I don’t take photos or videos of my students during yoga class. I don’t take photos or videos of myself during my yoga practice. And I feel strongly about the reasons why I maintain both of these boundaries.
It doesn’t allow me to focus on teaching. When I started teaching, I thought it would be really cool to document what I was doing and where I was teaching, but whenever I got my phone out to take a photo, something felt a bit weird. I didn’t feel like I was adequately holding the space for my students, and I felt distracted from the class by trying to get a good shot (and this is before technology had it’s say and made weird beeping noises during quiet moments).
It distracts me from my practice. When I’ve attended classes where the teacher is taking photos, I find it very distracting and it feels like a mild invasion of my privacy. I’m not on a photoshoot and generally, I haven’t been asked if I mind my photo being taken/used for promotion. I haven’t signed anything to say this is ok, and I haven’t given permission for my image to be used. I’m a relatively private person, and just as I don’t like people taking my photo without asking in everyday life, I don’t like my photo being taken without asking in a yoga class.
I feel a responsibility to my students to honour their privacy. This may seem like a strange boundary to make, given that with CCTV and smartphones, I’m sure that all our images are circulating all over the place without permission. But for me, yoga is meant to be a safe space – a space where I can work through things in my body, my heart, and my soul. And so to document and possibly distribute that record of work (where maybe there is some honest, real, shit going down), feels like a violation. How can I allow myself to be really truly vunerable (to get to that place of honest, real, shit) if it feels like someone will be using the record of that difficult work and it will be available to view again and again. I liken it to a psychologist taking a record of their session with a patient (caption: “saw amazing breakthroughs with my patients today!”), or a doctor snapping away on a smartphone during an examination (caption: “oooo! Guess what I found up a kid’s nose today?”). This would be totally weird and unethical! And of course, I’m not a psychologist or doctor, but in my experience, many of the things we deal with on the mat could likewise be dealt with in either of those settings. And I appreciate when teachers honour that privacy and allow me to feel safe to do that work.
I can’t get honest and real in my practice. I do my best work in private, and for me (even if I’m in a class of people) my yoga mat is a private space where I can be honest and open with myself. In moments of honesty and vulnerability, I have witnessed transformation, breakthroughs and depth of understanding, and it is what keeps me coming back to my mat. Real, honest, viewing is the purpose of my yoga and meditation practice. Without a place for that honesty and vulnerability, I don’t see the point of the practice. This, of course, may not be the purpose of yoga for everyone, but in order to respect those who use it that way, I keep the boundaries in place.
To ensure that I create a space where that can happen (both for myself and for my students), I don’t take pictures of myself during my practice, and I don’t take photos of students during class. Any photos that you do see may be a result of my practice, but not the actual practice itself. And any photos you see of my students are with their permission, outside of the practice.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on photos during yoga. Tell me what you think in the comments.
Photo credit: Ali Schilling (http://www.alischillingphotography.co.uk/)