Last month I did my first Instagram yoga challenge. The challenge involved having a photograph of myself taken in a yoga pose from the second series, for each day of the month. The challenge was organised and hosted by Ashtanga Dispatch who gave us a pose for each day of the month. I did every pose but sometimes had to post multiple photos on one day, as I didn’t always have a photographer handy.
I am not shy in general, but I do feel a bit self conscious about sharing photographs of myself doing yoga. I decided to do the challenge partly to take myself out of my comfort zone and to examine this resistance. It was challenging at times. I practice yoga 6 days a week so doing the pose wasn’t really the challenging part. Don’t get me wrong, some of the poses are really challenging, but I am used to that and I know I can only do what my body will allow on any given day. What was challenging was sharing that photograph out into the world regardless of how I felt emotionally that day. Yes it’s true. Yoga teachers are not perfect human robots and sometimes they feel vulnerable or well just about anything, because we are not robots!
Why the resistance to yoga photography?
Yoga to me is about so much more than the yoga positions themselves. I sometimes think people get a bit caught up in the physical dimension of the practice and they think that the most advanced yogi is the one who is the strongest and most flexible. I don’t think social media has helped this and there are a lot of photographs of thin people, scantily dressed, doing advanced yoga moves. As a woman I have mixed feelings about this. I think women should be able to wear short shorts and crop tops if that’s what they feel comfortable in. What gets corrupted though is that it sometimes feels like people are showing beautiful thin bodies in order to advertise yoga. Now I have no doubt that yoga can help people who need to loose weight to attain that, but I see this as a secondary almost incidental gain. Yoga can give you so much more. It can help you become more at ease with who you are right now. It can help you to experience life more fully. It is not some kind of secret club for the young skinny and beautiful.
Are yoga picture inspiring or intimidating?
This is up to you. When you see an image of someone in an advanced position what do you think? You might think they have crazy genes and they were born bendy. I would say my own genetic flexibility is average, but because I have done yoga since I was 17, my body has become more flexible over the years. Now at 35, I am more flexible than I can ever remember being and this is due to a dedicated daily practice 6 days a week. When you see the photo you can’t always see the story behind the pose. The daily journey from not being able to do something to doing it everyday, the impossible can become possible, but sometimes it takes years. By challenging yourself you will learn a great deal about yourself, so it is my hope that such photographs inspire you to do so. It is also my hope that you don’t feel the need to become anything other than more like yourself. We all have physical limits. Challenge your own, but enjoy where you are too. An advanced yoga pose may not change your life in the way you expect. Surrendering to where you are whilst always gently pushing against your own limitations will teach you so much more.
Why I have come to like Instagram as a social media channel
The thing I like most about Instagram is that I can write a couple of paragraphs to accompany my photographs. I know it’s primarily a photo sharing site and not everyone will read something, but it’s nice to be able to share more of the journey or to give some tips on the yoga positions as well as a micro blog about other aspects of my life. That way it feels less narcissistic and more of a useful service. Despite all my misgivings about sharing photographs of myself in yoga poses, it has been nice to share more of what I do on my mat with both friends and students. There is a whole lot more going on than the yoga positions themselves, but I can hopefully share that by who I am as a person. I endeavour to do so. Meanwhile yoga pictures are a visual way of me sharing more of myself, and what I do on my mat. I hope you find them useful. You can see the rest of the photographs on my Instagram account here. All these photographs by my student Nata Moraru.
What do you think about yoga photographs?