Love Yoga? Thank Peter Max

Sage by Mountain Peter Max

“Sage by Mountain” Peter Max

Pop artist Peter Max defined a generation with his cosmic art and psychedelic colors, but did you know he also played an integral role in bringing yoga to the United States?

In 1966, filmmaker Conrad Rooks commissioned Max for his creative input on a film called “Chappaqua.” Max traveled to Paris to work on the film, and it was here Rooks introduced Max to a man known as Swami Satchidananda (a name founded in Sanskrit — sat [existence], chid [knowledge] and ananda [bliss]).

Satchidananda founded Integral Yoga, which combines the six branches of classical yoga philosophy and practices derived from the Hindu philosophy. Its aim is to combine physical practices with philosophical approaches to achieve inner peace and joy.

Peter Max Swami Satchidananda Park West Gallery

Peter Max with Swami Satchidananda, 1967. Photo from “The Universe of Peter Max”

Max had an interest in eastern mysticism and meeting Satchidananda only fueled his fervor. When not working on the film, Max devoted himself to the swami. Satchidananda guided Max in yoga poses, known as asanas, and when Max observed the swami speak and meditate, Max believed there was something deeper to discover and explore.

“I was convinced that there was a higher state of consciousness to be attained,” Max wrote in “The Universe of Peter Max.”

Max asked Satchidananda to return with him to the United States, telling the swami there was a generation of young people seeking spiritual answers who could benefit from his yoga teachings.

 

Inspiring America Through Yoga

Image of an Era: Sage Ver. IV Peter Max Park West Gallery

Image of an Era: Sage Ver. IV” (2016), Peter Max

Satchidananda agreed to go to New York with Max for a two-day visit. After speaking with Max and 40 of his friends during a get-together, they all discussed keeping Satchidananda in the states to teach yoga to others. They pooled their money together to rent an apartment at 500 West End Avenue for Satchidananda to use as a yoga classroom, establishing the first Integral Yoga Institute.

“Eventually, we bought a large six-story building at 227 West Thirteenth Street, which still stands as the headquarters of the Integral Yoga Institute,” Max wrote.

Sage with Umbrella and Cane Ver. V Peter Max Park West Gallery

“Sage with Umbrella and Cane Ver. V” (2013), Peter Max

Satchidananda’s Integral Yoga exploded in popularity, so much so that the swami gave the invocation at the opening of the Woodstock Music and Peace Festival on August 15, 1969. Today, there are Integral Yoga centers all over the world.

“He was not the first yoga master to come to America, but with the creation of the Integral Yoga Institute, he definitely helped contemporary yoga take firm roots here, and I’m proud to have played a part in that,” Max wrote.

Contact Park West Gallery at (800) 521-9654 ext. 4 or sales@parkwestgallery.com to learn more about collecting the colorful and cosmic works of Peter Max.

2 Responses to Love Yoga? Thank Peter Max

  1. Padmini says:

    I am disappointed with the content of this article – yoga and the swami you speak of are both Hindu in origin. I can’t see why Hinduism (from which the yoga philosophy comes from) is not mentionned. The language of the Vedas – Sanskrit- from which all yoga asanas and other philosophical terms come from – is mentionned but not one mention of Hinduism. Only some vague reference to “eastern mysticism.” Disappointing read.

    • parkwestgal says:

      Thank you for your input Padmini. We have adjusted the article accordingly, as it is important to mention yoga’s roots.

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