In an era where social media is king, challenges have become synonymous with yoga, fitness, diets, and so much more. For the most part, I have never really given much thought to challenges, in any field. In fact, from the very beginning, I struggled with the idea of challenges-especially if the challenge was towards a specific Asana (or posture.)
Yoga Challenges that Challenge Common Sense
I was traveling recently and stumbled across a sorta old news article about a young woman in Mexico that fell from the 6th story apartment filming herself doing a difficult asana. She had been filming herself for social media, fell (all on camera) and she ended up breaking over 100 bones in her body. I had been scrolling through social media looking at images that ranged from children, dinner, pets and then crazy yoga postures. The next thing I saw was this article, and it actually made me really really mad.
I take it personally when yoga is given a bad reputation because it has quite literally transformed my life for the better.
It’s not that I don’t love working towards a specific goal, in fact, I am probably a bit too goal oriented for my own good. The trouble I have with challenges, yoga specifically, is the focus on poses that typically should require years of practice (on and off the mat). However, the novice on social media sees a new picture that looks glamorous, spends about 2.5 seconds skimming the 1-2 paragraphs and decides to go practice that pose.
As a yoga teacher both in person and online, I am hyper aware of the many (MANY) things we as humans think we can do vs what we actually CAN do.
(I’m speaking for myself here.)
The thing is, any yoga challenge that tells you that you can (or should) do something that requires balance, coordination, something dangerous, etc- the common sense we are all born with may go out the window when zeal, stupidity or who knows what gets in the way of accomplishing that new goal.
The Importance of Practicing Under a Teacher
When you practice at home, which I know a LOT of people have to do because of time and budgetary constraints, it’s really hard to know if what you’re practicing is “correct” or “safe.” When you add the danger of a home practice without a teacher with the zeal of trying to win something, and the desire to try to learn something new, it can definitely end with a result that is catastrophic for the persons in the challenge.
Granted, this isn’t necessarily the truth for ALL challenges and for all people, but a disturbing trend I noticed was that the poses in challenges seem to be less and less–realistic, and more and more –circus like. Trying to perform postures that were meant for experienced practitioners can lead to some pretty bad outcomes, like 110 broken bones.
Even though I am a yoga teacher and studio owner, I still have my own yoga teacher, and I still go to and seek guidance from him (and others) to make sure I am on the right track. That’s because yoga is like golf, You are NEVER gonna beat it. If you think a few months of online yoga poses and 2 paragraphs will replace the years of time and energy exchanged between teacher and student, then it is only a matter of time before something you may not like happens.
That’s because a yoga teacher is going to have experience looking at and working with bodies. That same teacher will probably have an eye for you and your body, is gonna know your nature and experience, and he/she can help you modify or determine the drills to best help you strengthen or open the appropriate body parts.
In the wild, you don’t see animals doing crazy acrobatics for the fun. Sure, monkeys may sway from tree limb to tree limb, but typically, these unusual stances are precursors to some pretty foul behaviors.
I am super excited to see folks find yoga. If you were one of the people that found yoga because of a picture online, that’s AWESOME! I want to encourage you today to find a studio nearby with a teacher that has experience. Submit yourself to that teacher as much as you possibly can, and watch your practice blossom. I promise the outcome will be far more beautiful than a skunk standing on its hands.
If you are not near a qualified yoga instructor, but you’re still interested in getting quality training, find a studio (just like Thrive!) that can offer virtual live training sessions. You can get private and group sessions that live and in front of the camera so you can be seen by your teacher and watched for safety, enhancements, modifications and more. Depending on your budget, you can still get the personalized attention you need to help keep you safe, and growing towards your yoga, wellness, and fitness goals. It’s not a 7 day challenge that will leave you high and dry. It’s a commitment to you and your growth on and off the mat.