August 2, 2013

The Soul of a Yogi: A Beginner’s Perspective from the Mat. ~ Amy Goalen {photos}

It’s only 90 minutes of my day. Sometimes in the mornings. Sometimes in the late afternoon. Weekdays or weekends…it doesn’t matter. Without it I’m lost. Disconnected.

My body cries out to be stretched, pulled, twisted and bent. As I lie with my forehead on the mat in child’s pose, I begin to breathe…in…out…in…out…

Soon all I can hear is my own breath. Feeling my lungs swell on every deep inhale, and with every exhale feeling all the air leave my body like a deflating balloon.

This is where I find myself. This is where she has been hiding in plain sight. When I close my eyes and just breathe…there she is. Waiting for me. “So glad you could make it,” she sometimes whispers.

Before long my body is sweating as I move through poses and feel heat radiate out. I tune out the people around me, only vaguely noticing their proximity to me. The only thing I hear is my own breath and the voice of my instructor. My body seems to tune in to his voice and keep a perfect cadence and rhythm with his instructions. I try to keep my eyes closed or focused on a spot on the wall to keep myself from being distracted.

I find my breath again. It’s never very far away.

My fingers graze the floor, my arm floats over my ear, my leg lifts high, and my foot presses into my hand…just…a little further.

Emotions ebb and flow throughout my time on the mat. Fear, sadness, anger, relief and even joy come up and melt away as the pose is held for one more breath…one more breath.

Sweat rolls down my back, off my face, and glistens on my arms and legs as I find my strength—more than I ever knew I had. Breathe in…breathe out. Nothing else matters.

My muscles shake, my shoulders ache, my knees give out and sometimes I wobble off balance, but I always find solace in the words “Practice, not perfection.”

On my mat I practice patience with myself. I allow my body to be. I attend at least three classes every week, and I can’t tell you how revealing, as well as healing, my practice has been. More than once I’ve released tears through a pose and left class not sure of what my name is—but when I get home I feel clear, calm and focused.

As a Los Angeles based portrait photographer I have started a new photo series called “The Soul of a Yogi.” This project is all about the transformative power of yoga.

I am using yoga poses to find and photograph the authentic beauty of my subjects. It isn’t about the perfect pose or the perfect body—all are welcome. This project is about honoring and celebrating where each yogi is right now.

My life is forever changed by my yoga practice. I have an ocean of gratitude for my practice as well as finding such a knowledgeable and intuitive instructor. Namasté.

The images accompanying this article are of my yoga instructor, Byron De Marsé. Byron has been practicing yoga for more than 10 years and his classes are a flavorful blend of intense physical workouts (always reminding students to practice within their physical limits) in addition to healing and restorative poses to release energy and detox the body through breath and movement. He integrates music into his classes (which I personally enjoy) and is quite gifted at guiding you into a mediation to finish the practice. He teaches most of his classes at Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga in Santa Monica, but you can also find him at TruYoga and The Yoga Nest in Venice.

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Ed: Dejah Beauchamp

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