October 30, 2013

8 Limbs of Yoga?

My idea was simple: #NoSelfieNovember.

I set out on a mission to gather a group of inspirational yoga teachers to join me for a new (slightly radical) social media challenge—

—and failed.

With plentiful ego driven “selfie” inspired Instagram challenges, I thought this challenge would throw an interesting twist into this mix. And with November being the month of Thanksgiving, it seemed to be the perfect time to share what you’re thankful for and what inspires you and your practice as opposed to a flurry of “selfies” in the most recent handstand variation.

Alas, it wasn’t a popular idea with my fellow yoga teachers. Perhaps it was the #NoSelfieNovember hashtag that scared them off?

Let me rewind and explain things a bit better: I have been involved in a few Instagram challenges (#DailySoul, #innerdrishti) and post regularly on social media. The response to photos and, in particular, the impact social media has had on my yoga career has been measurable and positively addictive.

Instagram has also helped to form little communities of yogis around the globe, making it so that you can travel anywhere, and most likely know someone in your area. This is rad to say the least. A community of support and encouragement from around the globe all centered around the practice of yoga!

The business of yoga and self promotion being set aside, it seems that Instagram has also brought to light another glaringly obvious issue in the current state of yoga: asana has taken over all other aspects of the practice.

Somehow this branch has grown to be much larger and more important than any other. Yoga is not merely exercise, it’s mindfulness, awareness, cultivation of contentment and peace within (and so much more.) Asana is important, and it’s definitely how most westerners come to find yoga, but our practice should be continuously morphing and growing, teaching us new things, not just new poses.

Yoga, after all has eight limbs, not just one.

I knew that this idea of #NoSelfieNovember may not be the biggest hit with my fellow yogis and Instragam community, but I felt in my gut it was at least a topic of conversation I needed to throw out there and get started.

The idea wasn’t meant to take the asana completely out of the photo, but instead it was meant to shift the focus from our personal asana practice to that of our students and friends, or to highlight other areas in our lives that help to inspire our practice and teach us how to delve deeper.

Unsurprisingly, I was met with an almost unanimous and resounding “no” to this idea. Here were a few responses I received:

 “I’m happy with the ability to share my practice both for personal growth and inspiration for others.”  

“For me the asana was the vehicle that drove me to a deeper awareness of myself  and I think for many people this is the case.”

“And although yoga is obviously about a lot more than the asanas, the asanas are a great way to explore the uncomfortable shit in life in a safe way.”

“Honestly my social media is a huge sector of my business. At this moment it just wouldn’t be a smart business decision.”

I love value, and appreciate all of my fellow teachers and each and every response I received.

It is so amazing that we can even have this conversation. It’s incredible that we have the power to determine how our generation of yoga teachers will be seen and what we will be remembered by in the future.

I still plan on shifting my focus for the month of November to my amazing students and yoga community who inspire and teach me on a daily basis and who challenge me to be a better teacher.

My first loving, beautiful, strong, passionate, fierce, driven student I am proud to share with you is Sonia. I am so proud of this incredible women and all of her hard work and dedication she has put into overcoming the obstacles life has thrown her way.  She has been working on getting her handstands away from the wall for quite some time now and in the past two weeks I have seen her nail it over, and over again! Sonia, you inspire me.


May this inspire you to shift your focus for November, too.

Instead of building up your own asana brach, maybe you can help to grow other branches on your tree by sharing  photos of your loved ones, your favorite book, your fuzzy slippers and hot tea. Share the things that are helping you to deepen your practice both on and off your mat.

May we continue to help each other grow from an authentic place.

May we always be students at heart. And, most of all, may we continue to challenge and motivate each other to be better, and do better!

I want to hear from you.

What do you think about the current and upcoming generation of yoga teachers? What would you like to see more of from us, both on the mat and in the social media realm? How can we, as yoga teachers help to inspire you and motivate you to learn more and delve deeper into your own practice?

If you’re a teacher, how does social media help you to teach your students? How can we use it to help us become better teachers?

Love to each and every one of you.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

{Original Artwork: Aaron Whitaker}

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