Health · Instagram · Weight Loss · Wellness · Yoga

5 Truths Behind Those Yoga Photos on Instagram

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.

Final Day in Rio De Janeiro
Final Day in Rio De Janeiro
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.

Molly O'Neill
Molly O’Neill
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.

Some of these poses!!!
Some of these poses!!!
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!

One of many falls
One of many falls
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.

Not warmed up at all
Not warmed up at all
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.

IMG_6237

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. 

IGGetaway

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.

Namaste

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9 thoughts on “5 Truths Behind Those Yoga Photos on Instagram

  1. I love your story! I came from a similar yogic background and love the way yoga brings people to peace within their bodies! This post is so needed! A lot of ppl jump into these IG challenges and. Injure themselves to look cool. I’m happy you’ve addressed it! I also didn’t know you were in LA! Hello fellow LA yogi! 👋🏾

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Yoga Excursions with Randi and commented:
    I will be leading an IG challenge starting this weekend and I need all of YOU to read this blog. Let’s stay safe and practice svadhyaya – self study, warm up first and always listen to your body. While yoga IS for EVERYbody, you must remember to do what you can and take the modifications provided. Love yourself and remember you are exactly where you need to be, right now, through your yoga journey. Namaste.

    Like

  3. Reblogged this on The Girl with Purple Hair and commented:
    Our relationship with our physical-selves is an ever-changing dance. Based on how bloated we feel, how many beautiful people surround us, our social media feed, the waitress at that Hollywood hot spot, we then determine our self-worth. Wow, how warped is that? Forget about the fact that I have a Master’s Degree and one glamazon can sometimes make me feel like I am invisible here in LaLa Land. We really must come together to work on how women perceive themselves.

    As a yogi, the world of social media is a slippery slope of half-naked and sometimes even naked gorgeous people doing poses I could only dream of. Sponsored ambassadors, speakers, presenters, and teachers, these people flood my newsfeed and are the fodder for talk in my fitness circles. I must say, while I know gawking at such images only harms my own self-image, I cannot help but stare, want, lust, and thirst for their bodies, bendy lumbar spines, long, lean limbs, washboard abs, and oh their clothes—Oh, the things I would do for some sort of active ambassadorship…Coming back to my point, while I cannot pry my watchful eyes from these high-profile yogis I also creep their pictures and know the gross and sometimes sad reality of those images in our IG feed.

    As an instructor myself, what you see IS me, my body, my practice but what you don’t see in those images as is pointed out in Pack Your Mat’s post are the falls, the struggles, the poor alignment OR the pose on the other side. Ahhhh, the dreaded ‘other side’. Yogi’s, you know THAT side—the one you ignore or don’t cultivate because it’s your tighter side or the pose just doesn’t work.
    How many times have you seen yogis post pictures of their struggles? Their falls? Or better, of them learning the poses? Pack Your Mat does a great job of pointing out the obvious: Yogi’s pose for the camera. They have their make up done, hair styled, and someone dressed them in something fantastic to showcase their rock hard bodies. Many photoshoots last hours and yogi’s spend long hours moving and manipulating their bodies juussssst right so that when you finally see the pose, it has been done and redone countless times until the angle, lighting, and alignment are all perfect. Well, the way I see it—how is that yoga, or even a representation of reality for that matter? Yoga is supposed to bring balance to our lives; water to our fire, calm to our storm, stillness to our clouded hearts and minds…Yoga should never feel or look like someone else. Yoga lives within us and is an outward expression of inward emotions. Let go and stop looking to the people in front of you, next to you, or on a 4-inch screen in your hands, because the real asana are how the poses make YOU feel moving into and out of them, and most of all—the journey to learning the poses. Lest we not forget that—the learning part!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I decided to join the #backtobackbends challenge as well. I normally don’t do the IG challenges, but this one spoke to me. If you’re doing it and want support, check me out: @thelovingyogini. I’ll be sure to follow your journey! Namaste!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this. It’s everything I’ve been trying to wrap my head around as well with my practice. I saw the Instagram challenges last fall and have thus become a more committed yogi, more relaxed person, have made many few friends, and am now going through yoga teacher training. I do believe there are negatives and we can let our ego get the best of us to the point of narcissism or injury, but I also believe the positives outweigh these! And isn’t one part of yoga, accepting the ego and learning how to use it for the better? I’m going to share this link on my Instagram if you don’t mind! 😄 @allykborn

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome read! I love IG because it’s a public declaration of my intentions to learn and teach, but I definitely agree it can completely overwhelm seeing ppl posting their insane poses under waterfalls and on mountain tops. It can quickly become an addiction too – constantly checking for favs and follows first thing when you wake up and throughout the day.

    BUT! I’m doing my utmost to take it with a pinch of salt; remembering that these IGers have been at it for years and years and years and making sure I use their dedication as my motivation instead of comparing myself to them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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