yoga practice

This Is My Yoga Body

Last week when I posted a time-lapse video of my yoga practice on my Facebook page, my online friend and fellow yogi, Terra, commented: "I love your practice fastforwards. SO YUMMY. [It] totally inspires my home practice. It's beautiful."

And I got to thinking about yoga selfies: what they typically are and what mine are.

Most yoga selfies and yoga images we see in the media (traditional or social) portray thin, young, caucasian women doing acrobatic, gravity-defying poses in form-fitting, brightly colored, high-end yoga gear.

Most yoga selfies feature the "supermodels" of the yoga industry. And just like I have an issue with the effect of "supermodels" and the media on women and teens, I have an issue with the effect "superyogis" and the media on the greater yoga community.

So in this age of the internet, I've taken matters into my own hands. I've started doing my part to share with the world what a "regular" yoga practice looks like.

You likely know that I often share my yoga selfie videos and post about the aches in my body and the insights and benefits I gain from my yoga practice. My hope is to help change the popular (and intimidating) image of yoga and inspire regular people to practice.

Earlier this week I timelapse-recorded my morning practice. That particular day I woke up with a whole lot of pain in my low back. While some degree of low back pain is typical for me, this day it was much worse than usual. So after I took my kids to school I headed to the studio for my yoga practice.

When my practice was finished I watched the video and I hesitated about sharing it on Facebook like I normally do. It felt like an exceptionally vulnerable practice to share.

Superyogi side bend

I hadn’t realized that, even as I had been striving to share what a “real” practice looked like, there was some amount of vanity in the videos I’d previously posted. This new video was not like that. It was not flattering in any way. I didn’t do any fancy poses. My belly rolls were evident in every forward fold. Even sped up 10X, the practice looked pretty slow. And boring.

And then I thought back to my exchange with my online yogi friend Terra. She said my last video inspired her to practice. She said my practice was “yummy” and “beautiful” and she “loved” it.

So, if my practice had that effect on Terra, it might have that effect on others, so then what exactly did I have to hide? Who cares if I’m not a thin, young, caucasian women doing acrobatic, gravity-defying poses in form-fitting, brightly colored, high-end yoga gear?

I have a real yoga practice. In 35 minutes of rolling around on my mat I can ease 95% of my back pain without medication, a doctor, or insurance. I know that yoga, in all its forms, is a practice worth sharing and I hope that my practice can maybe encourage regular ol’ people to give yoga a try.

So here you go. If you’re a regular ol’ person - if you’re a mom or a dad, a grandma or a grandpa, a daughter or a son, an aunt or an uncle, if you’re overweight or a healthy weight or underweight, if you’re fit or not fit, flexible or not flexible, if you’re able-bodied or disabled, whatever color you are, whatever whatever you are - I’m putting this practice out there for you. If you have any interest at all in yoga, may this video (and this post) bring you inspiration and confidence to give it a try.

Go to your nearest studio. Ask for a beginner-friendly class. If the people you meet are unfriendly or unwelcoming, walk out the door and try a different place.

Or you can follow me online. I share yoga nearly every day on The Yoga Room’s Facebook page and Instagram feed. I also share yoga on The Yoga Room’s YouTube channel and on this blog. And soon I’ll be sharing even more yoga. Please stay tuned for that.

This-Is-Yoga-Logo-FinalIn the meantime, I encourage you to share YOUR practice. Post a picture or a video on your social media page (or ours!) every now and then. Use the hashtag #thisisyoga so I can follow your practice. Help normalize yoga as a beneficial practice for regular people. Help me get the word out that Yoga is for EveryBody and every body can benefit from yoga.

And if you have any questions about your yoga practice at any time, shoot me a note! You can leave a comment below, send me an email, or leave a comment or PM on our Facebook page. I look forward to hearing from you!

Zelinda 2013XO, Zelinda



P.S. You may be thinking, well yeah, but what about your handstand videos? My #handstand365 challenge isn’t my real yoga practice. As with all yoga practice, it’s an opportunity for learning, but mostly it’s just for fun.

What you see in the video posted here on this post is the yoga that keeps me going and keeps me grounded, day after day. While the practice may look slow and boring, there’s actually a whole lot going on. Throughout the practice I’m observing of the sensations in my body. When I find an area that is tense, I focus my breathing on the tense area to create ease and relaxation. The effect of ease and relaxation carries over from my body into my life. It’s awesome!

Why We Don't Have Mirrors in Our Studio

If you've ever been to a class at The Yoga Room, you most likely noticed that we don't have mirrors on the walls. Some studios do, some studios don't. It a philosophical choice. We made a conscious decision not to have mirrors. One time we received a sort of negative review on Yelp from a woman who had a "real issue with there being no mirrors whatsoever in the studio." Her complaint was that she was accustomed to looking at herself in the mirrors at the gym so that she could check if her form was correct while lifting weights or taking a group fitness class.

I can understand that. Weight lifting is an individual endeavor. Unless you have a personal trainer, there's no one to tell you if your form is correct or not. And in a group fitness class, there's typically one instructor for 20-30 or more participants. It's not likely the instructor will be able to help each participant with their form and alignment.

That's why we intentionally keep our classes small. Usually we have not more than 12 students in a class. There are rare exceptions, but for the most part the classes are small enough that the teacher can keep an eye on everyone and help each person individually as necessary.

Our other concern about mirrors is that watching oneself in a mirror during yoga practice creates a visual distraction and an opportunity for competitiveness and self-criticism. And yoga is not about competitive and self-criticism. Yoga is about building a connection between your mind, body, and spirit. It's about having love for yourself and others. It's about finding your peace.

Mirrors can introduce doubts in your mind about whether you're doing the practice "correctly" or if the person on the next mat is "correct." And mirrors can introduce self-judgment about your abilities compared to the other people in the class.

Yoga is a practice that you should feel rather than think your way through. When there's a mirror in front of you, there exists the risk of having to see and think. When there's not a mirror in front of you, your only option is to feel.

At first it may seem awkward not being able to see if your alignment is correct, but your teacher is available as a "mirror" to guide you, and with practice your body awareness will improve and even with your eyes closed you'll know when you're in your own best version of a posture.

Plus, the big benefits in yoga come when you can get out of our mind and into your body. If you'd like to read more about that, please check out my last blog post, Are You In Your Head or In Your Body?

And you know what? Yoga's not about being perfect. There's a cliche that says "Yoga is a Practice, not a Perfect." As much as I dislike cliches, this one is right on. Maintaining your peace is more important than striving for a "perfect" pose that may not suit your body, or a "perfect" anything for that matter.

This is my take on mirrors in yoga studios, but I'm always open to others' ideas and perspectives. I'd love to know what has been your experience. Have you ever practiced yoga in a studio or fitness center that has mirrors? Did you prefer being able to see and adjust your alignment, or did it make you uncomfortable having to watch yourself practice? What did you learn from practicing with mirrors? What have you learned from practicing without? Please help get the conversation started by posting your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Lots of love, my sweet friend.

XO, Zelinda

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