*warning! please read with an open mind and an open heart. I wrote this piece beginning of July 2018 as we arrived back from a holiday in Greece. Our Lila-Lit gathering had touched on the subject very briefly. But a holiday abroad watching women pained by the sight of their own bodies and low in confidence got me thinking. I honestly offer this post with much love*
Keira and I each have an Instagram account. I post way more often, so we both agreed (well, I sort of insisted and did it anyway…) that mine should represent us both and help spread the message we want to share.
So I manage and post all the photos to @lilavati_yoga and choose all the photos and the majority of the words.
We teach yoga and Yoga (little ‘y’ and big ‘y’ are intentional here!) to share the medicine of this mindful movement.
Yoga saved us. Heart, body and soul.
And we hope to help heal others too; it may be just one word, one touch, one sequence gesture or a small sentence that picks someone up and puts them back on the path of intention.
Both of us are naturally very shy; we used to feel of little worth and would never dream of standing up in a group of people, let alone sharing the rhythms we play with in our own space to entice this moving meditation.
But we know that social media plays a large part in sharing; namely in that it reaches out to people that we can not physically touch. We moved a couple of hundred miles and it’s a great portal for keeping connected across that distance. Plus, we are so inspired by so many others across the globe, that Instagram (particularly) can be a blessing.
Our intention for the shared handle @lilavati_yoga has always been these elements:
Sharing (though we need to work on this a little more)
How to live yoga beyond the edges of the mat
We both strongly believe in sharing (and tagging):
Our ‘Happiness Prescription’; daily or weekly doses of bliss that should take the pain away and numb the noise; so you can live happier, wholly and be complete
The necessity to visualise and create WHATEVER dreams you wish to inspire ‘breathe believe receive’
That mindful movement is necessary for all; no matter where you are, how much money or time you have and how much faith you have
That everyone should feel able to love themselves AS THEY ARE in the here, the now and to enjoy life, regardless of what judgments and labels you apply to your life ‘All the parts’ ‘All the pieces’
Having said all this, there is something I feel I must point out.
That for all our prompts of authenticity and our hope to inspire love of self, no matter your size, shape, background, financial status, your ‘whatever’……I almost never post photos of myself on our page. You’ll see many of Keira and other nature-inspired shares.
There are a few main reasons for this; first, most of the photos are taken by me as I really enjoy capturing these moments to share, second, Keira effortlessly finds the shape that most encourages the intention of nature (she literally falls into shape without thinking about it and captures the moment perfectly) and lastly, because the pictures of me don’t hold the sacred messages; in that, I don’t believe them to be inspirational.
And it pains me to write this; because you may think I’m a farce, and I really am not. But, I am just not Instagram worthy enough. You see, I’m curvy in all the wrong places (!) and I can’t create a line that will inspire you to see a shape or a form, other than curviness. Or rather chunkiness.
How wrong is that?!!! And the funny thing is, Keira is pretty much the same. If she were managing it, she would post pictures of me, rather than of herself.
And here is the point (stay with me here, please….); I could not and do not give two hoots about other people’s bodies. I very rarely have ever commented on someone else’s body in a negative way (I shan’t say ever, because I’m sure my sister and I have called eachother some pretty horrendous names when we were younger and a little fierier!!!). I think we are all gloriously beautiful. And I know looks are so unimportant; really, I do. I couldn’t care less; I embrace the uniqueness of each of us. And I genuinely do not judge others based on the external (we shouldn’t judge full stop, but I still have much practicing to do).
Yet I am super harsh on myself. My inner critic rears her ugly head even if I happen to look at my hand. Can you imagine what she has to say when I practice by a mirror?
It’s tricky. And it’s a problem that I’m working through at present. It’s a huge part of my teachings right now; how to make everyone appreciate the beauty and divinity of their life. To recognise that the body is the vessel for this heart-achingly stunning journey called life.
It’s a tonic we all need to share.
To recognise the beauty.
Not let our definitions of beauty be determined by the images that are forced onto us by the societal beliefs (or companies hoping to sell us ‘stuff’).
The authenticity of not sharing pictures of myself lies in that; truth. Because why on earth would I post a photo that I consider anything other than ‘beauty and nature and lines of energy’? I wish for the art of our practice to inspire you. And so, I refrain from using photos that lack an unravelling of tension.
If it causes tension, it’s not going to be posted. At least, not without Keira and I actively sharing what the tension is and trying to present a cure or posture potion for the dilemma and darkness.
However, I’ll acknowledge there is an undercurrent issue here; a lack of self-love. And that is something that I am in the process of working through.
I feel I should tell you that the only time I EVER feel beautiful is when in the flow of yogasana. In that effortless dance with the breath, I forget my stumpiness and curved ligaments, I forget my flawed appearance and excess. My entire shape is filled by soul, like light pouring in through the window. It radiates into all the parts and I feel really, genuinely in love and loveable.
And that is the important part.
It pains me to write this piece, because there is so much that is unwritten and so much room for misinterpretation.
But, I feel that the point I try to make is this; Yoga has the capacity to make you feel radiant and abundant with beautiful energy. So long as you allow your body to let go of all the negativity that you hold onto.
Beauty is not skin deep.
Beauty is so much more.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to be a certain size, shape or even have a fixed yoga practice by the Insta-Scam that occurs so often.
Yoga isn’t a shape.
And this could get messy here. For we both have many friends who post pictures of themselves in all manners. We even post shapes and dances of flow. There is nothing wrong with that. But, I’m just saying, please don’t buy into the messy art of buying into an image that lacks authenticity.
I am moved by the authentic. A mother with children, practicing asana outside, including her family and unafraid to share her falling and trying again. That is vulnerability. That is authenticity. That is real and soul flying for me.
A lady in her 70s practicing trataka and pranayama. Sharing her thoughts. Encouraging us all to pause and be mellow. That is inspirational for me.
An author who is unafraid to admit she won’t post anything other than headshots, who goes onto share a live video with her entire body involved. Explaining that she has let go of ego and now no longer cares what other’s think of her. That is heart filling to me.
A recovering drug addict who takes every day as it comes and shares his stories of journaling and travelling. Sharing as much for himself, as for others. That is really encouraging to me.
A shift occurs. When we notice the small parts, we see the messages everywhere.
What I choose to unfollow is the inauthentic. And, yes, I’m judging here. But I judge from a deep place; the unstruck place of my heart. I will unfollow anyone who tells me my health depends on my looks, that health involves spending a lot of money, anyone who tries to ‘sell’ too much, who seems dependent on their looks and lacks the understanding to include ALL.
About two years ago, I flew out to Goa to visit my sister while she was living out there. We rocked up to a retreat we know well to buy some lunch. I was stunned to bump into a well-know Insta-famous yogini; one we seem to always be bumping into (literally this was like the 7th time our paths seemed to cross in the past 2 years!). I say stunned because she looked utterly miserable. She was on her phone every time I saw her; perfecting her IG account and updating her blogs etc. But the reason for my judgement here (and I know I shouldn’t be at all, but) was that she was posting pics on IG as if she were there, in that moment. Photos of happiness flooded her account; according to IG she was hiking today, swimming in the ocean, eating another vegan meal etc. All the while she was sat opposite me, tap tapping on her phone seeming very miserable, eating a cheese salad and not being very sociable or appearing to even notice the beauty of the space we occupied. She recognised me about an hour later, when she managed to find the time to drag her gaze from screen to scenery. She was pleasant, complained a little about the heat, explained she had a couple of her team visiting later to ‘take some shots’ and then continued to tap. A few weeks later when I checked her IG account, I was amazed to see all these posts that had been pre-orchestrated. They were stunning; full of colour, scenes in the background of nature and light. A few lines accompanying the photos explained how she was having the best time ever, hadn’t had time to even look at her phone and was just ‘in the flow’.
I share this story to prove a point. It’s not all real.
Keeping it real amongst the non-truths is tricky. There are some of us who are happy to share the darker parts. Some of us hope to encourage some truth.
Your vibe attracts your tribe.
And there are many tribes. Uniqueness is stunning. And we are all unique.
Does a yogi have to be barefoot? Or wear a particular brand? Practice on a beach? In a city, perhaps? Eat a certain way? Hang out with certain people? Create a particular shape?
No; yoga is not about that. It’s about finding your light and living it.
So that you set the example to those around you.
We spread the light. We love the light. And love emanates and expands.
Making the world a better place. For all.
Let’s try for authenticity here and lose the labels.
If you are constantly attracted to teachers or IG accounts, or whatever, based on the way they look, you’re missing the opportunity to explore deeper. You’re only experiencing part of the present/gift.
There is something extraordinarily empowering about the non-standard men & women posting inspirational pictures on their social media accounts. It encourages us all to go, ‘Wow. Look at her. She is owning it. I can do that too’.
One IG yogini called herself ‘fat’ in a post; I instantly wrote her asking how she can label herself with such a negative implication. Her response? Something along the lines of ‘fat’ held no negativity for her. She had done much soul searching and decided that ‘fat’ just meant ‘larger bodied’. She embraces her body, she owns her truth and for her, the word ‘fat’ held no stigma.
You’ll notice this article is laced with a lot of hypocrisy. And I leave it there intentionally. I won’t edit this piece. I’ll publish it and let it unravel its darkness and light in equal measure.
For it’s the truth as it flows; and the river flows in spirals. It twists and turns, when you least expect it and I am embraced for the showers of water that will splash me as I turn one corner, rush into the falls and the flows. I am prepared to drown for seconds; obscured by the surface, unable to breathe, hear or feel. Other than the rush of it all.
For now, take what resonates.
And leave what does not.
I’ll feel into this subject more over the coming months. And hope it may start a small conversation with yourself about how your perspective of self, may differ, and be harsher than when you see others.
Don’t be fooled by IG and social media.
If it feels wrong, fake or scripted….it’s not the nourishment and encouragement needed by you. Unfollow and choose your tribe based of the rhythm of your way.