Question: If you do a handstand / forearm-stand / leg-behind-the-head-banana-stand and no one sees it, does it have a point?
Answer: Yes. (In fact, probably a bigger one!)
The Problem With Selfies
Let’s face it. We live in a visually motivated culture. Images inform our purchases, our understanding of success, our definition of beauty, our self-concept. This makes sense; we visualize our lives and through vision source much of our understanding. Seeing feels like believing. But is seeing true knowledge?
Too often, we rely on images to convey (or be told) our self-definition. ‘If I look like this then I’ll be worth…’ ‘Being embodied as a thin / flexible / smiling _____ means I am happy…’ Images even inform our yoga! And, while images can be informative, over-reliance on the external can promote false idols and manifest as limitations.
One key concept in yoga is pratyahara or drawing inward. (The word literally means: prati= back, away from + ahara= withdrawing completely; in other words you are withdrawing completely from what is outside of you.) We practice pratyahara by repeatedly focusing our attention back towards what is happening internally. Simply, we practice finding the sensation or vibration of a pose instead of trying to make it ‘look right’.
Pratyahara teaches us to source ourselves and find our divine intuition. We soon recognize that we already have the innate ability to know ourselves. It is through knowing ourselves that we become inspired. We learn to make adjustments not to look a certain way, but to instead feel aligned as ourselves.
Become Your Inspiration
So, what does all this mean for us? Well, for starters, you are not your instagram account! While I too have taken a selfie (or three), I find that my practice feels most nourishing when I am connecting with myself not performing. In fact, I’ve learned to take myself away from other students and exposure in an effort to give myself a reprieve from my ego. (My ego is *a bit* of a punk!) It is in the quiet feeling of asana I find myself on my mat. This is how I learn to feel what I need.
Of course, I am human as well and my ego still wants to do all the yoga ‘tricks’. But, I try to practice with my inward focus remembering, the tricks exist as a challenge to my negative beliefs (‘I can’t…, I’m too …). I remind myself that I am growing my practice for me not a camera. This is how I get inspired.