Many won’t believe this, but I absolutely despised being in front of a camera as an adolescent and well into my mid 20s. These years were filled with the struggles of being overweight. It started off as being chubby, but I ended my first semester at university with a max weight of 240 pounds. Now, I’ve always been considered to be big “boned” so I just told myself that most of that weight resided in my bones and my gigantic thighs and calves. The reality was I was experiencing heart murmurs and had high blood pressure and cholesterol. In short, weight has always been an issue I’ve dealt with. At the time coming out as a gay man, an “obese” one especially, was going to be social suicide, I thought. At 19, for both superficial and health reasons, I decided that I needed to do something about my weight. That is about the same time I discovered different fitness routines, but most especially yoga, thanks to my mom.
Fast forward to January of 2015, thirteen years of a steady decline in body weight and a drastic incline of confidence in regards to my body, I decided in Rio De Janeiro to enter the world of Yoga Instagram.
I had never really been one for selfies or images of me, as still a small part of me thinks that the added 10lbs of the camera still follows me, but I thought, why not? As I rediscovered and delved deeper into my yoga journey, I started having fun with some asanas (postures) and using artistic depiction of yoga asanas on social media outlets. I thought, I love yoga and travel, so why not put it out there?
Very recently though I have been reflecting on some of the advantages and disadvantages of this practice as displayed on Instagram. Yesterday, my friend and I took a class with Molly O’Neill at One Down Dog before a photo shoot we had planned up in Griffith Park.
I used to almost always get into difficult poses without warming up. After a few minor injuries, I do not repeat that mistake. Unfortunately, most of us “don’t have time” for that. It’s easy to just strike a pose by the Eiffel Tower and post.
As I got deeper into the InstaYoga world, I have been contemplating whether or not to do any of the yoga challenges. On June 30th, I fully committed to do the #backtobackbends July yoga challenge with Kino MacGregor, but I realized that most of the poses were quite inaccessible. Although she recommends modifications, a huge part of my ego, for many months has been telling me not to participate in a challenge until I felt ready with all the poses in their full posture. In reflection, I thought, I can do my best and really show that even with a 13 year practice and almost a daily one for the past year, I am still NOT there.
Based on my one hour practice yesterday and about an hour long photo session with my friend Randi, I think my reflections on Instagram Yoga were solidified. Below are my thoughts on some of the advantages (and disadvantages) of mindfully (or senselessly) posting.
1. On Warming Up and Injury– Yoga is not about the pose. In fact, yoga philosophy is quite multifaceted. A part of one’s asana practice, is mindfully sequencing and getting into a state of mind where the pose can be held meditatively for multiple breaths. So those handstand photos that take about a second to shoot for most of us, I wonder how many people feel intimidated and turned off by them to a point of not going on a mat. The fact is getting into a handstand about 30 times to get that perfect shot, without warming up, we set ourselves up for injury. I’ve fallen a few times on my face, but at the same time a few good shots have been captured upon my fall. Have I learned from my injuries? Yes!
2. On Intimidation – My personal practice has been present for about 13 years, on and off. Most people might not know this, but assume that I’m able to seamlessly get into a headstand. It took a few falls, a few injuries and many hours of mindful practicing with teachers to get to that point. I won’t lie, I sometimes get intimidated with the full postures on Instagram, but letting go of the ego and realizing that our body is not there yet, but can get there if there are no anatomical restrictions, is vital. So instead of being intimidated, it’s important to accept our physical and mental presence.
3. On the Journey – It’s easy to criticize yogis out there with backbends a scorpion would be jealous of. However, most of these individuals have spent many hours on the mat or are physically granted with a dancers curvy spine or flexibility. Not to say that a curvy spine is a good spine. However, each yogi has a journey and even though many out there might be mindlessly posting in front of the Eiffel Tower or a waterfall (as I have), many with a daily practice, should continue to post, which can motivate and inspire others to get on the mat.
4. On Inspiration and Motivation – Just as I was typing this, I got a message on Instagram telling me how inspiring the below photos was. I am convinced it’s not all about being a beauty contest with talents being showcased to the world. Most of these posts do inspire. Yogis tend to make mindful connections of quotes and mantras with their pictures. If a photo can inspire one person to get off that couch and make something happen for themselves, then why stop the IG Yoga Madness. The intentions of some who post more skin than pose, is questionable, but detaching ourselves from the judgement is part of yoga philosophy. It is not our journey, nor our place for judgement.
5. On Community – Recently I read a post by Briohny and Dice on Facebook about the community that is being built due to Instagram. If an outlet can bring people together and community is considered to be essential and healthy for individuals, then more power to these online venues. This yoga couple has organized an I.G. Getaway on August 22-26th in Santa Monica, which highlights the positivity of social media and the ability to connect to those who enrich and inspire us. Check out their video interview about the vision by clicking here.
In ending this, YES, I am well aware of the disadvantages, but I find the positivity that comes out of IG Yoga posting outweighs the negative. I am eager to find out how this movement will progress. If my downward dog can get you down to get on your mat, then I’ll keep on posting.