Yoga and the Media

In today’s modern word, it’s hard to avoid the impact of the media, especially the ‘social’ kind. Many industries have boomed with the rise of social media attention and yoga doesn’t seem to have escaped this growing trend. But, with such an ancient practice, how has modern day media ‘shaped’ the art of yoga and is it detrimental to the fundamentals of what it means to be a yogi?

It seems inevitable in a capitalist society, that nothing is exempt from commercialisation, including yoga. Falling under the ‘fitness’ banner in many western countries, yoga has become big business and with the rise of social media platforms, such as Instagram, yoga has been steadily growing in popularity. You don’t have to search for long to find vast numbers of yogi profiles from around the globe, proudly posting photos of pincha mayurasana against a pristine-white-beach backdrop, or another demoing a dynamic flow, wearing the latest stylish gear. The thriving yoga industry has led to the rise of the ‘celebrity yogi’ – a diverse group of accomplished practitioners, with a strong Instagram following. Many of these high profile yogis will openly share their own views about how social media has led us away from what it means to practice yoga, yet the irony is that the platform from which they post these views, isn’t able to truly capture all that yoga stands for.

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Practicing yoga asanas with an injury and how to modify

We’re taught in the YTT200 how to ensure correct alignment in postures to avoid injury, which is such a fundamental part of a safe and sustainable practice, but what about if you come to yoga with a pre-existing injury?

I tore my piriformis around 18 months ago – I was not fully warmed up, I was practicing in a cold room on a cold tile floor and I dropped down into hanumanasana on my right side, extended over my right leg into a forward fold and that’s when I heard it… RIP! The piriformis is a small muscle located deep in the buttock, underneath the Gluteus Maximus – it originates at the sacrum and inserts at the top of the femur. My glute was incredibly sore for several weeks and didn’t seem to be improving, I continued regular practice, determined not to let the injury stop me from progressing, despite the pain. Eventually, the isolated pain began to radiate down my leg towards the back of my knee and so I sought the advice of a physiotherapist.  The sciatic nerve passes directly behind, or in some people, through the piriforis and any trauma to the piriformis can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve, resulting in radiating pain or spasms. My original muscle injury had now led to compression of my sciatic nerve, making most standing asanas incredibly painful, in fact, it even hurt to sit down for any length of time.

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My yoga journey

 

On a random weekday afternoon about 8 years ago when I first started working, I received a call from a Yoga Centre telling me that a friend had referred me for a week of free trial classes at their centre. At that time, I thought ‘Yoga? Isn’t that for older people? Who referred me? How did you get my number? Is this truly free? What should I bring or wear?’ I was skeptical as it all sounded too good to be true and slightly “scammy”. However, in a moment of spontaneity, I decided to give it a shot. After the phone call, I roped in my cousin to come along with me to my first ever yoga class.

 

To be honest, my first experience with yoga was not great. We sauntered into the studio fashionably late (didn’t know punctuality and discipline were that important – we nearly weren’t allowed in!), struggled through the entire hour-long sequence (the poses sounded funnily foreign) and within 10 minutes, were panting like dogs and sweating buckets. The practice lasted for an eternity. I was sore for days after that, aching in places i never knew existed. But – it sure felt good! Yoga, to me, feels like a completely different workout from the usual swims or runs, because it also trains your mind to stay focused. Focus, or you forget which side you’re doing during sun salutations. Focus, or you fall when performing a balancing pose. Focus, or you forget to breathe into the pose. It all begins in the mind, and our mind controls the body.

 

I started to feel little changes in my daily life after practising yoga. I concentrated better at work, slept well at night, felt more confident about my own body …  the list goes on. More importantly, I find myself enjoying it! Yoga reminded me of my ballet days in primary school which had brought me so much joy and enjoyment. I had to stop ballet eventually after several years due to my flat feet, but the great thing about practising yoga is that it may even help you cope with certain medical conditions!

 

As I went for more classes. I began to feel more comfortable as I slowly understood the different names of the asanas without having to look to my left and right mat neighbours for guidance. I could see progress monthly, weekly and even on a daily basis. Gradually, my hands could touch my feet during forward bends. Gradually, I felt my feet getting lighter when I practised the crow pose. Gradually, I began to hold a headstand for longer each time. Each little milestone gleefully and enjoyably noted. Everyday, I learnt something new – from breathing techniques to correcting alignments in asanas. With practice, I learnt that you can get to every pose, slowly but surely. I have also learnt not to chase poses and let them come to you naturally, taking as much time as your body needs. It has been an amazing journey to discovering what my body is able to do – I even recently found out I’ve got hyperextended elbows! It also teaches you life skills – patience, perseverence, self-control and self-love. There is definitely more to yoga than the physical act of practising yoga poses.

 

Like the title of my post, yoga is a journey. “Practice, and all is coming.” – I will remind myself to enjoy the process and the benefits will come. Funnily enough, till this day, after practising yoga for so long, I still do not know who referred me all those years ago! I really want to thank whoever that person was – I would not have begun my lifelong journey with yoga if not for him/her.

Angela