Sore back and neck, stiff shoulders, probably sore feet too…Unfortunately, the physical nature of photography means that aches and pains can come with the territory. Even a solid editing session at the computer can take a toll. Luckily, there are ways to help ease these troublesome maladies. In this article, I’ve picked out a few yoga exercises for photographers that I use to help combat the strains we accumulate both in the field and during editing sessions.
What is Yoga?
Yoga in the West usually describes a modern form of Hatha yoga (yoga as exercise) which consists of set poses called asanas. By performing these poses, yoga practitioners build flexibility and strength and also learn how to focus through breathing and mindfulness.
Basically, yoga is great for the body and the mind.
All you need is a bit of floor space, comfortable clothing, and a yoga mat if you want one.
To start, take a few deep breaths to get in the zone. If you like, sit cross-legged for a little while (Sukhasana), straightening your spine and rolling your head side to side to relax the neck muscles.
Once you are feeling centered, you’re ready to go!
The yoga poses I’ve selected for this article put particular emphasis on common photography sore spots. In terms of yoga exercises for photographers, you can’t go wrong with Cat and Cow Poses.
When performed together, Cat and Cow Poses lengthen the spine, flexing the back and the neck to relieve tension and stress.
- Begin on your hands and knees (Table Top Pose or Bharmanasana). Position your wrists directly under your shoulders. Shift your knees so they are aligned with your hip points. Look down towards the floor, relaxing the neck.
- Starting with Cow Pose, inhale and slowly drop your belly towards the floor. Lift your chin and chest, looking toward the ceiling. Draw your shoulders away from your ears and hold the position for 5-10 seconds.
- Next is Cat Pose. Begin to exhale and draw your belly up to your spine, rounding your back towards the ceiling. Look down towards the floor, relax your neck and hold the position for 5-10 seconds.
- Repeat Cat/Cow as many times as you like, breathing in for Cow Pose and out for Cat Pose.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Upward Facing Dog may look like one of the trickier yoga exercises for photographers, but it’s well worth a go. Stretching the back and neck and opening up the chest and shoulders, Upward Facing Dog is a great way to check-in with your body.
- Start by lying face-down on the floor. Rest the tops of your feet on the floor with your legs a few inches apart.
- Position your hands on the floor next to your lower ribs. Point your fingers towards your head and pull your elbows in close to your rib cage.
- Press your hands into the floor. Straightening your arms, lift your torso and upper thighs off the floor.
- Pressing down on the floor with the tops of your feet, tense your leg muscles to keep your upper thighs lifted. Keep your elbows pressed tightly against your body.
- Pull your shoulders away from your ears and push your chest up towards the ceiling.
- Tilt your head to look at the ceiling and hold the pose for 10-30 seconds. Release gradually.
Ragdoll Pose (Baddha Hasta Uttanasana)
Ragdoll Pose, also known as Dangling Pose is a variation on the Standing Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana). It’s a perfect yoga exercise for photographers, stretching the back and relaxing the shoulders, arms, and neck.
I find it also helps with headaches too.
- Start in a standing position, with your feet aligned with your hips and your toes pointed forward.
- Fold forward from the hips so that the belly meets with the tops of the thighs. As you fold, bend the knees generously. Keep your navel drawn up to your spine.
- Hold your elbows with your hands and let the weight of your arms and head hang down, lengthening the neck and spine.
- From here you can rock side to side, rest your hands on the floor or stay as is. Hold the pose for as long as you’d like, focusing on inhaling and exhaling.
Extended Child’s Pose (Utthitta Balasana)
Extended Child’s Pose is calming and restorative – great for the spine, thighs, hips, shoulders, arms, and neck.
- To begin Extended Child’s Pose, kneel on the floor. Keep your weight on the heels of your feet.
- Touch your big toes together. Separate the knees so that they are a little more than a hip’s width apart.
- Reach your arms ahead of you and let the chest sink towards the floor.
- Rest your forehead on the floor, drawing the shoulders away from the ears.
- Stay in Extended Child’s Pose for as long as you need, focusing on your breath.
Triangle pose (Trikonasana)
Triangle Pose is a yoga exercise for photographers that opens up the chest and shoulders as well as stretching the groin, hamstrings, and hips. It helps to relieve pain in the lower and upper back and stimulates balance.
- Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Step your feet wide and raise your arms parallel to the floor, palms down. Your wrists should be roughly in line with your ankles.
- Rotate your palms up to the ceiling and turn your right toes out by 90 degrees. Turn the left foot inward slightly so you are balanced.
- Reach the right fingertips forward and bend at the hip crease, sending your buttocks back. Keeping the arms straight, reach your right hand towards the top of your right shin, allowing the left arm to raise toward the ceiling.
- Once your right hand is settled on your shin and your left arm is pointed toward the ceiling, rotate the chest out and look towards your left hand.
- Hold Triangle Pose for 10-15 seconds and then return to a standing position. Reverse the feet and repeat to the left.
Helping to ease stress as well as aches and pains, yoga exercises for photographers are pretty great. Of course, there are plenty of other yoga asanas out there, but I’ve found these five to be especially effective after long days out in the field.
Do you have a favorite yoga pose that you find beneficial to your photography practice? Let us known in the comments!
Note: Megan is not a qualified Yoga instructor. These exercises are a guide only. As with all exercise, please listen to your body, and only do what feels comfortable for you.