I must admit, when pictures of yoga teachers in super impressive, impossible-looking postures starting cropping up on the Internet, I found it a little irritating. To me, it went against everything I’d believed at the time—that yoga was solely an inward practice, that “showing off” in advanced postures was the mark of a narcissist who wasn’t practicing “real” Yoga. Quite honestly, it wasn’t until I became a teacher and decided that I could probably use some Internet exposure to promote myself (and pay my rent) that I started to turn around. I realized if I was going to try and make my living as a yoga teacher, I should probably have some photos of me… doing yoga.
I enlisted the help of my photographer friend Alex to take a few shots for my website, which was coming together at the time (I still hadn’t gotten on board with the selfie). The second I hopped in front of the camera, I realized where my distaste for yoga photos was coming from. It had nothing to do with anyone but me. I felt insecure in front of the lens. When I’m in a class or on my mat in my apartment, I can just move and feel. When I’m trying to set myself up in a posture that makes it look like I’m a perfect, qualified yoga teacher, insecurity floods my brain. “Am I good enough” seemed to be in the back of my mind the entire time.
Of course, once the proofs from the shoot came back, they were beautiful. Alex did a great job capturing me in the poses that make me shine, and I started to see myself in a new light. I used to ask myself if I had any business teaching yoga at all, and with this set of photos, the answer was, “hell yes!” I looked beautiful, strong, powerful, capable, and happy. Isn’t that why I fell in love with yoga in the first place? Who cares if I needed photographic evidence to prove that to me—it stems back to an ancient Yogic lesson—that everything I needed was already within me, I just needed to be willing to see it!
I started cruising Instagram and taking notice of other teachers’ pages, loaded with gorgeous asana shots. It was amazing how once I’d gained a little confidence in myself, these pictures took on a whole new light. Instead of cursing them and dubbing them “un-yogic,” I was inspired. These people were unbelievably powerful in their own bodies, and so was I. The pictures were fantastic, and I finally wanted to take some of my own. As a lover of beautiful things, why shouldn’t I have some things that make ME feel beautiful? So I started getting creative with my Instagram page, swapping out the usual photos of me and my dog for me in a headstand. At first I played it safe, choosing to only post photos that I was sure looked great, but that got boring. Lots of teachers post funky, crazy poses, so why couldn’t I try them out? I would (and still do) roll my mat out on my bedroom floor, get a warm up in, and try my hand at all the wacky upside down, one-armed poses I would never have the guts to try for the first time in a class. And I’d take a shot!
The desire to take a great photo has forced me to become a more disciplined practitioner and a more skilled teacher. If I want to look like I know what I’m doing in one-armed, funky grasshopper pose, I need to create a warm up sequence that makes sense. So now, not only have a I gotten in my practice for the day, but I’ve figured out how to teach it to a class. It’s a win-win. I get ideas for my classes on Instagram all the time. I’m moved by creative poses that I’ve never seen before, and then I work to figure them out and make them accessible to my students. I cherish the time I spend on my mat every week, thinking up new sequences and ways to teach them. It’s amazing how Instagram has taken on an entirely new shape in my mind. Something that was once obnoxious is now a daily source of inspiration.
The truth is, I’m a yogi in 2013. I drive an SUV, eat sushi, curse, and am entirely dependent on my iPhone. I’m not a “traditional” teacher by any stretch of the imagination, so why I was ever so concerned with posting photos or drawing from others’ posts seems silly to me now. To me, the mark of a great teacher is someone who’s honest. Honestly, the ability to appreciate my own skills and power is what drew me to yoga in the first place, it’s what keeps me coming back, and it’s what I want to instill in other people. If Instagram can facilitate that a little bit, I’m all for it!