I’ve been practicing yoga long enough to know it can be a rocky road. The practice is full of hiccups (injury), speed bumps (backbends in the 2nd series), and confusing road signs (you want me to do what with my body?!). All of these interesting companions arise for everyone in a personal practice, but I’ve been contemplating the catch—what about the distractions and frustrations that come from the practices around us?
Cue the Age of Instagram.
I’ll preface this by saying I’m not bashing Instagram. In fact, I have quite the love/hate relationship with it (as I would guess many people do). I adore the concept of a viral photo album, and spent a good chunk of time yesterday revisiting my year with sheer awe and happiness. It’s amazing to see how many wonderful experiences you can pack into a seemingly small amount of time, and I’m so grateful to have that app as a vessel to chronicle it. The flip side is how deeply Instagram has affected the yoga community. I know for many it’s a huge source of inspiration and camaraderie. It connects people around the world. I’ve personally found myself inspired (and often jaw-dropingly amazed) at what people can do, but what I’m not seeing much of is an actual practice. I see performances, perfected moves that have been rehearsed, videos that have been throughly edited with music, bells and whistles. Perfect smiles, windswept hair and juuuuuust the right angle. It’s become a fast lane to success and this weird thing called yoga fame. What I’m trying to get to is this—your authenticity is sacred and should be treated as such. You don’t need to post what you think people want or expect to see. You don’t even need to -gasp!- post pictures of yoga everyday. Perhaps you want to share what’s actually going on in your life verses a set-up shot.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not slamming yoga posts. I throw them regularly into the mix, but I want people to re-think how they share. Truth be told, my best yoga practices aren’t documented because I’m too present in my practice to take the time to set up a camera. I’ve fallen into that trap before, where I felt the need to get pictures to post. I was even guilty of doing home practices for the sole purpose of snapping a picture to share on social media. Yeah, that bad. Once I realized my practice wasn’t for me, but for an image—well, it was time to change things up. It’s time we claim the practice back as ours again. Don’t worry if your feet can touch your head, if you can throw a leg behind your noggin, or press to handstand without breaking a sweat (and if you can—kudos!). Be okay with getting dirty, working hard, falling harder, and learning that each day is different.
I wanted to end my 2014 on a strong note, so decided to dedicate my practice to my arch enemy—Kapotasana. It’s easily one of my least favorite postures that I’ve struggled with for years. I watched a student of mine go into her backbend with a different entry approach (knowing that she disliked the pose as well), and was inspired to give that approach a go—I mean, maybe Kapotasana and I could become friends?? Since I’m without a mentor, I set up the video camera so I could watch my form afterwards and adjust accordingly. My husband even made his best attempt to help me walk my hands into my heels (turns out teaching someone how to do a challenging assist while you’re in the bowels of Kapotasana isn’t a cake walk). I did a solid 5 rounds of this feisty backbend to come out on the other side feeling proud, accomplished, veins pumping full of what felt like a mix of adreniline and unicorn blood, and like I needed to sit in a forward fold for hours. The video wasn’t sparkly, creative, or all that interesting, but it was one thing for sure—mine. I knew it wouldn’t stand out amongst a sea of sparkly Instavideos, but it was clip of me, my breath, my determination, and vulnerability.
I share all of this in hopes that it peels away any layers or pressure to stand out. Let your practice guide you. Remember your time on the mat is a beautiful venture into exactly where you are in that moment in time. Ride that wave, don’t worry about perfecting anything or what filter will suit this moment—just get on your mat and practice.