Lately I have been struck by the redundancy of my Instagram feed – and feeling a little uninspired by it. I hardly bother to scroll through it anymore because I already know most of what I am going to see.
I’m not the most interesting person – I follow primarily yoga teachers, practitioners, studios, clothing brands, and magazines. And you know what I have noticed – none of the pictures look real to me – or at least they aren’t anything near my reality.
I’m tired of seeing highly curated yoga photos, featuring a narrow range of body types, taken in exotic locations, wearing expensive fitness clothing, and showcasing largely advanced asana that might make Ashtanga specifically, and yoga in general, seem unapproachable.
Aside from the fact that it totally makes me jealous, I’m also worried that the culture of yoga is changing and that we are perpetuating it with all of our likes and follows. And I fear that some people are missing the point – I mean entirely missing it. Like they are too scared to even try because they don’t look like the people on their social media feeds.
I can’t even count how many times I have had someone tell me about how they can’t do Ashtanga yoga.
Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe you’ve said it before – in your head our out loud. I’m too fat. I’m too tired. I’m too weak. I’m too busy. I’m not a morning person. My arms are short. My butt is big. I’m too stiff. Blah, blah, BLAH.
I have to wonder – are the pictures of beautiful people doing beautiful poses sending the wrong message to students and potential students?
Personally I’m not impressed with the perfect bodies doing insane asana. Sure – I can appreciate the beauty of it. And I am happy that yoga is reaching more people than ever before. But what really impresses me is what I see in my Mysore room every single day.
I see real people making the best of it.
I see the struggle of waking up early and getting to demanding jobs. I see the students who support me and the community by assisting or volunteering to open up the studio and get it warm for everyone else. I see the parents who have little kids at home and had to negotiate with their spouses to make it to practice. I’m in awe of these people who are juggling so much, and won’t give up their time on the mat.
I see people who have body images issues, who have struggled with addiction, who have been injured, who have had surgery and who have healed with the help of this practice. I see the stiff people, the big people, the stressed people coming in and working out their troubles in their asana. I see people who bathe in the sink at the studio, carry their breakfast in their backpack and hightail it to work after savasana. And I am humbled by them because I know that life is full of trade-offs, and that something had to give for them to be here with me in the mornings.
I see people who gave up a night out for an early morning practice. I see my friend fighting cancer and still making it onto her mat. I see the same student struggling through half primary after years of practice. This inspires me. This makes me want to be a better student and a better teacher. Because if I couldn’t bind Marichyasana A after 2 years, I probably would have quit.
I know for a fact that real yoga isn’t very glamorous. It’s not sexy and it doesn’t smell good.
But it is for everyone. You don’t have to be physically gifted or gorgeous. Just get on your mat and breathe. This practice will work for everyone, it will heal you, it will serve you – but you have to show up.
I challenge you to post your #realpeopleofashtanga story – and I encourage you to read what others have posted the next time you need a little inspiration.
Meghan Powell Photography