Caught on Video

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in asana, backbend, chakra work, core, swadyaya
12 comments on “Caught on Video
  1. YOU LOOK AWESOME. I need to work on my back flexibility – I spend far too much of my day sitting down to do as little yoga as I do. You have inspired me. And, again, you look strong and flexible and awesome!

    • Tori says:

      Thank you!

      Would you be interested in seeing something like a chair yoga series here? At least for me, I know it’s sometimes nice to have a pocketful of tricks for breaking up the Sitting. For. Hours. feeling (that I get when I have to sit still for more than, like, 10 minutes).

      • Yes, I would be extremely interested! Also, have you any recommendations for video classes? I find I need an instructor’s voice reminding me to relax this, tighten that, watch the alignment of xyz, but I’m an expat and although I’m sure I could learn the Korean vocabulary for yoga, I’d rather do it at home (fat-shaming here being as it is.) Thanks!!

    • Tori says:

      Can I ask a couple of narrowing-down questions for videos?

      1. How familiar are you with (basic, common) yoga postures? You mention needing “reminding” of certain aspects in poses, but it sounds like you don’t necessarily need “never done yoga” beginner instructions? Is that correct?

      2. What type of class/instructional video are you looking for? Something that explains individual postures? Something that combines asanas in (slower) sequences? Something that uses a lot of (faster) vinyasa flows?

      3. Nitty gritty detail stuff — Length preferences? DVD vs. online?

      I’ve spent years in places where there were no yoga studios, so I’ve viewed a lot of videos. ;)

      • I’ve taken a couple of yoga courses, but not regularly enough to have names down. I know a lot of the most basic poses, and I’m pretty good at following along if I can see what someone’s doing. The kind of reminders I need are to keep my tummy tight or check my planes, or relax the muscles in my face (tend to tense them up when concentrating!). Also, if I meet a pose I don’t know, there’s always the internet to find out how to do it properly!

        I’d like some shorter ones (15 minutes to 30 minutes) and some long ones (an hour or so!), mostly on a beginnerish level. Not ready for super fast-super intense yoga, I think the slower sequences you mentioned. And I looove relaxation yoga. It helped get me through college!

        Online/downloadable is best, it’s expensive to get things shipped! Thank you so much!

        I am sad to hear of your endo issues. :( Know that I am sending you healing energies.

    • Tori says:

      You don’t get Hulu, do you?

      These recs are assuming that you don’t:

      Online, I would strongly suggest Yogatic. Though most of the videos are short (10 minutes or less), the instruction is safe, sound, clear, and accommodating. Plus, there’s no reason why one couldn’t string together multiple flows to make a 30-40 minute series.

      There are also some videos on YogaYak I really like (and some that are not my style). Since it features a lot of full-length practices (40 minutes to over an hour), it’s worth finding an instructor who meshes with your style.

      I know you mentioned that shipping is expensive, but it might be worth it to invest in the Total Yoga 4-Pack. I’ve used all 4 DVDs independently. The first one is sort of one size fits all, which is sometimes quite insightful and sometimes less so. The next 3 DVDs are leveled, going from slower-paced restorative poses in the first one to fiery, faster flows in the last.

      This, if you get Exercise TV, is good and engaging in some ways, though I feel a little uncomfortable recommending it fully (it talks about “looking cute” while doing yoga, which squicks me), but the sequencing is accessible and sound.

      • ergh, who wants to look CUTE while doing yoga? bleh! Thanks so much! Yeah, Hulu is limited to the US and Canada, and I’m currently in Asia. Eagerly awaiting the yoga chair series! My back is all “OMGFU” today, but I came home and did some spine-lengthening, stretching, and relaxation poses and it’s a bit better (now just grumpy, not angry, hehe)

  2. Autumn says:

    I will externalize my positive message for you–WOW! I am envious (in the good, motivational way, not the self-recriminating way) of your flexibility and strength. (My bad lower back would prevent me from doing the full range that you’re doing here even if I had the yoga skills at this time, but seeing this was inspirational anyway.) Thank you for sharing these.

  3. Rae says:

    Thanks for sharing! I found your blog through Feministe, and it’s been really inspiring as I try to start practicing yoga regularly (I’ve taken sporadic classes in the past). You look great in the videos here! Amazingly strong and flexible :)

  4. Laurie R. says:

    Awesome! Ragen’s post inspired a lot of us, didn’t it?
    I was really hoping you’d post more videos of you in action because– well you’re inspiring too!
    I love how you discuss different poses and what they mean to you. Seeing another plus sized person and how they make adjustments for their body is useful to me so I get ideas for how I can make a pose work better on my frame.
    Bravo!

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