How Yoga Selfies Changed My Life

I’ve read a few articles bashing the yoga selfie as of late. If you’re not sure what a yoga selfie is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s yoga and it’s a selfie and they’re all over Instagram and probably everywhere else in social media land.

There’s quite a bit of controversy suggesting that those that partake in yoga selfies and the social media-based yoga challenges are not “real yogis”. It’s been said that it’s no more than self indulgence and it completely minimizes what yoga is supposed to symbolize, that yoga is supposed to be private and an inward journey, that yoga selfies are narcissistic.

While some can certainly argue all of those points quite well, yoga selfies literally changed my life for the better. I owe my entire true yoga journey to the yoga selfie and want to offer my perspective.

I’ve been doing yoga since 2007. I use that phrase loosely because for approximately the first seven years of my stint, I didn’t really do yoga. I knew the basics, I attended {gym} yoga classes and I knew I liked it. I attended what I now know were vinyasa flow classes but in my small town yoga just wasn’t a thing. There weren’t any dedicated yoga studios at the time and in the random event that one would pop up on a downtown corner, it was closed a month or two later. I was fortunate that the teacher I had was really great and she held my interest. When she left teaching, I somewhat bailed on yoga. My relationship with it was intermittent and I had not a clue as to what a dedicated practice was.

In late 2013, I realized I really needed some form of consistent exercise in my life. I had gained a few pounds and since I’ve always lived with generalized anxiety, it was time to put some work into my physical and emotional self. It only made sense that I reincorporated yoga into my life. Again, just the basics: some sun salutations and stretching, breathing.

I have always been in love with Instagram so one evening, while on a business trip in early 2014, I happened upon this amazing gallery of someone’s yoga poses. Extremely advanced yoga poses. I was absolutely intrigued and had this immediate want to imitate the poses.

{Stay with me here because I know this is where the controversy comes in.}

Yes, I wanted to imitate the poses and stand on my head. This woman was fit and awesome and balanced and quoted so much inspiration in her posts. I wanted to hashtag #inversionsmakeyouhot and just radiate this beautiful art form. I didn’t even know yoga could get this advanced, this intense, this beautiful. I was beyond inspired.

I quickly learned that, surprise, surprise, it wasn’t that easy. Apparently standing on your head required work to get there. Physical work, sure, but also? Emotional work. In my case, fear was a huge factor. I wanted to face my fears but it also made me dive deeper. I wanted to understand the poses- the asanas- and I wanted to understand why they were beneficial. It sparked this need in me to understand, research and learn…yoga. In its truest form.

I soon started to follow every yoga Instagram superstar I could find, as well as other amateurs like myself. I could not even believe the community I found in this little space of social media. All of the yoga challenges became a part of my daily routine which, yes, had actual prizes at the end of the month but I didn’t particulate in them for tangible things. I just wanted to learn, I wanted to be inspired, motivated by others and possibly inspire others.

I found myself so inspired that I would go to the local bookstore to read about the history of yoga, chakras, different styles of yoga, different teachers, and all of the benefits yoga has on the mind, body and spirit. I hadn’t felt so passionate about anything in my life as far back as I could remember. It felt so incredible to have this connection with yoga. With a new lifestyle.

It just so happened that 2014 was also the worst year of my personal life, so all of this knowledge could not have come at a better time. Yoga saw me through a divorce and major family illnesses. Through navigating becoming a single mom and through a broken heart. Through career upheavals and through soul searching. I turned to yoga every.single.day. for solitude and healing. Who knew that yoga could do all of this if you do it correctly?

And speaking of correctly, I am an unorthodox yogi so I truly don’t believe in doing yoga wrong, (assuming you’re learning correct alignment from an experienced teacher). I’m not vegan, I don’t meditate as much as I’d like to, I don’t practice for 90 minutes a day, I don’t love some of the yoga styles, I don’t know about every chakra or even every asana Sanskrit name. What I know is that yoga is when I breathe through life. It’s when I feel the most connected with myself and when I can get my mind to settle down. It’s when I feel good about my body and all its imperfections and its limitations. It’s when I accept that backbends may never be my thing and my shoulders and hamstrings are much too tight. It’s just…practice of so many things, it’s a journey. And yoga selfies started all of the above for me.

I never reached any kind of Instagram popularity with my own yoga selfies, nor did I aspire to. I don’t participate in challenges much anymore or even post many yoga selfies. Yoga selfies were just a starting point for me into something much more deep and meaningful and for that, I am forever grateful.

Respect others journey into yoga, try not to judge. That yogi that you’re dismissing as narcissistic on Instagram may just be changing someone’s life.

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