29 | The Healing Power of Photography

What do the photographs you take and choose to share say about you? What might your photos be saying TO you?

I wonder if you’ve ever thought about those questions before?

Photoyoga For Your Mind started in 2017 as an organic combination of creativity, movement, and inner listening. It grew from a place of burnout and a quest for healing and recovery.

In the wake of burnout, Tuula researched widely and developed a deeper understanding about stress, the nervous system, and the body’s trauma responses. But she noticed that hoarding information and talking ABOUT these things was not enough to bring the calm and deep awareness required for healing. So she turned to the device in her pocket and her love of creativity.

In this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, I am excited to introduce my good friend and creative collaborator, Tuula Ahde. She is one of the original creators of this beautiful course, Photoyoga For Your Mind, which we have translated from Finnish into English and integrated into The Haven.

In our conversation, Tuula and I chat about the healing potential of creativity. We discuss the beautiful things that can happen when we slow down and listen to what wants to speak within, around, and through us.

The Healing Power of Photography

We might not think of ourselves as such, but nearly everyone is a photographer these days. Most of us carry cameras in our pockets. Pulling a phone out and capturing a shot whenever the mood takes us is simple.

But how mindful are we of this process? What goes on when we take the photo? And how do we feel when we view them?

Photography can be an excellent metaphor for how we engage with our lives. The challenges, the possibilities, the shadows, and the parts only become apparent when we take the time to notice and reflect on what’s happening.

What is Photoyoga For Your Mind?

Photoyoga For Your Mind is a journey of creative and inner discovery, where we explore photography as a metaphor and a tool. It helps us consider the hopes, challenges, and possibilities within and around us.

The course is built around seven parts. These are delivered weekly and include an aspect of photography that creatively relates to personal development and reflection.

  1. Focus: We will pause to look at ourselves, to see where and who we are right now
  2. Light and shadows: We will be hunting shadows and getting familiar with their presence in the world
  3. Shutter and shield: We will be identifying the sound we make behind our shields and recognising how it speaks uniquely through our creative voice
  4. Story: We will reflect on the story we are writing with our lives, filling in plot holes and adjusting character arcs
  5. Cropping, boundaries: We will be embracing the spaces, finding the edges, and cropping out the unnecessary noise
  6. Editing, post-processing and recovery: We will be setting habits for processing, learning to recognise what we need, where it’s needed, and how to find it
  7. Wrap-up and closure: We will be bringing everything together, as we notice how the end of something is also a new beginning

Fancy joining us? Learn more here.

How Did Photoyoga Start?

Photoyoga was co-created by Tuula Ahde in 2017 alongside a photographer and psychotherapist. They had both intuitively used photography as part of their recovery.

They inadvertently discovered novel ways of combining simple creative acts with developing deeper self-understanding, awareness, and expression. And since then have journeyed with many people in building new resources for recovery and healing.

Creativity can give us a voice when we can’t find the words. It can nurture strength when we feel broken. And it can provide simple actions to take when we feel unmotivated or unclear about what to do.

Tuula has been running Photoyoga on her own since 2019. Until now, she has run the course with Finnish-speaking participants. So we were excited to introduce The Haven Edition in 2022, the first version translated and adapted from Finnish into English.

Permission To Find Your Comfort Zone

The technical quality of your photos is not as important as the emotions and personal significance they hold. Photoyoga is a mindful and intuitive approach to photography, using any equipment available – for instance, Tuula exclusively uses mobile phones for her shots.

Sharing our photos and reflections is a powerful aspect of Photoyoga. It’s essential to have a platform to do so, which is why it works so well in the safe privacy of The Haven.

Being receptive to giving and receiving comments can enhance the experience and increase self-awareness and personal development. You can contribute your photos and add encouraging words to those that others share.

You are not obliged to share your photos, but if you’re willing to try, you might be amazed at how much more you can discover in them. Moreover, as you read about the thoughts and emotions your pictures have sparked in others, you’ll begin to notice more about yourself.

Letting Go

Throughout our time together, you will also learn how to pick the images that personally mean the most to you.

As you let go of the desire to please others or look a certain way, you will develop the confidence to discern and recognise which images truly impress you. In other words, the ones that inspire you to stop, look, and feel something.

There are no expectations or pressures on you. But people tend to get the most out of this journey when they are willing to challenge themselves slightly when responding to the prompts.

We encourage you to be vulnerable with the prompts and to return to your comfort zone when sharing what you feel safe and comfortable within the group.

A Photoyoga Prompt

We share a Photoyoga-style prompt that Tuula created especially for this episode. It’s a chance to slow down, pause, and mindfully connect with your surroundings, yourself, and the present moment.

What People Said Last Time

“I thoroughly enjoyed the Photoyoga!! Even though I didn’t do the last few lessons with the group, I did go through each one. It’s such a beautiful, meaningful and fun course. Thank you and Tuula!!”

Gillian

“I learned so much about myself (again!) through not only doing the prompts and writing about them but hearing the reactions of others, especially Tuula. She sees deeply into people and is so generous with her attention to everyone in Photoyoga.

Learning about other people’s stories helps me know we have so many shared thoughts and feelings even though our experiences differ.

It was such a wonderful, supportive, and positive way to get to know other Havenites better.

I can’t wait to do it again. And Tuula is the consummate guide throughout.”

Zoie

“I was looking for a photography class that would push me to greater depths and insights than I was getting by just sharing photos on Instagram. The Photoyoga class gave me exactly that: Tuula got us to really explore inside ourselves as we photography the outside world, and I ended up learning a lot about myself as a result.

I also really appreciated going on the journey with other students and ended up becoming more excited about taking new kinds of pictures (something that didn’t happen with a course I took from a prestigious photography school). I wholeheartedly recommend Photoyoga to anyone interested in taking pictures!”

Emmon
Photoyoga For Your Mind
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