So much goes into taking those beautiful yoga shots you see on Instagram. From full hair and makeup, to even some editing and retouching post-shoot. But that's not all! The blood, sweat, and tears it takes to bend your body into the perfect pose isn't talked about all that often.
Since starting my yoga journey a couple of months ago, I have been absorbing as much information as possible from the top female yoga influencers here on social media. Not only to improve my own practice, but to also learn how they take those gorgeous pics. Having a professional camera and crew helps, but being tough as nails is even more valuable. Because that's what these ladies are: serious yoga warriors.
1. The Elements
When you venture out into Mother Nature for a yoga shoot, she's not taking a conciliatory tone. Depending on which corner of the earth you’re in, it could be raining or snowing. But what I've noticed more often than not is that the yoga shoots take place somewhere warm and sunny, which roughly translates to being in the pits of hell, depending on the time of day.
Sure, your makeup is perfect before you begin, but now sweat is pooling under your eyes, between your boobs, and under your armpits. Not only that, but the blazing hot midday sun is probably baking every inch of your exposed body because the shoot started later than you'd have liked.
2. The Location
Female yoga warriors have nerves of steel. Tree asana near the edge of a cliff, doing a full split on the railing of a balcony, or dropping back into camel pose on top of a cluster of rocks smack dab in the center of a stream means these ladies take yoga seriously and will go to extreme lengths to capture a perfect, breathtaking shot.
But even more than appearances, choosing these heart-pounding locations offers a chance to test and challenge their skills. Doing yoga in thrilling places often requires intense concentration and, at times, tapping into your transcendental mind space in order to take your body to new heights. Imagine doing all of this with a beautiful smile or expression on your face. Now that's extreme modeling!
3. The Poses
Many of the viral yoga posts you see on Instagram are hailed for their complexity and/or extremeness. What’s important to keep in mind is that these are not sustainable for most. They are brief moments in time captured by the camera that aren't normally held for extended periods.
However, it does take great skill and dedication to get into many of these, so it's important not to discount the training and practice that leads to her flawless eight-angle asana, big toe bow pose, and locust scorpion asana you see in the shots. There is often a lot of preparation pre-shoot, including a thorough warm-up to prevent injury.
4. The Pain
Yoga mats serve a very important purpose by creating a cushioned boundary between you and the ground. They provide a small amount of padding for the points on the body that take the most abuse, like the knees, elbows, hands, feet, head, and forearms, while still allowing you to feel “grounded” and in control.
Imagine removing the mat and doing the same pose on surfaces like concrete, a bed of shells, a stone walkway, the slippery surface of a wet rock, or pretty much any uneven, textured, or slippery surface. Sounds painful right? That's because it is! But this is usually where mind over matter comes in. It also helps to be a seasoned professional. Trying these things at home can cause you to risk life and limb and are never recommended without proper precautions.
5. The Bugs
I can't tell you how many ant bites I've already sustained from doing some of my amateur poses, so imagine the tales a professional yogi could tell! Long story short, bugs are a part of nature, and they're everywhere. There is no escaping them.
Her beautiful headstand at the bottom of an oak tree? Bugs. Her pigeon pose in the grass? Bugs. The types of bugs vary, but you can bet on finding red ants, spiders, cobwebs, and maybe even a bee or two.
6. The Clothing
If you haven't noticed yet, yoga is a clothing-optional sport. The reason for this is multifaceted, but two major factors involve being more connected to the body and having fewer restrictions when folding into an asana.
Sure, you can do yoga in regular clothes, but ask most female yogis and they'll tell you that tight jeans can be restricting, over-sized sweaters can get in the way, and shoes don't allow for the foot mobility and flexibility the same way being barefoot does. Next time you see a yoga chick in very few clothes, try not to judge, but instead understand the need for freedom to flow fluidly in and out of asanas.
7. The Outtakes
Out of the single photo you get to see, there are probably twenty or more fails. Derpy faces, falling out of poses, people, pets, or kids traipsing through the shot, or just bad lighting, positioning, and other compositional issues, there are many, possibly hundreds of, failures in just a single photoshoot.
The next time you're trying to mimic your idols, whether it's yoga, fashion, fitness, or mom life, remember that it's almost always planned and has required preparation, forethought, attention to detail, and lots and lots of skill to get the flawless execution you see in the Instagram photo. With practice, patience, dedication, and time, you'll get there, too!