For the past several years, I've been backpacking through the world of self-discovery. I've worked hard to be the best possible version of myself, but I was still missing something. Then, during a portrait special that I was running in 2015, I met Jessica, my yoga instructor, my savior! Jessica invited me to a restorative yoga class and I never looked back. After that, I immediately jumped into her Aerial Yoga classes. Who am I?! A whole new me, that's who! Yoga has never crossed my mind before. Ok, it has...I just always thought I was too fat to do it. There's no way my body is strong and stable enough to do these poses! But I was so very wrong. I'm 4 months shy of my first year as a yogi and it's altered the way I view myself on levels I never thought I'd reach. This whole time, the one thing that I was missing was belief in myself. There's something really special about accomplishing poses in yoga. I've never felt so proud.
Jessica reached out to me with a vision she's had for quite some time. She wanted to find a way to share that yoga really is for everybody. How could we end this fear of trying something that brings so much peace and strength to the body? Everyone deserves to feel that!
"Ever wanted to try something but held back because of fear, embarrassment or the worry of what others will think? I have. It took me a long time to try yoga. I really wanted to do it and see what it was all about but every time I passed by a studio or looked online, all I saw were beautiful, skinny, young, fit and flexible women...and maybe a few men. There's no way I could fit into that crowd." -Jessica
I'm pretty sure most of us can relate to that feeling. I know I couldn't stand the thought of someone watching me struggle in class, but the truth is, everyone has been incredibly supportive. Whenever I'd stop and say "I can't do this!" (believe me, it happens a lot) Jess would come over and support me until I could do what my body would allow. As for the other yogis, they're usually more focused on their own bodies and rooting for me when they find the breath to do it.
"It doesn't matter if someone "accomplishes" a pose, it's more about seeing someone who struggles, feels insecure or who has doubt about themselves, actually coming to class and taking time to work on and commit to themselves."
Helping Jessica share this message is special to me because I can relate on several levels. Not only was I terrified of yoga, but as a photographer, I see the beauty in everything and everyone. I've never wanted to be to the photographer that focused only on fit models and flawless faces. I want to bring out every humans inner beauty. I strive to tell everyones story. So I knew that teaming up with Jess and helping her share her message would not only be a ton of fun, but really empowering. I've never met an instructor so passionate to help EVERYONE.
"No one should feel like they can't walk into a studio and give it a try. I want to share that not only do we say that everybody can do yoga...we ARE everyBODY and we're DOING yoga."
With that being said, we collected a bunch of yogis for a photo shoot! Some attend Jessica's class, some do yoga on their own, and some have only tried it a time or two. It was a beautiful day watching them step in front of the camera as Jess helped walk them into poses. We asked them a series of questions about what health and yoga means to them. The things I heard that day will forever touch my soul...
"Health means everything, especially to me. It is just feeling good about yourself."
"Fate brought me to yoga. Yoga makes me feel powerful and it makes me feel healthier."
"Yoga makes me feel great. I've struggled with my weight all my life. I enjoy working out and it's hard when you're heavier...but when I nail a yoga pose it's like, Yeah! I did it! I can do this!"
"Yoga is a release and it's opened up a new chapter for me. It makes me feel like I've done something for me, which is rare. It's helped me find myself. I feel free."
"It's this very interesting combination of feeling light and grounded at the same time. I get to feel relieved of the burden of the constant to do list, whatever it may be, or even self-doubt or criticism. While at the same time, really building that mind/body connection. In classes, feeling that connection with others and the space around me...that part for me is very grounding."
"Yoga has a lot of significance since I lost weight. It means transformation. It makes me feel relaxed, empowered and grounded."
"I initially thought yoga meant poses, but now I know it means more. It's a connection to myself, how to breathe, body acceptance and self acceptance. I kinda needed it in my life and I think the universe brought me to it. I challenged myself this year. I think aerial yoga has actually helped me do this photo shoot. I'm stepping out of my comfort zone this year and this is one of the things that is definitely out of my comfort zone. "
"Yoga is a place where I can find myself and be strong and calm at the same time. My doctors also told me it is good for fibromyalgia."
"Yoga is harder than I thought it would be, but it relaxed me. I've tried meditation yoga to relax and start my morning."
"Yoga is for everyone regardless of body type or ability. I want to help get that message out there. It means connecting your mind and body and working on your flexibility. I looked at yoga for a number of years but felt I couldn't do it. I saw this Adaptive Yoga and hoped it was for me. It is."
"To me, yoga is a connection with myself. It was a gateway to my own spirituality. It makes me feel empowered and always brings me back to myself. When you work on the inside, it shines through."
"Being healthy means taking care of your body physically, mentally and spiritually. Health isn't defined by just physical well-being, but overall. I believe yoga is for whoever dares to try it! The only limits are the ones you place on yourself when it comes to physical activities."