Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Case of the Yoga Selfie

So, I am launching my first Instagram Challenge, starting on the first day of August and I am a mix of excited, nervous, and apprehensive.  There are many reasons I decided to do this, which I will get into soon, but before I do I have to address the selfie.  First of all, I loathe the word selfie.  I think it embodies all the stupid, narcissistic, spoiled, self-centered characteristics of a first world nation concerned only about ourselves.  Namely, our image, thus the #selfie.
Then while coaching CrossFit, the song that puts it all out there, the #selfie song came on and a few of our members started groaning in agony.  (I know, I know, it's a terrible song, but it also happens to be catchy, so I kept it on.)  While it droned on in the background, we talked about how pathetic the song is, how I feel like my brain cells commit suicide while it plays, how the whole song is representative of a much bigger, more horrible trend in humanity, how we're all doomed.  Oh, the horror.

But then, a member said, "Yea, but Rachael you're like the queen of selfies."


I was mortified.  I never considered myself a repeat selfie offender.  Primarily because I am hardly ever at clubs, I never remember to take pictures at parties (or maybe I forget to attend parties?) I don't take duck face pictures with my girlfriends, and I never take pictures in public bathrooms.  But then it hit me, he was talking about my yoga selfies.

Over the past couple of months as I made a shift in my life, my career, I started documenting my yoga practice.  In truth, I had originally been inspired by some of the amazingly beautiful photos I found on instagram of some wonderfully bendy, flexy, strong yogis.  (This trend sparked a great article denouncing the yoga selfie, a must read. )  Either way, it was fantastic to see these yogis doing inspiring things with their body, but it wast truly representative of my own practice.  My yoga practice has never been showy and still isn't.  I've worked hard to be flexible, to try the more challenging poses, but I pretty much do the same yoga poses when someone is watching, as I do when I am all alone.  This means lots of sun salutations, strong warrior series, lots of hip openers, some yin, some yang, etc.  So, knowing that my photos were never going to look "as cool" as some of these talented folks, it didn't occur to me to put my yoga photos or videos on there to share.

What really started my #yoga #selfie journey was my cat, Weezy (aka #weezus) Every time I whipped out my yoga mat, Weezy would come into the room and stay by my side the entire practice.  It was so adorable, I could barely stand it.  I started to send pictures to my husband, then to my friends.  Then I decided to just share it on Instagram, because everyone found them so entertaining.  The fact that I was doing yoga in there seemed like an afterthought.
Getting all zen-like with my maine man. (get it, he's a maine coon.)

As I shared in my last post, it's been an interesting journey lately, one that took me away from my mat for some time.  Now that I am starting over, when I see the photos I took in the beginning with Weezy, I see how hesitant and vulnerable I really was.  As the days, weeks, and months have passed, I am beginning to see some changes in the way I approach my practice and it shows in the photos.  I'm trying new things, I'm having more fun with it, etc.  However, more than just that, I am happy to hear from people who have been inspired by my photo story in some way.  I love knowing that someone saw my photo and chuckled, smiled, maybe rolled out their mat, or went to a yoga class.  While I am not perfect, I too am working towards being less critical and more accepting of each practice, each photo.  Being content with getting on my mat each day and not being worried about how I look is a daily reminder, because that's the essence of yoga anyway.

#fatcat #longhairdontcare

Even though I had no direction when I started taking them, I now see my #yoga #selfies as a photo journal. I want it to be a testament to my dedication, my journey, and my commitment to living my life open, free, and full of love. Do I need to take pictures to prove this?  No.  But I love photos, and always have.  And this is nothing new, not for me and not for human kind throughout time.  The Egyptians made #selfie coffins to sleep in for all eternity.  In the early centuries, people sat and posed for hours for a single #selfie.  Then, when Kodak created film, people didn't take pictures of beautiful mountains and lakes, they took pictures of themselves.  #RevolutionaryWarSelfie.  When we invented the handheld video camera, we used it to document our own lives, our families, our memories.  Call it a memorial, call it a portrait, call it a selfie.  Whatever it is, we've always wanted to document and record our lives.

Just like in yoga, when it comes to selfies, the most important thing is our intention.  If our intention is kind, both to ourselves and others, then I see no harm in the selfie.  If it's used to inspire, to share, to connect, then go for it.  If we find its about approval, about comparison, about showing off, then we know we're on the wrong track.  When the Instagram yoga challenge launches, I want people to recognize their own intention. Perhaps you want to challenge yourself to try something new, maybe you want to hold yourself accountable to practice everyday.  Maybe you want something fun to look forward to each day.  Perhaps you want to share your lifestyle with friends and family. Perhaps it's just for you.

In the end, its about putting love out there and not worrying about what comes back.  More smiles, the better.  So, selfie on.

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