We are so proud of these two AHEM graduates making a positive impact on the yoga community in terms of these values around inclusivity, body image and diversity!
“I never had any interest in trying yoga. I had accepted the mainstream media depiction of who could practice asana, and I was not even close to a match. I’m not young and pretty, I am not very flexible, and I weigh at least half again as much as your average magazine cover yogi.
But in late 2009, I attended a series of health-related lectures at an integrative health clinic, and one of the speakers was Hala Khouri, my first—and still favorite—yoga teacher. During her lecture, she instructed us to sit in a gentle hip opener. Then she asked us what feelings came up for us, and if we noticed anything about our strategies for avoiding discomfort. I had never before been exposed to the concept of being present and curious about the connection between thought, emotion, and physical sensation, and I found it scary but fascinating. In a few short minutes Hala opened my eyes to a deeper aspect of the practice, and I felt immediately safe in her presence. She offered us all a guest pass for her classes, so that weekend I went—though I was incredibly nervous and almost talked myself out of going. That class was the first time in my life that I’d been given permission in an “exercise” class to care for myself and not to worry about keeping up, proving myself, or achieving anything. I’ve been dedicated to the practice ever since that first class six years ago.”
“For me, photography is a visual form of poetry. For a time, I would use film as a means of bringing lines of my poetry to life. Instead of drawing shoot schematics, I paint my photographic concepts in words. I’ve always been disinterested in typical fashion photography because I felt limited by the constructs of mainstream media. My focus has always been on realistic portraiture and musicians and landscapes. I have been a singer for most of my life, and photographing musicians felt like I was stoking that inner fire, as they represent a lyrical expression of the heart. I later started doing pinup photography with the intention of raising body image awareness through a traditional pinup style. However, my desire to shift the negative body image paradigm I saw in mainstream photography was not satisfied in the pinup world. It was the wrong place for me, though shooting like that was fun. I didn’t start paying attention to yoga photography until I found myself immersed in the yoga world. It was unsettling to see how similar everyone looked; how white, thin, fair, and flexible most were in their likeness but how dissimilar the images were in contrast to the yogis I practiced with.”
This video is also very powerful along these lines: