In real life I have an IG account and a FB page for my yoga stuff. They existed long before my teaching qualifications: I’m not into self-publicity, I’m not drumming up business or collecting followers, I just like to share thoughts as a way of helping me be a little more present in my own practice, capturing some moments almost as an exercise in mindfulness. I wonder if mine are the least visually interesting pages in the history of social media in our selfie-ridden age. I rarely post pictures of asanas. I’m not sure why I’d want to do this. It feels like I’d be seeking approval of my form or my physical ability, as if that’s some kind of proxy for yogic attainment.
My position is intellectually credible (we all know asanas do not equate with yoga in its fullest sense) — even if it’s also a bit smug and judgmental — but deep down I’m aware my social media reticence also bolsters a difficulty I have that I’m trying to work through. I have a mental block with seeing myself practice. It’s not that I hate the way I look and it’s not that I’m hyper-critical about my alignment (or my frowny face or messy hair!). I simply find it really hard to associate the way asanas feel with the way they look.
Slowly I’m try to unite the inner experience with the outer form. It feels necessary to me, part of healing some deep rift I have with myself. But it’s hard. So I tread softly, trying not to spook myself with too much, too soon.
I am now often able to practise in front of a mirror and I’m even learning to use it as a helpful tool to self-adjust. I almost find this reassuring now — the mirror can be my friend. But of course the challenge just grows with my ability to meet it, and I realise that the greater difficulty for me is in viewing transitions, the movements into and out of a pose. This, I think, is where the yoga magic happens, where my concentration must be sharpest, my physical integrity strongest, and where I can feel just a tiny bit transcendent (on a really good day 🙂 ).
But it’s also where my inner world with its unique perceptions time and space come up hardest against the outer world of appearance and object. The idea of watching my body moving through space holds a kind of horrible fascination for me. If I could watch myself would I see the inner beauty that I sometimes (on those really good days) feel? Would I be able to see the radiance and grace that are sometimes there? If I couldn’t, would that somehow negate my inner experience and diminish my yoga by revealing it to be nothing more than poorly-executed gymnastics?
Away from the mirror, I’ve been doing a little reading, beginning to explore some slightly esoteric descriptions of how asanas feel, beneath the anatomy, beneath the thinking mind. Suddenly multi-limbed deities, energy-carrying nadis spiralling through the body and the harmony of well-balanced cakras almost makes sense as a metaphor for the experience of being in a body being yoga. Some experiences are beyond words. Are they also beyond pictures, still or moving?
In that way of coincidences, as I humbly do my inner work under my own gaze in the mirror each day, a very dear work colleague has innocently expressed interest in seeing my practice. In fact she’s asked if she can photograph me. She’s a beautiful person, so full of easy good humour and love. If I could do this for anyone, it would be for her. But I don’t know her photography at all and she doesn’t know yoga. So we’re exchanging some ideas slowly — mulling over suitable venues, times of day for best lighting, the style of the shoot, the sorts of shapes she’d like to capture. She sees such beauty in the world. Perhaps she can teach me to see that too?
feature image from https://brightpigments.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/looking-through-a-lens/