A Delicate Balance

Balancing poses are some of my favorites to practice and teach, partly because watching the process and the progress is so enjoyable. We’re used to standing on two feet, but take one away and we often feel like we’re tumbling out of control.

One of the ways I think of balance is with the idea of a tree. Trees are firmly planted into the earth with roots that dig deep underneath what we can see. From that base the trunk, limbs and leaves can flower easily. Even thought a tree is planted in one place, the entire structure is actually built to move. Whether it’s a spring breeze or a hurricane, trees must move with the wind and weather.

When we’re balancing in even the simplest versions of one leg standing postures, we too must be firmly rooted yet open to small fluctuations in movement. Anticipating and gently responding to these minor shifts is what allows the illusion of motionlessness in our balancing posture.

I think most people find themselves falling because they expect total stillness. Falling down and losing center is part of the process, as a small sapling might droop at first, but perk up at the sign of sunlight, so might we stumble (hey, lets be honest, I fall quite often!)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of helping out Land Yoga student, Porter in one of his artistic endeavors. Porter is a dedicated morning Mysore practitioner and a photographer. He spends a lot of time around some awesome artwork, but found himself using an iPhone for most of his photography! In order to create some sort of balance with this super 21st Century tool, he took a class at the Center for Alternative Photography on an old 19th Century technique called wet plate shooting.

These images are created on an actual metal plate instead of on film, and require an almost ten second exposure time!

We spent a lovely Wednesday evening shooting some yoga postures. Finding the right balance of light, exposure time, and color is tricky to say the least. Black yoga pants look invisible against a blue backdrop, patterns we saw clearly in the studio were invisible in the photos, and because this process creates mirror images, the final product is always a bit different than we imagine.

The most striking and exciting image for me is our first take of Utthita Hasta Padangustasana. Initially it looks like a bit of a flop. The plate hadn’t been completely coated in the pre-picture process, resulting in a little drip of black over my face. It seems I might have moved a bit too much because my body is a little blurry.

But then I realized that the image is really a gem. It so clearly shows the rooting and movement balance I often think about, that might have been invisible in the instant exposure time of a modern camera.

At the base of the image you clearly see my foot, rooted deep and firm into the floor. But, as your eyes move up the picture my body becomes less clearly defined…as I said, a bit blurry. I’m allowing the rooting down to allow for movement up top. I’m creating a base and letting that do the work, and the rest just grow upwards. It’s not a still static thing, but a moving, breathing pose!

Because yoga and art are both really just mirrors into our daily existence I started thinking about how to find the same grounding and balance in everyday life. Enjoy and (try to) anticipate the small gentle movements, the imperfections and chances to test grounding and opportunities to pull back towards center. Lay good foundations, and if you fall over, just plant yourself again!

Here are some more photos from the shoot: