We live our lives behind a veil of our own perception — a convoluted set of opinions and values that shape our views about each other and ourselves. We are influenced by the culture we choose to surround ourselves with, and often make judgments according to the ideals we’re fed through the media. The largest and most powerful facet, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, provide us with immediate feedback as to what is perceived as “good” and “bad,” and condition us to seek validation with every post.
I have never approached the practice of yoga as a performance. From the time I was 10 years old until opening Citizen Yoga my only focus in practice was learning about, and connecting with, my inner self. The current world of yoga glorifies complex poses, flexible yogis, and inversions making the practice less of a practice and more of a performing art. My hope as Citizen grows is to keep inspiring people to learn the principles and energetics behind each pose so that they can then learn about themselves. I want everyone to know that the success of a practice is not just about being flexible, because before there was Instagram there was just you and your mat.
In an episode of This American Life, “Status Update,” host Ira Glass interviews three high school freshman who explain their relationship with social media as a job that consists of a never-ending race to stay relevant; a term they define as “people caring about what you post on Instagram, about you, and what you are doing.” Their Instagram accounts serve as a means to promote themselves as brand, and they act as the director of that brand. Each young woman said she spent hours commenting and liking friends’ selfies, and monitoring her own posts.
As a result of this kind of social media use we as a society have redefined our relationships. Rather than utilizing social media as a means to connect with each other on an authentic and personal level, we’ve become fixated on using it to promote an image of our best, or most ideal, selves. The notion that we constantly need to present an air of who we want others to think we are has leached into our offline lives and morphed our yoga practices into a performance.
I challenge each of you to spend the first 10 minutes of your waking day offline to check in with yourself, to practice yoga sans smartphone, set aside an hour of your day to disconnect. The more we compare our lives with the curated lives of our network, the less we experience joy.