Having just completed my teacher training in December of 2014, I was looking for engaging ways to keep my practice an everyday priority in my life.
I decided to commit myself to a January Instagram challenge where each day I’d capture an increasingly difficult yoga pose in a creative social post.
Now, I understand the concern that these Instagram challenges and the social media-lization of yoga in general. It takes focus away from the spiritual aspects of living the practice. While I’m not advocating the gamification of yoga as a key to a holistic yogic lifestyle, participating in this challenge proved useful encouragement for me to incorporate a daily physical practice into my post-training life, and had some surprising side-effects that touched the spiritual sides of my journey.
The challenge I chose ended up being a doozy—a strength focused challenge hosted by crazy strong yogis, Kerri Verna (@beachyogagirl) and Kino MacGregor (@kinoyoga).
These ladies don’t mess around and served up daily challenges including Eight Angle Pose, Firefly and Flying Crow. My arms were covered in bruises for most of January, and I think I may have driven my husband to drinking (more beer) with my constant requests for “just one more shot” as I attempted to contort, balance or invert myself around our apartment.
And after it all, our marriage and my extremities are still intact, and I learned some pretty awesome insights along the way. Here, in no particular order, are my learnings:
Winning isn’t anything
The first thing I noticed once the challenge started was that people are really, really serious about creating gorgeous yoga Instagram shots, and they are seriously good at it.
Many of my “challengers” lived in gorgeous locals, were skilled at the most advanced poses and knew how to stage or edit a photo at a pro-photographer level. I, on the other hand, was enjoying a freezing cold January in my one-bedroom apartment with a very reluctant photographer (my aforementioned husband) and had never even tried a number of the poses.
It quickly became clear to me that this challenge would have nothing to do with winning—leave that to the flexible femme fatales doing yoga on a beach in Bali (for real).
And, honestly, what a relief! Being so far from possibly being the best at this thing, I could just focus on being myself at it. I was able to take each pose and concentrate on where I was with it, rather than worry about comparing myself with the winner’s circle.
Yogis are lovely, supportive folks
While my pictures may not have been the cream of the crop, they were an accurate representation of my progress with the ever-challenging practice of yoga.
I was putting myself out there in a public forum—the good, the bad and some pretty ugly faces. I could count on support from my friends and teachers who are on Instagram, regardless of whether or not I nailed a pose. But the pleasant surprise was the support I got from my “challengers.”
They weren’t competitive at all. They were lovely.
I regularly saw likes and positive comments from people around the globe—some who were also in the challenge, others who just share the love of yoga. It was so encouraging, especially on those days when I felt like I had failed a challenge. There was a consistent community to cheer me on.
If I ever had any doubt, I’m now certain—yogis are wonderful.
Warm up or suffer
Around day 19, I got a little lazy and decided I could handle Fallen Angel without warming up. Big surprise—I pulled my groin.
I took a class later that day, stretched and was able to make a safer and stronger attempt. On day 25, I was going crazy attempting, but failing, to get into Grasshopper pose. I’d just taken a class but wasn’t warmed up enough in my hips for the pose.
Luckily my teacher instructed me to go home, do Pigeon and try again. Once I did that and got over my frustration, I did it. My first ever Grasshopper pose, and, I’m not too humble to say, it was pretty solid.
There are no short cuts in yoga. We put the work in and, eventually, we fly. If we don’t put the work in, we suffer. (Sorry groin.)
Just when you want to quit, that’s when the practice begins
Every day after day 24 made me want to quit—that was a full week of breaking down in frustration.
It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly was not captured in the photo posts that went up those days. The good thing was that I didn’t quit on any one of those days. I fell, I cursed, I even cried once but I didn’t quit. During that period, one of my teachers posted an image on Facebook with the caption, “The pose begins when you want to leave it.”
That became a bit of a mantra—I wanted to quit, so there was the start of my challenge.
I accomplished some pretty amazing things—I lessened my need to be the best, I grew my virtual yogi community and I became more in tune with how to prepare for advanced poses.
Icing on the cake—I actually did some advanced poses that I never thought I’d be strong enough to do. So it was a worthwhile journey, for sure. I just won’t be doing another one too soon, and my husband thanks me for that.
Author: Jeanette Doherty
Editor: Emma Ruffin
Photo: Author’s Own