It’s All The Same
November 11, 2013 § 2 Comments
The past two weeks have seen an interesting integration of two of my biggest loves: yoga and photography. I first shared the photography bit with our yoga community by documenting a Mysore class. And then, a week later in the heart of Mexico, I shared the yoga with two (out of our group of seven women) photographers I travelled with. In both situations, the combination of practices served to inform the main practice I was there to do. I’ve always held that there are many similarities in yoga practice and photography – you’ve just got to keep doing it, working at it, wrestling with your own demons along the way, and one day you’ll look back and realize how far you’ve come even if there’s that nagging feeling most of the time that you’re not really going anywhere.In the first instance, I channelled Mysore (the city) with a 4am practice before the shoot. There’s magic at that hour, even more so when I know that four years ago the idea of being up at 3am usually meant the tail end of a big night, not the start of a day.
Photographing a Mysore room in progress is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, capturing the way the light changes with the sunrise and the beauty of the human form. It was a dance of intimacy and respect as I moved about the room, of getting close enough but not too close. Of translating the synchronicity and individuality of practice rhythms. Of the breath.
The position of observer yielded an unexpected insight into the nature of practice: from the birds’ eye view of the room, what were usually arduous battles on the mat suddenly seemed really trivial. I saw, for the first time, that in the larger scheme of things, it didn’t matter who was doing what series, who could bind, who had the deepest backbend. What really mattered was actually showing up to do the practice, in whatever form the body allowed that day. It was illuminating, to say the least, to see someone doing third series next to someone struggling with Paschimottanasana, and to realize that for the most part, the form is irrelevant, it’s the effort that really counts.
And then, in Mexico, after being asked to share this practice by a woman whose work I respect and admire, I found myself going through the “rules” around yoga teaching: am I ready? Should I tell her no? I’m not trained! I’m not ‘authorized’! And the like. But then it occurred to me that this circumstance was actually in line with my philosophy about yoga teaching: it’s something that you’re asked to do, not something you choose to do. So since I was asked, I shared whatever I knew, which was to do a highly abbreviated form of the Primary series. No tricky binds, or funky knee rotations. No inversions and certainly no adjustments. Just breathing and doing it along with them. It definitely wasn’t the regular practice I did that day, but it was a practice nonetheless. Given the choice between doing my full practice alone or doing an abbreviated one alongside friends – I’m glad I chose the latter. Based on their feedback it seems I calculated the poses just right and didn’t scare them off – always a good thing, n’est pas?