The photographs by Anna Horčinová are beautiful studies of body movement, stillness and physical limitations. The topic of balance is also in the centre of her yoga practice. Anna is a certified Power yoga instructor who believes that reaching our inner balance is only possible when we look inside ourselves and study our own limitations and abilities first.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on creating a nice life for myself. I like to call my life eclectic because I improvise a lot and keep things flowing naturally.  What I'd like to reach is some more balance between all aspects - work, free time, relationships, my living situation and money. I feel like the pieces are slowly moving towards this. Recently I moved from Bratislava to a house with a lovely garden in Vysoká pri Morave. I also started a new job as a yoga instructor in YoGO studio.

How long have you been practising yoga?

I've always loved movement and sports. As a child, I did athletics and dance, then discovered climbing and cross running. I attended a yoga class 8 years ago and I have to confess that I was a bit sceptical back then. Was it the right type of movement for me? But that changed pretty much after the first lesson. I realised that with yoga, you learn how to use your body, give attention to your breathing and set healthy expectations from yourself.  You constantly search for space where everything is possible. The most important rules come from within ourselves. That is the true power of yoga as a practice of mindfulness.

How did you become a yoga instructor?

About 2 years ago, I started to feel that I needed to learn more, to dive deeper into yoga practice and teachings. So I entered the course for future yoga instructors, but at that time I had no plans to start teaching myself. And then I was offered to take over our course when our instructor went travelling to India. I thought to myself: "This could be a good experience as I already knew everyone". So teaching sort of found me.

Pforzheimer Hütte (2308 m.n.m.)

After you moved to Vysoká pri Morave, you brought yoga with you. How come?

When I first moved here, I knew absolutely nobody. I was thinking of ways how to get to know people other than meeting them in the local grocery shop or pub. A lot of people who live here work in Bratislava where they spend their whole day. Other people keep to themselves. One day I saw this flyer inviting new people to an aerobics classes so I signed up. I made new friends quickly and when our instructor went on a holiday, she asked me if I wanted to take over with yoga - to maintain the routine while she was gone. So once again, yoga found me. It appealed also to people who were looking for some less dynamic activity or a reason to slow down and meditate.

How does your yoga routine look like?

Right now, everything in my life is changing so fast that I just try to keep up with stuff. There is no time for a proper routine. But I do a little yoga everyday - does not matter if it's in a form of meditation, breathing techniques or asanas (postures).

“Yoga also allows us to find balance through changing our limits. But what is more important is the conscious work with our minds, because yoga is not just a physical exercise, it's about being present in the moment. ”

How do you relax?

With my dog Aša. Animals are so pure. They don't have any hidden agendas like we humans do. They are incredibly honest. When they are having fun, they are having fun. That can really recharge my batteries. Aša showed me unconditional love and how to be present. She is my best (furry) buddy.

You studied photography and your photos have been exhibited both in Slovakia and abroad. What do you photograph?

My project is a story of a humans and their bodies in space, it's about reaching for our limits, both physical and mental. What are the boundaries? Are they fixed or can we shift them? Do we create our limits? In my photographs, you see people who are in demanding positions that require a lot of strength, flexibility and balance skills. I find it interesting how we perceive our own physicality and relearn to be aware of our bodies with which most of us are out of touch.

I started with static positions, then I added new situations, more people or recorded short videos that show what happens a few seconds after someone struggled to keep the position.

There is a clear parallel between yoga and my photos. Yoga also allows us to find balance through changing our limits. But what is more important is the conscious work with our minds, because yoga is not just a physical exercise, it's about being present in the moment. 

Do you have any yoga challenges yourself?

Right now I practice my headstands. It's a demanding position that turns your whole life upside down, your arms suddenly carry your whole weight. On top of that, you have to stay calm and breathe. It teaches me to be patient and shows me a different perspective on things.

Isn't yoga today becoming more of a trend that is far from its original teachings?

For some people, yoga is just another exercise on a way to a beautiful body. But aren't some of the biggest yogis practicing it without moving a finger? A lot of people discover the philosophy behind yoga only later. It's up to everyone if they want to learn more. I wouldn't say that one approach is bad and the other one is right, or that one is lower and the other higher. 

“Be patient. Because just like with all good things, also in yoga getting results will take some time. Be humble and don't expect instant results.”

What is your advice for yoga beginners?

Do your exercise. And do it especially when you don't feel like it. Don't get discouraged by your laziness. This can be applied to pretty much anything in life. But when it comes to yoga, regular practice is the key.

What poses are safe to start with ?

A good start is to go to a few classes under the supervision of a yoga instructor. Especially beginners should learn how to do the asanas correctly without hurting themselves. We need to learn how to listen to our own bodies and health. A lot of people have a medical condition of some kind and they need to adjust the poses accordingly. Everyone is different and there is no such thing as the one perfect pose.

My last piece of advice would be to bring a lot of patience with you, because just like with all good things, also in yoga getting results takes some time. Be humble and don't expect instant results.

What are some of the mistakes people make?

They try to copy the pose from an image they found in a magazine or copy somebody else in the classes and forget to listen to their own bodies. That is the fastest route to hurting yourselves. 

Do you prefer yoga lessons in a studio or outdoors?

For me personally, everything is a bit better if it's done outdoors. But some people might prefer the studio because there are not that many distractions - there is no rain, blowing wind, a chirping bird in the nearby tree or neighbour cutting the grass. It's easier to focus on your breathing when it's quiet and even surface is better suited for the balancing positions. But I try to show people how to turn their focus inward, no matter how much is going on around them. This can make us stronger and more resilient in many situations in our lives.

What do you wish people in your lessons would take home with them?

I want to show them how to be more present. To be here and now. To be aware of their body and mind. To be able to relax and at the same time to enjoy every little success that comes when they start working on themselves.

Anna Horčinová

Anna is a photographer, certified Power yoga instructor and owner of a border collie Aša. She likes athletics, running, climbing and yoga. She teaches yoga in the studio YoGO. She lives in Vysoká pri Morave.