The inspiration for both this idea and this post come from The Trouble with Proving It at Dances With Fat. Both in the original post and in the comments that follow, there’s a whole collection of pictures and videos of larger bodied people being active and amazing. (TW: The post and comments do discuss fat shaming, so it’s worth keeping in mind if you decide to head over there.)
I did not have the most stellar day yesterday — I’m not sure days spent in gastroenterology procedures ever are — so seeing the videos of awesomeness was progressively more inspiring. When I got home yesterday afternoon, I decided to do something I’d never done before: videotape my own practice.
In a way, it seems counter intuitive to yoga, being concerned about the aesthetics of the asanas. And it’s not something I would do often or if I thought I’d get overly attached to the results. But as an exercise in self-study — not to mention an exercise in courage — the process was very rewarding.
It did have some practical limitations, mostly in the form of my living room is too small. There was no place I could set up my webcam that was far enough away to film all of the space (length, width, and height) where I move in a practice. As a result, I have a lot of frames where I seem to be missing various extremities. It’s sort of good this is not about my cinematography skills.
While I wouldn’t use these videos for any kind of illustration purposes for others, they did give me — who already knows precisely what my personal practice feels like — some excellent visual feedback. I observed some movements — like knee flexion in warrior two and hip flexion in extended side angle — of which I may want to be particularly mindful in the future. And I saw an interplay between spinal angle and alignment — in both triangle and half moon — that I otherwise would not have noticed and that I might want to play with.
I don’t consider these to be poses or actions I’m doing “wrong.” Rather, I consider them points of body awareness that I can incorporate into my practice in a way that serves me best.
I also found viewing some parts of my asana practice to be very affirming for me. Secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly), I am very insecure about my planks and chaturangas. I generally use an unmodified version (i.e., no knees down). I constantly hear and read about alignment issues and how it’s very much a strength pose — and of course I constantly hear and read negative assumptions about my weight and therefore my relative strength. I’m also keenly aware of my propensity to push my body too far, to do too much. And when I think about that, I’m also reminded of the cultural stereotype of the “lazy fat person.” Viscerally, regardless of what I know to be true, I do not want to be that person.
So when I practice, there’s always this voice — sometimes helpful but often nagging — trying to find the balance between working too hard and not working hard enough.
Reviewing the footage, I discovered that my planks and chaturangas are solid. They’re straight, aligned, controlled, and really, really consistent. That is one nagging voice I can tell to shut the hell up. I have proof for the only person who matters; I have proof for me.
I suppose the fitting ending for this post would be to share a clip of one of my plank to chaturanga transitions. Unfortunately, this is where we run into technical difficulties again (though I probably will upload said clip eventually). Just like my cinematography skills are not so great, my video editing skills are also way in the rookie stage. I did manage to isolate some shorter backbending sequences. A couple of various notes:
- My webcam did this weird thing where it recorded bits and pieces of my practice music. So while editing, I added other music over that to save you from the strange screeches.
- As I implied earlier, these videos are not intended to be instructional in any way. Both of the clips depict asanas that, for me, require a lot of experience with backbends. If they’re not already part of your personal practice, I’d recommend learning them from a qualified yoga teacher — i.e., not these videos and not me.
- Once again, I apologize for the parts of my body that went missing. I will work on remedying that in future recordings, should there be any. If anyone would like to aid the process by providing my a larger living room or more versatile webcam, leave a comment. I’m happy to entertain offers.
Also, please to be ignoring the hot mess that is my clutter. And yes, I do mean “hot mess” literally. It was about 100 degrees when I shot these.
Ultimately, I think posts like this, videos like this, sharing like this — regardless of the media type — is hugely important. I get plenty of opportunities in my life to internalize negative messages about myself. It’s awesome to be able to internalize meaningful positive messages as well.