It’s true, I just returned from India, where many go to seek enlightenment. I however, was not in search of enlightenment, I was in search of stories, photographs and let’s be honest, to survive, to thrive, to see, experience and eat all that I could during our two year assignment there. And I did, but India has a way of helping you locate yourself when you didn’t know you were lost. It’s just like everything about your normal life, only, amplified by ten million or so.
Once you’ve seen India, you can never unsee it. I’d never want to, but it sure would hurt less if I could. As photographers, our brains have been hardwired to form frames around everything we see. To snapshot it and to file it away and I’m not just talking about the photographs you actually take. I think as a photographer you take many, many more photographs than the ones you actually take. They are often the ones that haunt you for better or worse. The ones you wished you’d taken, the ones you wish you’d waited a few more minutes for, the ones that wake you up at night with wonder and fear and sadness. I’ve come to believe it’s the same for photographers everywhere. It’s not just India. This isn’t really about India it’s about life, I’ve just come to understand life a little more clearly because of that place.
The typical job puts you at a desk or in an office for 8-10 hours a day, then you come home, in most cases and you check out. We don’t as photographers. We are always working. It’s like being a mother (it is being a mother for a lot of us, too!) it’s a job that never ends, even when the assignment does. It’s an obsession, it’s a lifestyle, it is even, sometimes a curse. You can’t shut it off. It is the song that doesn’t end. “This is the song that doesn’t end…..”
With any job comes tension, with a job that requires cat-like reflexes, an eye trained like a sniper to see each and every flinch of a muscle, everywhere, whilst carrying in the neighborhood of 20lbs of gear, your business is going to be in knots. Mine was.
About a year into our stay in India, I got really sick, no one really knew what was wrong and the symptoms of stress and the anxiety of not knowing what was wrong in a place where healthcare can be a concern, was enough to tip the scales of my body’s limits.
I have practiced yoga for years off and on, “I came for the Shivasina” style. When I arrived in India I thought I wanted to be more serious about yoga, so I researched a few schools of yoga and purchased a year membership to a yoga studio near my house as a way to ease myself in to yoga in the birthplace of yoga. I awoke at 5:00am each morning for a few months and headed out to join the rest of Chennai in the thick morning air. I learned so much about yoga, the real yoga, not yoga as we know it in America, I learned so much that it damn-near scared me away from yoga altogether.
Lesson 1: If it scares the crap out of you, do it again and again.
Then I reached the end of my proverbial rope at the end of a very intense and wonderful and nonstop two years in India. My body was breaking down. My shoulder was in constant pain because I am a dork and wear my backpack on just one shoulder too much of the time. Swing down to reload film, swing back up for a 12-16 exposures. This caused me back pain and numbness in my hands that was waking me up two and three times a night. I had tried everything else, but the answer, like the answer to most great questions and conundrums in life is patience, introspection and hard work. I’d worked hard to grow my career for two years, but let the growth of my body take a back seat:
Lesson 2: Find balance in all things.
A dear friend of mine introduced me to YogaGlo. This could be any yoga website, class or school, but for me the ability to be alone (in a country of 1.3 billion this was paramount), at home, at a time when the kids were napping (or not) and I could stretch my body and spirit was ideal. I fell in love. I’ve even begun to make peace with my body after three babies. I have. I’ve been able to step away and I mean really away from my work, not just turn away to my phone or my Facebook page, I mean get away from it all for an hour or 90 minutes and when I stop thinking about whatever it is that’s weighing on my mind, I figure it out. I have had the greatest inspirations, ideas and bits of writing come to me when I’m upside down that I have to unroll myself and write it down.
Lesson 3: Do yoga. (Keep a pad and paper nearby)
Somewhere in all the inspiration and the slow but steady healing of my body, I became stronger and I’ve surprised myself in many ways. I’ve slept better; I’m more patient with my family and with my work. Kids don’t grow up easily; every day isn’t a picnic at the park and snuggles in bed. Your business doesn’t grow overnight, it is a garden that you sow and water and that you walk away from and you let your hard work marinate while you grow and do other things in your day and your life and when you come back, you guys, you’ve got plants! You’ve got fruit, you’ve got teenagers and ten years of marriage under your belt and you’ve got a few things published and you’ve landed your first big deal client. It will happen. I’m sure it will happen either way, if you work hard, but knowing what I know now, I’d like it to happen while I enjoy the other bits of life more fully, breathing deeply, worrying less, standing taller and stronger. The wind will blow, there will be a storm, but I know now because of yoga that I’ll survive and I’ve built up the patience and strength to weather it.
Lesson 4: Do yoga again and again.
I no longer have any numbness in my hands at night, I don’t have shoulder pain and my core is stronger than it ever was, alleviating all the back pain that accompanied trekking about India with my trusty bag of cameras. I can’t say there is any one posture that achieved this, there simply isn’t, there also isn’t any one recipe to success only dedication and commitment.
I can’t recommend www.yogaglo.com enough. I wasn’t able to reach them to sponsor this post, sponsorship or not this is worth sharing with my fellow photographers. I can guarantee that sunshine will reach into all parts of your life if you return to it again and again. A membership with YogaGlo is just $15 a month with access to unlimited classes and there are thousands to choose from. With classes from beginner to advanced, filed under “Heart,” “Body” and “Mind,” you can practice meditation for ten minutes, flow for 60 or take a more intense course in any one posture for up to two hours. They also have a YogaGlo App to which I download my favorite workouts, and am able to do the workouts wherever I am, with or without Internet access. My favorite instructor is Kathryn Budig, I guess I'm drawn to her because she reminds me a little of myself, she doesn’t take herself too seriously and there is a healthy dose of humor and goofiness to her classes. The class that literally healed my body and kept me coming back for more was her 60 minute “All-Around Feel Good Flow.”