The Wow of Change

“Okay, can we do one more picture? I want to do a yoga pose.”

It was raining at the SMU at Taos campus. A steady cleansing rain had popped up throughout my stay.  I had been there about a week and it was magical. It was my second time at the writing retreat and it was so much better than the last one.

This time, I was grounded in my practice, at least a bit more. Returning to yoga was something I know I wanted and need to do but I was dragging my feet like a child who doesn’t want to take a bath or eat their veggies.

Through the week, one of the fellows, Leah Johnson, took pictures of people. Nice professional pictures. Last year, a fellow also took pictures. I wanted new ones, an update of who I was and how I changed in a year. But I wanted the biggest change to also be documented.

“Okay, let me get into it.”

Documenting changes can be challenging, especially if it comes from within. I’ve learned in the past couple of years to let my emotions run through, to feel them and their intensity, to stop suppressing to “get through” an experience. It’s better to feel the emotion — anger, sadness, fear, joy — when it happens than letting it manifest in your body and change into anxiety or a panic attack.

In the weeks leading up to this photo, I had been strolling through Instagram, looking at yogi pose pictures. I saw backbends and inversions galore and at face value, they are all the same — an expert yogi doing mind-defying poses that are intimidating to the novice beginner.

But on closer inspection, I saw something beyond the handstands and binding. I saw art. I saw the body as sculpture, asana as paint brushes, backgrounds as canvases. Whether the yogi was at the beach, or a remote jungle or even their living room, there was something artful and masterful about the image, vulnerable and exhilarating. The stretches and the bends were exposing — heart openers, hip openers, the look on their faces. These photos were slices of time and experiences, of joy and pain, or hard work toward the serenity of the pose.

So, it came that right there, in the forest, at the end of a writing retreat week, I asked the person taking my profile picture to take another kind of picture as the drizzle continued.

Without yoga pants, a mat, or other things that come to my practice, I hit a lounge and reverse my arms to a reserve warrior pose. I stretched back into it looking at my fingertips and softening my gaze.

“Wow,” she said as I heard the click from her camera. Her feet on the wet concrete moved around in different positions as I held the pose. “Wow,” said kept saying. “Wow.”

When it was over, she showed me the image on her camera’s screen. Yes. Wow. My own art. The gray of my sweater against the gray of the stormy sky. The curve of my body. The bend of my back. The canvas of the forest behind me. A smile on my face.

This was my art. My painting. My sculpture. My portrait of change from the year.

“Wow,” I said as she moved through the images. “Wow.”

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