I Take Yoga Selfies

I have been somewhat of a casual photographer for as long as I can remember. I come by it naturally - I get it from my dad. Most of my computer memory is taken up by photographs. Sometimes, in some places, I take the same photographs over and over. Because visual beauty is something I want to remember.

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Over the past (almost) 2 years, I have fallen in love with yoga. And, I must admit, a huge part of that had to do with photography. If we want to get really specific, I fell in love with yoga because of self portraits. I completed a course called Curvy Beloved with Anna Guest-Jelley and Vivienne McMaster in June of 2014 (you can read my reaction here). Since then, I have continued both my personal yoga practice and my yoga self-portrait practice.

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I know yoga selfies can be judged harshly, but taking and posting them brings so much into my life. My yoga self portraits clarify who I am to myself. This commitment takes time, and props, and gear, and a willingness to pause. It means that sometimes I pull over, get out of the car, and strike a pose. It means that I use trees and rocks and pots and pans to get my camera in the right spot. It means that I carry props and a travel mat in my car (and that mat is usually pretty filthy). Sometimes it means that I get strange looks. And sometimes I'm sharing photos where my hair is wonky or I haven't washed my face or cleaned off my bathroom countertop. But for every reason I have not to post a photo, I have twenty reasons why I should.

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I take yoga selfies to remind myself that every practice matters. It has been a process to learn to communicate with my body and understand what it needs. Some days it is Mountain Pose in my bathroom, while feeling the cold floor under my feet and looking myself in the eye. Some days, it is a powerful Warrior pose. Each moment, each breath, that I look inside and respond to my needs is an important moment in time. It is my commitment to practicing yoga daily that matters just as much as what each practice looks like.

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I take yoga selfies because they allow me to become part of something beautiful. When I see a beautiful landscape or a beautiful mural or a beautiful sunset, I now know how to put myself into that scene. I am able to create a visual memory that includes me. I don't have to rely on my memory for the experience, I can see myself in it. I remember this day at Shaker Village. I remember how the grass was just slightly damp and I went to a yoga class after taking this picture with a wet seat. I remember the feeling of this day in the midst of the dozens of pictures I have taken of this building. I was there. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful location. And I was there.

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I take yoga selfies because I want to show that there is no such thing as perfection. And that is perfectly okay. The photograph above is probably the proudest I have ever been of a photograph. I was practicing in my kitchen. It was before I learned to use my phone and timer apps. I was using my big camera, sitting it on the kitchen floor under the kitchen table with a remote control. My hair was in a headband. I was wearing a ratty pink Turkey Trot 5K tshirt. And I could feel the sun on me. I went into a little supported bridge and I snapped the picture. The sun isn't photoshopped in. This photo is legit and pretty magical. However, if you look closely, you'll see that the block under me is wobbly. It isn't completely on the ground. It needs to be moved a little closer to my feet. It isn't a great expression of the pose, even such a relaxed pose. But none of that matters. Because the photograph - and me, because I am in it - is beautiful.

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I take yoga selfies because I believe that the basics are beautiful. So many of the yoga portraits that float around are of impressive poses and/or impressive places. My Instagram feed is full of arm balances and twisty pretzel poses, frequently on top of a mountain or in front of a waterfall. There is nothing wrong with these sort of pictures. In fact, I must love them or they wouldn't be in my feed. But that is not my my life or my practice. My practice is usually in my yoga room/office or my living room. You'll see props and various expressions of poses. Warriors, folds, twists. Pretty basic. Very beautiful and just as valid.

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I take yoga selfies because I want to end the talk of yoga for "six pack abs, a tight ass, and an end to cellulite." (Yes, I actually heard that on a video advertisement for a yoga class.) I mean, look at me. I have a belly and boobs and a butt. Yoga changed my life. And, you know what? My during/after picture would look just the same as my before picture. Belly, boobs, butt? Check! All still there! Still not an issue. Yoga is so much more than physical exercise. And I hope my portraits convey that.

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I take yoga portraits to show what it is like to just be. In so many ways, we are pulled to be better. Ten steps to be a better this, a better that. Work towards meeting a physical goal, a time goal, complete a program, get a promotion. Yoga is my chance to just take a deep breath and be. Even if just for a breath, to release the expectation to be better. And, instead, just be. On a trail. At the end of my run/walk intervals. With my blood pumping in my ears and my self-judgement going crazy. Prop up my phone with some sticks. Take a forward fold. And be.

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I take yoga selfies because of my cat. I mean, seriously. How many of you follow me in on Instagram just for Herschel Cat? Good grief, can that girl photo bomb.

What speaks to you? What can you bring into your day to help you learn how to speak and listen to yourself? It may not be yoga. It may not be self-portraits. But I so strongly encourage you to build a habit that makes you feel alive. And foster it. And feed it. Because it will keep you going.

Want to see more? You can follow my (almost daily) yoga practice on Instagram - I'm @krissiebentley. You can also see short videos of my daily practice on my vimeo page.

Finding Space is a six-week yoga program to help you find and take up space. Space in your day. Space on your mat. Space in your life. On your terms.

Beginning March 6, you will receive a video practice (or two) each Sunday morning for six weeks via email. Links will go to video classes that are yours FOREVER. 4 60-minute practices, 2 20-minute practices, and 2 10-minute practices. Over the course of the week, we will practice and process together. Yoga classes, journal prompts, and a private facebook group just for this class.