For over a year, I was obsessed with documenting my yoga practice. I'd set my smart phone on a tripod and let my camera's self-timer roll while I jumped in front, kicked into handstands and leaned into arm balances.
Sometimes I felt strong and powerful; other times I face-planted. It was fun. People told me how much I inspired them. I gained a few thousand followers and felt like I was making a difference.
However, after injuring my neck and shoulder during a headstand challenge, I had to take a step back and was able to see this experience with a new perspective.
I realized that all this obsessive Instagramming was actually hurting my yoga.I’d been practicing for seven years and had never hurt myself until then.
I started to evaluate other aspects of my life, too, and decided that it was indeed time to cut back on the selfies. Here are nine reasons why:
1. I developed an unhealthy relationship to my phone.
It was always with me. Literally. It was in my hands, in my back pocket, and sometimes it was in my bra. My phone was constantly on my mind, I was incessantly checking it, and every free moment I had I was holding it like it was my baby and needed continuous care.
2. My mind became too crowded.
Crowded with comments and notifications, responding to followers as promptly as I possibly could. Figuring out when I could fit in my challenge "pose of the day" photos, because timing was key if I wanted the lighting right. There was no room for anything real, anything present.
3. I stopped progressing.
I thought all this practice and organizing my day around asanas would surely help me improve. But ironically, I was so wrapped up in social media that I forgot poses are maybe 10% of what yoga really is. If there is no focus on the other 90%, such as the breath, mindfulness, and creating space for love, then a ceiling is put over your practice, creating limits.
My body was starting to show me those limits. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t tune in to that beautiful free space inside, the present. My mind was stagnant, my body stiff, and I no longer craved sun salutations; I only wanted that one pose that would attract and awe followers.
4. I compared myself to others and felt bad about myself.
Some of the most captivating yoga photos are of course the ones of yogis' feet dangling in the air. What most people don't tell you is that inversions actually can take years for the body to get comfortable doing. I didn’t feel like I was listening to my body trying to handstand without the safety of a wall, so I didn’t do it. However, when I'd look at my newsfeed and see photo after photo of handstands in beautiful places, I felt as if there was something wrong with me.
5. My day revolved around social media
Perhaps the number one thing your day should not revolve around.
6. Gaining “followers” became a priority.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but this piece is a confession after all. The point of it all became making sure as many people as possible saw my posts. I let a selfishness in I never thought I would possess. I realized this was the farthest from yoga I’ve ever been since the day I started 7 years ago.
7. My home practice turned in to a photo shoot.
If I was practicing, it was most likely in front of my camera. I told myself that I liked to see my alignment in the photos to reassure myself I was doing the asanas correctly. But if I was being honest with myself, I wanted to make sure I looked like everyone else in the pose. I forgot how amazing it felt to move the way I wanted to move. I forgot about the freedom of practicing at home, without comparing myself to others.
8. I mistook competition for motivation.
Everyone who takes yoga selfies is aware of the many ongoing monthly yoga challenges are hosted by the yoga “rockstars” of social media. There are prizes for those who participate and post photos of themselves in the “poses of the day” throughout the month.
I am in no way undermining anyone who hosts or participates. The challenges did in fact motivate me to practice more. However, I got lost in them. Yoga was never intended to be a competition. It is the “journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” I was practicing for a prize, or even a shoutout. It wasn’t true motivation. It was competition, something created for sports. But I don't believe yoga is a sport.
9. Yoga started to become a “challenge” instead of a way of life.
I began to miss the days when I used to practice yoga to feel good. Instead, I was living in bubble of poses and challenges and followers and likes. Too much social media was filling my mind with unnecessary clutter instead of freeing space for love and life.
The past few months have been incredibly refreshing. If you asked me to take a yoga selfie, I’d have to actually find my tripod first. I still love to take photographs, I always have. Just now they contain less ego. I used to post two or three yoga poses a day (one for each challenge I was participating in). Now I’ll pose in an asana for the camera maybe two or three times a month. I’ve even lost a hundred or so followers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram and the community of yogis on there. I just needed a step back, a break. I no longer only see asanas, I see everything else yoga is about: living for love, and seeing it in everything that I do. That’s what I intend to share with the world instead.