If one perused the ever growing avalanche of social media posts of our most prominently recognized yoga instructors, one might presume that yoga always takes place in a sun-kissed, blue-skied, sandy-beached, bikini-ready destination.
And don’t get me started on the predominance of the handstand in these social media posts! And as my boyfriend says, if he sees Rachel Brathen or Kino McGregor lift up into yet another impressive, two-handed inversion he may just unfollow the glittery gals—but for some reason he never does.
The reality, for me at least, is very different. The humdrum reality of my yoga practice is that it often takes place in my less than glamorous living room, with the washing machine on in the background and an armchair awkwardly stuffed into a corner, while the wind and rain lash against my patio doors.
Imagine the scene, if you will—I am dressed not in the latest Lululemon matching top and pants but instead in my grey leopard print leggings. I am reluctant to take off my fleece jumper when I begin because of the cold, and I can hear the neighbours next door. It’s luxury when I’m alone because I have just enough space to lay out two mats in a cross shape with one against a wall, but otherwise, myself and my boyfriend playfully and (mostly) patiently jostle each other for space.
Twists, shoulder openers and Supta Parshvasahita are always contact postures where one gets a foot or knee surreptitiously crossing their path. Inversion practice is not a leap of faith into the clear blue skies of a tropical beach, but rather a carefully negotiated hop to the wall where I have removed my art canvases before practice starts. Actually, I rue the day and that I forgot to take them down and ended up with a large lump on my forehead when one inevitably crashed down on my head. I have also tried handstands against a door, but then unexpectedly fell through it, ending up on my back the kitchen.
Yoga doesn’t always happen in my living room, but also in my office at work, which I dub my Pranayama Palace. Yoga at the office is even more precarious than yoga at home. Palace practice is compact and covert. The blinds of my office are swiftly closed so that my colleagues don’t see me busting a Warrior Two instead of studiously contemplating my work.
I am squeezed into a triangle-shaped space between my desk, meeting table and door. I glide like a superhero into Ardha Chandrasana, neatly avoiding chairs and gratefully using my desk for balance. When Yogaglo is on, my poor computer and neck are contorted at very strange angles. Cables are stretched, keyboards are clattered as I strain to see whether I am doing the same core work as Dice Iida-Klein.
Yoga with my family is another negotiation, both spatially and spiritually. When at home during the holidays my yoga practice seems to teach me more negotiation skills. Getting up early. Having to move different items of furniture (thick rugs mostly). Avoiding three cats strutting on my mat showing off their purrfect down dogs.
People also enter the room to find their laundry and grandparents inevitably arrive to visit during practice, which then is immediately over and nearly always Savasana free. Occasionally family members will want to join in and gain instruction, or just start having a chat about what we might cook for lunch while I’m refining my crow pose.
Sometimes I do go to class. I live in a city of hot yoga. This is something which if I practice leaves me in a passed out sweaty mess on the floor and with an expanding laundry basket, so I seek a cooler room, some Jivamukti or Vinyasa Flow. This I will get by driving 40 miles to a larger city down the road. Negotiating traffic jams, getting parking tickets, texting to get people to put mats out for me and then loving the practice all take place before I drive back in that blissed out yoga state where traffic lights seem optional while joyously inhaling a vegan chocolate flapjack.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the gentle romancing of yoga. I will occasionally light a candle or two. I have even been known in my more meditative moments to play transcendental music.
And it is lovely.
But I do find there to be a large metaphorical gap between what we see in online yoga content often in spectacular places (mountains, forests, beaches, luxury homes, luxury studios and luxury cities) and the ordinary challenges most people face to secure an undisturbed practice (negotiating with families, spatial constraints, jobs and finances).
This is not to say that fantasy is a bad thing. It’s wonderful to see people travelling and sharing their passion for yoga and igniting that passion in others. For me though as a budding yoga teacher—a young yogini—I do sometimes find myself happier if I switch off the social networks and participate in what is directly around me.
When I do get sucked into the social media world, which happens too often and too easily, its unreality can be depressing. I end up wasting time that could be spent on my own development (or moving the arm chair into its corner and rolling out my mat).
So I would encourage fellow yoginis to look less at those pictures and videos of fabulously flexible, sun-kissed beauties handstanding on sandy beaches and instead focus on appreciating the minor miracle of intent and circumstance that encourages the cultivation of a fulfilling daily yoga practice.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Melissa Horton/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Flick Creative Commons