Mandy’s blog: My ego needs to chill about Instagram yoga challenges

If you are a domesticated pet enthusiast, you’ve probably seen those cute articles about “pet shaming.” They are usually full of pictures of dogs or cats who have done something terrible, like destroying the couch cushions, with a sign nearby that says something like “I thought my mom’s favorite pillow was strawberry flavored.”

If today you could see a picture of my ego, it would probably have a handwritten sign next to it that says “I take myself too seriously to participate in Instagram yoga challenges.”

Yoga challenges on Instagram are one of the first connections I ever had to a broader yoga community. For the first several years of my practice, I was a home yogi, learning from the internet and books, trying to make sense of the great big world of yoga from my computer. Instagram opened up my practice into something bigger than it might ever have been otherwise.

And then I started to teach. And then I got certified.

It’s a very natural transition, I think, for a yoga instructor who goes through the grueling 200 hours of training to look at Instagram yogis with a little bit of concern. I have blogged before about the phenomenon of judging Instagram Yoga as not “real” yoga, but as some form of appropriated contortion that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what real yoga is supposed to be. (Spoiler alert: that perspective comes from the ego too.)

These days I struggle to get back into Instagram yoga challenges. I want to push back against the commercialization of yoga, and promoting big brands on my Instagram feed when what I want to do is teach yoga feels counterintuitive.

But I know from experience that participating in these challenges opens me up to the broader community, allows me to be a part of something in a way that my natural lone-wolf personality doesn’t do very well.

I need community. So do you. It’s a fact of human existence. And at a time in my life when I spend my days in my home by myself or with my daughter, Instagram yoga challenges would be a great way for me to connect with other yogis and share my passion.

Maybe I can even do some good for other baby yogis like I once was, and expand their horizons beyond the beautiful shapes we make with our bodies into the beautiful shapes we make with our souls when we truly practice full, holistic yoga.

MANDY’S BLOG: More than pretty shapes – the origins of Asana

These days, by and large, we celebrate the physical benefits of yoga – and there are many! Hatha (body-focused) yoga is most popular in the western world and offers a ton of gorgeous postures, or asanas, for our personal betterment or to share with the world.

Instagram and Pinterest offer us so many tutorials and how-tos for creating that perfect yoga shape. In our pursuit of the next beautiful posture, it can be easy to lose sight of the “why.” Why are we doing the asanas we’re doing?

Maybe the reason is fully physical. We have tight hamstrings, so we sink into a deep wide-legged forward fold. Our shoulders are sore, so we play in Puppy Pose.

I love the physical benefits of my practice. I got into yoga in middle school to give myself a mode of exercise that wasn’t too hard on my tender muscles and fragile joints. But sometimes I start to itch for something else. A bigger reason. An older one.

In the Sanskrit, Asana means “seat.” It refers to the postures the ancient yogis would adopt to facilitate their meditation. Every asana they practiced was designed to align the energy in their bodies and get their minds into the proper state for the type of meditation they wanted to practice.

Nowadays the little meditation I do in each asana has more to do with getting into and out of the postures than getting out of my mind and into my higher Spirit. I’d like to change that. I’d like to do more Dharana (single-pointed focus meditation) than it takes to stay balanced in Tree Pose and more Dyana (detachment from the mundane) than I find in a deep, yummy Yoga Nidra session.

I still love yoga for its physical benefits and I don’t see anything wrong with practicing Hatha yoga for that reason! My practice can serve more than one purpose, and yoga is, at its core, what I need it to be.

But as I lever my way into the balance poses, or twist myself into the more pretzel-y ones, I want to reconnect with the ancient yogis who, millennia before me, knew that meditation and growth starts with the asana.

Asana is only the third limb of the tree of yoga for a reason, after all.

MANDY’S PRACTICE: Sound Bath vs the Chitta

Tonight I had the amazing opportunity to experience a sound bath led by my dear friend Mokeph. She’s a healer and sound therapist who plays Tibetan singing bowls, gongs, crystal bowls, chimes, and other auditory goodies to create a super restful hour.

Participants laid on mats and blankets, resting as completely as possible while the sound rolled over us. It was magical. I saw color auras for the different instruments and sounds, and even at one point experienced a tactile hallucination that felt like my 3-year-old daughter was snuggled against my chest, fast asleep. I had to open my eyes to be sure she wasn’t actually there. It was that real.

But at first, I wasn’t feeling or seeing anything but my new website, the email blast I’m creating for the studio where I work, and the pile of dishes in my sink.

For the first half of this powerful time my mind was trapped in the mundane. I couldn’t snap out of work mode. I felt the hamster wheel of my brain spinning along at its usual lightning fast pace and couldn’t slow it.

In Sanskrit, the word for the feeling of a runaway mind is chitta. It refers to a chattering monkey who won’t leave you alone. And isn’t that so appropriate? Sometimes I feel like I have two children: a chattering, incessant, loud, overwhelming, demanding presence – always pulling on me, taking up my personal space, making everything 10 times harder than necessary – and my daughter.

But somehow, in the midst of the chitta, the sound broke through. I began to drift, not sleeping, but resting deeply in a practice we call Yoga Nidra (I’ll talk about this amazing type of yoga soon!) There I found colors, peaceful orchestrated parades of purple, red, yellow, and blue, floating through my vision in concert with the sound.

And as I finally felt the chitta release me into the most restful state I’ve experienced in a while, I felt in my arms, as real, as warm, and as heavy as my actual child, the spirit of my baby. It was so beautiful, and almost – almost – as perfect as the real thing.