Why I Don’t Have a Photo of Myself in a Yoga Pose.

Via on Jul 26, 2013

yoga, city, art, photography, London

It occurred to me recently that I have not one picture of myself in a yoga pose.

Lately, I’ve been seeing beautiful photographs in my Facebook news feed of yogi friends perfecting perfect poses in amazing places—pigeon in the green grasslands, dancer in Times Square or handstand in the California mountains. I awe at all of them, taken in by the beauty of the posture and the splendor of the scenery.

So, why is it, after more than a decade of practice and most of those years spent teaching, have I been reluctant to photograph myself assuming an amazing pose?

I don’t have a dramatic answer other than that it simply hasn’t occurred to me.

When yoga studios ask for a picture and a bio, I provide a headshot. There my photo sits on the studio website, swimming in a sea of lotuses and warriors and Anjali mudras. Me and my unassuming mug surrounded by visual yoga amazingness.

For me, my practice is something that is more internal.

Yoga is my escape from the stress and chaos around me. As a self-professed stress junkie, it’s a much-needed practice in my life. I can easily turn into a type-A personality even though my nature is to be more type-B. It’s a constant back and forth that I battle daily.

I struggle with my perfectionist tendencies which, particularly as a mother, can easily stifle the happy moments in my life. It’s work for me to live organically, letting moments happen and to let go of control. Yoga helps me work through the urge to put everything in neat, tidy compartments and, instead, to enjoy life as it is.

Messy.

I suppose this is why I’ve never assumed pincha mayurasana in an idyllic sunset-filled desert scene because I make efforts to stay away from such perfection. Instead, I keep my practice close to the vest, limiting my ability to put it in a tidy corner.

Which begs the question as to why I became a yoga teacher in the first place.

When I first started my teacher training, I had no intention of teaching. I went into the training to deepen my own practice. But, my mentor must have seen something else in me. The week I graduated, she called saying she had a job lined up for me. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat as I forced out a “yes” out of respect for her kindness.

She was right. And I’m forever grateful to her.

She saw what I couldn’t see in myself. As a type-A, a worker bee, a fall-over-myself-to-do-the-best-I-can person, I can relate to those students who are brought to the practice for similar reasons.

I wish I could be one of those love-and-light, it’s-all-good teachers who seem to glow in their own happiness.

But I am not.

I can laugh with the best of them, for sure, but I’m also driven by an intensity that, while vital in the business and academic world, doesn’t suit me in my personal life. Instead, it leaves me tired and anxious.

The reason I revisited my yoga practice 10 years ago was because I quickly found myself approaching burnout. I was way too hard on myself. I knew if I didn’t find a way to tame the fierceness with which I lived my life, I was going to end up exhausted with nothing left for me.

Enter yoga, and a solace that taught me to slow down.

Strangely, I didn’t meet yoga with the some fervor I do with most other things in my life. Somehow I shut off that perfectionist button and let my practice evolve, and, in the end, it evolved me.

I noticed recently, too, that my classes tend to draw like-minded type-A’s—the athletes, the driven professionals, the perfectionists—who want to be reminded that perfect doesn’t mean right, and when you drive fast, at some point, you have to stop.

I hope I’m able to provide them with the insight yoga has given me.

Maybe one day I’ll feel brave enough to present myself before the camera. It’ll be a day when my need to be happy overcomes my need to be perfect. I feel the day is around the corner; I can sense its closeness. Daily work and daily reminders inch me toward that comfort zone.

Until then, I’ll bask in my quiet practice—for it is this space that has given me so much growth and perspective…and a somewhat impressive pincha mayurasana.

 

Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

 

Ed: B. Bemel

About Amy Cushing

Amy Cushing is a stay-at-home mom and E-RYT® 200 certified yoga teacher pursuing her passion for writing. When she’s not chasing around two small tots, she can be found lost in a good book, cherishing quality time with her husband or having a much-needed laugh with her girlfriends. She’s on a mission to find simplicity in life so she can spend less time pulling out her hair and more time appreciating those who matter most. She loves yoga and music and has been known to bust out a mean rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider in times of chaos. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and an M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. Connect with Amy on Facebook or Twitter.

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29 Responses to “Why I Don’t Have a Photo of Myself in a Yoga Pose.”

  1. Ben Neal bneal817 says:

    Very nice, Amy. I agree with you: yoga is internal.

  2. Krystle says:

    Lovely article, and I do agree that yoga is internal. However, just because you have pictures of yourself doing poses, doesn't mean that changes, especially in this digital world

    • Amy says:

      I agree, Krystle, and many teachers take photos to promote their work, which is totally fine. This was more of a reflective piece on what yoga means to me and not meant to judge those who do. Yoga is a beautiful practice and photographs are a natural extension of that beauty. It just got me thinking why I've been so reluctant. Thank you for your kind words!

  3. Lindsey says:

    I feel like you wrote this article from inside my head. "I wish I could be one of those love-and-light, it’s-all-good teachers who seem to glow in their own happiness. But I am not…. I'm… driven by an intensity that, while vital in the business and academic world, doesn’t suit me in my personal life. Instead, it leaves me tired and anxious." Seriously, I wrote the same thing damn near word for word in my journal during my teacher training. And I DID have yoga photos taken — I was getting professional headshots done for my day job, so I decided to do a quick change for some yoga shots, and… I have yet to really share them with anyone.

    I'm so glad there are others out there like me. Thank you for this article. (Just realized my anxiety-induced tick of curling my hair around my finger was in full force while reading this article, too.)

    Thank the Universe for my practice. It's the best antidote.

    • Amy says:

      Thank you Lindsey! Your supportive words are what keep me writing. And, funny, I have the same finger-hair-curl move! I like to think it promotes concentration.

  4. Amy says:

    Wonderful article!
    I always think BKS Iyengar said it best……"The true essence of yoga is not about external display, but internal cultivation." Too bad most people don't ever come to that realization.

  5. amphibi1yogini says:

    There IS a backlash. Best you don't join that fray:
    http://yogadork.com/yogitorials/how-to-be-a-yoga-

    • Amy says:

      What a great article (love the humor)! I'm not opposed those who photograph their practice, I actually find it quite beautiful. I just to chose express my practice in a different way.Thanks for sharing!

  6. tierney says:

    This was beautiful! I follow a bunch of people on IG who are always posting these amazing photos and I go into comparison mode.. "I could never do that", "my pose doesn't look like that".. as they say "comparison is the thief of joy". So is being the type of person driven by intensity as you describe above, which I am as well!
    It was refreshing to hear someone just admit they are not a love and light, its all good person by nature.. I thought "can I do that too??"
    Thank you for the reminder that we are all human and its not about the perfect pose or perfect photo.. each time we step on our mat is going to be different than the last and that is A O K.

    • Amy says:

      I agree, comparison is the worst part of perfectionism. I will never be that other person, so why bother comparing myself to them? I can only be me. Wonderful comments, Tierney, thank you!

  7. theprimerose says:

    Loved that Amy, thanks for sharing! I cherish that spot deeply inside myself where my yoga practice takes me, that same spot that at a certain point started changing all of my life… from a manager to a yoga teacher and a yoga photographer (yes) right now. I love taking pictures of people in yoga poses, trying to catch that inspiring moment, that beauty that can help spread yoga even more. I myself came to yoga for reasons that had nothing spiritual, but yoga works independently of the reason why you start it… of course, if you stay open to receive. So through yoga photography I try to do the same – though in a different way – that in a yoga class that I'm teaching.
    And, by the way, it would be my pleasure to shoot yoga pictures of you in case you come to Italy or if we cross somewhere around the world :-)

    • Amy says:

      That would be an honor, primerose! Once I perfect the perfect pose (kidding…well, kind of. *smile*). You're right, "yoga works independently of the reason why you start it." I came into it to escape stress and found myself on another path entirely. Thanks for your comments!

  8. Summer says:

    THANK YOU for sharing this. This writing could have come straight from my mouth. I am in the same space with you. Such a challenge it is to let things just be and let go….

    • Amy says:

      Thank you Summer! It is a challenge…daily work for me. I'm happy to hear the article connected with you!

  9. Sarah says:

    i haven't "unfriended" my facebook friends, but i have blocked their posts from showing up on my newsfeed. the reason why i did this was because i found myself feeling pretty jealous, insecure, and comparative to their glamourous photos and lifestyle. these 2 sisters in particular post their photos in poses and costumes and take photos of their exotic foods they eat, and it makes me feel like i have really low self-esteem when i compare myself to that. it's my fault, not theirs, that they are so happy and fabulous and get so many great things, and i can't be just happy for them. instead i feel like less. also because the "big name" yoga teachers also give these photo people lots of attention and comments. i don't get a returned email from a senior teacher about important things but these yoga photos get praise and compliments from them. it really makes me feel like i suck!

    • Amy says:

      Sarah, thank you for your very honest post. It's easy to compare ourselves to others and I've certainly done my fair share. When we see others who are "seemingly" more happy than we are, it's natural to feel that twinge of jealously that says, "I want that too!" The thing is, we all have our stuff. And while they may seem to be happy in those photos, they make be coping with other issues we don't see. Laura Olson wrote a great article about this: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/do-not-env…. You've got just as much to offer as everyone else. I'd like to think I have some wisdom about self-confidence, but, frankly, it boils down to the older I get the less I care what others think of me. At some point you realize you can only be you, and giving your attention to those who love you is where the deepest happiness lies. And, for the sake of honesty, I still feel like I suck sometimes…especially as a parent. It comes with the territory, I suppose. Again, thank you for your comments!

  10. Ed S says:

    As a senior citizen new to Yoga, I posted a picture myself in a headstand on my facebook page. I was proud of that accomplishment. But after about 3 days I deleted it. Doing a headstand in a Yoga studio is cool. Outside the Yoga studio it is just the ego showing off. So when I get into handstand, I won't post any pictures.

    • Amy says:

      What a great accomplishment Ed! While I don't feel there's anything wrong about posting yoga photos, I completely relate to your decision to delete it. I remember a yoga student who saw me do astavakrasana (eight-limb pose) while I was 7-months pregnant. She instantly told me I should take a photo of that to remember it. The thing is, I do remember it without the photo. Would it be cool to show my son the crazy contortions I used to do while I was carrying him? Sure. But I think he'll be more impressed when I can still show him at 65. I'm sure you'll be in handstand soon. Enjoy the journey!

  11. Sarah says:

    Looking at those pretty poses doesn't always inspire me. It lowers my self-esteem. This is why I block some of my friends from posting so many pictures of their yoga vacation poses from my news feed. It's not their fault, I just find that I don't always want to see how much attention they get from fellow teachers over their showy photos.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Sarah! As a teacher, I can only surmise that the attention yoga teachers give to these photos is simply for encouragement. It's in our nature. And we understand how much work it takes to achieve many of the postures. But, you bring up a good point, that focusing on those new to the practice is just as, if not more, important. And gushing encouragement for those with an already advanced practice can sometimes ignore those students who need more attention. Thanks for you comments!

  12. Jan C says:

    Thank you. Loved this. My lower emotions, jealousy and anger have been triggered by Rumi quote posts, wisdom posts by local yoga teachers who think they are famous. The photos of these people in asanas are artistic like a cirque du soleil advertisement. They are polishing their alter ego, the thing they want to become. Gorgeous young flexible, powerful ad all of tese attributes I would say are almost mythological. Yoga students in a yoga class ever look like thi. They sweat, smell, fart, look tired and are beautifully human. Peope are not models. Yoga teachers need to take alook at how this affects so many others that are too intimidated to enter a class because they actually have pain, physical emotional shame, societal pressure. The local yoga teachers in boulder are the most ridiculous group of popular high school competitive one arm handstanding vomitus spectacle ever. I want so much to love myself fully and am constantly reminded that my yoga practice outside of my home is a ghastly comparative study of who has more likes on FB and who looks really cute in printed yoga pants. I despise this scene so much yet want to help others practice yoga and join the path of self compassion. Thank you for not posting yet another handstand on a beach. Let's get real people practicing yoga not all the former athletes, dancers, and cheerleaders.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Jan! I also appreciate the human side of yoga, which is probably why I enjoy teaching beginners so much. It can take a lot of courage for someone who is injured, inflexible, or not the "perfect" yogi-type people have come to expect to step onto the mat. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to show them the compassionate side of yoga.

  13. Dabbling Diary says:

    I could relate to this so much. But as of two days ago, I do have a photo of myself in a yoga pose. I was so excited to finally conquer an arm balance this weekend after months of trying unsuccessfully that I had a friend snap a photo of me in bakasana. It wasn't gorgeous or exotic, but I was so excited and felt so empowered that I wanted to share it. I put it on Facebook and in a blog post (https://dabblingdiary.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/leaning-in-and-looking-forward/). I appreciate the perspectives here, but also understand that for many people posting those photos is an expression of joy and sharing not ego. Blessings.

    • Amy says:

      Congratulations on achieving bakasana! And if snapping a photo helps you celebrate the accomplishment, I think that's great. It will always be there for you to remember that moment.Thanks for your comments!

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