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I’ve been a creator in digital media for a long time. I’ve managed content for magazines, managed corporate social media accounts, and ghostwritten more things than I can recall in the 15 years that I’ve worked as an editor and journalist. Yet I always saw my role on social media as that of a curator rather than an influencer.
It wasn’t until I graduated from yoga teacher training and became a yoga teacher that I started a personal Instagram account. I chose to do this in part because of my belief that I needed a platform to market my classes, although I also wanted to track aspects of my home practice.
I taught myself yoga from a book more than 20 years ago in the comfort of my own living room, long before the proliferation of yoga studios. From the beginning, my home practice was a private anchor that kept me sane through marriage and divorce, single motherhood, and an unpredictable career and income as a freelancer and yoga teacher. Through it all, my home practice was a space where I could just move intuitively, giving my body what it most needed in the moment. I didn’t consider at the time how posting to Instagram might change that.
Wait, what happened to my home practice?
Teaching yoga in a studio initiated the shift in my practice. Suddenly my yoga became in service to my teaching. I was always thinking about how I might incorporate this or that movement into a sequence that I could teach in class. I began to practice at the studio where I taught, and I found myself feeling pressured to be perfect in my poses, have a strong athletic practice, and otherwise show up performing as a teacher even when I was a student in class.
Adding Instagram to the mix brought another layer of performance to my practice. It started, quite innocently, when I began posting pictures for an occasional Instagram challenge.
When I captured an occasional photograph and wrote captions based on class themes I’d taught recently, it felt manageable. Then it progressed to recording my pre-class warmups and my post-class playtime.
Soon I was recording my home practice. I’d pause to take pictures of myself doing yoga poses while hiking; I’d seek out places to capture handstand pictures during my travels. It even got to the point where, if I hadn’t set up my camera before I began to practice, I’d stop my asana to record my sequence. That’s what it took to be a yoga teacher and influencer—or at least that’s what had gotten into my mind.
I started comparing myself to the mostly thin, hyperflexible, White yogis on Instagram. I taught my students that yoga wasn’t about nailing a Handstand, yet I overworked myself in an effort to stick the challenging inversion. I told students that yoga is not a performance, although I often felt like I was performing my yoga for the ‘gram.
The more that recording and posting video became the focus of my social media, the more out of my element I felt and the more of a time suck my social media presence became. All the while, it felt like I was falling into the very same trap that I had long warned about when I told students to keep practicing yoga at home.
A shift in perspective leads to personal realignment
The performative aspect of the Western yoga asana practice is a big reason why many people think yoga isn’t accessible or safe for them. Social media reinforces the pressure to perform with its focus on displays of extreme flexibility and athleticism. And it is often those who can perform who become influencers. In many ways, the influencer culture is a microcosm, or even a mirror, amplifying, reflecting, and reproducing arguably the most damaging parts of our performative society.
While social media can and has been a great way to create a community and build relationships, it has been demonstrably bad for our mental health and general social wellness. Instagram, in particular, has long been considered a channel for aspirational visual media. The most successful influencers are those who create images that mimic what you would find in the pages of a magazine—and poses that their followers want to emulate.
Yet it can also be a source of great suffering. The more involved I became with Instagram, the more dissatisfied I became with my own practice and the more unsure I was of my abilities as a yoga teacher.
Remembering who I am
Ultimately, I realized that the pressures of social media, the wellness industry, and societal structures at large exist outside of my control. What I can control, however, is how I show up to those pressures. Once I identified my own misperception, I was able to make a distinction between my Self as a spiritual being having a human experience and the human being doing spiritual work in the world.
For me, that means remembering that I am not my work or my personal brand. Yes, I care deeply and put a lot of myself into my work, but I often have to remind myself that I am not the work that I do. This kind of misidentification is easy in a society that tells us our worth is in our ability to produce and achieve.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking social media is the best or only way to build community and share your work with the world. But social media isn’t the work any more than you are the work. Social media is simply one channel for amplifying your work.
Making that distinction also created space for me to ask myself what I’m committed to doing with my teaching. Was it growing my social media following? Was it creating video content for Instagram and Tiktok? Or was it teaching yoga as a spiritual practice of love?
I decided a long time ago that my commitment is to teaching yoga as a holistic practice to help myself and others remember our connection with the divine source. Knowing what I’m committed to allowed me to opt out of performing for the sake of performing. I share only when I have something to share. That decision also frees me up to refocus my attention and my time on my chosen medium of communication and connection: writing.
My truth is that social media is best approached from a place of authenticity. Going through the process of svadyaya, or self inquiry, helped me remember that I am my own best thing. It led me back to back to myself.
What to consider when you create digital content
If you are a yoga teacher and a creator sharing your work on social media, remember that your work might be a reflection of you, but you are not your work. If the way you’re sharing your practice doesn’t feel authentic to you, reconsider your approach and find ways to share that do feel in alignment with who you are. Ask yourself:
What am I committed to?
Ultimately, I decided that performing for social media was a distraction from my commitment to my yoga practice and to my teaching. So I started seeking other ways to share the practice of yoga. If you’re feeling disenchanted and struggling to share your work authentically online, reflect on what you’re truly committed to and let that be an anchor from which you share your work.
What is my preferred medium for creating?
Words are my preferred medium. Maybe your passion is photography and you need to take thought-provoking photographs. Perhaps you’re great at facilitating conversations and podcasting is your thing. Maybe video-focused social media is your jam. Whatever your favorite medium, use it to create. Don’t try to force another approach simply because you think you “should.”
How can I share in an authentic way that aligns with my values?
For me, the biggest challenge was trying to avoid comparing myself to other creators or trying to replicate the things they did that made them successful. Of course I constantly fell short because I wasn’t showing up authentically. Even on social media, success is often more about showing up as yourself rather than applying a set of best practices. Knowing your preferred medium and what you’re committed to makes it easier to make decisions about what to share.
Can I share in a way that feels true to myself?
If you’ve felt the pressure to perform on social media and to show up in a way that doesn’t feel authentic to you, you can always choose to opt out. We all get to choose how we create and share our work with the world. Give yourself the space and the grace to show up in a way that feels true to who you are. Every time you find yourself making comparisons between yourself and other creators, shift your focus back to your values, your preferred medium, and creating in a way that feels right for you. Consider this practice of returning to yourself—and remember, that’s the practice of yoga.
About our contributor
Kimberlee Morrison is an award-winning author, a yoga teacher, self-love advocate, and founder of Love Revolution Yoga. She’s been practicing yoga for more than 20 years and teaching it for more than 6 years. She’s on a mission to teach people to love themselves through the practice of yoga.