eliza contacted me last week about a photo gig. her friend roberto (whom i've met a few times at her parties) was having a yoga event and needed somebody to take photos. since she couldn't do it (brother's wedding), eliza passed it along to me. the event was held at the masonic hall in porter square, a building i've seen often but never set foot in.
i didn't have too much information to go on, other than it'd be a yoga event. after talking with roberto a few days ago, i learned that this was part of the global mala project, where people from all over the world would participate in these synchronized yoga sessions (organized in their own cities), sort of a collective display of yoga unity, with the underlying message of somehow bringing world peace together.
when i showed up close to 11am, the first session was still in progress. i met emile, the other photographer asked to come document this event. in a large wood-floored auditorium were about 100 people doing their yoga, led by a team of instructors who would periodically switch out to bring in their own personal style and poses. having never been to a yoga class (let alone an event), i didn't know what to expect. with so many sweaty bodies i expected the place to smell but it didn't. what i wasn't prepared for was how warm it was inside from the cumulative body heat. it got to the point where my clothes clung to my body and my glasses would fog up occasionally.
the second session started at noon. people from the previous session left while new people arrived, unfurling their yoga mats, claiming their spots. shoes were left outside the auditorium and everyone went barefoot (except for me). a woman went around with a bundle of hemp-scented incense to cleanse the air before the session started.
for the next 3 hours, various instructors would lead the 100 participants through a "transformative cycle of 108 sun salutations," whatever that means. some instructors were meditative and peaceful, while others were full of energy and action. there was a sound technician there who piped music from loudspeakers, ranging from contemplative instrumentals to high-energy pop, depending on who was teaching at the time.
emile used a canon dSLR as well, armed with an external flash, with the following set of lenses: 17-40mm f/4L, 35mm f/2, and a 50mm f/1.8. he shot in RAW format and dumped the photos onto his laptop midway through. as for me, i shot using only natural light alternating between my 17-50mm f/2.8 and 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS. emile, a fellow yoga practitioner as well, seemed to know a lot of the people there, while i only knew roberto. while i shot from the sideline (either wide-angle or telephoto zoom), emile mingled through the sea of bodies, getting the personal close-up shots, unafraid of using the occasional flash.
truth be known, i've always thought of yoga as a glorified form of stretching exercises wrapped up in asian mysticism. i don't doubt its health benefits, but so is any form of routine exercise. there's this whole yoga culture and you see people walking around with rolled up mats almost like badges of honor indicating their affiliation to this special club. and like with any culture, there are commercial elements interested in making money off of them, and the people happily reciprocate by signing up for classes, buying the books, the music, the special clothing. but i think of all the things people can become involved in, yoga is fairly innocuous. in our current fast-paced lifestyles, it's nice to have something to do that isn't about rushing.