I’m talking about yoga a lot recently, posting a lot of yoga selfies on my Instagram and I’m sure I’ll talk about it even more in future – it’s my current obsession! I started doing yoga when I was at school, and Charley and I named ourselves “Co-Yoga Captains” as it was the one sport in our school that didn’t have a team captain and we felt it needed one. Despite this title and doing yoga 2 to 3 times a week (I chose it as my games option over hockey, netball & lacrosse), I can’t say I was that brilliant at yoga then, especially knowing what yoga is like now, but I also didn’t have the internet like I have today to check out whether I was doing things right or not and to get inspiration.
That’s the thing: nowadays, social media is packed full of amazing yogis, Pinterest and Instagram especially. I can’t seem to go onto either without finding myself scrolling through endless pictures of perfect poses. But the awesome thing about this is that it leaves me positively craving more yoga. Many of the yogis on Instagram describe how they couldn’t touch their toes just a few years ago and now they’re doing standing splits and forearm balances, and many are also sharing progress pictures.
And that’s what I want to be able to do. I like the idea of “progress pictures” rather than “before” and “after” because I feel like, with yoga, there is no “after”, it’s “during”. You’re constantly able to make progress in yoga and it’s not a strict goal to complete – it’s about feeling strong, healthy and calm. I can feel the difference that yoga has made to my life already: it has me in a better head space, it’s got me in a routine of exercise that I love, and I’ve noticed how much more flexible and strong I’m becoming week by week.
And so I decided to take some pictures to show how my yoga is going, because I’ve got to look as awesome as the yoga gurus on Instagram by now, right? Wrong! I was a little bit disappointed when I asked Ben to take a picture of me in downward dog the first time. I wanted to see how close my heels were to the ground from a different perspective. But when I looked at the picture, it wasn’t my heels I saw – it was the fact that I looked like a wheel! My back wasn’t even nearly straight, my hips weren’t straight up in the air, my shoulders were so rounded. I was shocked!
But that started my googling – “how do I get my back straight in downward facing dog?”. It turned out that I’d been so focused on getting my legs straight and pushing my heels closer and closer to the floor, that I hadn’t realised that the pose wasn’t about that. I knew that all the videos told me not to worry about getting my heels on the ground, but I’d seemingly ignored the bit where they told me to focus on keeping my back straight, my shoulders rotating away from my ears, my chest sinking backwards.
Since we don’t have mirrors in our yoga practice space in the gym, I wasn’t seeing what I was doing wrong. You can sometimes feel super “yogic” while not realising that you don’t look anything like you’re supposed to do.
I also had no way to tell what progress I was making apart from what I could feel. Yes, I could definitely feel the difference when my fingers touched the floor in forward fold, then when my hands were flat on the floor, but I still couldn’t see that and what it really looked like. I’ve read how other yogis have thought they haven’t made progress at all until someone showed them pictures side by side and realised that it’s the smaller and more imperceptible things that make that difference.
So I decided I needed to start taking more pictures of myself while doing yoga, and videos too (although I’m not brave enough to share these yet!). They’re giving me the confidence already that I’m doing some things right in that I’m making progress. They’re giving me the confidence to realise that my body is strong enough to do this – that I can be one of those people that does these poses, it just takes work. And they’re allowing me to scrutinise myself more to see what parts of my poses need work – am I forgetting to keep my lower stomach pulled in during certain poses? Am I not lined up correctly when doing plank? Am I collapsing into certain poses?
I regretted not taking photos way back before I even started doing yoga because I know that I’ve already made so much progress since then, for example, this forward fold (which I know is far from perfect!) didn’t look anything like this in May – my finger tips were a good 6 inches away from the floor then! And I wonder now why I found it so difficult to reach the floor – that’s how far I’ve come! So I hope one day to look back on these photos and wonder why I found it so hard back then to get deeper and further into the poses. One day these will be the “earlier” photo in a set of progress pictures, I hope.