Capturing Israel one yoga pose at a time
Honeymoon Israel Los Angeles participant in September 2016
My wife Whitney and I spend a lot of time on the yoga mat, and taking yoga pictures in the wild. So when we found out that we were headed to Israel for the September 2016 HMI trip, we were instantly excited about the new image content we were going to add to our growing collection. We were also of course, ecstatic to meet new LA couples, and give our Jewish roots a fair chance to express themselves in our every day lives.
We packed our bags with leggings, an army of sports bras, and hoped that our fellow Los Angelino travel companions were down for a stretch or two in between a jam-packed itinerary on our Honeymoon Israel Adventure.
Israel Through the Body
In yoga, every posture reveals an honest expression of our body-in-motion, both internally and externally. Some days we're stiff and some days we're warm, but no matter how the goods are feeling that day, we hope to experience something magical. Stretching creates space in your body, and breathing fills that space. When we practice outside, that new space is filled with the air from the land and the energy of our surroundings. Where better a place to breathe and do yoga than in Israel: a land filled with rich history, spirituality and resilience?
Through the Lens
While I'm a hobby photographer at best, my wife is a professional Yoga Instructor, which means capturing her through a camera is an experience of it's own. For one thing, she's beautiful both inside and out. Her curiosity and warmth is infectious, and her yoga classes are a perfect blend of inspiration, playfulness and challenge.
With the Group
On our first Saturday morning Shabbat in Jerusalem, we warmed up with Crouching Tiger Hidden Holy Sepulchre, and it wasn't long after our first public photo shoot that the word got out that we had a yoga teacher on our trip, followed by requests to have a class. Within minutes, Whitney was announcing on our group chat that there would be yoga in the park on Sunday morning, and anyone looking to work out their airplane kinks should join us for a good stretch. Luckily, in LA yoga is "in," and our group seemed keen to the idea. Waking up before our strict 9am bus call, however, was a challenge of its own. The ten who braved the morning chill and dew were in for a pleasant surprise and stretch after a picture-perfect sunrise. Besides, who really sleeps the first two days into jet lag?
Halfway through our trip, we made a quick stop at Mount Precipice, to catch the view of Nazareth. By now, our trip routine turned into, Yishay (our incredible educator) telling us something historical, and then Whitney and I scrambling to steal a picture while everyone starts going to the next checkpoint, followed by Nadav ushering the group forward from the back. But this time, it was different. Looking through the lens, couple after couple started populating in my view finder, and crowding around Whitney, who happened to be in a full split on the rocks. Everyone joined in, with a pose of their own, giggling, and our picture turned into an epic group photo.
Colors and Shapes
Israel is stunning. The natural hues of sand and cobblestone against the stark blue sky are mesmerizing. While I tried my best to capture everything I felt, I did get teased that my social feed was "here's my wife doing a handstand in front of these ancient ruins." #SorryNotSorry
By the 800th photo, as a content producer, I got comfortable directing Whitney to strike a pose at any given point on the trip, anytime the opportunity revealed itself. One of my favorite shots, was along the Golan Heights in a narrowly cleared path surrounded by land mines. Yes, land mines. There was a memorial site, and jutting out of the ground was a massive triangle rock. Whitney at this time was pooped (the average daily temp on our trip was 100 degrees), but we still managed to grab the triangle in front of the triangle.
Letting Go of Capturing Everything
Masada was arguably my favorite day in Israel. It was the one day of our itinerary I looked forward to the most, and of course was the day my cold came out in full force. Our group opted to get to the mountain early, to hike the snake trail before the blazing sun made it impossible to make the trek. With the sun rising in background, I caught a beautiful shot of Whitney in dancer’s pose.
After an architectural tour of King Herod's castle ruins, I felt the most connected to Israel I had ever felt on the trip. I loved learning about the architectural details that King Herod put into creating this magical fortress, and then learning about the rebel army that took refuge there 100 years after it was built. There was a profound sadness I felt as well, upon seeing the Roman Bridge, and imagining the fear and anxiety the rebel colony must have felt, as the Roman army got painstakingly closer and closer to infiltrating the castle. Without haste. I told Whitney to go do a quick bridge... I’m joking... This moment was for reflection. For breathing. For feeling the energy of our ancestral homeland. We carved out time and space to experience yoga in its truest meditative form. This moment was for peace, not pictures.
The Life of the Dead Sea
Whitney and I walked out to find the best background for the shot of the day in our bikinis. With the Dead Sea behind us, she did one of her typical inverted, legs-in-the-air yoga posses that you learn to accept as par for the course. As she was getting into the posture, a group of women, adorned in burqas and long black dresses started heading our way, to lay their own blankets down and enjoy the day. One of the women looked up at Whitney, who was bent over backwards and practically naked. The woman's face lit up, she smiled at Whitney, and then she looked at me and I smiled back. There was something indescribable about the juxtaposition of the women, fully covered versus us, almost fully exposed, bare skin to the sun, sharing the space, breathing the same air and feeling peace.
The Final Shavasana
On our last morning in Tel Aviv, Whitney led one last group yoga class. This time, all 3 Honeymoon Israel trips were together, and joined us on the beach. Soon after we began, the local Israelis crowded around to watch, bikers stopped to take pictures, and one gentleman asked if this class would be available the same time next week. "If only,” we thought.
Our lives have been forever changed by the experience we shared in Israel. We're grateful for our new friends and the community we've created now that we're back in Los Angeles. In Israel we stretched our minds, our bodies and our hearts. We created space for compassion, appreciation and respect. Namaste Israel. Namaste.