by Lacey Pruett | August 29, 2018 12:10 am
Lately, it seems like a moment of life revolves around the photo produced. It’s not a bad thing to want to capture fond memories and look back on them to smile. It is unnecessary pressure to always be picture-ready though, and I feel it lends way to feelings of inadequacy from time to time. What if you just wanted to slug around with a girlfriend? What if you skipped another engagement to go on a sweaty run? What if you’ve been painting with your nieces and nephews all day, and look like a Rainbow Bright doll that got stuck in the washing machine? What if you just finished a soulful discussion with a friend, over coffee, which brought tears? What if you just don’t feel like taking a photo, but you are still in bliss about the moment?
Enter yoga practice. If there’s ever a place to feel safe, un-judged, and welcomed even if you’re not picture perfect, it’s on your yoga mat. Sitting in a yoga studio recently, I set the intention to be present. Photos aren’t allowed in this particular studio, but if they were, I would have committed to no photos. I wanted to step out of my ego brain, fade my environment into the background of my consciousness, and mindfully enjoy each pose. I set the intention to eat it up, to take in all of the nourishment from the pose, and learn everything I can from expressing the pose. BREATHE. When will I learn that yoga is breath? Today, I want to be mindful of my breath in each pose. This was my snapshot of every pose. My breath. During my yoga practice, I would pause and capture each pose, like a beautiful portrait to share with the world, except it would just stay with me. Here we go!
During yoga teacher training, I was attracted to a faster pace. Let’s move through these poses much like I move through life. Fast. You don’t have to fully feel anything if you go fast. The meeting. The airplane ride. The meal. Let’s just get going to the next thing, already. The sun salutations A and B (or Surya Namaskar A and B for you Sanskrit fans) were the first asana flows I learned. I remember thinking, “great… I piece together 10-20 of these together, slap on a savasana (the corpse pose meditation class finale, for you not-so-sanskrit-friendly yogis) and POOF, my class is complete.” This is a true statement; however, much like life itself, when you know better, you do better. At the end of yoga teacher training, I found myself running out of time for the flows and classes I created using the 75+ poses we studied. And there are so many more than that! A sun salutation flow can go as fast or as slow as you want. Some days, I need to challenge my heart rate, so I go fast. Other days, my goal is to control my breath in a slow, steady pace, so I match my flow pace to my slower breath. The creativity in yoga is unlimited, as long as you always honor your breath. Breath is king. Learn it, Live it, Love it. (Actually, take a deep inhale and exhale here… and smile.)
Holding a challenging pose is much like trying to hold a smile for a novice photographer (or for that friend who insists on checking every shot before releasing everyone from the camera’s lens.) It can be painful, and although the goal of yoga is never pain, a goal of yoga (and life) is to tap your edge from time to time. Some days, my edge is to be patient with my body and myself. Some days, my edge is to stay a bit longer in a deeper Warrior II. Coming into my yoga class with tight hamstrings, stiff shoulders, and a mind full of thoughts, makes holding a strong standing pose my edge. Intellectually, I know my body can do so much more than I ask of it, but I also know that my mind is clouded with the clutter of inconsistency, insecurity, and fear. At almost 40 years old, I love my body and I take good care to avoid injury, sometimes to a fault. I’m not quick to challenge myself to go deeper, wider, or longer, in fear of taking it too far. I also know that our higher selves won’t allow harm, if we stay in touch with how we feel. All of this trust can, some days, be the edge. We are warriors, gifted with God-given ammunition, weapons, and armor—everything we need to battle our inner demons of perceived weakness, set challenges for us, and accomplish them. I have this awesome flow that connects Warrior I, Warrior II, Exalted Warrior, Humble Warrior, and a Half Moon Lift (Ardha Chandrasana) that reminds me to rise up, arm myself against enemies (physical and mental), know my strengths and my weaknesses and use both to take me to the next accomplishment. (Insert your strongest lioness roar here… and smile.)
Ironically, this pose photographs very well. I found myself in a photography studio capturing images for a business portfolio, depicting various yoga poses. It was another lesson that yoga and life aren’t always picture perfect. I was humbled each time the studio assistant came over to adjust my pose, angle, arm, neck or leg position. I felt pretty good in my postures, but apparently the camera lens needed something more. Tree is one of the poses I knew well and felt confident with before entering yoga teacher training. Come to find out, I only knew Tree on a surface level. Much like a one-dimensional photograph, I didn’t have the rest of the story, regarding the grounding power of Tree pose. Trees remind us of several life lessons: to stand tall and proud, stay grounded but reach for the stars, drink lots of water, look up at the view often. In class, a challenge is to look up to the sky in tree pose. Right now, I can only look straight out, but my edge is to glance “more up” every time. Even more, some can close their eyes and reflect inward on the strength of their tree (body.) There may be a reason we close our eyes when we laugh really hard, when we dream, when we kiss, and when we meditate. Thank goodness there are no cameras in yoga class, so I can feel my way to my tree’s edge, even if it’s wobbly. (Reach for the sky here… and smile.)
Just when you think you’re headed home, it’s time to flip your downward dog and come into boat. Boat is one of those times you would slap a camera pointed your way. Or is that just me? Boat reminds me of my breath my core strength. We have the ability to hold ourselves up, in boat pose and if life, thanks to our core. The core goes beyond our abs, too. I mean the core of who you are. The seat of your soul. That’s a strong part of you, and sitting there, holding boat pose, on my mat, sweating, reminds me I am strong to my core. So when the yoga teacher says, “just two more breaths,” you can endure with a smile.
At the beginning of yoga teacher training, the final five to ten minutes of class was difficult for me. You just lay or sit there. Such an activity was foreign to me, at the time. There’s always something else to work on, right? It took a few weeks for me to settle into this idea of closing out my practice with stillness and meditation. This is the part where we see through our own lenses. There are no cameras present, but there’s a photo to gaze at and a video to watch within our mind’s lens. Turning inward allows us to live outwardly in a more vibrant way—dare I say it, now I crave savasana. Perhaps the best way to navigate this photo-happy world is to live off the mat, as we do on our mat. Sometimes an accomplishment or celebration (like finally straightening your hands in tree pose) is cause for a photo. Other times, like in savasana, perhaps our internal camera is the best to use to capture the experience. Either way, if life is breathed into the present moment, then we made the right choice. To pose or not to pose isn’t the question, but to breathe more life into each moment is the answer. Don’t forget to smile.
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