The One Hour Meditation

About a month ago, Jennifer Heister asked for help.

Well on her way as a teacher in the Baptiste “Power” method, she needed to submit a video of herself teaching a yoga class to clear one of the final hurdles of certification.

I’m prone to answer ‘yes’ to calls for help, even if they come in on a Saturday evening, for a Sunday morning class. Help like this is too far inside my wheelhouse to not give.

Also, her birthday was coming up, and I’d do anything for Jen besides.

But, I warned her, I’d only be able to use my phone because the late ask left no time to prepare otherwise. We’ve somehow made it to the future without building Skynet (well, sorta), and in lieu of hoverboards we have tricorders. The 720p/24fps output of my ‘phone’ would be sufficient.

And it usually is — when audio is captured.

But as I found out at the end of one hour of very sweaty recording (Jen does Bikram/hot room yoga, and I was dressed all wrong for it), the audio mic for my phone was shot, even though all other audio I/O (voice recorder & speakerphone, for example) were still working just fine.


So, a week later, we reconvened, and this time, I used Jen’s worn-but-trusty G9. No small irony that the device was the same one that once captured production footage of me at work in Cambodia, years ago.

But no time to get misty: the class was starting, and I needed to get familiar with the machine, fast. I wasn’t looking to shoot this class a third time.

I work in stills and video fluidly; the mediums draw from complementary spaces within. Put a photographic recording device of any kind in my hands, and I can work it. Though I have a long way still to go to master the craft of storytelling, I do know I’m pretty good, and I can generally manufacture aesthetic beauty at will.

All that said — presenting every second of a solid one-hour take, without edit or retake, is extremely disrobing. Given the nature of Jen’s need, I couldn’t stop shooting until she was done. And picking a static angle was out of the question: I had to show Jen’s personal interactions with her students. So in addition to the screen, I really had to watch my feet: there were close to 30 students in the class, all of whom were plenty busy holding their own weight, sweating their way to enlightenment.

Nowhere to hide, and nothing to do but shoot. So I did, and I had so much fun with it.

There are plenty of moments I’d edit out, given the choice. But in watching this before final export, I also found something beautiful in the piece… I’ve never seen a yoga class presented quite this way. And for all the moments that I’d love to bury, there are just as many that are genuinely beautiful, that I’d find no other way than in meditation. And by the 20th minute of shooting, with 40 more to go, that’s exactly what it becomes.

For one hour on April 8th the morning sun was generous, the teacher was sure, the students were focused, and I was wearing shorts.

Thanks for thinking of me, Jen — love ya.

25 April 2012, 17:24