you’re not lucky enough to live in Washington to see ‘Yoga: The Art of Transformation’ at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, you’ve still got the chance to see the touring exhibition – next at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (February 21–May 25, 2014) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (June 22–September 7, 2014).

Has anyone been? Please share your impressions in the comments – I’d love to read some reviews!


~ Andrea

P.S. The booklet ‘What would we do if we weren’t afraid’ is in the works and will be posted here shortly! It explores the ‘fear factor’ in our lives, its texture, its taste, its composition – and shows that what we’re commonly feeling isn’t actually fear, but anxiety. It also lists practical exercises that will daze, numb and eventually kill off anxiety – but in a very gentle way! 🙂

Photo credit

12 replies »

  1. Wonderful post Andrea. In my YTT we’ve learned a lot about yoga philosophy and I love the visuals you’ve chosen. I plan to see the exhibit when it’s in Cleveland.


  2. Very interesting! Good points all around (in comments section as well). I will try to keep this in perspective as well when I’m struggling in my own practice.


  3. I just went to the exhibit last week and was definitely not prepared for what I saw! And I certainly don’t mean that in a negative way, but rather, I now realize I went with a mindset. We learned so much about the history of Yoga in YTT training, that I went to the exhibit expecting to see old pictures of Krischnamachrya, Iyengar and Jois, along with pictures of popular Yogis throughout the years. What I saw was a whole different thing though! There was one area of the exhibit that had the Iyengar pictures (done in a really cool way on a bunch of TVs), but it was definitely more very, very old water color and artwork depicting Yogis as otherworldly, as fighters, as sages – pretty much what you mention in your blog. What I appreciated was the reverence for Yoginis! There were definitely depictions of women as knowledgeable and otherworldly as well, although there was a certain point when one of the rulers stopped any more production of pictures or statutes that honored Yoginis. I entered the exhibit with one mindset and left with my mind practically blown! But it was an overall great experience and it was PACKED! This weekend is the last weekend, so if any of your readers/followers are in DC and plan to visit, the Smithsonian has planned some great final weekend activities, including special Yoga classes and a meet and greet with the exhibit’s curator. And in that one picture with the ascetics (whom I just learned about!), you’ll notice one of the men does not have dreds or that overall look of the others. This picture was in the exhibit and it was noted that particular guy was from a different tribe/culture. Great post! Namaste!


  4. Thank you friend for sharing this article quite interesting, hopefully we all get real happiness yamg rays began to warm our hearts and make the heart glad, when we can share it with sincere to each other. Affectionate greetings from Gede Prama 🙂 🙂


  5. That is a great observation Andrea! The Bhagavad Gita starts in the middle of a battlefield. I’m glad more practitioners are realizing the practice isn’t some pie in the sky pollyanna-fest like it is portrayed by Lululemon. Yoga is a battle! A deep battle within. That is why I gave my gravitar that title.


    • Exactly! In some ways, life is a battle, and we’re constantly trying to come to terms with what karma throws at us 🙂 Thanks for reading and this comment. You’ve put it into words better than I did in the post!


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