That’s the first ever Instagram yoga picture I ever took! Unfortunately/fortunately, it wasn’t the last. I’ve been posting ever since, usually every day. You can see all my yoga pictures, if you’re so inclined, here.
You might be wondering, why? Why do I practice yoga, and why on earth do I post photos of me doing so? Excellent questions.
I practice yoga because it makes me feel strong. It makes me feel relaxed and centered, it makes me feel focused, it makes me feel excited and positively giddy at times. There is something absolutely incredible about discovering that you can do something you never thought would be possible. It’s amazing to see small improvements in your body every day. It’s fascinating to watch yourself get stronger or more flexible, even though you never thought you would.
I also practice yoga because in many ways, it’s practice for life. I know I haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to the spiritual side of yoga, but I’m getting slightly deeper every time I come to my mat. When I go to classes, I get lots of perspective. I get to see people of all levels and I get to remind myself (over and over, forever, to infinity and beyond) to keep my eyes on my own mat and my awareness in my own body. I am pushed and challenged and I get angry or I get bored, and I try very hard (and never, ever succeed) to keep my focus on my breath throughout the entire class.
The teachers always tell us not to resist the poses, even though they can be so uncomfortable and frustrating. They tell us that we don’t need to react to our internal complaints or angst. They tell us to just be, without resisting, without reacting. This is, truly, the ultimate challenge, in that hot sweaty room and in real life.
I’ve been “doing yoga” for a while – on and off for maybe 5 years. I went to a few classes in high school, and took classes all throughout university. But I only really started to practice in earnest, almost every day, a few months ago, ever since I got back from Europe this past fall. The last few months were hard for me in many ways: I felt lost and sad and confused more often than I expected I would. I would go to hot yoga and put my body through the motions that I could barely do until I was totally spent and too tired to think. I cried in class almost every time, and if you had asked me I wouldn’t have been able to explain why. But it was always, always worth it for that feeling of pure clarity and lightness when I stepped back out into the fresh air at dusk.
So, in a sentence, I practice yoga because it makes me want to work towards being better, physically & spiritually, on the mat and in my life.
And that’s a lot of why I post the photos on Instagram. Sharing my progress in yoga is like the way I share what I’m reading or what lessons I’ve learned in my life like I do on this blog. The only difference (and the part that can feel uncomfortable) is that I’m posting photos of myself. But in taking those photos I push myself to try new things, explore my limits, bring awareness to my form and alignment, and bring some much-needed fun and joy and levity into my practice. :)
As a member of a generation that uses social media to nominate each other for stupid drinking competitions or to boast about how much money we’ve spent, I wish there was more positive, healthy inspiration online. Pictures of yoga, or delicious meals or friends and family or beautiful landscapes – that’s what I want more of in my feed. And I want to be an active participant in creating that kind of content.
I think yoga practice can be seen as so intimidating for people who haven’t tried it yet. The poses look so complicated and there’s this idea that if you practice yoga, you have to live the whole “yogic” lifestyle, whatever that means. Definitely not the case. Yogis come in all shapes and all sizes and from all backgrounds and personalities. It’s just stretching and body weight exercises! Nothing to be scared of.
Who knows, maybe I won’t practice yoga forever. Maybe I’ll get bored when I find another form of exercise that challenges me and makes me feel strong and light. But for now, I’m enjoying my practice. I’m learning new things every day. I have wobbly days (in yoga and in life) and I have strong days. I’ve found some advanced poses but I have an infinite number of advanced poses and transitions to conquer. For now, I yoga. Do you yoga?
Namaste – I bow to (the greatness in) you.