Social media is a very interesting and complicated platform on which we can create union with people. A quick yoga search on Instagram pulls up millions of posts containing popular hashtags like #yogaeverydamnday, #yogaeverywhere and #stopdropandyoga.
Many yogis are connecting and sharing their love of the practice with the world, while others are becoming bona fide yogalebrities by posting their asana prowess. Many viewers are inspired by this and express their support via likes and comments, while others are intimidated and become discouraged. It’s turning out to be a double-edged sword.
When someone succeeds at something, we want to be happy for them. But it’s essential to remember that other people’s accomplishments don’t make ours any less valid. This is especially important to remember in our yoga practice, where the goal really isn’t to reach any predetermined level of achievement.
Our ability to place our bodies in shapes is not what makes us yogis. Online personalities who post photos of deep backbends and impressive hand-balance transitions, aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s fun sharing our joy with the world, and sometimes our joy is a #FancyYogaPose. But it can be easy to look at these beautiful poses and feel that our value is diminished because we can’t hold a handstand or place our feet behind our head. It’s important to remember that even these people (who may seem super-human) are on their own journey. We can’t know what their journey was, nor is it any of our business.
We all have our own journeys and our own stories. I’m an actress, and people are often surprised to learn that I’m also a yoga teacher. My mom has a Ph.D. and works with mentally ill adults, and she has a strong, ongoing yoga practice. I have students young and old, of all shapes and sizes. Some of my students have physical limitations, and they often find that they have greater body awareness than those who are in peak physical condition.
Put simply: Only you are in your body and can know what you’re feeling. And you’ve never before been in your body at this exact moment, in this exact shape. Your journey is your own. This may mean sitting and doing breath-work. Maybe it means letting go of the ego in one’s practice. Maybe it means allowing oneself to back away in a pose and experience the softness.
This is much easier said than done. I’m still hard on myself. I’m only human. But that’s the point. We’re all only human. The way we handle these challenges in our practice will have an amazing effect on our relationships and experiences. We can step onto our mats and put ourselves in challenging positions to see how we handle those stresses. We can step into this safe space and allow ourselves the freedom to not “get it right,” but instead to back away from intensity and to treat ourselves with compassion.
In strengthening the connection we find within ourselves, we strengthen the connections we find with others.
photo: Michelle Grambeau takes a yoga selfie at Wanderlust Whistler.
Erin Sanders is passionate about teaching Vinyasa Flow Yoga with a sense of play and attention to alignment. The breath-led movement of Flow Yoga makes her feel at home in her body, even when she is far from home. Erin hopes to inspire this feeling in others through her classes. She believes that yoga can be fun and accessible for everyone, and aims to help her students gain a greater awareness of their body and feel comfortable in their skin. Erin’s journey with Yoga has been lifelong, as her Yoga practice began as a child. Unique from the start, she never found it odd until she was an adult that people allowed an 8 year old in Yoga classes. As she grew and learned more, she felt the need to introduce more strength into her practice – stability to balance the flexibility. This is what led her to Trevor Throop and to The Jade Apple. She graduated from their 200 Hour Teacher Training Program in 2013 and has been teaching ever since.