Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Yoga Photos to Document Your Progress

Do you guys ever take photos to document your progress in a yoga pose?

With the popularity of Instagram and Facebook, it's pretty common to see pictures of people doing yoga. And while it's fun and uplifting to post a yoga pic on your social media page, and hear encouraging comments from friends, it can also be a powerful tool for deepening your personal practice.

 Above photo by Cait Loper. Below photo by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

I recommend committing to a pose for a period of time, maybe 6 months or a year. Put a sticky note on your wall to remind you to do the pose every day. Take a photo each month to track your progress. Consider taking time to write about this pose-- how it makes you feel, what it offers you, what other poses it gives you access to.

If you're a yoga teacher, you might even consider investing in a professional photo shoot twice this year, and see how far you've come.

You'll be surprised by what you learn when you look at your alignment at a distance, and how quickly you progress in the posture!

 Above photo by Cait Loper

A few more tips on how taking photos can help inspire your practice:
  • Consider trying a new studio once a month. Explore your local yoga communities. Get a photo in front of the space or in the lobby with your teacher after class, or ask a new friend that you meet to take a quick picture of you after class on your mat. Use the photo opportunity as a way to connect with new yogis, inspire your conversation, and maybe even make a new friend that you'll cherish for years to come!
  • Be cognizant of studio etiquette. Often our yoga studio rooms are sacred space where we ask people not to bring their cell phones. If you are going to take a photo, ask your teacher before or after class if they're OK with it (chances are, they'll be happy you checked in, and more than willing to take the picture for you!)
  • Ask yourself the question, What poses am I hungry for? Are there any poses you generally tend to hate, that you're ready to try again? Is there an arm balance or an inversion that you want to master? Once you are willing to commit to practicing the pose on a regular basis - every day, or maybe up to 5 times a week - you'll see incredible progress. Be kind to yourself in the process, and stay devoted!
  • After you take a photo, take time to notice your body alignment in the pose. Notice lines of energy. Where is the action of the pose? Where are your feet and hands? Is there anywhere in your body that energy seems 'stuck'? Are you holding your breath or scrunching up the muscles in your face? What do you notice? Often these little details will help you unlock new understanding of the pose, increase your knowledge of human anatomy, or find a new trick that helps you.

Here are my reflections on my progress in King Pigeon (Mermaid Pose):
  • Today my hips are more open and closer to the ground
  • Today my chest and shoulders are more open and heart chakra is more able to give and receive love 
  • In the left picture, I was a teacher in training; on the right, I'm a full time teacher prepping for a consciously sequenced class to get students into this pose
  • Then: more hair :)
  • Now: more tattoos
  • Always: grateful for my yoga practice! 
I'm amazed, humbled and proud of how far I've come in two years, not only with some of these fancy poses but moreso with how I am able to carry my practice off the mat -- to be able to care for and love myself unconditionally, for my willingness to get out of my comfort zone and be vulnerable, and for using my voice!

PS My absolute favorite Instagram account to follow if you're looking for progress photos is @cyogalab. Carmen Aguilar has an incredible asana practice, and it's because she's devoted to working on the poses every day. Check out her page for ideas about how to deepen your poses, and stay committed to your physical practice.

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