I often wish I could take pictures of my students in poses in class — yoga poses that is, and not to post on social media sites to attract odd comments! Sometimes to show a student how close they are to that elusive posture they have been struggling with for ages… If they could just see themselves now, they would realise they are far more amazing than they think they are. Other times it would perhaps give a student a cue that they don’t seem to be able to get. Obviously a teacher can give pointers on posture but seeing for ourselves just where our back dips, shoulder pokes forward or hips sway can be really enlightening, and can give one of those epiphany moments — “Ah, my arms are bent out to the side, so that’s why I collapse forward in chaturanga — that’s what she means!” It can be hard to visualise ourselves in certain postures, and having a picture of yourself and the pose in mind, even just as much as you can do of it, may help.
Or would it?
On another level we can get too hung up about what we imagine a posture should look like, to recognise the beauty in our own asanas.
I was thinking that on those rare occasions when someone captures me in a yoga pose, there is always something I don't like about the photo. Limp hands, some sort of misalignment. Maybe because of when the shot was taken, catching me moving in and out of the posture.
On a trip recently, my other half took a sneaky snap of me as I did a little impromptu yoga on a beach —and not in yoga clothes either! When I looked at the pic, I started to criticise the pose — my pose. My hands were bent, head angled… it certainly wasn’t a uniform Vira 2. But then on another level, the picture is an instant reminder of the wonderful time on the beach. That day, feeling so warm, happy and free and ready to strike up a Warrior II anywhere (despite wearing an unwarriorlike dress!)
It is a reminder that we can sometimes give ourselves a hard time for not getting a pose picture perfect, instead of being happy that we can do it, and of the enjoyment we get from doing it.
And if I was to snap some joyous moments in class? It’s not the perfectly executed bakasna — crow arm balance — by the super strong and flexible student that impresses me so much as the student timidly lifting her toes from the floor and hovering for a second or two before dropping them back down, when I know that is such a big achievement for them.
If I was to take a picture and catch that student hovering, would they look at the photo and think — “That’s still not a good crow” or be proud, recognising their immense improvement?
It’s like choosing a photo for a passport. Who is truly happy with theirs? The pics have to conform perfectly to a stringent set of rules listed, yet there can be no glimmer of a smile and not the merest hint of personality, so they never really capture the true us. Back to the yoga pictures. So what it our pose doesn’t tick all the boxes of what it should or could be like on someone else, at least the essence of the pose shines out.
In our next yoga class, I think we should all look at the bigger picture, and find joy at the big improvements we have made over the course of our yoga practice, and not dwell on those little imperfections. It gives us the perfect reason to come back and keep practising. There is always somewhere to go in an asana and always something to improve on!