If you’ve read any of my other slightly shouty blogs, you’ll know that when it comes to getting on my yoga mat I ain’t exactly always full of love for it. Some days it hurts; some days it brings up all the rubbish things I’m trying to avoid; some days it makes me feel as yogic as an angry wasp trapped inside a fat man’s shirt.
On a bad day it brings up my ‘stuff’ because I am always far too ready to tell myself that I’m rubbish at it. When I’m struggling to get into what would be considered basic poses by lots of teachers, it’s not just the physical stuff I’m fighting with – it’s the mental stuff too. Even if my practice has been bearable, on those there will always be little things I think I should have changed, or tried harder at, or persevered with.
So the last thing I want to do is then get off my mat and have photographs of people doing everything I can’t do (and looking way more beautiful than me whilst they’re doing it) fired at me 24 hours a day.
Why am I ranting about this today? Well, I finally got myself an Instagram account at the weekend (I know – get me running headlong into the 21st century). It’s great isn’t it? I mean, you make sure that you never miss an opportunity to feel totally insecure about your arse/your kids/your clothes/your diet/your cat/your yoga practice. You can log on to that little site whenever you like and they’re all right there – waiting to make you feel shit about yourself.
Because I’d used a hashtag (yep – I even know the lingo) other yoga accounts have started to follow me. One of them describes themselves as ‘Your daily source of yoga inspiration. The most beautiful yoga photos and quotes. Tag your photos to be featured.’ Sounds nice, right? Wrong. I took a look at their account and whilst I admit that some of the photos are beautifully lit, almost every single one features a ridiculously bendy (and, funnily enough, ‘perfectly’ toned) woman doing poses that most of us won’t get close to in our next lifetime, let alone this one.
It could be just me, but I fail to see how these images are going to do anything for the majority of us who have to drag ourselves on to our mat, but piss us off.
These images are not yoga. Show me a photograph of someone finally getting their heels to the floor in a downward dog, or managing to not hit the foetal position in a forward bend, or finding a bind for the first time without flailing their arms like a dying bird. That is yoga – and it isn’t pretty. But man, it’s powerful.
For me yoga inspiration is someone pushing up into their final backbend despite feeling that the opening of their heart is about to unleash a whole heap of emotional shit onto them for the rest of the day. It’s about the person who remembers how they found the courage to hold Chair Pose for more breaths than they ever thought possible, the next time they step into a tough meeting at work. I want to see a photograph of the person who is learning that finding compassion for themselves for the 60 minutes they spend on the mat is more valuable than ever getting their leg in the vicinity of their head.
I don’t do yoga because I want my body to look what is promoted by most of the Western World as ‘fit’. (I fully admit now that I do have issues about my body, but I can honestly say that is not the primary reason I get on my mat – the ‘fitness’ is a happy by-product). Despite the fact that I took part in my first Ashtanga class to get arms like Madonna, I’ve recently realised that getting rid of my spare tyre is far less important than getting rid of my emotional baggage.
Some annoying person on a motivational poster once said “what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you” and I know that for my own mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing I need to keep on changing. And I think the best way for me to do that is yoga. But I need to remember that I’m never going to change into one of those perfect yogis in the photographs, and that my ugly is actually exactly the same as their beautiful.