You’re not alone. Here’s how to use your yoga practice to feel better in your body right now.
We live in a world highly conscious of the presence of social media as a force for human interaction and connection. Social media taps into our basic human instinct to belong to the “tribe,” which is a major reason why our favorite platforms maintain such a prominent role in our lives. With every scroll through our newsfeed, we subconsciously seek to satisfy a deep and primal desire to belong.
Yet here’s the catch: Our personal tribes on social media are significantly more expansive and far-reaching than our tribes of old. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow us to bond with friends and family all over the world. In the mere space of a post we watch babies grow up, teens go off to college, couples get married and divorced, and every life event in between. We follow what people eat, what they wear, when they go to yoga class, and how many miles they ran. From the most mundane to the most significant events, we are privy to others’ lives in intimate ways.
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Not only does social media offer that comforting sense of “these are my people,” but it also encourages us to make new friends and access other tribes or social groups. As we accumulate more friends that intersect with tribes removed from our personal one, our sense of belonging expands. Plus, beyond interacting with friends, we can join closed groups, create communities that support a cause, and network as professionals. We have instant access to current events and an outlet to voice our opinions. We can like and be liked—loved even. Every post is an opportunity to bond with our tribe, and every like, comment, share, and retweet reinforces our survival instinct to belong.
The line between satisfying our survival instinct and seeking external validation can sometimes blur in our relationship with social media. Let’s face it, the constant stream of images can trigger comparison, jealousy, sadness, shame, and discontent with who we are and what we look like. Filters and other image-enhancing tools have upped the game when it comes to presenting ourselves to the world as picture-perfect, which can leave us feeling pressured to constantly look ready for an image worthy of posting.
Want to form a healthier relationship with social media?
For yoga practitioners, social media represents a rich opportunity to practice the Svadhyaya, the fourth niyama in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Svadhyaya literally means “one’s own reading” or “self–study” and is the practice of observing our behaviors, actions, reactions, thoughts, patterns, habits, and emotions with the intention of gaining wisdom about how to reduce suffering and become more empowered in our lives.
See also Feeling Stuck? Try Self-Inquiry for Resistance
When it comes to using social media, you can empower yourself by paying attention (practicing self-study) to which aspects of social media influence your relationship with your body in both positive, negative, and neutral ways.
To get a baseline for how your relationship with social media affects your body image and self-worth, take a few minutes to reflect on these questions:
- How does your basic human desire to be loved influence how you use and engage with social media?
- How do you feel about yourself when you use and engage with social media?
- What words do you say to yourself about yourself and the people you observe on social media?
The answer to this last question is especially important to study, as your inner dialogue holds tremendous power over your self-esteem, body image, and mood.
See also 5 Ways You Can Use Your Yoga Practice to Improve Your Body Image
In the spirit of yoga, remember to observe your answers to these questions without judgement. Consider what this short self-study exercise revealed. If you bumped up against disempowering thoughts, notice them, breathe, and offer yourself compassion. Commit to one small shift you can make in how you use social media. For example, you might limit your exposure, unfollow triggering people and hashtags, or repeat mantra or affirmation to call on in response to negative self-talk that shows up when you use social media.
A practice for a healthy relationship with social media
Balance the images you feed your eyes and mind with this body mindful yoga practice. As you do it, practice self-study and notice how your self-talk and general vibe compares with these visuals versus social media:
View paintings, drawings, statues, and other pieces of artwork that inspire positive feelings. Notice the colors, textures, and other fine details that capture your attention. What unique qualities do you appreciate about these artistic pieces? If a work of art is especially pleasing to your eye, consider using it as a point of meditation. Gaze at it first thing in the morning for an allotted period of time as you recite a mantra, affirmation, or prayer.
Use this practice often to balance out social media use and bring yourself back to center if you feel “off” after a breeze through your newsfeed. You can also choose to focus on nature or other non-screen entities that bring you a sense of focus, calm, and appreciation.
Call on the practice of self-study often to enlighten you to the empowering aspects of social media in your life as well as recognize patterns in your social media use that are disempowering. When used in the true spirit of connection, social media is a wonderful tool to nurture our natural need for a sense of belonging. It connects us to our primal and collective human need to belong. What was once the tribe or village is now an online format of like-minded friends.
See also Practice Svadhyaya (Self-Study) On the Mat
Adapted from the book, Body Mindful Yoga, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas and Robert Butera. Reprinted with permission from Llewellyn Worldwide.
About the Authors
Robert Butera, MDiv, PhD, founded YogaLife Institute in Pennsylvania, where he trains yoga teachers and Comprehensive Yoga Therapists. Robert’s PhD at CA Institute of Integral Studies focused on Yoga Therapy. He authored The Pure Heart of Yoga, Meditation for Your Life, Yoga Therapy for Stress & Anxiety, and Body Mindful Yoga. Visit him at www.YogaLifeInstitute.com.
Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is a certified yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. She is an inspirational speaker and author of Body Mindful Yoga: Create a Powerful and Affirming Relationship With Your Body (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). Jennifer provides yoga therapy via online and in person at YogaLife Institute in Wayne, PA, and leads yoga therapy groups at Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia. She teaches workshops, retreats, and specialized trainings for clinicians, professionals, and yoga teachers. Jennifer is a partner with the Yoga & Body Image Coalition and writes for Yoga Journal and other influential blogs. She has appeared on Fox29 news and has been featured in the Huffington Post, Real Woman Magazine, Medill Reports Chicago, Philly.com, and the ED Matters Podcast. Connect with Jennifer: www.Yoga4EatingDisorders.com
Fuel Your Digestive Fire with This 3-Ingredient Ayurvedic Tonic
Sip on it before meals to help your gut process what you eat and leave no toxins behind.
Craving change but feeling too stuck, sluggish, or restless to take aim? Join John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com, and Larissa Hall Carlson, Ayurveda Yoga Specialist, for Ayurveda 201: Six Weeks to Transformation and Bliss Through Ayurvedic Psychology. In this new online course, you’ll experience: unique yoga practices; inspiring discussions backed by science; and recipes, herbs, and a short, gentle cleanse. The results? Clarity, brilliance, and balance, so you can create lasting shifts in your life and well-being. Learn more and sign up today!
In Ayurveda, agni, which means digestive fire, is an important aspect of good health. When your digestion and metabolism are properly functioning, you reap the nutrients of what you eat. You also expel toxins that otherwise accumulate into ama, or toxic sludge, that slows down your mind and body. Here, John Douillard, who co-teaches our upcoming course, Ayurveda 201, with Larissa Hall Carlson, shares a simple tonic you can sip on before your meals to rev up that digestive fire. Bonus: Eating out? Restaurants will always have these three ingredients…
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5 Mindful YouTube Channels Every Yogi Should Follow
By seeking inspiration, you may find that others are seeking it as well. Here are five channels that provide perspective and insight on how to stay true to yourself.
Not so long ago, during one of my winter slumps, I began looking for some unexpected sources of inspiration. I knew that this sense of enthusiasm could be found anywhere: in nature, in books, or in my day to day yoga practice and meditation. Still, as a yoga teacher and student of almost a decade, keeping my “inspiration tank” full is, as I see it, just as important as asana practice.
A vital part of practicing and sharing yoga is being able to guide from a place of love and insight about what it means to be human. There are so many beautiful and unfolding parts to what that means, but in today’s world of constant sense stimulation and technological clicking; things are only getting more complex and less mindful.
We are addicted to the noise of cultural and personal expectations, to the beeps on our phones and to the nonstop commentary of our thoughts. But, the irony is hidden in how all of these things make us even more tuned out, disconnected and unsatisfied. That is where, for many of us, yoga moves in with its special moments of silence and stillness, able to offer true peace and connection to a larger, conscious way of being.
See also 11 Best Yoga Podcasts Every Yogi Needs to Download Right Now
More than any of our technologies, our bodies are the smartest machines in the world; and they are constantly absorbing and filtering out live and technological information. Perhaps, I thought to myself this past winter; these machines could have a more meaningful presence? Similar to how a mantra practice stimulates positive thinking; could mindful use of noisy technologies be an inspiring, off-the-mat practice bringing us back to our true selves, to a positive outlook and a broadened perspective?
Once we bring awareness to everyday noise, a new landscape of possibilities opens up. We start to notice what words, philosophies, outlooks, tones, voices, and images enrich our lives and lead it towards beauty rather than the easy choice of laziness, negativity, or boredom.
See also Want to Start a Yoga Podcast? Here’s How
I now return to these beautiful (and free) online sources as a reminder that inspiration is always out there and that so many others are seeking it as well. These channels support my mindfulness practice in a noisy world that seems only to be getting louder. I hope that when you’re in need of a gentle reminder, you remember that these guides are available to you, too.
Psst! Follow Yoga Journal on YouTube!
5 Mindful YouTube Channels
One Yoga Teacher's 3 Lessons We Could All Learn About Making Money
Yoga and abundance don’t always feel like they belong together. One yoga teacher shares the lessons she learned about accepting wealth and tearing down financial barriers that weren’t serving her.
As I watched the snow fall into the hot tub at the retreat center I was visiting, nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, I found myself thinking, How did I get this luxury?! Taking four days off to indulge at a hot springs in the mountains while learning from my yoga mentor seemed like a far cry from my start as a yoga teacher. Being underpaid was a regular occurrence when I first started teaching. Struggling to buy groceries, trips to the gas station hoping that I didn’t go over the twenty dollars I had in my wallet, and not being able to afford health care (gulp) were discomforts I grew strangely accustomed to.
I was extremely passionate about teaching yoga and I loved doing it, but my bank account did not match my passion as an instructor. As much as I would like to blame corporations, point my finger at capitalism, and gnash my teeth at the unfair nature of my soulful work being so undervalued, the truth is that my value as a teacher was already at a deficit before I even stepped foot into a yoga studio.
See also 10 Business Secrets to Starting a Successful Yoga Career
When I followed the thread that led me to being a “poor yoga teacher,” I could trace it all the way back to the old sayings that were instilled in my absorbent young brain as a child: “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “You have to work hard for money.” Or the most insidious, “Good people don’t need money.”
These seeds grew in my subconscious at a slow and steady rate. Over time, they became my reality, and as my yoga career developed, so did my belief that money meant struggle.
See also A 5-Minute Meditation To Relieve Financial Stress
I said “yes” to unpaid yoga gigs. I constantly bustled across town from one teaching job to the next. And I watched as my own practice fell to the wayside because teaching at a high volume was siphoning all my time and energy.
Finally I hit a bottom. I was fed up with scraping by, and I knew something had to change. I realized that if I wanted abundance, I needed to make a choice. That choice was to start shifting my perspective around money so that that I could not only heal my relationship with money, but also welcome prosperity into my life.
See also A Katonah Yoga Sequence To Live A More Abundant Life
There were three critical things that shifted the tide for me, and I know they can help any teacher looking to give themselves a raise.
1. Realize that spirituality means abundance
When you go into class and speak the word “abundance,” can you honestly say that you are feeling it in all areas of your life? Chaining yourself to the idea that being spiritual means financially struggling can disrupt the abundance that is waiting for you. When you accept that financial abundance and spirituality can have a thriving working relationship, it will reflect in your spirit—and your bank account! Take it from visionary Maya Angelou, who said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive”.
See also The Yoga of Money: Take Wisdom from the Mat to Your Finances
2. Get crystal clear on your teaching intention
For some people, teaching a full load of 15 classes a week can strain your health and your capacity to serve. As in any other business, it can take time to build a network and establish a presence in the yoga space. Figure out a teaching strategy that will fulfill you and help maintain your sanity—not detract from it. Do you see yourself teaching full time? Does having a full-time job while teaching two to three classes sound fulfilling? Get clear on what is right for YOU. The way I figured this out was by getting support from a business coach and community I trusted so that I could navigate how to market myself and speak effectively about my services.
See also Live + Practice From the Heart: Identify True Intention
3. Seek great mentorship
One of the most pivotal steps you can take to open to financial abundance is to seek guidance from other successful yogis. Learning from others who gained wisdom and experience from walking a path before me allowed me to understand the paths available to me. Just like your daily local teacher, learning from someone who knows the ropes is so much easier than trying to figure it out yourself. I also sought guidance from business mentors and like minded women who were committed to living on purpose that could teach me how to offer my gifts, live my purpose, and get the structure I needed to financially sustain myself. Look for local clubs, meetups, and other networking opportunities in which you’ll be able to make valuable connections in the community.
See also A Yoga Teacher’s Guide to Social Networking
Just like yoga, stretching your financial container can cause some discomfort. Just like the journey of yoga, the path to feeling ease and grace with our money values starts from within. With a clear vision and the right tools and support, knowing and claiming your worth as a yoga teacher is totally possible!
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