Yoga instructor Katharine Still teaches with one motto in mind — yoga is for everybody and every body. “Yoga gives you the tools and technique to live a more purposeful life, to fulfill your personal potential,” she explains. “Once you open up yourself to a yoga practice, so much starts to change around you; a whole new connection to your mind and body and soul and self.”
The Brooklyn-based yogi has been finding her flow for about 15 years, starting as a side practice for stability to improve her dance training when she was in high school. After a “laundry list of injuries that came from being too flexible,” Still gave her body a much-needed break to heal and leaned into a new approach for the direction that her career was moving. Four years later, she’s showing other people how to work toward inner and outer balance at their own pace.
“[Yoga is] a practice, so it’s meant to be something you keep going back to — the more you return to your mat, the more comfortable you’ll be,” she adds. “It’s amazing to look back on all the progress you’ve made down the line and see how far the practice has taken you, both physically and mentally.”
Since February, Still has been making her mark at Sky Ting, a popular community-driven studio co-founded by Krissy Jones and Chloe Kernaghan where fashion meets flow in a feel-good environment. Following the coronavirus pandemic, Sky Ting switched over to daily live-streamed classes through their subscription service and IGTV. Combining yoga styles with pranayama and alignment-based work, Still’s BFA in dance is going to very good use these days.
As the movement director for Highsnobiety’s self-described “BROGA” shoot, she wanted the outfits to match the fiery side of yoga and the strength of the models within each pose. Still also has a background in fashion, so there couldn’t have been a more perfect fit. While men don’t have as much flexibility as women when it comes to options for the IG-approved yoga uniform, Still assures that it’s more about channeling a “come as you are” aesthetic.
“Wear comfortable clothes and something you can move in,” she says. “Athletic shorts, sweatpants, T-shirts — what you would wear to the gym or doing any other movement practice that you find joy in. Just do you.”
As we all continue to make adjustments for a comfortable life in isolation, it’s worth seeking healthier methods for combating stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. Follow Still’s step-by-step guide for striking all the poses from this shoot and see how it helps you find some relief. Scroll down to reset and refresh.
“So, this is a partner shot — we have one of the models being more like a student and the other model being a teacher, giving an adjustment. Adjustments help you get deeper into a pose. For this shot, we had one of the models go into locust pose (the Sanskrit word is Shalabhasana). Locust pose is great for strengthening the back and increasing your back flexibility through stability and strength, so it’s all about finding length in the spine and moving simultaneously in two directions.
If you were to get into this pose by yourself, you’d start on the ground, belly down, and you’d zip your legs in together so it’s like you have one long leg back behind you — like you’re a snake. Then, you’re going to interlace your hands behind your back and lift your legs, chest, and arms. It’s like your feet are being pulled towards the back of you and your chest is being pulled in front of you, and that’s what lengthens your spine. Meanwhile, you’re really hugging in through your inner thighs, and you’re lengthening your tailbone towards your toes. You’ve just got to feel your body’s length. It’s also a really nice heart opening position. So, the teacher model is just taking him further into the pose, which makes the bigger back bend, as you can see in the photo.”
“[This is] a scale pose, it’s like a lifted lotus. This model is really open in his hips, and lotus is something that’s all about [the] hip opener. The first thing that you do to get into the pose is to get into lotus, without your seat floating off the ground. That’s kind of the traditional seat that you see when you’re looking at pictures of yogis meditating. For scale pose, you just press down through your hands, and then your hips will float up as well. It takes a lot of core strength lifting the legs. It’s really from the deepest part of your core — in yoga, it’s called Mula Bandha — and that helps you get the lift. There’s this sense of ease that comes with the lift, so much so that he can even get up onto his fingertips.”
“This is a variation, but the closest yoga pose to this would be Mālāsana, the yogi squat. We wanted a more interesting shape, and so we have his arms inverted and his fingertips facing in towards each other, but he’s sitting in Mālāsana. Mālāsana is great to open up your hips. It’s also low to the ground, so it’s stable, earthy, and rooted. It’s a good place to come to in the middle of your practice to re-ground yourself.”
“These are just some nice warm-up stretches that you can do at your own timing. The model in the green pants, he’s kind of doing a head and neck stretch. The muscles that line on either side of your neck, so much tension can build there, so get all of that lengthened out, especially as we sit at our desks. It’s good just to stretch out through the sides of the neck.
The other model is doing a little bit of a wrist stretch, which is a good stretch to do if you’re always on the computer and whatnot. That gets into your hand, which is an entry point into the wrist and the arm. So starting to gently warm up some joints.”
“This isn’t really a yoga pose; a backbend is really [about] opening up your chest and being more of a heart opener. It’s good for the spine and shows some back flexibility here. [It’s] not typical in a yoga practice to be doing something like this; I suppose you would have your hands on your lower back like that if you were to do this on the floor and go into a pose called camel (which is going to be a later photo in this stream). The hands on the lower back sometimes can help lengthen, so that the spine can get longer and you’re not compressing, especially if you have any lower back pain.
You could do this without raising your heels and be completely grounded down with your feet, and then do a backbend from standing up. Backbends are also great if we’re talking in terms of sitting at a desk. It’s automatically countering our body into the incorrect posture, rounding forward, collapsing in the chest, sinking in front of your computer, and then you’re asking to just open everything up and move in the reverse.”
“[This is] the full version of camel. You would be up on your shins, and you take your hands to your lower back, your fingers facing down towards your heels, and you’re just going to apply some pressure with your hands into your lower back in a downward pressure, so that you feel your tailbone starting to lengthen down towards the ground. It’s really important here that you keep your hips over your knees. Once you start feeling that spreading of the tailbone down towards the ground, you’re going to start to lift your chest up towards the ceiling, and then you can start to go back.
It’s all about the lifting up through the chest, to then go back. You don’t want to compress in your lower back — there should be no sensation there at all, and that’s one of the common things that we see as yoga teachers. It’s really important that you stay lengthening, and then, if it’s in your range, you can take your hands away from your back and reach them down for your heels. You keep the back of the neck nice and long. Camel is a really energizing pose to do towards the end of a practice. You wouldn’t go right into a practice and do camel.”
“This is a variation of something that I can relate to a yoga shape, but not done traditionally, as a shoulder stand would be. If you were to do a normal shoulder stand, you would start in a plow pose on the ground, laying flat. Then you’re going to take your feet over your head until your toes are on the ground in front of your head. You would take your hands to your back and your fingertips would be facing up towards your seat — walk your hands up as high as you can onto your upper middle back and upper ribs. That will place them in a good position for you to then lift one leg up and the other leg up, and then you want to kind of get into this really straight position, like a candle stick.
A shoulder stand is an inversion, and it’s just letting the blood flow drain in a different direction into your legs. When we’re walking all day or standing, [this] would flip the perspective and change things up in the body and change the direction of blood. Shoulder stand is a good pose to do if you are trying to cool down at the end of practice, and it can be a really calming inversion.”
“[This model] is eagle-wrapping his legs; the Sanskrit word for this is Garudasana. We had that other variation, when he’s inverted — this is traditional standing. Your hands aren’t normally like that, but we have them in a prayer here. [To] get into eagle pose you would stand on two feet, shift your weight into one leg, draw one knee in towards your chest, and then cross your thighs up as high and as tightly as you can. Then, you’ll either go for a single wrap, where that one foot just drapes right on the outside of one of your calves, or, if you have the range, that foot will just wrap around and will actually double-wrap onto the inside of your supporting leg. This is a really tight bind; it’s detoxifying, so it’s like wringing something out. You’re really constricting the blood flow here, making everything as tight as possible, so that when you unwrap everything, it’s like new energy and blood flow. Garudasana is also good for your hips.”
“This is a variation on a warrior pose, which is all about strength and power and vision. It really embodies how you hold ground, how you show up for yourself, and how you focus. It’s meeting this strength and power that it requires to be in the pose. It’s like a warrior to have that strength but to also be able to match it with a sense of ease. You never see a warrior really struggling, it all seems so natural, and that’s the same thing here. Even through the power surging through the pose, there’s still this sense of relaxation and peacefulness to it.
The closest pose to this would be modified side angle A. If you wanted to get into the pose as it is, you’d take a wide stance and you’d want your front foot to be pointing forward and your back foot to be at 45 degrees. If you’re on a mat, your back big toe would be facing that top corner of your mat; that’s a good indicator that you’re at 45 degrees. Really important, and not shown in the photo here, but you want to keep the front knee directly over your ankle. It’s always important to get the alignment of the joints, the stacking of the bones, and so that means knee right over ankle; we want the knee and the hip to be in the same line, as much as you can. So, eventually you always want to aim for that 90 degree angle.
For a modification, usually that arm that’s on his thigh goes down onto the ground, either [on the] inside or outside of the foot. For extended side angle A, it would be outside of the foot. But we’re doing the modification, so that means that you can rest your forearm onto the thigh and your palm will be facing up towards the ceiling. And then you’re going to reach your other arm, so the one that is behind his head, instead of draping it behind your head, you’re just going to extend it out, long, and then you’ll feel this really nice diagonal stretch all the way from your back heel, charging down into the ground, all the way through the fingertips reaching forward. So you’re getting really, really long on that one side, and that’s a good modification for side angle A.”
- Photography: Max Papendieck
- Styling: Corey Stokes
- Casting: April Chin
- Movement Direction: Katherine Still for Sky Ting
- Talent/Model: Wooseok Lee, Eliseu
- Grooming: Kyle Patchett
- Digi-Tech: Kevin Lavallade
- Photography Assistants: William Cudd, Tom Maltbie
- Styling Assistant: Haley Culp
- Production Assistant: Ryan Razon
- Shot at: Sid Studios