As I mentioned last week, finding a regular yoga practice has been a real life changing event for me. Yoga has changed my body and my mind and I really believe that I would be a different person had I not found my practice in my mid 30's. One of things that I love most about yoga is that it is an all inclusive workout, meaning that anyone can find a way to practice- even if the studio is their bedroom and their version of yoga consists only of deep breathing. A yoga practice is such a personal thing but just by doing it you instantly become part of a community that is so much bigger than yourself. It's sometimes hard to explain this to those that don't practice, which is why I think the new book Yoga Bodies is so incredible.
About a year ago, one of my oldest friends Jaimie Baird told me that she was photographing a yoga book with co- author Lauren Lipton, and when she explained the premise and I knew instantly that this book was going to be something special. Yoga bodies explores what a yoga is, as told through the eyes of those who practice.
Individually stories are shared through poses, but collectively the book sends an even bigger message; that yoga transcends. It transcends race, gender, age, and physical ability, The book features yogis who come from all walks of life- from former felons to Oscar nominated actresses. Toddlers who are full of life to those in their 90's looking to make peace with aging. Yoga Bodies, also features those with physical limitations which illuminates how special this practice is and how it truly can be for everyone.
Each subject in the book is so unique and each of them practice yoga in their own way but the message is the same, when you find yoga you find something within yourself that allows you to change. The beautiful imagery that accompanies each story is so powerful and it allows the reader to really feel this idea. I thought this was such a beautiful idea for a book when I first heard it and now here I am, holding the finished product in my hands and I am so happy that a book like this finally exists. The release of this book could not be more timely and as I continue to search for community and connection in my own life, it's a nice reminder that all you have to do is keep showing up on the mat and it will be there. There is a reason that this practice has been around for centuries and this book is a beautiful example of why.
Jaimie, was kind enough to share some beautiful outtakes from Yoga Bodies with me and also answer a few questions about her process in creating this incredible book. Whether you have been in a studio once, or have been practicing all of you life, I guarantee you that you will find this to be a wonderful read and one that you will keep coming back to time and time again.
I obviously know everything about you, but for my readers can you tell me a little bit about your yoga practice?
First off, I am not a Yogi.
I have always been more of an adrenaline junkie and my idea of a workout has always been intensive strength training. Over the past few years, I've become a huge fan of "the class by Taryn Toomey" because it taps into my emotional state as much as it does my physical. It's my therapy- I love it! It's given me so many tools that I use in my day to day life and go figure, founder Taryn Toomey, one of my subjects in Yoga Bodies, is a former yoga teacher.
Because you haven't spent a lot of time practicing yoga, did you have any hesitation in taking on this project?
When Lauren Lipton, Author of Yoga Bodies, approached me to collaborate on a coffee table book about yoga, my biggest concern was how I would be able to connect with all of the subjects in the book, not having made yoga a part of my lifestyle. I didn't know my Crows from my Downward Dogs! Through my experience as a photographer, I've found that you need something that you can relate to before you work in such an intimate environment. The individuals being featured in the book were real people, most of whom have never been in the spotlight, and it was my responsibility to make them feel comfortable in front of the camera.
To discover a place of connection with the people I was going to be photographing, I thought I should at least take some classes. I was introduced to an amazing yoga teacher, Kevin Courtney, and he taught me to how to find my practice. Whether it was just sitting still and following my breath, lighting a candle, doing yoga, and even with taking "the class", Kevin showed me taking the time out for yourself is THAT in itself! Finding your own practice ultimately is what yoga is. It's a mindset as much as it is a physical exercise and I really connected with that idea.
With that in the back of my mind, I went into this project with the utmost respect for how personal a yoga practice can be. Each of our subjects have such diverse backgrounds, all are different physically, with their own stories to tell, and I found that my role was to find what yoga meant to each of them and capture that feeling through my lens.
I think it's so amazing that you, yourself, were able to discover that feeling about yoga! When reading this book the message is so clear that yoga is such a personal exercise and I applaud you for being able to capture that feeling so perfectly.
There are a few celebrities and fitness celebrities featured in this book who clearly have spent some time in front of the camera, but most of the book features yogis who haven't spend any time in the spotlight- and both shine equally! How were you able to make everyone look and feel so comfortable.
Most of our subjects had never been photographed before so providing the right environment was of the utmost importance. Laying on the floor next to someone you've just met can kind of be a weird thing so finding the right space was key. We scouted a ton of spaces and chose intimate studios with warm light in NYC and Los Angeles. I shoot mostly with natural light and I think that helped make our subjects settle into their postures and relax more. There weren't any harsh lights and flashes popping to make anyone feel like they were on stage. We also kept a mellow vibe on set. Hair, make up and wardrobe was done in advance and our subjects weren't primped while shooting. When it came time to shoot it was just my yogis, myself and my co-author Lauren, as art director. One harmonious, unique, and lovely yogi after the next. Each so generously gave their time and themselves, it was an experience I am so grateful for and one that I will never forget.
As your good friend I just have to say- YOU HAVE A PUBLISHED BOOK! What does that even feel like?????
Yesterday, I found a copy of Yoga Bodies in my nine years old son's backpack. I asked him if he brought it to school and he replied, "I brought it to school to present it to my class Mom, I love yoga and I am proud of you!" Of course, my heart swelled and there were tears. Not only was I so grateful to work on this project as a professional photographer, and as a woman alongside another talented female writer, but I am so glad, in this day and age of constant chaos and instant gratification, that my son and two daughters have an example that no matter how you look, no matter what your story is, we can all find a common thread of peace. If it's through yoga then all the better!!
The photographer (as beautiful inside as she is out) Jaimie Baird. Yoga Bodies will be released on March 28th, but you can preorder a copy now. I think this would make such an incredible gift for anyone in your life (I've already ordered 4 copies to give to friends) because there is something for everyone in these pages!
Thank you so much Jaimie!!! The book is so amazing and I am so happy to finally be able to share it with the world! Xx