This summer, I was asked to model some basic asanas for the November 2011 Yoga Journal magazine: As someone who has been practicing Ashtanga for 20 years, I expected the shoot to be an interesting experience, but fairly easy. These are fundamental poses that I've done thousands of times. The two-day photo shoot in a San Francisco Mission District studio turned out to be even more interesting than I anticipated.
I worked under the direction of the Yoga Journal Editor Jennifer Rodrigue, who comes from a very strong Iyengar tradition. (That's her voice on the video above.) Both B.K.S. Iyengar and the founder of Ashtanga yoga, Pattabhi Jois, studied under the same teacher—Sri Krishnamacharya. You would expect the systems to be quite similar, but while they share many of the same asanas, the approaches are totally different. Ashtanga is about movement and breath, Iyengar is about alignment and anatomical precision. Jennifer instructs with a keen eye for details that we don't address in Ashtanga. She kept directing my attention to the fact that I was pointing my floating ribs out. Each time she'd ask me to draw them in, I'd find myself unconsciously poking them out again. When I would draw them in, I noticed all sorts of things happening in my body that I'd never noticed before, including feelings of lightness, clarity, and a sense of calm.
So, the experience was challenging—a bit of a surprise. And while I'll always be a die-hard Ashtangi (the sequence of asanas and vinyasas helps me tap into a deeper consciousness like no other practice), this brush with Iyengar gave me some interesting perspectives.
I also gained a whole new appreciation for the level of expertise, detail, breadth and depth that goes into the making of Yoga Journal. It was a total thrill to be a member of a high caliber team of artists and experts who are really great at what they do: Jennifer Rodrigue (editor and yoga spotter), Lyn Heineken (stylist), Tamara Brown (hair and makeup artist), Charli Ornett (creative director), and Katrine Naleid (photographer).