Yoga and social media


Facebook… I can take it or leave it. Instagram is a different kettle of fish - obsessed is too strong a word but you get the idea. I love photography; seeing how different people portray the same subject matter, the editing process, the whole shebang… My name is Vanessa and I am an Insta-addict.

I've been inspired by Instagram photos; to try postures I'd previously never encountered, to work a little harder on a particular area, or just by the simple beauty of the way someone has chosen to capture a posture in a visual image. Plus I've made some wonderful and serendipitous connections through social media.

But as with most things in life, there needs to be a yin to the yang.

I've noticed a rising trend of social media backlash.  "It's fake/ makes people feel inadequate/ it takes away the value from special moments/ it's information overload."

I get it. I really do. I've poured over many yoga photos wondering why my hips refuse to open that way, why I can't balance on one hand (how is that even possible?!). And I've definitely wondered why I can't be a twenty-something-year-old who is paid to be on a permanent holiday like some of the people I follow seem to be…

So how does this relate to yoga? 

Well both the hashtags #yoga and #yogaeverydamnday have over 24 million posts on Instagram…which is mind blowing. If you happen to search either of these, you could pretty quickly be led to believe that Yoga is about executing a perfect handstand, arm balance or splits whilst being in a £90 pair of leggings on a beach in Bali. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me they are "bad" at yoga as they "can't touch their toes or are not flexible enough." Part of me wonders if social media has generated the belief that in order to be"good" at yoga you have to possess the kind of flexibility which would have allowed you to run away with the circus 100 years ago.

And this makes me sad. It really does. Because nothing could be further from the truth and if you need convincing I'll happily let you watch me crash to the floor repeatedly during my handstand practice. There is so much more to yoga than this and I'm not sure this is always represented on social media. And perhaps the more we only share our "best" bits, the more we are isolating others into believing that those best bits represent the totality of life.

And this is where it gets a bit murky…If you're constructing your Instagram/ social media photos to represent a life that is either hugely exaggerated or simply non-existent then I begin to shift uncomfortably from side to side in my "I support social media" chair.

Social media can throw up a bundle of less than positive feelings envy, inadequacy, jealousy etc. especially when so much of the focus of the photos is an edited and crafted version of life. But it's important to remember you do have a choice and control over the emotional response it triggers or the things you make it mean about yourself or others.

If you're looking at someone's social media and spot those less than ideal emotions creeping in, remind yourself that you're in their personal Art Gallery; it consisting of the moments they want to share with the world via an expression that is unique to them. And if you see a life you want, ask yourself what is it that stopping you from creating that life for yourself, because most things are well within our reach once we remove our own glass ceilings. Know that in that beautiful photo probably cropped out is a pile of dirty laundry or empty pizza boxes. Maybe the person in the photo sometimes goes days without brushing their hair because they can't be bothered (or is that just me?!).

We are all human; with the bits we want to project to the world and the bits we want to keep for ourselves. So before you make a judgement about someone else and yourself, go a littler easier on you both.

hanna mathilde