Social media is here to stay, and the Instagram Sangha or #yogafamily unites yogis worldwide and ups the likelihood that you’ll travel to your dream destination to lay your mat down.
Also, with work and responsibilities piling up online more than ever, seeing beautiful photos with inspiring words hashtagged amidst email reminders of deadlines certainly lifts my yoga spirit and seduces me back to my practice.
I especially appreciate motivational reminders, whether they’re Rumi quotes or enticing visuals on those days when I can’t seem to disconnect from the cyber world at large.
Like many practitioners, though, the desire to practice daily gets interrupted by busy schedules and countless other excuses. Why not start small by committing to just one pose a day for 28 to 31 days? Sound manageable? Did I mention that it's free? Even better?
Well then, welcome to the world of Instagram yoga challenges!
Instagram challenges pop up usually around the beginning of each month, outlining the postures for each day based on a focused theme to keep you feeling inspired enough to check back in and participate by sharing (and baring) your asana at least once daily.
Shy? You don’t have to post your photos, but for good reasons like accountability, tracking your progress, and just for the FUN of it, you may want to reconsider and hold that pose for the camera.
Two Ways to Strike a Pose
Though perfection doesn’t exist and “mastering” a pose does not equate to spiritual wellbeing, breaking down a pose for yourself will allow you to EMBODY it more completely.
There are two ways to experience yoga, and ideally we can try to integrate these methods in order to invite the present moment in the conscious experience.
1. Feel it from within.
As you move into a posture and you allow the sensations to arise and pass on by, you may notice that your “version” of the pose doesn’t look anything like the cover of your favorite yoga mag, nor will it ever!
The beauty of yoga reminds you that your uniqueness has a place, so go ahead and fearlessly and without self-judgment choose what feels good! If you can discern what feels good and what doesn’t in your practice, likely you’ll translate that ability into other areas of your life beyond your rectangular mat.
2. Visualize it from an external perspective.
Yoga teaches pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses) as a pathway towards samadhi (union with the Divine), allowing you to perceive yourself in asana from the perspective of “Divine Observer.” This way, sensations do not take precedence as much as “being in the flow of prana” guides you
What shapes do you draw with your integrated existence? Do your breath, focus, and movement align with your intention? Are you moving from within and radiating that energy outward, or do you hold back and restrict yourself?
These answers arise to your consciousness simply by moving through the meditation of each pose.
The Camera as a Mirror: You Are Beautiful
Traditionally, yoga doesn’t use mirrors, as a practice to trust your divine nature without allowing the outside world to dictate what “should” or “shouldn’t be.”
Mirrors can indeed restrict you from moving from within; it can lead to distractions and self-judgment, taking you further from your calm, peaceful center of love and acceptance.
Taking a pic of one pose a day can certainly challenge that tradition. If you dare see yourself fully and completely, as you ARE, right here and right now, however, you’ll certainly confront the views you have of yourself—and that takes courage.
You get to decide if those views serve you or not, and drop the ones that don’t once and for all! We all have the voice of the inner critic urging us to tweak this, nip that, and photoshop everything.
But the beauty of taking a daily photo helps you observe yourself TODAY in all of your glory, breathe louder than that voice of critique, and know that as time keeps on moving you will change. So why not enjoy and flow with it?
The camera as mirror can help you see yourself clearer than ever before if you treat it as an opportunity to practice compassion and self-love.
Get Connected: Your Friends Love Seeing Your Face
We all love to see the ones we love! I always enjoy watching my fellow yogis and yoginis get creative with their takes on the “same ole” yoga poses, as well as share a little about their journey to get into those troublesome poses that we all tend to struggle with during class.
Not only do I feel that I can reach out to the yoga community all around the world, I also find comfort in knowing that no matter where I may travel, I’ll be able to speak and understand the universal language of yoga love that continues to spread.
As we approach February, I encourage you to start the month off with an Instagram challenge that inspires you. While getting to a 90-minute class a few times a week doesn’t always happen, finding one sacred pose per day to commit to and share may help you make more time in the months that follow.
Practice patience and kindness to yourself, and have fun without pressuring yourself towards unrealistic perfection.~Judy Rukat
Joining an Instagram challenge, you’ll meet so many people who not only understand and experience the exact same waves of ups and downs on their yoga journeys as you do, but who’ll also support, encourage, and validate your efforts.
Now let’s get things started. Share some of your favorite yoga Instagram moments below!