We’re switching gears here a little bit at YogaBalanced while waiting for my next YTT weekend. I decided to write a post on Instagram challenges, since I recently took part in a few. I really learned a lot from those challenges, and I thought I’d share a bit about my experience. Hopefully, it will encourage you to get out there and take part!
In Defense of “Instagram Yoga”
First, let’s start with a bit of controversy. Because, why not? There is kind of a split among yoga practitioners on the kinds of yoga commonly seen on Instagram. Some people really dislike it, and I can understand some of the arguments. It certainly can be superficial and self-serving. The internet abounds with perfectly staged, choreographed, and photographed pictures meant only to show off cool poses. We see bodies that perhaps don’t look like our own and poses that discourage us because we are not in the same place on our yoga journey. We may feel like we can’t ever be that good or stack up against these amazing people.
However, I really feel it’s largely a matter of who you follow and what you choose to do with your feed. I’ve personally followed so many people who are inspiring and uplifting. People like Dana Falsetti (@nolatrees), Dawn Moore (@monkeymix), Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn), and Stephanie Birch (@stephynow) who show the real diversity of yoga. I don’t just mean that in a superficial way, either. They all have distinct voices and points of view on life and the practice of yoga. They all inspire and uplift me in different ways. I’ve learned so much from these women and many others about this life practice and ways to make it more meaningful AND more fun. Carefully cultivated, you can form a real community that nourishes and inspires you.
Why Do Instagram Challenges?
So taking a carefully cultivated feed a step further, why participate in Instagram challenges? There’s a variety of reasons why you might participate. For me, there were three huge benefits: I learned some really valuable tips and tricks, I stretched myself further outside of my comfort zone than I would have ever imagined, and I built some great ties in the Instagram yoga community.
Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
I turned 35 this year. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve wanted to be able to do a handstand and hold it like the gymnasts I watched on the Olympics. I’ve worked on that goal on and off for probably 20 or 25 of my 35 years without success. So when Kino MacGregor and Kerri Verna offered a course called 21 Days to an Effective Handstand and an accompanying Instagram challenge, I was all in. Shortly after I signed up for that challenge, Dawn Moore started a handstand press challenge, and I figured I might as well sign on for that one as well!
I’m not afraid to say I didn’t think I’d complete either challenge, and I figured there would come a point where I wouldn’t be able to do the day’s pose. Imagine my surprise when I was able to complete them both. That’s not to say that some things weren’t more of a struggle than others, but I shocked myself day after day with what I was capable of doing. Keno and Kerri provided some really great warm-ups and drills to build the strength and stamina needed for better handstands. Dawn’s tips and drills for various types of press had me doing things I never could have imagined.
At 35 years old, I can finally do a handstand. Not only that, I can puppy press, straddle press, and half-pike press up to a handstand. I can hold it for almost 40 seconds, and float back down in a controlled manner. I’m amazed! If handstand is a goal of yours, check out the Instagram tags #effectivehandstands and #betshecan.
Stretching Outside of My Comfort Zone
As I said, in the beginning, there were points in both challenges where I thought I’d have to drop out. I had to decide to be okay with either not finishing or posting my failures. That was scary to me. I’ve said several times here that I am a perfectionist. I’m really driven, and I don’t like to give up or fail. I made my peace with that and forged ahead. I think there were one or two days where the progression or pose wasn’t really happening, but I posted my best attempts. It felt good to show that struggle, and I saw a lot of other people doing the same. It was encouraging in its own way to see that veil of Instagram perfection being shattered.
Some of the drills were also outside of my comfort zone. Very early on in the handstand press challenge, we were to do a drill where we did mini-floats across the mat. I remember seeing it and thinking, “Well, tomorrow will be the day I’m stuck on for the rest of the challenge!” I decided my attitude would be to “just try.” They weren’t the prettiest, but as I opened myself to whatever happened, I was surprised to get a few little floats in there. When we did puppy press off of a block and I got to a straddle handstand on my first try, I just about fell over in shock! Saying yes and committing to just trying whatever came my way resulted in my doing things I would never have imagined.
Nice to Meet You!
One of the best things about these challenges was building ties with the Instagram yoga community. Seriously, if you get under the surface and away from the images manufactured by the yoga industry, there’s a wonderful network out there. These are everyday yoga practitioners like you and me. Some are teachers, some are in teacher training, and still others are just beginning their yoga journey.
I loved scrolling through the feeds for each tag everyday and seeing everyone working towards the same goals as me. We encouraged one another, and it was always nice to see the positive feedback from other participants. I got lovely feedback from those running the challenges as well. Dawn watched each and every video posted during her handstand press challenge, and left constructive feedback to help us succeed. I gained new followers and found new people to follow. It was a great experience.
Take the Plunge
I had a lot of reservations about participating in these challenges. Those reservations dissipated quickly as soon as I got into them. I have nothing but positive things to say about the experience. I highly encourage you to follow some of the people I’ve mentioned here and jump into it! There are a few more challenges getting underway, like Kino’s Ashtanga Primary Led Series challenge that starts July 1st.
It’s important to note that not all Instagram challenges are created equal. Definitely check out past posts by the hosts, and pick a challenge that is in line with your goals and abilities. But don’t be afraid to stretch yourself and put yourself out there!
I’m not going to guarantee you that if you do a challenge, you’ll suddenly be able to do the perfect handstand or crow pose or whatever the goal may be. You may not be able to do every pose every single day. But I will bet you’ll learn some valuable things about yoga and yourself along the way.