Mindful Mondays: A Friendly Reminder that “Instagram Yoga” is Not Yoga

Mindful Mondays: A Friendly Reminder that “Instagram Yoga” is NOT Yoga by Teryn O'Brien.

I (Teryn) will be posting a new blog post called Mindful Mondays for Flourish every Monday starting today! So tune in every week for thoughts about living a more mindful life and how this connects with your yoga practice.

The Visual Emphasis of Social Media on Our Modern Lives

Due to Instagram, Facebook, and other forms of Social Media, we live in an age where the visual is more valued than any other component. We have become a society that looks at pixelated pictures to sum up the value of our extraordinarily complex lives—pictures which usually only tell half-truths or are completely false about the lives of the people we think are living happily and perfectly through their
visual sharing.

All these images feed into our inherent thought that we are unworthy somehow.  Not enough. We’re not rich enough, skinny enough, outgoing enough.  We don’t have the perfect relationship like Becky and Dave, the kids aren’t as well-behaved as Jane’s, we’re not as fulfilled in our jobs like Steve, etc… The unhealthy comparison is so damaging to our actual lives.  When someone breaks the façade and shows their true vulnerability online, we applaud individuals for doing so—wishing we were that brave—or we chide them for being too open online, thinking of the embarrassment and shame of failing to uphold the false wall of pleasantries that guard us from telling the true, complicated stories of our lives.

Honesty online is a fresh breeze on a hot day—but it is rarer than we would imagine. And we all fall into the category of posting only about the highlights or achievements instead of the deep issues going on underneath the surface, now don’t we?  I myself have wrestled with Instagram, Facebook, and other forms of social media and how I’ve unhealthily clung to these forms of media in unhealthy ways in the past—often with ill results.

What I SEE on social media must be true, right? Pictures tell everything, right?
The visual becomes more and more important. A one-dimensional, small image on a screen becomes the end-all, be-all of what we value and compete for. It’s a very unhealthy way of living and being in the world. Think about! And maybe think about ways you’re letting this circus play out in your own life in unhealthy ways.

The Damage of "Instagram Yoga"

This unhealthy emphasis on the visual and the exterior has trickled into yoga with very damaging results. Yoga online is about skinny women and men doing impossible things on beaches in exotic places or exquisite locations.  As the average human looks at their contorted shapes in far-off places, the average person automatically thinks, ”Oh, I could never do that.” This leaves most people feeling that yoga is for the flexible few, the hand-picked strong ones, the genetically
graced individuals with nice bodies and athletic leanings who just happen to have the “Yoga Body.”  Or, again falsely, people believe that if they just strive hard enough in their own fitness practice, they, too, will gain that coveted Yoga Body. However, in reality there are many, many factors (including genetics, diet choices, stress factors, etc.) that make people’s bodies so incredibly different and diverse—no matter how hard they strain for a certain look.

I call this whole unhealthy phenomenon “Instagram Yoga,” and I really do think it has ruined many people's perception of yoga.

Instagram Yoga is NOT really the heart or essence of yoga.

The images and pictures you’re constantly bombarded with online are not really yoga. The
deepest parts of yoga have been bankrupted by the Westernized fitness industry—and there so many fictitious lies told by this industry to starve individuals from the deeper forms of yoga and make them focus on whether or not they’ve lost enough weight or are flexible enough.  Don’t get me wrong—it is really fun to challenge oneself and move through yoga practices or try challenging poses, etc. The movement part of yoga (called asana) is definitely fun and can be an amazing place for exploration and cultivation of both the body, mind, and soul. I love practicing yoga, and I definitely love posting pictures now and then because it has been an incredible journey for me both exteriorly and interiorly.

But let’s face it: most of us will never be able to afford life on the beach and the photography to make us look like movie stars as we causally backbend into the flexibility and strength of a gymnast on steroids. ;) So consider this blog post a friendly reminder that those photos you envy and admire on social media are not really yoga. And yoga takes many shapes, sizes and colors.

Anybody can do yoga!

I constantly like to remind students that the poses aren’t really the essence of yoga. The fitness is not really the heart of yoga. Yoga is not about the shapes or contortions you make with your body. It is so. Much. More. It is breath and body awareness, it is inner landscape connection and learning to love your whole being, it is listening to the deepest core of who you are and learning to live a genuine, authentic life. In fact, on Mindful Mondays in the month of June, I will be diving a little into the history of yoga and what yoga is and what it isn’t. So tune in next week for some
more interesting history and facts on what yoga is and isn’t.


Mindful Moment:

Take a moment to think about the ways that social media and the emphasis on the visual has impacted your life and view of yoga. What are ways you feel that you’re visually impacted by
social media? What are ways overly simplistic images can really damage the complexity of life?
What do you think about yoga when you think about yoga? How could you learn to be more mindful about interacting with yoga images on social media (and other fitness images, too)?

And always remember: You CAN do yoga! No matter who you are, there is a place for you at Flourish Body + Soul. We’re trying our best to continue to offer a safe place for people to try yoga, and we are always looking for feedback as to how to best serve you and the community. If you have any questions, please let us know!