The short answer: Yes.
When I got started taking yoga photos, I was in my 200hr yoga teacher training. If I do some math, it has been 4 years since I took my first yoga photo. Yet, as I have grown in my yoga practice, I have come to realize that yoga photos and videos are more of a detriment to my practice than a help.
I was introduced to photographing yoga asana by a fellow YTT class mate who was documenting her progress learning how to do an inversion. I then became more and more interested in it as I began following the yoga community on Instagram. Seeing their pose photographs (a lot of them part of Instagram yoga challenges) encouraged me to participate and “show off” as it were. [Notice me senpai!]
As I later discovered…the more likes on your photo in an IG yoga challenge, the more likely you would be to win. [Thanks algorithm man!] Unfortunately, I could never do what the internet liked to win enough likes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the photography of yoga asana is BEAUTIFUL! I love getting creative with background, lighting, clothing, and the shape of the body.
Unfortunately, I believe that too many people who photograph themselves practicing yoga get caught here.
- They force themselves into unrealistic asana shapes without
- warming up to get into the shape
- working both sides
- mindfully listening to their body, mind, spirit and what it needs
- They trick themselves into thinking that “this” is yoga
- They perpetuate the toxicity of yoga
Proof in the pudding.
I rarely warm up or photograph both sides. I never listen to my body. (PS. what do my body, mind, and soul usually say? It’s something like, “Yay, we’re taking a yoga photo. Art! Creativity! Yoga! Hooray!” “Ufta! I tweaked something.” “YIKES! Is that really what I look like? GROSS!” “This isn’t why I started practicing yoga. Now my heart hurts and I feel like I’ve been swimming in black goo.”) Once the mind chatter subsides because I’ve ignored it long enough to take my photo, I either can’t start or can’t finish the yoga practice I actually wanted to be a part of. And, if I choose a worthy photo to share on Instagram/Facebook, I add to the millions of other photos showing that yoga is a one-color, one-size, one-nope-not-you fits all practice.
It’s really discouraging…
So what have I learned?
- If I want to take a yoga photo, I have to wait until after my yoga practice, or I need to schedule a separate time outside of my practice.
- It’s important to set an intention for the yoga asana photo. Why am I doing it? Who am I hoping will see it? What do I want viewers to feel seeing my photo? Do I have anything to say along with my photo?
- It’s 100% okay to take yoga photos of asanas you might actually see in a yoga class not crazy balance poses, inversions, and pretzel shapes. Real talk: If you can’t “hold” the asana for 5 breaths is it an honest interpretation of the pose for your body? Maybe? Maybe Not?
Once again, I think photographing yoga postures is an absolutely gorgeous and artful way of showcasing the strength, dedication, self mastery, and movement potential that yoga offers individuals. just remember that a picture cannot tell the whole story. Photos are an illusion – allowing you, the viewer, to see only what you are told to see, and nothing more.