I've started using Instagram and I really enjoy it. I love scrolling through photos to see inspiring yoga shots, beautiful scenes from around the world, incredible food, and my nieces and nephew, cats, dogs, oddities, randomness. We people live very interesting lives with even more interesting views on what is photo worthy, right? And I'm posting too. Not a ton yet, but a few shots of family life, nature, a shot from our photo shoot.
But here it is, my biggest beef with photography of yoga. Yoga practice to me is a deeply personal, intimate, and sacred experience. To photograph students in the midst of that (without their express consent) is something I choose not to do. I think of yoga class especially as a sacred space where students get intimate with the Source of Life within. Taking photos of that and posting them to random social media for any and all to see is the same as taking photos of someone deep in prayer or even making love.
It is beautiful, Yes. But it is also so intimate and so private - something to be shared with the chosen one or ones there in the present moment.
When your photo is taken in the midst of an intimate and personal moment, the bubble of sacredness is popped just a little, not to mention it is distracting. You are at your most vulnerable and then your image is taken and put out there into the world with very little regard for what happens to it next. To me this feels like a violation. It is a kind of stealing of the experience away from the student and giving some bit of ownership to the photographer/poster of the photo. The students don't get to see and revel in the number of 'likes' the photo gets on social media, but the poster does. As if, by taking the image the poster is the one who actually had the experience or created the experience. But in reality only those who are intimately IN it, can truly claim that moment as their own. We teachers are lucky to get to share, but it is the students who are Living it.
The thing I can compare it to is my amazing home births. I mean, I Birthed my kids. I DID THAT. And there are pictures and my midwife and husband were there helping me along the way, but I DID IT. I can still feel it in my body if I ask for it and it changed me. That was intimate and that was real and if my midwife posted pictures of me in the midst of birthing my children without my permission I would feel totally violated because it was such a moment of REALITY, rawness, openness and sacred communion with Life with a capital L!
That said, I actually enjoy many of the selfies out there. They feel different to me. First off, you know you are having your photo taken and you know you are posting your photo out into the world. That express consent is important. Secondly I choose to check out posts from peeps who seem to share with a bit of awareness.
One might ask Why, share? Do I need to be seen? Am I trying to out-do someone? am I being an exhibitionist with the rest of the world as voyeur? OR is the sharing coming from something greater - does sharing this help promote connectivity or discussion? Does it document real life? Are you feeling proud of a hard won accomplishment ? (not boastful but genuine joy over efforts paying off) Does this post celebrate the beauty of the human form? Does this post inspire me (and so maybe someone else would benefit too?) Personally I am way more interested in the posts coming from the group in the second section of questions. Of course it is only my interpretation of what the intent behind the post is, but over time it becomes more and more clear who is posting to boast and who is posting to celebrate... I choose to celebrate.
Back to the question of classes and workshops being photographed and posted. It is questionable ground, isn't it? If it's a staged class, offered with the express knowledge that there will be photography and the photography will appear elsewhere, I'm totally down for that. It would be nice to have a photo or two of myself teaching yoga on my website as I try to use clunky old words to describe myself teaching yoga. Pictures speak volumes.
But, in Savasana? That moment of total surrender to All that Is. Please, don't take my picture as I am completely vulnerable in intimate connection to Life. Or in that pinnacle pose that spills out unexpected and lays me out raw and exposed.
How about instead of taking my photo, Let me FEEL it instead. Let my cells remember without my mind and ego having to see what it looked like. The seeing erases the power of my kinesthetic imprint. And often replaces what felt magical with judgement rather than awe.
No Photos, Please!
Let me keep my feeling state. Let it be intimate and safe and real.
Because, we cannot actually photograph a prayer
or the experience of the moment of rapturous Bliss
It is sacred and therefore impossible to capture.
And I want to feel safe to go there with you.