The Instagram Rabbit Hole

Last year, in June, I organized a yoga challenge for academics (see details here). It grew from a yoga challenge I’d had with two friends for a few years running each June. This year, I was traveling and didn’t get myself together in time to arrange a challenge for June so I decided to do one of the ubiquitous Instagram yoga challenges. I chose one run by Carmen Aguilar of The Lab, a studio in Chicago. It’s called the #hipsummerhip challenge and focuses on deep hip opening. I can always use some hip opening (though you’ll see that the second half of the challenge is cray!).

I am hoping to write up some reflections on the challenge once I am done. This post is more thoughts on Instagram itself and some suggestions on who to follow if you’re interested. I am intimidated yet fascinated by the yoga/Instagram phenomenon. Last year this time I didn’t even know what it was and now I am posting daily. At least, I am this month. The pictures to be found here simultaneously challenge and support my faith in humanity. Yes, the level of narcissism is higher than I want to imagine is real (and just when I think I have a handle on this and accept it, some instagrammer pushes beyond that limit of my imagination). But, the sheer creativity and courage to be found on this social platform redeems it as a viable medium for me. Also, it’s part of my new research project, so some of this really is research. Really.

Ok, so the yoga part isn’t so much part of the research. But it’s hard to look away. And in watching those I follow, I found that the challenges inspired yogis to practice regularly, if only to be able to post a picture on time. Granted, one can spend the time allotted to practice looking at pictures of other people practicing, but that’s fodder another post.

If you are already on Instagram and looking for new folks to follow, or if you just want to watch from the web sidelines and want links, here are a few suggestions, completely based on my tastes, but with some annotation to indicate what those tastes are. And if you want to see the full, quite varied list of folks I follow, feel free to visit my account, which is currently open though I am always reconsidering that: @kbjosephs.

I started with friends on Instagram at first, not knowing how the whole thing worked. My main encouragement to join was Bernadette Pacana (@babyburnzyoga) who was part of my 500-hour yoga teacher training (that’s her flying in this pic). I love her feed because she teaches in Cebu, Philippines and it gives me a vision of yoga outside the US. Plus, I know her!

I also follow Josie Schweitzer (@thankyoga) another fellow 500-hour trainee who owns a studio in Columbus. She doesn’t post her practice as much at the moment, but her posted quotes and commentary are more than worth pondering.

Following some of these friends led me to Kerri Verna (@beachyogagirl). She’s like a gateway drug for instayogagramming. There are handstands galore, most of them on a beach, and videos peppered throughout. She easily mixes marketing with moments of honesty about her practice, her past and her present joys and struggles. Along with Kino MacGregor (@kinoyoga) she runs uber-popular monthly challenges sponsored by ALO Yoga gear. I don’t follow Kino, because she is too far beyond my conception of what I can do with my body, but Kerri makes most things look one-day possible.

Kerri and Kino are part of the yoga celebrity crew and I follow a few of these as well, though their accounts may not focus only on yoga. There’s Kathryn Budig (@kathrynbudig) who is just plain fun, mixing food, fashion, yoga and pets.

There’s Shauna Harrison (@shauna_harrison) who, like Budig, is an Under Armour spokesperson; she runs #SweatADay challenges regularly and is more of an all-round fitness expert that has a deep love for yoga. Her sense of humor brightens my feed.

Following the ALO Yoga link from many of the challenges, I landed on Koya Webb’s feed (@koyawebb), In a method similar to Verna, Webb mixes heartfelt messages about life in general with self-promotion and yoga instruction. She embraces acrovinyasa and so a good portion of her pics are of partner poses – difficult to do, but this moves it all closer to art territory and reduces the feel of self-absorption one gets from so many yoga shots. Also, she’s a yogi of color, and if you’ve been reading this blog, you know this type of representation is important to me.

I’m also always happy to see Chelsea Jackson Roberts (@chelsealovesyoga) in my feed. Her efforts to use yoga as a vehicle for communal empowerment, particularly for young girls, is one of those “redeeming” qualities of Instagram that I mentioned above.

Which brings me to some Instagram accounts that are anthologies rather than individuals. In particular, I follow those accounts that cover the variety of color, size, and geography of yoga practitioners. Accounts like Yogis of All Colors (@colorsofyoga), Yoga of Color (@yogaofcolor), and BlackGirlYoga (@blackgirlyoga) remind me that so many people come to this practice, from so many places, for so many reasons.

Ok, that’s enough suggestions for now. Enjoy the IG rabbit hole!

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