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Outside Our Walls: Yoga on the Big Day

by Maureen Cotton

As a Kripalu Yoga teacher, I know the many gifts that come from fully inhabiting the present moment. As a wedding photographer, my yoga practice sharpens my ability to capture a multitude of moments, some big and highly anticipated, some unexpected but just as precious. I witness these moments and all the emotional richness that comes from a celebratory day filled with family and friends.

Often I see brides and grooms struggle with being present—they’ve been in planning mode for months on end, and their minds are still reeling, even on the big day. Planning puts our minds into the future; yoga delivers us to the here and now. That’s precisely why I began offering day-of-the-wedding yoga practices tailored to my couples.

A short yoga practice in the midst of last-minute details can initiate a shift—from planning, envisioning, list-making and trying to meet expectations, to just being. Yoga can help everyone soak up every ounce of joy by finding gratitude in the present moment.

Sometimes I meet with a bride and her maids, sometimes the couple and parents or siblings—whoever can benefit from a little conscious movement and breathing is invited! Because wedding days often have full timelines, the practice I offer is short and sweet, and focuses on connecting with one another.

Often we’ll stand in a circle without mats, outside if the weather is nice. We move slowly at first, doing simple movements to release any tension from the neck and shoulders. After some deep, calming breathing and a foundational Mountain pose, we move into a few balancing postures. Next we repeat these postures while connecting palms and make a discovery: It’s easier to keep our balance while connected than while standing alone. This is a reminder that everyone is in this together, and any stress or joy we’re experiencing can be shared.

I always close the yoga session with an energetic focus on the couple. They’re invited into the center of the circle and we all place a light, loving touch on them. I remind everyone that our hands are a natural extension of our hearts, and so any blessings we wish for the couple on their wedding day, and in their wedded life together, will be felt as we offer them an Om.

In my years of photographing weddings, I have come to see them as community events: The couple is at the heart of it, certainly, but they are not the whole story. It’s an intergenerational event, and the love between parent and child, brother and sister, lifetime friends and college roommates is also part of the day. Teaching wedding-day yoga is a bonus for me, too—I get this extra time to get grounded and tune into the dynamic of the couple and the vibe of the day. I can then intimately capture the personalities, relationships, and love surrounding me—almost as if I’m a part of the family!

Maureen Cotton is a photographer and Kripalu Yoga teacher in the Boston area.

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