February 25, 2011

My Art As My Yoga.

All Photos by Katarina Silva

So, in my tearful morning hours, I took this pain and I breathed myself into it. I inhaled and exhaled this pain, without judging it for keeping me from my yoga practice.

I let it do to me what it intended to do to me, without wishing it would leave.

The haunting sounds of barn owls drew me out of my slumber way before dawn, leaving me to my dreaded, prolonged lack of early morning inspiration. Ugh! Not again! Grief weighed me down and motivation was as scarce as water in the Sahara. How effortlessly it persuaded me to remain under my blankets instead of rising to embrace my yogasana practice.

Practice? What practice? Frankly, there wasn’t much of one left. My yoga routine, (which I had given myself to for years), had gradually evaporated. In its place I found myself ungracefully crawling through the shadows of an achy heart.


Yes, he abandoned me.

It was officially over, and I desperately needed to move on, but the usual vehicle (my yoga practice) that I always engaged to find my inner joy seemed to be lost in one of those multilevel parking garages…and I certainly didn’t have the energy to look for it.

Or maybe I didn’t want to look for it? Maybe yoga reminded me of him too much, and I needed some distance? Those pesky associations! Still, I found myself deliberately avoiding my morning sun salutations, my pranayama practice, the meditations, the chanting, the incense, the group kirtans, my harmonium, yoga studios, ashrams, people who had Sanskrit names, everything that I used to previously connect with my yoga practice.

I avoided it all. Too many memories, all too painful.

That’s when pain suddenly became my compass: the inner guru I listened to when deciding what to participate in and what not to. Ah! The power of volition! It is, after all, what makes love possible. No one can ever force us to love them. And we can never force anyone to love us. Yet, when we feel deprived of love, we experience pain. So, in my tearful morning hours, I took this pain and I breathed myself into it. I inhaled and exhaled this pain, without judging it for keeping me from my yoga practice.

I let it do to me what it intended to do to me, without wishing it would leave.

And that’s when it happened.

I let the processing of my pain become my yoga.

I let my heartache become my yoga practice: the very experience that reconnects me with my deepest core, my most confident self, the me that always feels loved, my own divine nature, inner bliss! All of that inside pain? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: pain walked me across a suspension bridge that reconnected me with yoga. That bridge is my art.

When my heart ached the most, the force that compelled me to get out of bed every morning, wasn’t my eagerness to do downward dog, or to OM myself into serenity, but rather, it was my own indescribable urge (yes, urge) to create art. It certainly wasn’t a conscious deliberation. It was more like a desire to express myself, to communicate, to extend my being into the world and see how far it stretches. It almost felt existential to me: like a call, which if left unanswered, might possibly kill me. So I opened up emotional dams and let the rivers of pain flow out into my art.

How? Photography, of all mediums.

I had never attempted photography before, but that was inconsequential. I followed my pain, and my pain put a camera in my hand, so I began shooting pictures. Quite appropriately, they were self-portraits, and, like a journal, the photographs recorded the expeditions I was taking into my own self. They were deep journeys, and I found them very invigorating. They involved a posturing of my body, a discipline of my consciousness, a respiratory vigor that screamed life! Afterwords, they left me feeling relaxed and alive. Harmoniously reconnected. With what? With myself, with the universe, and I suppose, with love. Doesn’t that sound a lot like yoga to you?

So what is yoga? One of my new yogini Facebook friends asked us in her latest blog entry: What is yoga to you? I must say, I was instantly seduced by this question! It reminded me of the expansiveness of yoga. The boundlessness! The way yoga is not so much about the form it assumes on the outside as much as what it does to us on the inside! It then follows that the external shape yoga takes can vary from person to person. For some it will look like a classical asana sequence, for others it might be a hike through nature, a belly dance, jamming on one’s djembe, a swim in the sea. Hoola-hooping? Why not? As long as one’s consciousness is postured for a blossoming awareness, an experience of bliss, divine love. All that juicy, spiritual stuff. The stuff of yoga.

In the midst of the dark night of my soul I’ve run into a lot of that yummy yoga-stuff while making art. In a way, my art saved me. When I couldn’t roll out my yoga mat, or sit before my meditation altar, or lose myself in the rhythms of a bhajan, I reached for my camera and connected with whoever I was at that very moment. Yogini, or not, I found my inner bliss.

When I make art, I enter a spontaneous moment of surrender, I set my camera’s timer for ten seconds and run in front of the lens before the shutter snaps. The movements of my body in front of the camera become my asanas. My breathing naturally enters into a pranayama-like beat. And I’d like to think that, as I enter my creative zone, my pointed concentration would surely make sage Patanjali proud.

In my art space, I seem to have created sacred space. In that space I reach for what lies beyond me, while diving deeper into me. Perhaps I haven’t dropped my yoga practice after all. Maybe it just changed outfits?

In the end, I think I will always remain a yogini, a practitioner of yoga. So, can you look at my art and tell that I am a registered yoga teacher? Probably not. I don’t typically create the kinds of images that others might associate with yoga. No pretty lotus flowers, no effulgences. I use eerie masks and skulls as props instead. I hide my face, I play with shadows and sensuality. But I always pour my soul into my artistic creations.

To me, this makes them yoga. For, I believe that it is the substance of yoga, and not it’s form, that makes it what it is. And if we give yoga definitions that are too narrow, perhaps we are missing the wisdom of yoga that tells us: there are no conditions to finding bliss and love. They can be experienced anytime, anywhere, through any means. For, as the yogic voices of antiquity inform us, they are synonymous with our very nature.

Therefore, any means we engage to reconnect us with this divine nature certainly must qualify as yoga. And, in moving about our outer worlds, we may be looking at a yogini, without even realizing it. In fact, she may appear before us in a photograph, in fishnet stockings and red velvet gloves, but reverberating OM in her thoughts, and delighting in her own inner bliss.

You just never know.

Read 19 Comments and Reply

Read 19 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Katarina Silva  |  Contribution: 2,180