My new year’s resolution for 2018 was to practice more yoga. I signed up for yoga classes and I tried to have a yoga morning routine at home. I started feeling much calmer and I finally understood what people like so much about yoga. One day I thought; I should start a photography project on this. It would be so nice to meet inspiring yoga-fans and take pictures of them at my favourite natural spots in the Netherlands. Yogi Nienke joined me for my first yoga photoshoot.
Our original plan was to do the photoshoot last summer, but things happened and we had to reschedule to autumn. The weather forecast for the day of the photoshoot looked more like winter: temperatures below zero. Nienke didn’t mind and was still up for it, brave girl!
How it started
I posted a model call for people liking yoga. In response to that, I received a very touching e-mail from Nienke. She tells me that the timing of my model call was just right: she saw it at the moment she felt most grateful for having yoga in her life. She wouldn’t usually sign up for photoshoots, but because of the timing it just felt right. And so we met!
Nienke’s first contact with yoga was about 8 years ago. By then, she enjoyed mostly the physical challenge yoga offers. Practicing yoga makes her feel stronger and more flexible, which is good for her self-esteem. Furthermore, she experiences less back pain than ever.
When yoga became even more important in her life
1.5 years ago, Nienke was involved in a car accident, resulting in a whiplash. Recovery took very long, she had to rest. Not easy for someone who’s used to a very active and busy lifestyle. This leads to frustration, of course, and Nienke starts searching for activities that make her feel better. She signs up for a (restorative) yoga class but that didn’t go as easy as before the accident. She was confronted with how limited she was in her movements and all feelings of stress and helplessness came to the surface. However, she did not give up after that class, because she felt this classes might help her.
And she did indeed not give up. Yin Yoga was the next step, changing her as a person. She now feels calmer and acceptance of her limitations. Yin Yoga focusses on different attitudes, like patience, gratefulness, satisfaction and acceptance. Attitudes that Nienke learns to make a part of her life. She tells me that yoga has taught her to live more mindful, to better listen to her body and to let go and accept. Furthermore, yoga gave her back her energy, strength and calm. When I meet her, I notice these things in her!
Yoga photoshoot on a cold autumn day
It’s the first really cold morning of October, when I meet Nienke at nature reserve Kale Duinen near Appelscha. The temperature is close to zero degrees Celsius. The sand sounds frozen, but Nienke lays down her mat, takes of her shoes and starts with a warming up. After taking the first pictures, I can barely feel my toes anymore, but Nienke says she feels fine, because the exercising keeps her warm.
Nienke came well prepared; she brought a list of poses she’d like to do during the shoot. All I have to do is finding the right spots with the best light. She’s very open to my ideas and she is excited about posing at the cold water’s edge, in the middle of the heather field and on top of a little dune. I learn that I need to work on my balance, for when taking pictures of Nienke doing complicated poses, I fall on my elbows in the water.
We chat while we walk from one location to the next. I get to know her better and I am impressed by how strong and calm she is. I love hearing her tell about the lessons she learned in the recovery from the accident, and her own role in that. She clearly learned to enjoy the daily things that other people might not even notice. She tells enthusiastic about far countries she visited, but also about summer’s day in her garden and her cat.
“Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down” – Jigar Gor