1. Yoga challenges are a fun release & will deepen your yoga practice on your own terms:
Last year, I began participating in yoga challenges on Instagram. I started with a short one focused on meditative asanas (or postures). This allowed me to self reflect and slowly add longer, more rigorous challenges. Yoga challenges can be a one day thing (#HumpDayHearts is a Wednesday ongoing challenge), or last for a few days, a month, or even longer. You choose the challenges that fit your lifestyle and participate when you can. Many challenges will take place every month or every other month (the challenge #InspiredYogis in its 9th round is one example). They all vary depending on the theme or hosts.
2. To participate is about your self (winning or losing doesn’t matter):
As a trail runner, I’m usually focused on improvement, endurance, and the goal. For yoga, I did not expect to “win” a challenge, as that seemed like a paradox considering that yoga was the practice. Not a sport. Not a competitive game. Yoga is a practice that isn’t a practice session or composed of practice sessions designed for a performance in which one is judged or an opponent against someone else. I learned that getting into my breath and finding comfort was the “win.” I was moving my body beyond its comfort zone. Moreover, I did receive a prize for participating in challenges…several prizes and they kept coming from protein bars to custom yoga outfits. This was simply a surprise bonus. I also realized that hosts and sponsors don’t choose recipients for prizes based on how challenging a pose seems to be. To one person, a twist is difficult, while someone else struggles with arm balances. The hosts and sponsors simply choose based on inspiration, effort, and compassion.
Other challenges do not offer gifts or prizes. The point is personal growth and learning new ways of practicing an asana.
3. Yogis will give instructions & videos to help you (true teachers are encouraging & supportive):
Yoga challenges are another way of being physical, and the Instagram community of yogis are supportive, encouraging, and complimentary. Beyond that, they teach you how to practice by offering all kinds of variations, by discussing their personal growth from the beginning of their practice and by showing their fears are rooted in the body and its abilities. Participating in a challenge is sharing, giving, letting others in, and allowing a creative physical expression.
4. Yoga makes you face your fears and/or your pent-up emotions:
I’m regularly challenged to face fears, if I want, and for me that’s standing on my hands or trying pincha. Some of my IG friends have confessed their fears of backbends, specifically dropping back to catch yourself on your hands. Someone else was terrified of hurting her back in bakasana, or crow pose. I read a yogis emotional reaction to deep twists and how emotion erupted from him and he had no idea that he was even feeling emotional. He was anticipating a stretch, a workout, a practice of breathing and body alignment, but what he experienced was so much more. He realized his own mental block.
5. Yoga reveals any body-shame issues & allows you to create art with your body & your location:
I admire the way yogis laugh at themselves and their bodies–their butts in the air in downward facing dog and so many other asanas (try #OhthePlacesYoullCrow challenge for some Dr Suess-inspired fun) I laugh at myself trying to do a chinstand, and I’m just rolling around in the grass and eating weeds more than I am balanced on my chin.
I admire the way yogis find their niche of creative expression on Instagram. They create variations in not only the asanas and the approach to them, but also the way they take and edit the photos. The lines, the twists, the shadows and light on the human body in a place of balance, attunement to the asana and breath, going beyond to consider the space where the person is practicing yoga–all of that changes with each person’s different expression of the asana. The photos show yogis blending into landscapes, interrupting them, colliding with our own constructions in expressions of being and transformation at the same time. People becoming trees. Flying in an acroyoga bird in front of the sea. Reaching those toes out over the open space of a canyon, and perching like a bird with talons anchored into a rock, a bench, a mountain’s face. #WanderlustYourCity is a challenge that allows you to highlight the places that you love in your city and share those places with other yogis all over the world.
6. Combining art forms:
Already a basic yoga challenge asks you to combine yoga with photography to create an image. Beyond that, yoga challenges like #ArtMusicYogaLove offer musical inspiration for artistic yoga creations. You choose your own asanas and how you interpret the songs given by the hosts.
7. Yoga in relationships & friendships:
While the practice is personal, yoga is a gift to be shared. Experiencing it with others is joy. The challenges have encouraged me to practice yoga in public with family and friends with whom I’ve never practiced yoga.
The challenge #Twinnings has connected yogis who’ve never met in person but who wanted to create yoga art together and encourage one another.
8. Spiritual depth:
No matter what your religion or spiritual practice, if you want more depth and a place to discuss ideas, you can find that in the challenges as well. Many yogis discuss deepening their meditative practice or their core spiritual beliefs, and provide instructions on what has worked for them. These beliefs do not have to be Hindu, Buddhist, or Taoist. Instagram yogis have a variety of spiritual beliefs & practices. #MoreThanAsana is such a perfect challenge to experience spiritual depth, whether you share your journey on Instagram or use it in your practice privately.
9. Surprise yourself with progress:
Before you know what happened, you’ll be reaching your toes and flipping your grip, getting deeper and flying higher, if you allow yourself a daily practice with the IG Yoga Community. Yogis like to say “practice and all is coming,” and I know what they mean because I see the evidence in my life. Yoga benefits the body in so many ways. Many yogis share how an asana improves the body and the benefits of practicing a particular posture. For example, how inversions can aid in chronic headaches and mild depression, to name a few of the benefits.
10. Desire to give back to others:
I wanted so badly to participate in the challenges as a sponsor from the beginning, but I was timid about sharing my products. I’m not a yoga teacher, though I have been aware and had a practice for decades. Last year, I couldn’t imagine how yoga challenges would lead me to participate as a sponsor in the challenges and mail out my organic yoga-inspired t-shirts to yogis across the world, but that’s where my journey is now. I’m one of the sponsors (IG account: @shana_trailbalance) for #SummerofRenewal
The challenge is happening now on Instagram. Join some wonderful hosts and discover more about your body-mind connection. Have a good time creating art with your body and surroundings.