I am self-conscious. Most people are. And when I say self-conscious I mean in that painful psychological way people get when they think they’re being judged unfavorably.
If you want to amp the vibe on self-consciousness, just bring a person with a camera into a room and watch how everyone scatters. “Oh god no,” they say, “don’t take my picture my hair’s a mess, I don’t have any make-up on…” Blah-diddy-blah-blah-blah.
This morning one of the yoga challenge participants asked if she could take some pictures during practice. No butt shots, she promised, nothing intrusive, and if anyone didn’t want their picture taken, they could just say so and she would avoid them.
She did take a few shots, but she was really freaked out by the situation. And the “situation” was that these people were doing something private, something personal, and the camera, even with the best intentions of the photographer, was an invasion of that privacy.
After class she and I stayed and played around–mostly in the hammock. I took shots of her, she took shots of me, but we weren’t doing yoga. We were just messing around playing “photographers.”
But I do want pictures of this event, I really do. I want to look back at it in the coming years and remember Jeff’s Warrior and Shelly’s Forward Fold and Kestrel’s Crow.
I want to remember the way the light hit the wall and fell over the backs of people when they were in Child’s pose. Photographs are beautiful, and photos of people doing yoga can be so very poignant and sensual.
But people become self-conscious in that bad psychological way when a camera enters the practice room. But when they are deeply in their practice they are “self-conscious” in that beautiful, glorious way that opens them to self-knowing.
So Julie is coming back to the afternoon class to take more pictures, but we are going to set up a “fake practice” for a few minutes before the “real practice” begins. We are going to pretend to be doing yoga. For the camera. And then, after the camera gets put away, we’ll do the “real practice.”
I sometimes show my Beginner students pictures from Yoga Journal and ask them: “Isn’t that person really good at yoga?” And they all nod their heads, “Oh yes!” But in the moment that photo was taken, what are the odds that that person was “in yoga?”
Slim to none, I’ll bet.
And that’s why a teacher can never really know if a student is doing yoga. The only thing a teacher can know is if the student is safe in a yoga posture.
Yoga can’t be seen with a camera. The camera can only see the pose.