How Social Media Can Help & Hurt Your Yoga Practice

Meredith Osborne
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Yoga is amazing to watch. In class during tree pose, I look around the room in awe at the forest we’ve created. I don’t know how many times I’ve been distracted by another yogi’s perfect execution of a complicated pose. And almost always when I tell someone I do yoga, they ask me if I can stand on my head or balance on my forearms. If I choose to oblige them and work into a difficult pose, ego comes into play. I get attention for what my body can do, when there’s so much more to yoga than that.
 
The ability to quiet the mind is the hardest part of yoga, and that’s not something that’s easily demonstrated.
 
With the advent of social media, lovely yoga photos are more accessible than ever. Whether its rock star yogis posting handstand videos on Instagram, or your friends on Facebook uploading photos of their crow pose, it’s easy to feel like your own yoga practice is inadequate.
 
This idea of competition and performance is so far from what yoga is really about. Anyone who has been to a yoga class knows it’s about being patient with your body and accepting where you are that day.
 
I have fallen prey to this way of thinking many times. I’ve flipped my phone into video mode, and performed a jumble of poses that I thought would be impressive or pretty under the shade of an Instagram filter. When I go back to watch the video, though, I end up picking myself apart. The angle is usually bizarre and I fixate on the way my body looks, or I start comparing myself to everyone else I’ve seen doing those poses. This leaves me feeling discouraged for a while, and I tell myself I don’t need to document my yoga practice to validate my experience.
 

 
The intersection of yoga and social media is a funny thing. Some aspects are certainly helpful – I’ve watched yoga videos on YouTube of variations or sequences that never before would have occurred to me. Since I’m going through yoga teacher training right now, it’s exciting to find things to integrate into my own teaching style. Other yogis sharing their journey is encouraging and inspiring. It takes time to advance your yoga practice, and we know that. Social media, in the context of yoga, makes us realize there’s an amazing, accessible yoga community, and reminds us that no one is on this journey alone.
 
Recommended Read:10 Truths and a Fair Warning About Yoga Teacher Training
 

However, if we get too caught up with the way yoga is portrayed in social media, it can be dangerous. Just when you’re excited about mastering side crow, you watch a video of someone in headstand transitioning to side crow, and it’s easy to think I’ll never get there. Then there are the little things – how your body looks compared to others you’ve seen, the cute outfits other yogis are wearing, etc., etc.
 
If you look at any social media when you’re in an unhealthy mindset, your mind can start to spiral. The practice of yoga is about the present moment – honoring it, sitting with your discomfort, and accepting where you are right here, right now. So, if you find yourself jealous when you see photos on your preferred social media channel, ask yourself why. Take a moment to think about how long it took someone else to get there. Realize that where you are right now is precisely where you’re meant to be.
 
My new rule for handling yoga and social media is not to take it so seriously. I allow myself to look at pictures and videos for educational purposes, but I don’t beat myself up or feel defeated while viewing. If I’m practicing yoga and feel like posting a photo, I’ll do it if it feels natural. But if it disrupts my flow completely and sends my mind spiraling into an unhealthy way of thinking, I simply won’t do it. I know I’m a yogi; I don’t need to prove that to anyone else.
 

“Yoga takes you into the present moment, the only place where life exists.”

I stumbled upon this quote recently: “Yoga takes you into the present moment, the only place where life exists.” I’ve tried to make that my mantra when I’m in yoga class. Few things make me feel more beautiful than when I’m immersed in the practice, fully present, and letting go of comparisons.
 
Social media is a powerful tool, but yoga is way more powerful. You can choose to share your practice or keep it for yourself. Not everything beautiful has to be documented for it to be considered beautiful.
 
So yogi friends, what are your thoughts and experiences using social media in conjunction with yoga? Please share in the comments below, and keep the conversation going!
 

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You may have also seen yoga selfies occasionally catching some flack, (do a quick Google search of “yoga selfies” and you’ll see what I’m talking about) but regardless of differing opinions, we can all agree they are better than “duck face.” We personally can’t get enough of these 10 insane yoga photos!
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Meredith Osborne

Meredith is a writer training to be a yoga instructor in the American Midwest. A self-described ‘word nerd,’ she will read (almost) anything she can get her hands on. She’s passionate about holistic health, empowering women & radical love.

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