In the middle of 2010 I was coming out of a pursuit that I’d loved and been hugely immersed in for nearly five years – salsa dancing and teaching.
For various reasons, it was time for a change – or at least a break – so I was looking for alternative ways to enjoy regular exercise.
Yoga was something I’d thought for years would suit me (I’m naturally lean, light and flexible) but had never tried. The time had come.
After a series of classes I decided yoga was something I wanted in my life as a daily discipline.
So, on 1 October 2010, I started a daily yoga practice in the morning, for around 20 minutes.
Since then, aside from perhaps half a dozen sessions missed through illness, I’ve done the same every day. Which now totals over 3000 sessions.
Whilst the practice has evolved – I currently include daily gratitudes, pull ups and push ups in the routine – that core daily discipline has remained.
It might not seem obvious at all at first, but this has really enhanced my photography too. Here’s how.
As you might know, much of the time I’m taking photographs of flowers and crumbling gravestones, which often requires getting into low and awkward positions. Yoga has increased my flexibility and meant I can take these kinds of pictures without thinking “even if I get down there, will I get up again?”.
I also take quite a number of pictures in dimly lit churches. Having a decent core strength and stillness from yoga means I regularly shoot at 1/8 and 1/4s, perhaps even slower, without issues with camera shake.
You don’t do something every day for 3000 days without it having a profound impact on your ability to be disciplined. This yoga practice has meant when I’ve needed and wanted to be disciplined in my photography, it’s been far easier than it would have been otherwise.
For example, my current One Month, One Camera project, or deciding that over 50 cameras was excessive and honing it down to half a dozen.
This discipline has also made blogging regularly about photography pretty easy too. I don’t really think much about it, I just make time for the practice and get on with it, which has allowed to write and publish some 200 posts in the last 15 months.
Same with riding to work, which I’ve done for around 75 working days out of 80 since I got my ebike last August.
Discipline breeds discipline. If you can do it one part of your life, it’s transferable it to other areas too, because you know what to do, and what it feels like.
Realising how little equipment you need
My current morning yoga and exercise routine requires the following list of equipment – a yoga mat, and a pull up bar.
The mat I bought in 2010 for around £15, so it’s cost me half a penny a day, so far. The exercise bar I bought perhaps three years ago, again for about £15, so that’s worked out around 1.5p a day, so far. I usually do my yoga in the t-shirt and lounge joggers I sleep in.
Photography, like regular exercise, doesn’t need costly equipment that needs to be upgraded regularly. It’s an incredibly affordable hobby, and can cost literally pennies a day.
Which has again certainly influenced my One Month, One Camera project, where the two cameras I’ve used thus far cost me £15 each, which even if I used them just for one month and gave them away, would have only cost me 50p a day.
A clear, calm mind
I’m not one to be able to completely clear my head of all thoughts and be a picture of serenity. But with yoga I can at least calm them enough to enjoy the session. The slow, steady, physical actions certainly help with this.
Which in turn aids my state of mind when out photographing.
I’m also slow, steady, calm, attentive. I’m not zipping about with tracking auto focus and continuous shooting enabled, spraying every scene with a dozen shots a second. It’s just one shot at a time, trying to make it the best I can.
Again I believe my daily yoga practice has helped this to flourish.
Yoga and photography perhaps aren’t immediately obvious bedfellows.
But for me, they go hand in hand beautifully, the photography supported and enhanced by the yoga.
It’s a partnership I hope lasts for years, if not the rest of my life.
How about you? What other activities in your life support and improve your photography?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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9 thoughts on “How 3000 Yoga Sessions Have Enhanced My Photography”
Good post Dan. I don’t do yoga and have become pretty sedentary, but I often think that my cycling has really been a life changing experience for me. I hadn’t cycled for years as an adult when I took it up again about ten years ago. I started going further and further and further on weekends, and shortly became frustrated with how much time and money I was spending driving around in my car. I got a wacky idea to take my car off the road for a year and get around only by bike. Almost nobody here in the States does this and a lot of people thought I was crazy, or had lost my licence but I stuck to it even though there were some days when I was pretty miserable. There was a steep learning curve, and I had to figure a lot of stuff out on my own. I had to get my ass out of bed very early. (It was almost 3 hours each way to work.) I had lead a pretty sheltered life up until then and had never changed a tire on a bike. I grew to like it, and one year later I decided to do another. I would even take long rides on weekends. I still drive less even now.That experience gave me a lot more self-confidence and I really stopped worrying about what other people think of me. I don’t know if it helped my photography or not, but some of the pictures I took on those rides are the most popular ones on my Flickr page, for what that’s worth.
Jon, thanks for your comments as always. That’s amazing about giving up your car for a year, very inspiring. So you cycled almost six hours a day just to get to and from work??
Since I started cycling to work I’ve used my car far less for the commute. I think I’ve only used the car about five days out of 80 odd since August, when the weather was too wet or cold or both to face it. Which is great. But the costs of just owning a car – insurance, road tax, MOT, servicing, maintenance – before you even take it off the driveway is frustrating. I commit over £100 a month before fuel, and even now probably another £40 a month for fuel. Which doesn’t include any payment for the car itself.
Having a young family, we haven’t quite yet figured out a way to just have one car, but I’m always thinking about it!
It’s intriguing how many people see a car as a great symbol of freedom, but financially they can be very restrictive, not to mention how dependent we become on them.
Hi Dan, It actually turned out to be more than 2 years as I was having so much fun! Yes it was 20 miles each way with some pretty steep hills at both ends, and I am a slow rider so somewhere between 2.5-3 hours each way. If you are thinking that that doesn’t leave much time for anything else, you would be correct, which is why I don’t do it any more. But I’m single and there isn’t much I enjoy more than cycling so it worked out for me. There is actually a pretty active group of riders here that commute to their jobs on Wall Street every day together which is really impressive to me with the extreme weather they get at that end of the state. There was an article in the Times a few years ago but I couldn’t find it.
Well I’m very impressed with your dedication Jon. Makes my 20 minute commute seem like barely a warm up!
I have had some experience with Yoga; in my teens I studied a particular form of Karate and Yoga (as well as other techniques) formed part of the physical warm up; I learned how to breath, relax and my posture was great. For many reasons I had to stop Karate and didn’t keep up that form of exercise. I tried yoga again a year or so in a formal class and did enjoy it but for other reasons didn’t really pursue it.
Cycling has been my main form of exercise for many many years but even that of late has been neglected.
I am in need of a form of regular exercise and have been considering many options; with a baby on the way I really need to make sure I am active enough to cope with the new life approaching (at 48 that is potentially a challenge). I have been looking at other martial arts as I am familiar with them and like the process of fitness as a byproduct from the pursuit of another goal. Fitness exercise for it own sake has never appealed to me. This means (for the most part) joining a club and signing up for classes and time commitments right now are difficult.
I did enjoy the flexibility that yoga and the other exercises gave me and perhaps as a cost and time effective routine that might become the best option me.
Hmmm something to ponder..
SilverFox, good to have your comments.
The obvious thing that came to mind as I was reading is Tai Chi. I went to classes for about a year and really enjoyed the slowness, and it was really similar to yoga in many ways. I didn’t continue because we were constantly adding moves to build on what we’d done and I just kept losing track. I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t remember the sequences and it as spoiling the benefits.
If I did it again I would find somewhere that did shorter sequences then did them over and over.
Anyway, have you ever tried Tai Chi, for me it seems the bridge between yoga and a higher impact martial art?
PS/ Congrats on the baby, I’m not much younger than you and also have a new one on the way!
Yes I have tried Tai Chi a couple of times and enjoyed it very much. I regard it as a martial art and it is on my list but I struggle to find a good class that is the right kind, most of them are aimed at seniors or mums and I want what I regard as the real thing. Being a one car family at the moment (though that is likely to change soon) means that whatever I choose needs to work with both our schedules and that is the tricky part.
Doing something at home might be a good solution but as you say it needs discipline to keep it regular; I fear that I may not have that level of discipline.
And thank you for the congrats and the same goes for you 🙂
Yes I understand what you mean about “the real thing”. It’s finding a balance between it being challenging and “authentic” enough, but not being so demanding that it makes it a chore!
I don’t have trouble with discipline with most things (as I said, that’s been a core benefit of the yoga), and I would say a great tip is to attach a daily habit on to one that already exists.
For me with the yoga, I have a little breakfast, usually fruit and yogurt, then go and do my yoga. Then have the second part of my breakfast afterwards.
It’s just part of the daily routine, I don’t have an internal debate about whether to bother or not, which is where we can start to talk ourselves out of doing something all too easily. Just make it automated so there’s not decision to make.
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