"Yoga" comes from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means to connect, join or balance. Those who practice one form of other will associate additional meanings to it, many of which embrace spirituality, physical exercise, breathing, meditation, and in some cases Hinduistic theism. Mark Freeth and his wife Anna founded the Freestyle Yoga Project (www.freestyleyogaproject.com) and they've stripped it back to it's bare bones - and blown it up.
Mark doesn't believe yoga should be limited by anyone's definition. It can be whatever you want it to be. That's where the "freestyle" part of it comes in. With a foundation of Ashtanga Venyasa Yoga, he's added elements of dance, martial arts, capoeira and taken inspiration from sources. And it's constantly evolving, changing, growing, and it always will as he learns more, sees more, and is inspired more. That's where the "project" part of it comes in.
Mark has removed all the dogma from Yoga. Meditation happens during and through the exercise, through the movement. There is, in his philosophy, no separation of the physical being and the mental being. To stay mentally fit you must be physically fit. To be mentally focused, focus on your body, on movement.
In his questioning of traditional Yoga techniques, in his adoption of new elements from other sources, and the rejection of dogma, some would say what he is practicing is no longer Yoga. But the truth is that this is possibly yoga at it's purest. True Yoga is about freedom of the mind and the body, about removing limitations and attachment, and about improving, learning and being the best you can be, while understanding you'll always be the student.
And that's exactly what the Freestyle Yoga Project is all about.
I learned a lot when I photographed Mark at his studio in Tunbridge Wells. I learned that we shouldn't be constrained by our definitions. We can, and should be, anything we want. We should embrace and assimilate into ourselves anything (or any part of anything) that we are interested in. We should adopt practices that make us better, stronger, more resilient, more at peace. We must continue to evolve and be students our entire lives. And we should do the thing we aspire to be. By keeping active we will remain active. By being curious we will remain curious.
I'm going to try and be more like that. I'm going to try and absorb ideas, be inspired, and mix up all the things I find interesting up and produce something new out of all the bits.
You can listen to my conversation with Mark below. I hope you find it interesting enough to absorb some yourself!