[Photos courtesy of Ron Sombilon Gallery]
Ron tells us how focusing on his Bikram Yoga practice helps him to develop his skills as a yoga (among other subject matter) photographer!
Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class …
My first class was at the original Cambie hot yoga studio in 2005. My friend Katrina insisted I try Bikram Yoga after I had surgery on my knee due to an injury I sustained doing a front flip. Basically, I’d torn my meniscus and the doctors told me I would have to do rehab for at least a year before I could get back to doing sports.
I remember walking into the hot yoga room and being immediately struck by the intensity of the heat. The Bikram Yoga teacher at the time welcomed me and told me to prepare for an intense 90-minute session that would change my life. I took this to heart and decided to place as much focus and intension on the class as I would with all my other sports.
As I progressed from each Bikram Yoga posture to the next I started to see and understanding the inconsistencies and imbalances in my body. It was a self-realization that Bikram Yoga was the tool I needed to fix my body and make it stronger. After I injured my knee my body was completely out of balance. The muscles in my left leg atrophied, my hips were out of alignment, my back hurt and my core was weak. I left my first hot yoga class knowing that Bikram Yoga is something I would be doing for the rest of my life.
How long did it take you to get back in the Bikram hot yoga room?
I came back the very next day and continued to go to hot yoga classes two to three times a week for the first month. Every single Bikram Yoga class showed improvements in my posture, balance and physique. My hips slowly but surely came back in line, my core and lower back didn’t hurt anymore and the muscles in my leg that had atrophied became strong again.
In less than one month I was back to running, kickboxing and playing volleyball. Not only was I back to my regular health, I was better at all the sports I’d done before starting Bikram Yoga. I hit harder, ran faster and was far more flexible. To me, it’s simple: Bikram Yoga is like taking your car to a mechanic for a tune-up. Adding this hot yoga to my regular routine improved my physical health tremendously.
What are the biggest benefits of hot yoga that you have gained?
First and foremost, I’ve learned to take time for myself. I am constantly on the go with my art and photography business, raising my daughter as a single dad, working with charities and doing my best to spend time with family and friends. Having that 90 minutes every day gives me a chance to focus on me. The more that I can give to myself physically and mentally, the more I can give to others.
Physically, the benefits have been huge. Any time I have an injury or soreness from sports or daily activity, I can count on Bikram Yoga to fix it. The same goes for Bikram Yoga for stress. Whenever I’m having a rough day, I know that once I hit the hot room all that stress will disappear; that lets me tackle any problem or challenge with a clear mind and stronger focus.
Finally, one of the biggest hot yoga benefits I’ve experienced has been being part of the Bikram Yoga family. I’ve met so many fantastic people through Bikram Yoga. My social network and business relationships have benefited hugely. I’m so grateful to all the Bikram hot yoga teachers, students and owners who’ve made a positive difference in my life and the lives of the people I care about.
When did you first start snapping photos? How did it evolve into a full-blown photography career?
I started taking pictures five years ago and haven’t looked back since. I actually started as a mixed-media artist; back in 2007 I held my first art show in Gastown. This was when Facebook was just starting to become popular. I remember inviting a handful of people to the show via Facebook and, when 400 people showed up, it blew my mind.
Some friends took photos of the show, and we posted the photos on Facebook. After receiving thousands of views from users in Vancouver and around the world, I realized that photography was huge way to connect with others and share not only my brand, but the brands of my clients. I bought my first digital SLR and started taking photos all over Vancouver. The art of photography started to grow on me. So, I combined my love of art, photography and social media into one company: Ron Sombilon Gallery Photography. I realized that I can do what I love, make a good income and tell the stories of businesses, inspirational individuals and charities around the world.
When did you first start focusing on yoga as subject matter for your photography?
Yoga photography was first introduced to me during the BC Yoga Championships. My friend and teacher Brad Colwell of Bikram’s Yoga Metrotown asked if I would be interested in photographing the championships. I was blow away by the athletic ability and determination of the yoga competitors, not to mention the beautiful yoga poses.
How does your own practice play into your Vancouver yoga photography?
Practising yoga plays a huge role in yoga photography; through your own practice, you start to know when to snap and the exact moment when your subject hits full extension, or when the perfect pose has been achieved. I’ve become better and better at observing and studying postures and, lucky for me, have had the privilege of photographing the best yogis in the world, which inspires to become better in my own practice.
Do you have any favourite yoga photos that you’ve taken?
Photographing champion yogis and teachers like Craig Villani, Esak Garcia, Mari Dickey and Joseph Encinia have been amazing. These athletes have inspired thousands if not millions of people into better health through yoga. I find purpose in showing people through yoga photography the amazing benefits of Bikram Yoga.