Is It Insta-Worthy? Yoga VS Social Media
“Pics or it didn’t happen.” That’s the code we live by, right? If a tree falls in the forest but nobody hears it, does it still make a sound?
Similarly, if I attend a yoga class and don’t post an image of myself yoga-stoned, glowing with a delicious green smoothie in hand, did I practice yoga at all? To post or not to post? That is the question.
Yoga is a devotional practice, primarily focused on the internal experience of the individual. My goal today when I practice yoga is to connect with my higher self through pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, and asana (physical postures). However, I know that the content I post probably doesn’t reflect this internal journey, and thus I find myself at a crossroads. Is it possible to convey a sense of the inner journey, the true meaning of yoga, through social media? But a single square image and a 150-character caption do not a yoga practice make. So why post at all? In the interests of living mindfully, I’ve lately been examining the intersection of my yoga practice, and my use of social media.
When I started Instagram
First of all, let’s dial it back to 2014. I was already a beginner student of yoga before I downloaded the little square camera app we all know and love as Instagram, from the app store. Once I became a little more savvy with the ‘Gram, I began following yoga-related hashtags and was excited to find a quickly-growing online community of incredible yogis and teachers the world over, practicing poses that I could only dream of.
Some of these social media ‘influencers’ had already crossed the bridge into making a full time career from ‘Instagram Yoga’, and as part of their lucrative brand endorsements they often hosted monthly challenges, usually with a theme focused around advanced asanas such as inversions, backbends, or splits.
I jumped on the bandwagon with great excitement and began participating in these monthly challenges. I loved the daily introduction to new poses, and I felt that I was learning a lot about yoga – at least the physical side of it! The best part was that I could always take these new challenging poses to my real-life teacher at my local studio, where she would help me to break down the poses and workshop them safely. However, like any well-rounded yogi, my teacher was always quick to caution me that the advanced asanas weren’t the ultimate expression of a yoga practice. ‘It’s just tricks’, she told me.
Yoga in my social media
Fast forward to 2017, and my yoga-focused Instagram account is now more of a tool for developing a public profile after having completed my yoga teacher training. As a relatively new yoga teacher, I find social media immensely helpful in growing my business and creating networks. Following other teachers and studios on Instagram and Facebook helps me work out ‘who’s who in the zoo’ – not to mention it’s wonderful to stumble upon inspiring content, quotes, and new perspectives on the practice we all love and share. I have no intention of trying to garner thousands of “likes”, but at the same time I often feel a sense of pressure to post regularly (more than 2-3 weekly), despite my modest (less than 5K) following.
I find this an interesting conundrum – is this pressure coming from an urge to create a constant stream of content to promote my growing small business? Or does it come from a place of narcissism, from my desire to be seen and acknowledged as a consumer and participant in the online rat race? Statistically speaking, a picture of me doing Urdvha Dhanurasana or Pincha Mayurasana will attract more attention and engagement than a picture of me standing in Tadanasa, or sitting in meditation. Does this mean that I’m limited to posting only advanced asanas in order to grow my online presence? Or is there a way to engage the digital wellness community that doesn’t involve bending myself in half?
Be true to what you post
I don’t have a rulebook for navigating the intersection of yoga and social media. However, I do have one recently established personal rule: I try to only post what I practice. If my body is sore and tired on a particular day, then I won’t be posting any inversions, because I didn’t practice any inversions. Unlike when I first started posting yoga-related content, I will no longer take yoga pictures if I haven’t actually practiced that day.
As a student and now a teacher of yoga, my mission is simple – be humble. Be honest. Be authentic. This ethos extends to my relationship with social media. I try to make sure that my engagement with Instagram has a purpose. If I’m excited about something, or working towards something in my practice, I might post an image and caption that reflects that. If I feel anxious or sad, I’ll usually share that too.
Yoga is a practice with a multitude of shades and meanings. It deserves so much more from our representation of it than just the highlights reel. As a consumer of yoga-related social media, I’m attracted to accounts that engage with the many sides of a modern day yoga practice. At the end of the day, I believe that the reason our society has become so obsessed with social media is the same reason that millions of new students flock to yoga studios around the world each and every week. We all just want to connect – and that’s a beautiful thing.
But just for the sake of mindfulness, I invite you to conduct a little experiment the next time you click the heart-shaped button on a picture-perfect image of a slim yogini handstand-ing in paradise. You may wish to pause and ask yourself (as I do myself) what are you really liking? Is it her body #goals? Is it the idyllic surrounding environment? Or is it the fact that it makes you want to run to your yoga mat, breathe deeply, ground down, and connect to yourself? All of these answers are fine. But only one of them is true.
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