One of my favorite things to teach in yoga is inversions: headstands, and handstands, and forearmstands (oh my!!). They’re fun, challenging, require strength and control, and help us push past fears on and off our mat.
In our Instagram age, it’s easy to get caught up in mastering a specific fancy-pants pose to take a photo, which many people will argue is the opposite of the goal of yoga. Students want to progress into poses they’re not necessarily strong or flexible enough for because they look cool or they think that’s what yoga is all about since that’s what the “celebrity” yogis do.
While there’s always a risk of injury to seriously consider, I try not to stress out too much over the obsession with picture-worthy poses. Even if you consider yourself a yoga purist, you know that if you spend enough time doing poses, you’ll inevitably get something more out of your yoga practice.
One of the things I DO love about Instagram yoga, or using a camera/phone to record your practice is that photos and videos can help you document progression, set and reach goals, and prevent some serious injuries from misalignments.
Lots of sports use video analysis. As a high school tennis player my coach showed us slow-motion videos of our serves and strokes to see where we could get more power and better control. (And she had to rewind a VHS tape, now it’s so easy!)
I used to have the hardest time holding my handstand. No matter how hard I tried, what cues teachers gave, or how often I practiced, there was something about it that just didn’t click. But as soon as I saw a video of myself, I realized what my teachers were talking about. My super flexible banana-back was causing me to flip over; and the “knit your ribs,” “draw your hips to your ribs,” “engage your core” comments made a lot more sense. By watching videos of my handstands, I was truly able to become an observer of myself, analyze what was happening without judgment or frustration, and become my own best teacher. For me, THAT’S what yoga is all about.
There’s no special club or magic shortcut to inner peace through inversions or advanced poses (and I would argue that holding poses in a more basic variation is actually much harder, but that’s another post!). The same can be said for being too strict with yourself and how you approach your practice. So play, have fun, flip, roll, challenge yourself, take pictures, film it, and then remember that it’s just yoga – whatever that means to you.
Helen's Adventures as a Traveling Yogi
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