Is it really possible to be an Instagram Yogi and not betray the ethics of Yoga?
For starters, what’s the draw of Yoga on Instagram?
When I started putting Yoga pictures on Instagram I had absolutely no idea about this huge, active community of Yogis that existed out there on the ‘gramosphere’. It was a little over 3 years ago and I had just managed to lift up my own body weight in a ‘pick up’ for the first time (where you cross your legs and lift your feet and hips off of the ground). I was so proud of myself I opened an Instagram account and posted the picture (you know, so I could prove to myself it had actually happened…) I never thought anyone would see it, let alone ‘like’ it. But then it happened… My first like! So, I began checking out what other Yogis were doing and I was hooked. There was a wealth of inspiration and information just waiting to be discovered… An amazing resource for someone like me who’s largely self taught and doesn’t have easy access to ‘real life’ classes.
I’ve learnt so much from sharing my practice and learning from others on Instagram that I can’t even begin to quantify it… And then there’s the sense of community… That’s why I think Instagram Yoga can totally be in line with Yogic ethics… If you manage to avoid the potential pitfalls… It’s all about awareness.
But is it really Yoga??
It’s a bit of an ongoing debate about whether posting yoga photos on Instagram, or taking part in Instagram challenges is really Yoga… But, let me stop you right there... Yoga is first and foremost an internal state. You can be busting out the most amazing backbends & inversions & not be doing Yoga… Or you can be rocking out a simple tree pose & absolutely doing Yoga… Most of us are somewhere in the middle… On all counts. Having said that, the physical practice of Yoga postures also incorporates the external state… By its very nature. Balance and union is what Yoga is all about, so that means balancing the mental and physical… Both are important.
To me, Yoga is a way of life, as well as a physical activity… It’s an entire philosophy that can guide every moment of our lives, which means that anything we do can be Yoga when approached from a place of mindfulness and awareness… It all depends on where our focus is.
So, how can we avoid the ego based pitfalls of sharing our practice on Instagram?
If the Yamas and Niyamas are kept in mind I think Instagram Yoga can be used a part of your journey and growth, although there should always be an awareness that it has the ability to hinder your growth as a person at the same time. Ahimsa, or non violence can be practiced by not injuring yourself just to get the shot - something I’m sure all IG yogis have been tempted to do! Of course, it also means not being violent in anyway towards yourself or others and accepting where your practice is on a day to day basis with equanimity. Satya, or truthfulness can be applied by sharing your practice in an honest way and always checking in to see clearly the place within yourself that you are sharing your practice from. Asteya, or non-stealing could mean giving credit when using others for inspiration and not passing off poses as your own, while constantly charting your practice and progress gives you the opportunity for Svadhyaya, or self study - as well as internal study of your motivation for sharing your practice in this way.
Keeping it real & being true to yourself… Plus, it’s fun!
It’s important that it doesn’t become a vanity project or something for your ego to latch onto and that’s why honesty is important - And that means being honest with yourself as well as the people who see your posts. Of course it’s a difficult balance sometimes - I’m as guilty as anyone for feeling down on myself if a shot I’ve taken doesn’t ‘measure up’ or only wanting to post something that shows me in my best light - But this is where I think awareness is key - Being aware that your ego is trying to take over and that it’s a natural tendency that we all have, means you can take a step back, reaffirm why you’re doing this in the first place and re-centre yourself to show your practice from a place of authenticity. And no one said that Yoga couldn’t be fun… Instagram can be a fantastic forum for play, exploration, inspiration and creativity… All things that will help keep us motivated in our internal and external practice of Yoga
At its best, the Instagram Yoga community is all about union and coming together - The very spirit of yoga.