Getting Back to the Simplicity of Yoga Before the Social Media Hype
I am getting back to the root of why I started & the feeling that came from it.Over four years ago when I began my yoga journey, I could barely find anyone that looked like me on the internet. I took the memories of yoga classes that I had attended before and stared right in my living room with a $7 mat from Burlington Coat Factory, with some house clothes that I had in my drawer. It was nothing fancy, nothing extravagant. It was what it was, a young black woman using what I had to help myself heal from the pangs of massive and frequent anxiety attacks.
In searching for someone who practiced yoga that wasn’t blonde with blue eyes, I care across @laurasykora and fell in love. She was not a black woman, but she was a person of color. This was big for me as all of the people I recalled being in a high position of yoga, a yoga instructor, or a person that could do amazing things with their bodies, were all white. I remember one day I asked her how she did a hollow back (because how in the hell does one do that with their bodies in the first place) & she replied to me with a step by step instruction. I was hyped. A few weeks later, I came across Honza & Claudine, who make up @yogabeyond/@acrovinyasa. They astonished me with these acrovinyasa flows and asanas, plus their love was CLEARLY translated through the screen. I was a different style of yoga, but the passion and love for the art of yoga was clearly translated through the screen. (Side note, these 3 happened to have an event in NY maybe a year later and I will say that meeting them in person, practicing with them made my heart FLOAT! They were so sweet and loving, so full of knowledge, just as they are on social media!)
Even though the Laura, Honza, & Claudine didn’t look exactly like me, they were different from the yoga norm. I continued my practice and continued sharing my yoga journey. I started sharing more as a way of tracking my own journey. A photo diary of sorts. It was something that I began to love more and more, so I figured, why not post this new part of my life. I didn’t think it was much to look at, but people resonated with it. A lot. I did a lot of yoga challenges, I attempted to mimic people who were doing different and more advanced asanas. I posted my bloopers. I posted my pictures when I hit a yoga goal and was on a yoga high. It was so much fun & I remember the excitement when I went into my first supported headstand, my first arm balance, my first dancers pose, my first king pigeon pose, etc.
A few weeks later I came across my now mentor, @chelsealovesyoga and @koyawebb on the gram and...YES! YESSSSSSSSSSSSS! Finally BLACK WOMEN ON INSTAGRAM THAT PRACTICED YOGAAAA! This sparked another fire in me. These two women made me see that I COULD have a flourishing & beautiful practice! They were literally my reflections and they made me feel like black women had a place in the yoga world after all.
Months later, I was one in a handful of black women practicing yoga...like 1 out of 15 that I knew about (I am sure there are and were more, but they were not visible to me at the time). Think @sadiyamarie (still my very good friend in real life), @pintsizednurse, @black3daliah, @yogineo @iamreneewatkins @hippieheathen, @heartbeat4many just to name a few. I found so much happiness in being a part of this little bunch. I may not always have agreed with everyone all the time, but there was a joy in this underlying unity, this small tribe of black yogis.
Fast forward to today & yoga has exploded into a thing that I almost don’t recognize...in a good & not so good way. On a positive note, there are WAY more people of color, more specifically black people getting into yoga. There are way more resources and platforms that you can access (like @blackgirlinom). Yet and still, I find that things are over saturated, all the while being watered down.
My perception is that so many people are caught up in what their practice LOOKS like instead of what it feels like, what the intention BEHIND their practice truly is. People are forgetting the other 7 limbs of yoga. Things are more about how it looks for the gram & not how it feels in the soul.
I will say that the more recent "yogis" may not have started a practice for or with pure intentions either. They see where people are in their journeys NOW and strive for that same thing, not realizing that it took YEARS to get to where we are today. It took many days and nights of confusion. It took many tears. It took many hours of practice. It took many falls. The results that you see today were not produced instantaneously. (This is not to look down upon those who have recently started their yoga/healing journey, nor those that are aspiring to begin a practice.)
The yogis that have been in it for a few years are posting for sponsorships, to be seen, to get more followers to have more people to come to their events and I don't feel that humble love of being an "unknown yogi anymore". Their instagram page is now their resume. This is not to knock anyone, but this feels like what the white yogis were doing before we started doing it, and that is focusing on the career and money that can be made in yoga rather than its healing effects. Yoga is more commercialized in the black social media yoga community amidst of the capitalistic world that we live in. We got caught in the wave.
I know I almost got lost in the sauce, working on creating events that would appeal to people, would make people come out& pay rather than creating spaces that made me feel good about the work that I was doing.
Three years ago I was holding space for close friends and coworkers in my living room. I was having sister circles in my living room. I was having events in my living room. I was sharing my practice freely and finding joy in it.
Recently sharing my life and my journey on social media became a chore and a daunting task that would fill me with anxiety. I was losing the joy that I found in sharing my story & my new discoveries. This was in part because of people telling me that I needed to make money off of my following. I love money, yes, but doing it at the expense of those who TRUST me & have followed me for years was not something that I wanted to do. I needed to get back to sharing from my hearts beside that was what truly made me happy. The simple yoga sessions in my living room made me happy. The simple gatherings with my friends made me happy. Being excited about a book that I had read or product I had come across made me happy.
I made it a point to myself that when I post, I am not going to post the "advanced" postures. I never even taught them when I was teaching in Georgia. It is not that I do not love them or cannot do them, it is that I do not want to feed into the hype that yoga is this acrobatic and contortion practice that detaches you from feeling. I move even slower, mindfully, and intentionally in my practice. I allow myself to feel it ALL. I think that is where yoga gets lost. People are focused on the exercise that you can get, they are in the power vinyasa mindset, but do not get a chance to feel what is going on when they are holding a pose.
Have you ever held warrior 2 for over a minute? Have you ever held frog pose? An in version? Tree pose? Camel, Fish, Easy pose? Have you ever held any of these for a number of breaths just to see how you feel? Each posture was created for a purpose. Each posture is connected to a chakra. The movements help break up stagnation and allow these energy centers to turn and flow properly. I have cried in warrior pose, not just because my legs were shaking, but because it was bringing up root issues (specifically residual daddy issues and security/stability issues that i was dealing with). I have had people cry while holding a hip opener because they had pent up emotions that needed to be released. I have felt immense love holding a heart opener asana. I have changed my perspective on a situation in an inversion. I have actually felt grounded in tree pose.....but people are missing all of the healing abilities and realization of where energy may be blocked or stagnant in the body because they are going through the motions exclusively for egotistical purposes.
My call to action is to reflect on these words: If no one were to ever see what you are doing, in your practice, would you still do it? If no one ever found out about your journey or your practice, would it still bring you happiness or even joy? If you didn’t make a career out of what you share on social media, if you never reached the mass public, would you be content with your actions and intentions?
If the answer is yes to all of these, keep doing what you are doing. If the answer is no to any of these questions, I invite you to really sit with yourself and get to the root of WHY YOU STARTED IN THE FIRST PKACE. Was it for egostistcal purposes & for the sake of popularity? Was it to heal yourself? Was it to be able to help others without the need for recognition because you did it from the heart?
I call for you to be mindful and reflect inwards, get back to the sacredness that is simplicity.
I know that is what I am doing. I will continue to share. I will always share, but I will not be sharing my practice in hopes that Wanderlust picks me up for their next tour spot. I plan on getting out there in the community because work has to be done in real life to help people heal, to give them an outlet to put their suffering, to give them a positive healing modality that they can always have with them.
I am getting back to the feeling that I had not too long ago where I was sharing with no ulterior motives of thoughts...just sharing for the sake of sharing my joy. I am not going to dress anything up or make it pretty. I will share the raw footage. I ask that you reflect & meditate on what you just read. If something offended you, I ask you to question yourself as to why it did. If something resonated with you, I ask you to question yourself as to why it did. Introspection is the answer.