An interesting perspective on being an established Teacher and a Photographer in the Yoga world.
Other yogis featured: Jess Ray, Kate Graham, Helena Houdova & Jim Harrington
Photo by: Laurie J Como for the cover shot of Kadri in Bakasana on fingers.
Yoga Journal China Interview:
Question 1. How did you find yoga? When and why you want to be a yoga teacher?
A girl – 15 years ago I asked a girl on a date and, she asked me if I did yoga – I said no but I wanted to 😉 …so we dated, we did yoga and my body loved it. I’m an ex-pro athlete, a surfer – I was having many injuries back then and my endurance was getting real low… the practice of asana changed all that in a profound way and continues to do so. Now I’m much older and yet in best physical and mental shape I have ever been in my life – you could say it’s like the fountain of youth… the yoga stayed – the girl did not.
Teaching?… Honestly I was so scared to teach, many people including my teachers were telling me I needed to do this – I thought… no, I’m not experienced enough, I’m not good enough or wise enough, but inside I really wanted to so bad. It was all fear, doubt and insecurity, which I had to get to know intimately – understand, breakthrough and accept it all as being human… The more I embraced my shadowy parts – the insecurities organically transformed into confidence! Now I love to share… I love to see the joy and excitement on faces, especially when they are able to do something like a handstand when they thought it was completely impossible… Or during a meditation they experience peace and self love. That truly delights me.
Question 2. Yoga, what does it mean to you?
Many people think of yoga as a physical exercise or stretching, traditionally the word yoga means “union” of the individual consciousness with the Universal Consciousness and everything in between. To me it’s about living a mindful lifestyle to connect our body with mind and breath so the spirit can shine, then we have the opportunity to live in harmony with ourselves… live in harmony with nature and all living beings. My yoga is: meditation, surfing, asana, photography, acroyoga and relationships.
Question 3. You focus on Acroyoga, inversions and meditation teaching- Why do you choose them?
I’m dedicated to overcoming limited beliefs and conditioning that causes confusion and ultimately suffering… I’m committed to the healing and skillful mind practices of meditation that promote personal peace and happiness. I’ve been meditating for over 35 years, in that time had the great blessings to study with many amazing masters who shared and transmitted their wisdom and experiences freely to me… I’ve also made many mistakes in my life and learned invaluable lessons from them, our most valuable teacher. It feels like a natural process to pass this on. The physical practices are only a vehicle to share this.
I love balancing – any kind… especially handstands! They’re a great complement to meditation – you have to have good single pointed concentration to master a handstand, then it becomes more like a meditation practice – master your mind and the body will follow. Alignment in inversions are very important too – most people will either use too much muscle to do handstands or be too limp. Good alignment is a foundation where the bones stack properly, muscles then exert very little energy to support stacked bones – then less struggle. Going upside down in inversions also brings a lighthearted childlike joy to our practice… We adult humans need to play more, this world needs to have more fun and laughter, this is natural in the AcroYoga practice… I like to share AcroYoga with importance on communication, clear connection and play, no matter what level of success you have, these are foundational qualities students can take away and easily apply to the rest of their lives. Play makes people more happy and its contagious… thats why I like to share Acroyoga – support people to be happy so they can go out into the world and make others happy.
Question 4. What message are you trying to pass to your students while teaching yoga?
Hmmm good question… self care, self love, compassion, patience and tenderness… an understanding of disciplines such as yoga and meditation are lifelong practice – no matter what we master there’s always something else to learn. We have the rest of our lives to understand our mind or put our leg behind our heads – if that’s what you’re into. whatever your doing – it doesn’t matter if its yoga, relationships, gardening or needlepoint – when we realize and accept this, we become more patient with ourselves, we have less judgement, we become more kind… and peaceful.
Also equally important – to know we are already innately powerful and perfect just as we are… trust the vast resource of wisdom that already exists inside all of us… under all the busyness of the mind the voice of wisdom whispers to us sweetly and can only be heard if we choose to listen.
Question 5. Why did you want to be a yoga photographer? What’s message you try to pass into the world through those images?
This happened accidentally – A yoga teacher friend asked me to do pictures for her. The photographs came out extraordinarily beautiful, people who saw them were very inspired and wanted photoshoots also. Then more people I did not know wanted to book photoshoots and not long after commercial clients called… so I made the decision to commit as a professional photographer… it was a very organic unfolding.
No message to pass, that would mean I want the viewer to understand something from my point of view, my belief system, my life experience. What I want is someone look at an image and experience – WOW! To become so inspired – their minds are blown away, then they experience their own truth and their own authentic message will speak to them directly.
Question 6-Does being a yoga practitioner and teacher help you photograph other yogis?
Having mutual identification as a yoga practitioner helps develop trust… and I’m super passionate about what I do, so the combination of trust and confidence creates the container for them to be more comfortable and eases self consciousness that is common when one is in front of a camera.
Also alignment – when we have proper alignment energy freely moves and that feels good… it also shows in photographs. I give a lot of instructions during a shoot, this helps the yogis to adjust properly and free up stuck energy in their body – it is a very subtle thing, but it makes the difference between an amazing photograph versus a good photograph.
These photoshoots can be an intense process. A lot of people have breakthroughs and safely do postures they have never been able to before.
Question 7. In your opinion, what is the most important thing in yoga shooting? How to show the art of yoga perfectly, are there any technique?
Similar to being a skillful teacher, an important part of yoga photography is the connection you develop with your subject. The art begins when trust develops and the vails of the ego fade away, then a creative dance occurs, capturing the subtleties of the dance and connection. Artful yoga photograph is not only seen, it is felt on many levels.
Question 8. A lot of yogis like shooting asana photos, as a professional photographer, could you please share 3 tips about yoga shooting to them?
Most people will use smart phone device, professional affects and quality you get with DSLR and Lenses is not possible… However creativity is not dependent on equipment, regardless of what camera you use.
– Connect with your subject, be confident and give clear instructions.
– Be patient, take your time to really think about the composition. Watch their feet… good connection to the ground creates strong foundation to support the posture.
– Stay away from taking eye level photos – squat a little lower or go higher.
– What ever you do – if you do it with feeling, passion and joy – you will be successful.
Question 9. In an artist view, what is the most beautiful thing in yoga? In a yoga teacher ‘s view, what is the most beautiful thing in yoga.
The flexibility and the strength of the human body is fascinating when it connects with the inner forces of the spirit… it becomes elegant and it is beautiful to view as an artist.
As a guide I feel blessed to witness the magic that occurs as people courageously open up, break through and embrace their personal power… that is beautiful to me.
Question 10. When you are taking those images, do you have any moment or story you feel so touched and unforgettable? Could you please share one of them to us? Or if you don’t mind , can you share your favorite photo with us? Why do you like it so much?
I feel very grateful to have a life and lifestyle where I work with so many amazing heart oriented conscious people… I feel blessed that what I do in life is what I love, cherish and enjoy.
I have so many unforgettable and touching moments it’s impossible for me to come up with one, but what really touches me and makes me emotional is when someone writes me their experience to thank me for helping change their lives when all I’m doing is what I love to do.