We’ve all seen them, and we’ve all subtly mocked them: those bandwagon-jumping yogis who only post a pose when it happens to make them look great in a bikini (OK, kind of fair), when they’re in Tulum and want to show off that sunset, or they’ve hopped on a yoga challenge over on Instagram (#yogaeverydamnday).
Social media challenges can get a bad rap, for obvious reasons. Yoga shouldn’t be about self-indulgence or gaining followers—it should be about personal development, flexing our muscles and our minds, and, for some, stretching our spirituality, too.
I always felt like I was too cool for a yoga social media challenge. I’d been practicing yoga therapeutically for a decade, before Instagram was a thing. Why would I ever need to post about it? Until one day, my local yoga studio—owned by a friend of mine whom I love and respect (and who is not social media showy)—happened to offer a simple, seven-day challenge.
Each day, we were charged with posting a simple pose, along with modifications, intentions, and mantras to go with it. To participate, I just had to get on the mat and post a picture of myself in that pose—and tag the studio (@yogahabit), along with the hashtags #7daysofyogahabit and #inthehabit. “No judgment, no pressure, just presence,” the studio owner urged.
For whatever reason, at the time I felt compelled to participate. I think, looking back, it was because I was struggling so much with finding some stability: I had just made a major job switch and returned from several weeks of travel in India. I felt all over the place, and I needed something to make me feel reconnected with my body and my purpose back home in Philadelphia. So, I gave up on my hang-ups about yoga and social media posting, my concerns about image and how it would come off, and I gave it a genuine, heartfelt try.
Here’s what I learned. (Oh, and spoiler alert: I won the whole damn challenge: a free month of unlimited yoga, chosen at random from those who participated. How’s that for good karma?)
Here’s What I Learned From a Social Media Yoga Challenge
Day 1: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana): Take a moment to celebrate those little moments of joy.
I was in the first couple weeks of a tumultuous job change when I started this challenge. So, it was fitting that my first post was at work. I snapped a picture at lunchtime, while I was out taking a walk in the nearby park.
Even if starting that new job was stressful, taking time to not only take a walk, but also to take a minute to lean a camera against a tree (yes, I am now one of those people) and set a timer caused me to actually pause in my day long enough to stay put in a grassy area of the park, appreciate how brilliant the afternoon sunshine was, fold over, and be happy. When I posted the photo, I felt like I was celebrating something small—a forward fold in the sunshine—and it made all the bigger issues seem less intimidating.
Day 2: Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): There’s always time.
I constantly feel like I don’t have enough time to do whatever it is I want to do: spend time with family or friends, work out, practice yoga, get dinner with my boyfriend. But taking time to do a few minutes of yoga for this challenge, even when I got home late from work and felt tapped out, reminded me that there is time—and that my yoga practice doesn’t have to be complicated.
Downward Dog isn’t an especially challenging posture. Posting a photo that wasn’t glamorous—just me on a yoga mat doing a simple pose—made me feel alive. I realized that I really liked doing this: carving out this time, and sharing with others that I was carving out this time. Somehow, it made me feel more awake and aware of my day, my worries, and of how good pausing feels.
Day 3: Heart Bench/Shoulder Opener: It’s OK to be vulnerable and open.
The pose for day three couldn’t have made me feel more vulnerable. I was lying flat, arms out, my shoulders back. I felt a little silly posting something that was basically me lying on the ground, but when I posted it, I almost couldn’t believe how many people commented that they “needed to try that,” and it was deeply encouraging. I realized that people enjoyed interacting with someone whose photos showed them heart open and vulnerable, rather than a beautiful rose chai latte or trendy new lunch spot.
Day 4: Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana): You don’t need to be perfect.
I suck at Chaturanga. Maybe someday my abs will be made of steel, and I will master the perfect arm angles, and my Chaturanga will look goddess-like. But for now, it looks awful. So awful that my abs hurt after holding it repeatedly, desperate to get at least one good picture. I still couldn’t get the shot I wanted—but, I posted the picture I had.
It was an amazing lesson in just getting something done and putting it out there, even if it isn’t perfect. Because it’s never going to be perfect. The secret to success is simply in doing it, instead of being too afraid to do it.
See also Anatomy 101: Can You Safely Jump Back to Plank?
Day 5: Frog Pose (Mandukasana): Honestly, stop taking yourself so seriously.
Doing Frog Pose, or half Frog Pose, has always stretched my abilities to their limits. I knew I looked ridiculous, but I learned to embrace this pose during the challenge—even if it didn’t look graceful or elegant. It reminded me, even while stressed, not to take myself that seriously.
See also 11 Poses to Ignite Your Second Chakra and Spark Creativity
Day 6: Side Plank (Vasisthasana): I am powerful.
On this day of the challenge, I was in awe that I had already posted the previous five photos, and with that built-up confidence, I went all in for this post. I got home, put on a little tank top and yoga pants, and got into a full-on Side Plank, with my phone propped up against my bedroom wall.
The truth was I had put on a few pounds while traveling for a few weeks, and I had been having trouble dealing with this slight weight gain while not having time to work out with the new job. But today, I stretched out, I reached up, and I felt powerful as hell. I put that photo out into the universe, and I felt my power and satisfaction with where I was in life multiply. I forgot that I had been worried. I wasn’t here to be approved, by others or by myself. I was already as powerful as I needed to be, and unapologetic about that. My yoga studio commented “Beautiful and strong,” and it was exactly what I needed to hear.
See also 4 Prep Poses to Fire Up Your Core for Side Plank
Day 7: Legs-Up-the-Wall (Viparita Karani): Simple is sometimes perfect.
This was my favorite photo that I took throughout the entire challenge. I was lying on the floor in my living room, next to my books, magazines, and plants, and I just let it all go, put my legs up, and felt at peace. I meditated on the sunlight streaming in through the window and I relaxed. When I posted the photo, explaining that Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose was my favorite pose, tons of others chimed in about how much they loved it, too.
Now, when I look at that photo, I’m reminded of that moment of peace, and of all these moments I stole just for myself in what was a hectic time at work and in life. And it’s nice knowing the fact that I shared that I was having those moments quite possibly inspired others to take a minute to do Legs-Up-the-Wall, too.
After the challenge, my yoga studio picked a prize (out of a hat, old-school style) for those who had posted all seven days. Turns out I was rewarded with not only a new mental perspective, but also a whole month of unlimited yoga.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to step outside of your comfort zone, not be afraid of what other people are going to think, and never let yourself be worried about what might be uncool. Ultimately, you just might surprise yourself.