Two years ago, I finished my yoga teacher training, and I embarked on my first Instagram challenge and even blogged about it here. I noticed that not every yogi on the internet looked like me, and I wanted to add to some diversity of images. And by diversity, I mean diversity of ability. I felt at the time (and as I have found out, still do) that there was a lot of credence given to the “advanced” or the extreme in social media. Chillin’ in your best Warrior 2 wasn’t going to make you go viral. No one was going to say, “Did you see her sweet Chair pose? I’ve got to get in her class!” Even that particular #MayIBeginYoga challenge included difficult (not beginning at all in my mind) asanas like 8-Angle Pose, Crow, and Half Lotus Tree. To be completely honest, this is a topic I get fired up about repeatedly, and I usually come to some conclusion that brings me peace for a time. (If you would like to see such zen perspectives, check out this article I wrote for DoYouYoga.com about this very topic.) I think I am at peace about it until I see some young gal doing downward facing dog on some train tracks, and I am right back in self-righteous indignation town and have appointed myself mayor.
This month was no different. It began with one of my aforementioned rants. In summation, I mostly had issues with:
- Yoga product endorsements. (No, I don’t want to buy “Tummy Tea,” wraps, or that dang yoga wheel. *Oh wait, that wheel looks cool.* Obviously, I’m part of the problem.)
- Extreme poses in extreme locations. (Please get off that cliff, balcony, volcano, etc., That’s great you can do Scorpion in front of the Taj Mahal. Now, let me continue practicing Tree pose in my crappy apartment while covered in Cheetos dust.)
- Lackadaisical portrayal of advanced asana (Wait, you don’t watch Netflix on the couch with your leg thrown over your shoulder, too?)
As you can see, I have a lot of feelings about this topic, and the overwhelming majority of them aren’t positive. The truth is, as much as I complain about all of these things, I am a willing participant. I want to pick up socks off of the floor with my toes while in Scorpion pose. I kind of want that dang Yoga Wheel. I constantly attempt Instagram yoga challenges for poses that aren’t very accessible to me, only to get really irritated and quit before the end. Even I get sucked into the very thing I loathe.
Did Instagram give me unrealistic expectations? Or did my unrealistic expectations cloud my perceptions of Instagram? I tried quitting social media for a while, but it didn’t solve anything. It just made it easier to ignore. While, there is value in depriving ourselves of our unhealthy attachments, there’s even greater value in looking at those attachments, submerging ourselves in them, and challenging ourselves to interact in a different way. When I gave my behavior a good look in the mirror, I was taken aback. As much as I want to say, “Yes, yoga is for everyone and all bodies and all abilities,” I wanted to be thinner and do handstands. I want to be as good-looking and as impressive as the rest of them.
In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I decided to do a month long social media experiment. This wasn’t done to change the world or to make anyone have a different perception. It was for me to practice yoga online just how I would at home, see how it felt, and notice all of the things that would come up for me. I wanted to spend thirty days without trying to alter my appearance, without selling anything (even myself), and without showing off. I wanted to know if I could display just a tiny asana practice on the internet without getting caught up in appearances, competition, materialism, marketing, or even my own attachments to outcomes.
- Post the same pose every day. I chose Warrior 2 because it’s pretty accessible, it’s not really considered a big “wow” asana (social media wise), and on a more practical level, it’s easy to transition between sides. Some days I would focus on just one body part, but it was always pretty much the same: Warrior 2 with two breaths each side and one inhale on the transition between sides. No fancy transitions. No showing off.
- You only get one shot. There would be no re-do’s. If my knee wasn’t bent to “perfect” 90 degree alignment or my arms weren’t symmetrical, too bad. The asana was always taken “as is.”
- No editing. No filters. The only cuts I made were clipping the parts where I was walking to and away from the camera to start and stop recording. I thought filters might be a way for me to alter my appearance so I banned them too.
- No fancy places. While I frequently get the inclination to yoga it up outside because it would look nice for social media, I don’t typically practice outdoors or in public places. Therefore, all of these videos were taken in my home or at work (a studio).
- No hashtags. I deliberately made myself hard to find. Not using hashtags limited my audience to my followers (maybe around 500 people including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and to those who randomly stumbled upon my account (or read this blog post).
- No platitudes. Every day the video had one caption: “What does a yoga practice look like?” No motivational quotes, advice, rants, or words of wisdom.
I’m about 3 weeks in, and I’ve already had some very interesting insights about myself and yoga, which I will talk about at length next week. Every single one of my rules were very hard to follow, and I even caught myself breaking a few after the fact. But I chose to keep the mistakes there in the spirit of transparency. I even was just about to share my social media links so you could follow along, but I remembered that I’m not supposed to be promoting myself. (This blog post is probably doing the same thing. Did I mention that this was hard?) If you want to see it, I’m sure you can figure out where to find it.
Whether you are reading this on a cliff with your legs behind your head or on your couch covered in Cheetos dust, much love to you. See you next week.