“No amount of reading/academic study can ever compensate for self inquiry and experience. Begin it now and grow into the infinite possibility of learning that comes from within.” ~ Indu Arora
I walked into a yoga photo session dressed in my yoga gear ready to “pose.”
I came in with a mindset—the same type of mindset I have before teaching: there is a certain way to do this—a sequence, a form, an alignment. I showed up prepared, makeup on, and adorned in costume.
But, upon walking into the studio—which showcased boudoir, wedding, and an array of different images—I became slightly nervous. What was it I was supposed to do? How was this going to unfold?
This is where the self inquiry began.
According to the American Institute of Vedic Studies, “Self-inquiry is a process of meditation that involves tracing the root of thought to its origin in the heart.” This resonated with me. When we trace these thoughts, which lead us to the heart, we find out who we really are.
Through self inquiry, we are able to acknowledge the doubts, the insecurities, the discomforts—and address these issues.
We all have them. Not one of us are free of “self work” on this earth. And, on this day I was stepping outside of my comfort zone and onto a wood-floor canvas, sans yoga mat.
Angela Michelle, the photographer and owner of Raven Red Photography, guided me from a traditional yoga pose to a more exploratory shape. I moved from Matsyasana or Fish pose, into a fluid swimming goddess with my arms raised over my head.
I had to close my eyes for a second. I felt vulnerable. I felt unsure. I wondered how the camera would judge me.
With my eyes closed and my guide of the day telling me to bend my right leg or to soften my left arm, I began to lengthen my breath. I told myself, “be gentle with yourself. Maybe you have no idea what you are doing and that is okay.” That is the scary and fascinating part of exploration.
In the silence I had a memory of a yoga class I attended where the teacher said, close your eyes and turn off the world of distraction.
We give too much attention to the exterior world. We base our self worth and our self esteem on how others see us. We seek validation in pictures—we even choose filters and photoshop to change the way we need to see ourselves.
But here, in front of the camera, I was not looking. I was not seeking validation. I was tapping into the places of self doubt. I was exploring and learning from within.
Isn’t that yoga?
Being mindful and respectful of tradition and the teachers who came before us, while embracing the innate wisdom with which we were born. Carrying knowledge of our ancestors and yet allowing ourselves to move and breathe in space naturally.
This photo shoot taught me so much and allowed me to explore even deeper this idea of self inquiry. They were not just pictures. They were stories.
I had walked in as teacher and walked out as myself.
Author: Ashley Martinez
Image: Raven Red Photography
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Supervising Editor 1: Taia Butler