Re­flec­tion

Cel­e­brated yoga pho­tog­ra­pher Robert Stur­man shares his thoughts on the power of an im­age, med­i­ta­tive liv­ing, and find­ing peace­ful mo­ments in the day.

Yoga Journal - - CONTENTS -

Yoga pho­tog­ra­pher Robert Stur­man on his craft, ac­cep­tance, and peace.

No mat­ter where I am in the world

or what time I fall asleep, I awaken each day just be­fore the sun rises and sit qui­etly for 30 min­utes. I’m not quite in the world yet, but I feel deeply present and grounded. It’s an ef­fort­less time for med­i­ta­tion and creative ex­plo­ration. I love to prac­tice asana some­time mid-morn­ing. Yoga clears out what’s un­nec­es­sary and al­lows me to be­gin again. On the days I’m not at­tend­ing a class, I’ll spend quiet time in na­ture with my dog, Chai—be­ing silent at the park, in the moun­tains, or at the beach al­ways helps me feel alive and full of grat­i­tude.

I try to live a med­i­ta­tive life,

but this can be chal­leng­ing when I’m nav­i­gat­ing air­ports and trav­el­ing more than 50 days a year. I’m learn­ing the art of say­ing “no” and how to ap­pre­ci­ate the dis­tinc­tions be­tween com­mit­ment and chaos. Of­ten, this can be as sim­ple as ar­riv­ing two hours early to the air­port and cre­at­ing time to be still and breathe.

As an artist, I’ve learned to get cen­tered

and be de­ci­sive be­fore tak­ing a photograph. I try to just re­lax and sur­ren­der to the yoga of see­ing. That means trust­ing my abil­ity to be present with what is in front of me and press­ing the shut­ter at the mo­ment when ev­ery­thing con­spires into per­fec­tion. I’ve learned to give my­self per­mis­sion to some­times make just one ex­po­sure, know that I got it, and walk away.

Asana is the great­est fig­u­ra­tive po­etry

I’ve ever seen. It’s the ex­pres­sive lan­guage of hu­man be­ings striv­ing to reach their full po­ten­tial that in­spires me to tell re­mark­able sto­ries of hope, de­vo­tion, sin­cer­ity, and long­ing. Just look at the poses: They show us push­ing our hearts to­ward the sky or reach­ing with our arms to­ward some­thing greater—and shar­ing a com­mon de­sire to be bet­ter at life. We have reached a point in yoga’s pop­u­lar­ity where I can photograph just about ev­ery type of per­son prac­tic­ing asana—from pris­on­ers, sol­diers, doc­tors, artists, fire­fight­ers, and cops to Maa­sai war­riors, or­phans, and breast can­cer sur­vivors.

With my work,

I have the op­por­tu­nity to re­flect back the el­e­gant truth that we are beau­ti­ful, flawed, mag­nif­i­cent be­ings. One of the great­est things I’ve learned is that ev­ery per­son—whether on the cover of a mag­a­zine or serv­ing a life sen­tence in prison— lights up when he or she feels seen. It is a hum­bling re­spon­si­bil­ity and priv­i­lege to em­brace art in its pri­mal ca­pac­ity for ex­pres­sion and con­nec­tion. It has never been about ex­pen­sive equip­ment or me­chan­i­cal ex­per­tise; rather, it’s about hon­or­ing oth­ers and our col­lab­o­ra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

I be­lieve the cam­era is a magic box

that can change the world when used with the right in­ten­tions. We have an op­por­tu­nity to use this form of ex­pres­sion to spread ideas that help us evolve in a more pos­i­tive di­rec­tion. I want my work to in­spire ev­ery type of per­son to get on the mat and find a way to deal with his or her stress and to dis­cover that peace and ac­cep­tance are also part of the hu­man con­di­tion.

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