1/27/08 If Evolution were a Sensation, It would Feel Like This.
I was part of an amazing photo shoot this week with Tom Rosenthal. Tom has been a number of times to Mysore and is an avid practitioner himself. He had a showing of his work at India Song House this year, a few years in the making. He scouts out amazing spots in and around the city for yoga photos. Because we are all Ashtangis, there tend to be more advanced poses featured. I loved working with Tom because first of all he knows the practice, and loves it. Secondly, the expression of the asana is as important as the rest of the photo. Indeed, it is an alchemy of the yoga and the sacred surroundings. His understanding of the art of photography as well as the yoga, coupled with a wealth of amazing models to choose from, makes for quite a product.
After working with a few others, mostly for clothing, some for yoga books, I was feeling a bit done with photos. The amount of work and love that goes into what one is seeing when seeing me perform an asana (it always cracks me up how Iyengar uses the word perform) really must be appreciated. Photographers get excited about the more interesting poses I can take, but for what? To share that part of myself is important and I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with Tom. It hasn’t been easy to find a safe and nurturing place to share the aesthetic qualities of my yoga.
Even more special than the product was the experience of the shoot. To practice in these amazing places! We started at the Naandi bull statue on Chamundi Hill outside the city. An amazing drive up to a huge black bull decorated with flowers, rubbed daily with oil, and a pilgrimage of 1000 steps up to receive a blessing. The site was less crowded than usual and our yoga display was met with delight and respect from the visiting families and vendors who gathered to watch. “You are making very nice yoga, madame. This is very much work you are doing.”
We took photos on the ghats (stairs) leading down to a water tank surrounded by red and white stripes and drawings of Shiva’s trident. The sun was perfect, the stone steps warm. Then a climb up to a tiny temple, about 8 feet by 8, with an ornate carved dome lit by the setting sun- and a candy wrapper full of red ants, it’s always India after all. Practicing in these places, in an area steeped in the holy, for the purposes of capturing this alchemy between a sacred practice and a sacred place; performing this yoga which has been cultivated through years of focus and intention in places which are richly blessed by hundreds of years of the focus and intention of pilgrims…wow.
By the end I was shaking in the subtle way I have learned to recognize as Shakti moving in a heavy dose. If evolution were a sensation, it would feel like this. It was such a blessing to be able to give my gift to these places. When we come all this way to take practice in Mysore, though it may look like MTV’s The Real World meets yoga sometimes, it is a pilgrimage. Every day we journey inwards with this practice, wherever we are, is a pilgrimage to our Source. But here, the response is stronger. The energy we put out is returned exponentially. Evolution is compressed. Some days its glorious, some days exhausting. Like the experience of India itself.