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Is Social Media Wrecking Your Body Image?

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You’re not alone. Here’s how to use your yoga practice to feel better in your body right now.

Yoga is all about self-acceptance. Social media … is not. Here’s a simple way to use your practice to feel better about your body, even in this digital world

We live in a world highly conscious of the presence of social media as a force for human interaction and connection. Social media taps into our basic human instinct to belong to the “tribe,” which is a major reason why our favorite platforms maintain such a prominent role in our lives. With every scroll through our newsfeed, we subconsciously seek to satisfy a deep and primal desire to belong.

Yet here’s the catch: Our personal tribes on social media are significantly more expansive and far-reaching than our tribes of old. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow us to bond with friends and family all over the world. In the mere space of a post we watch babies grow up, teens go off to college, couples get married and divorced, and every life event in between. We follow what people eat, what they wear, when they go to yoga class, and how many miles they ran. From the most mundane to the most significant events, we are privy to others’ lives in intimate ways.

See also A Practice to Help You Break Up with Your Bad Body Image Once and for All

Not only does social media offer that comforting sense of “these are my people,” but it also encourages us to make new friends and access other tribes or social groups. As we accumulate more friends that intersect with tribes removed from our personal one, our sense of belonging expands. Plus, beyond interacting with friends, we can join closed groups, create communities that support a cause, and network as professionals. We have instant access to current events and an outlet to voice our opinions. We can like and be liked—loved even. Every post is an opportunity to bond with our tribe, and every like, comment, share, and retweet reinforces our survival instinct to belong.

The line between satisfying our survival instinct and seeking external validation can sometimes blur in our relationship with social media. Let’s face it, the constant stream of images can trigger comparison, jealousy, sadness, shame, and discontent with who we are and what we look like. Filters and other image-enhancing tools have upped the game when it comes to presenting ourselves to the world as picture-perfect, which can leave us feeling pressured to constantly look ready for an image worthy of posting.

Want to form a healthier relationship with social media?

For yoga practitioners, social media represents a rich opportunity to practice the Svadhyaya, the fourth niyama in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Svadhyaya literally means “one’s own reading” or “selfstudy” and is the practice of observing our behaviors, actions, reactions, thoughts, patterns, habits, and emotions with the intention of gaining wisdom about how to reduce suffering and become more empowered in our lives.

See also Feeling Stuck? Try Self-Inquiry for Resistance

When it comes to using social media, you can empower yourself by paying attention (practicing self-study) to which aspects of social media influence your relationship with your body in both positive, negative, and neutral ways.

To get a baseline for how your relationship with social media affects your body image and self-worth, take a few minutes to reflect on these questions:

  1. How does your basic human desire to be loved influence how you use and engage with social media?
  2. How do you feel about yourself when you use and engage with social media?
  3. What words do you say to yourself about yourself and the people you observe on social media?

The answer to this last question is especially important to study, as your inner dialogue holds tremendous power over your self-esteem, body image, and mood.

See also 5 Ways You Can Use Your Yoga Practice to Improve Your Body Image

In the spirit of yoga, remember to observe your answers to these questions without judgement. Consider what this short self-study exercise revealed. If you bumped up against disempowering thoughts, notice them, breathe, and offer yourself compassion. Commit to one small shift you can make in how you use social media. For example, you might limit your exposure, unfollow triggering people and hashtags, or repeat mantra or affirmation to call on in response to negative self-talk that shows up when you use social media.

Learn how to develop a positive relationship with social media.

A practice for a healthy relationship with social media

Balance the images you feed your eyes and mind with this body mindful yoga practice. As you do it, practice self-study and notice how your self-talk and general vibe compares with these visuals versus social media:

View paintings, drawings, statues, and other pieces of artwork that inspire positive feelings. Notice the colors, textures, and other fine details that capture your attention. What unique qualities do you appreciate about these artistic pieces? If a work of art is especially pleasing to your eye, consider using it as a point of meditation. Gaze at it first thing in the morning for an allotted period of time as you recite a mantra, affirmation, or prayer.

Use this practice often to balance out social media use and bring yourself back to center if you feel “off” after a breeze through your newsfeed. You can also choose to focus on nature or other non-screen entities that bring you a sense of focus, calm, and appreciation.

Call on the practice of self-study often to enlighten you to the empowering aspects of social media in your life as well as recognize patterns in your social media use that are disempowering. When used in the true spirit of connection, social media is a wonderful tool to nurture our natural need for a sense of belonging. It connects us to our primal and collective human need to belong. What was once the tribe or village is now an online format of like-minded friends.

See also Practice Svadhyaya (Self-Study) On the Mat

Adapted from the book, Body Mindful Yoga, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas and Robert Butera. Reprinted with permission from Llewellyn Worldwide.

Body Mindful Yoga, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas and Robert Butera

About the Authors
Robert Butera, MDiv, PhD, founded YogaLife Institute in Pennsylvania, where he trains yoga teachers and Comprehensive Yoga Therapists. Robert’s PhD at CA Institute of Integral Studies focused on Yoga Therapy. He authored The Pure Heart of Yoga, Meditation for Your Life, Yoga Therapy for Stress & Anxiety, and Body Mindful Yoga. Visit him at www.YogaLifeInstitute.com.

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is a certified yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. She is an inspirational speaker and author of Body Mindful Yoga: Create a Powerful and Affirming Relationship With Your Body (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). Jennifer provides yoga therapy via online and in person at YogaLife Institute in Wayne, PA, and leads yoga therapy groups at Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia. She teaches workshops, retreats, and specialized trainings for clinicians, professionals, and yoga teachers. Jennifer is a partner with the Yoga & Body Image Coalition and writes for Yoga Journal and other influential blogs. She has appeared on Fox29 news and has been featured in the Huffington Post, Real Woman Magazine, Medill Reports Chicago, Philly.com, and the ED Matters Podcast. Connect with Jennifer: www.Yoga4EatingDisorders.com

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Ayurveda

Need to Improve Digestion? Add This Ayurvedic Principle to Your Meal Prep

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Set the stage for stronger digestive fire with this essential kitchen practice.

Craving change but feeling too stuck, sluggish, or restless to take aim? Join John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com, and Larissa Hall Carlson, Ayurveda Yoga Specialist, for Ayurveda 201: Six Weeks to Transformation and Bliss Through Ayurvedic Psychology. In this new online course, you’ll experience: unique yoga practices; inspiring discussions backed by science; and recipes, herbs, and a short, gentle cleanse. The results? Clarity, brilliance, and balance so you can create lasting shifts in your life and well-being. Learn more and sign up today!

According to Ayurveda, there’s more to optimal digestion than eating for your dosha (constitution) and planning sattvic (pure, balanced) meals. In fact, it starts before you take your first bite. Here, Larissa Hall Carlson, who co-teaches our upcoming course, Ayurveda 201, with John Douillard, reveals the ideal way to prepare your meal.

Watch also Relieve Tension with a Daily Ayurvedic Head Massage

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Fashion & Beauty

The Four Best Shopping Apps Every Yogi Should Use From Now On

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Here’s how the yamas and niyamas play into how we shop, plus the best apps to help you buy the most conscious goods.

Learn how to shop for clothes using the principles of the yamas and niyamas. 

How do we navigate the modern world while striving to practice our yogic principles? The asana, or movement part, no sweat. Many of us have that down. The yamas (ethical observances) and the niyamas (lifestyle practices), on the other hand, can be a bit elusive, especially with so many choices for consumption. How can we practice more deeply these two essential limbs of yoga in our interconnected and entangled world?

It can become overwhelming to attempt to buy things that are in alignment with our core yogic principles, particularly when we start to consider how our purchases effect the environment, labor conditions, animal rights, the political sphere and more. I wish it was as simple as just buying that t-shirt, soap, chocolate, or pair of yoga pants. Unfortunately, it’s not. We are global citizens—whether we like it or not—and can choose with awareness or turn a blind eye.

See also 6 Best Apps For Yoga and Meditation

So, how do we become empowered consumers without being overwhelmed by all the effects our choices? Must we research everything we buy? This could take hours and we might not get anywhere. For many of us, buying things can be a bit of a process, and many times with great sacrifice.

Choosing brands that are aligned with your beliefs are important. 

How the Yamas and Niyamas Play Into Our Consumerism

Let’s take a look at how the yamas and niyamas are woven in and out of our consumer lives:

Ahimsa: Nonviolence. 

Ah, yes. Were any animals harmed in the making of this product? What about the environment impact? Were things made in a clean way? Is it made with toxic ingredients?

Satya: Truthfulness. 

How do we engage more fully with our truth? How can we step deeper into the awareness of ourselves, our planet and our values? It can be easy to talk truth, but living it is hard because there is so much hidden behind the veil.

See also There’s An App for That

Asteya: Non-stealing. 

In many ways this is an easy one. Don’t take what’s not mine without paying for it. Got it. Well, sometimes without even knowing it, our purchases can take from other people’s well-being, the Earth’s natural resources and the health of our bodies.

Brahmacharya: Moderation. 

Another tough one considering there are so many cool things out there. I certainly feel the dopamine rush after a buy. Does it really make me feel better? Do I really need another…?

Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness. 

By considering deeply how my stuff affects me and others, I have become pickier and a bit more minimal. Fewer things that mean more make me feel great. Now, what can I donate?

See also This App Can Help You Keep New Year’s Resolutions

Suacha: Purity. 

So many things that we put into or on our bodies can be loaded with toxins. Which ones do we buy? How do we know if this lotion is toxic, this detergent has chemicals or if these bed sheets are synthetic?

Tapas: Discipline. 

If we really want to pursue this heat generating niyama, we may need to buckle down and get serious; becoming informed takes diligence. Changing when things don’t match up can be even tougher, especially when it is a brand we love. We are disciples to our things and it can be challenging to live by our yogic principles.

Svadhyaya: Self-Study. 

By checking out our stuff we can learn about ourselves, what we stand for, and how we are practicing our beliefs. It can be as simple as opening the closet to get a closer look at what’s going on internally. Our external environment is a reflection of our inner landscape.

See also Yoga Journal Mobile Apps

Isvara Pranidhana: Connection to Spirit. 

By slowing down and centering we can sink deeply into what is meaningful and how to manifest it. This means deciding what has value and then expressing it. What is our authentic expression of spirit? How do we act accordingly?

These principles are a lot to consider, especially since we have so many options. Lucky for us, we can arm ourselves with the power of technology to make fast choices by quickly scanning or searching.

The following four smart phone applications can help you navigate the consumer landscape and live as an authentic, enthusiastic yogi. I’ve found they help bolster and support the contentment (santosha) in my life, too.

See also 10 Inspiring Instagram Quotes We Couldn’t Wait to Re-Post This Week

Test out these conscious apps for your next shopping spree. 

4 Best Shopping Apps for Yogis

1. Buycott

“Vote With Your Wallet” is their tagline. Our monetary choices support companies, which may or may not have our values in mind. Certain companies that we may love could have very different political or environmental practices. Giving them money supports their agenda, not necessarily ours. This app allows us to choose which campaigns we support (and which we don’t) and then see how our products match up. Animal testing, social justice, environmental sensitivity and political agendas are just a few of the app’s categories.

Download here. 

2. Good On You

I’ve been a bit “cranky pants” about yoga pants lately. I do like the way they feel, look, and perform—but I’m not so keen on some of the byproducts of the gear. This app has helped me align my values with not only yoga clothing, but clothing in general. I can see how my attire impacts the environment, labor conditions, and animal rights.

Download here. 

3. Healthy Living

This app is developed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Their mission: “to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.” At one time this app was known as Skindeep and focused solely on cosmetics. Now, it is wider in scope, showing us how what we put on or in our bodies can impact our health. It evaluates the toxic load for each of the ingredients and is thorough and empowering.

Download here. 

4. Think Dirty

Think Dirty does the thinking for us by quickly showing the toxic load for everything from toothpaste to eyeliner, baby products to shampoo, cosmetics to laundry detergent. Purity for our bodies doesn’t always mean cleansing; it could simply mean not covering ourselves with toxic ingredients.  

Download here. 

About our author

Julian DeVoe is a founding member of the Yoga Collective Nosara, a wellness educator, and author of Robust Vitality and Insights Out. Learn more at juliandevoe.com.

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Balance

Ariana Grande's Former Violist is a Total Yogi Badass

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From Coachella to standard summer vacays, this musician uses yoga to stay rooted, balanced, and calm on the road.

Late last July, a small group of yoga practitioners roamed the bustling hallways of Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center looking for a vacant room adequate for a quick asana practice. It was Friday after lunch, and the indoor arena was swarming with crew members feverishly unpacking, assembling, and rigging lighting and sound equipment for the night’s show. In a few hours, nearly 20,000 more people would flood the venue. But for the moment, these musicians just needed to find some peace and quiet.

By 8 p.m., this group of women—Kiara Ana Perico, Desiree Hazley, and Leah Metzler, known to fans as the Wicked Strings—would swap their mats for musical instruments and take the stage as accompaniment for rock band Panic! at the Disco. For the past seven months, the three classically-trained musicians have been accompanying Panic!, led by frontman Brendon Urie, across the country (58 cities with a quick midway stint in the U.K. and Australia) on the Pray For The Wicked tour. But between all-night bus rides, triple-stacked bunk beds, constant time-zone shifts, endless soundchecks, and hectic behind-the-scenes races to hit their stage marks, Kiara Ana Perico, the group’s co-founder and resident violist, has taken it upon herself to guide her tour mates in mindful movement—even when that means taking up residence for an hour in the box of an empty 16-wheeler.

On this particular July day in Philadelphia, the trio had been looking for a room to practice yoga in when they passed by a loading dock populated by a bunch of empty trucks. Along with a crew member and a tour friend, Kala MacDonald (wife of Panic!’s road manager, Zack Hall), the Wicked Strings piled into the back of a big rig and rolled out their mats. Perico lit a candle and some Palo Santo and invited the others to join her on their backs. She moved the group through supine leg stretches, Cat-Cows, hip openers, forward folds, and balancing poses, culminating in a juicy semi-trailer Savasana—the final bit of uninterrupted tranquility before an explosive two-hour stage performance.

See also This is the Reason I Take the Subway 45 Minutes Uptown to Work Out—Even Though There’s a Gym On My Block

Kiara Ana Perico teaches yoga to her bandmates while touring with big acts such as Panic! at the Disco and Ariana Grande.

Truck yoga—troga, as Perico’s dubbed it—has become somewhat of a tour staple. Having spent the past five years criss-crossing the globe as a violist for major acts including Adele, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, David Foster, and now Panic!, the RYT-200 teacher and longtime student is accustomed to keeping an adaptable practice. “It’s a daily adventure and exercise in flexibility—pun intended,” she says. On this tour alone, she’s practiced asana on stairway landings, in the lounge of the tour bus, in her dressing room, in hallways, and hotel rooms.

See also  How Rosie Acosta Says Yoga Transformed Her Life

“It’s inspiring to see how disciplined Kiara is while we’re on the road,” says tourmate, Wicked Strings cellist Leah Metzler. “She’s definitely been a positive influence in my life here: Touring can be exhausting, and it would be much easier to mentally check out and watch Netflix, but she knows how much better we’ll feel after doing yoga.” Desiree Hazley, the Wicked Strings’ violinist, also credits yoga flows with improving mental and physical health through the hectic tour commitments: “When we practice, you can feel an uplifting shift toward calm and focus before our shows.”

Research suggests that for touring musicians, yoga is more than just a welcome moment of tranquility. Performers like Perico are at risk for a number of psychological and physical problems such as anxiety and performance-related musculoskeletal issues. String players specifically have been shown to develop work-related orthopedic disorders such as overuse syndrome and compressive neuropathy (think carpal tunnel syndrome) due to the necessary imbalance in posture.

To that effect, Kristen Queen, Interim Director of the School of Music at Texas Christian University and RYT-200 instructor looks to resources like Mia Olson’s Musician’s Yoga: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Inspiration to guide her Yoga for Musicians college course, a twice-weekly class that integrates breath and alignment to reduce stress on muscles and joints and help students bring awareness to form and function. “Practicing yoga bolsters balance within the body, supports full range of motion in the joints, strengthens the core to support the lower back, and generally helps us be mindful of our bodies when approaching our instruments,” she says.

“Many musicians play asymmetrical instruments, and their bodies adapt to that load in positive and negative ways,” says Seattle-based movement educator and professional classical musician, Kayleigh Miller. “Asana can reveal problems with asymmetry and provide tools to strengthen and mobilize imbalanced areas while enhancing awareness and understanding of the body. Most classical musicians deal with rigorous rehearsal, audition, and performance schedules, and down-regulating the nervous system through breath and mindful movements is essential for maintaining focus and clarity under pressure.”

The Wicked Strings on tour with Panic! at the Disco.

See also  14 Must-Pack Items for Your Summer Yoga Festival

I met Perico at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center arena one uncharacteristically bright and crisp February day, where the Panic! troupe had just rolled in after an all-night drive from an Austin show. It was the second leg of Panic!’s U.S. tour, and temperatures had dipped significantly since the tour kicked off, to say the least. In fact, New Orleans was one of the first cities Perico had seen in the past six weeks that hadn’t been rocked by a frigid “snowpocalypse.” But as a world-traveled performer, Perico is resilient—even in extreme conditions—and unwaveringly committed to her yoga practice.

With post-show bedtimes well after midnight, Perico typically salutes the sun around noon. She does a few morning stretches in her top bunk on the third level of the tour bus, hops down, and if her nine bus mates have already left for the venue, she sets up her mat in “the living room”—a deceptively spacious-sounding term for the compact front of the bus that can be extended by a few feet when parked. Since sleeping in the bunk can be especially crampy for her sides and lower back, side extensions, hip flexor stretches, and lower back massages are a must, she says.

The day we meet in New Orleans, Perico tells me she only had time for a 30-minute flow before greeting me at the venue. We stop for a snack on the bus and then head backstage. “Welcome to the venue!” she says, gesturing toward the mounting commotion as nearly a hundred crew members scurry about, incepting an arena-sized spectacle out of thin air. We head straight to her dressing room, and as Perico repacks her suitcase, I wonder how bandmates Hazley and Metzler will possibly fit into the tiny room with us when they return from souvenir shopping.

Finding zen backstage with Panic! frontman Brandon Urie and the Wicked Strings.

Once the women return, we’re off to a quick soundcheck with Panic!’s other band members before an early dinner where we split vegan beignets (doughy and warm and way more delicious than they may sound) and then dash back to the venue. Because barricades and metal detectors are already set up and Panic! fans are swarming the arena, our driver drops us off at the front entrance. We navigate around giddy groups donning t-shirts of frontman Urie’s face, and race to the backstage entrance. No one notices us—in fact, none of the soon-to-be-shrieking fans even seem to realize they’ll be cheering and singing along to my companions in just under two hours.

See also Yoga Poses for Traveling

Growing up, mindfulness was a constant in the Perico household. Her father meditated for four hours each morning, prompting Perico to establish a regular yoga practice while studying viola performance at Boston University. Tendonitis from misaligned posturing throughout high school and the inevitable imbalance of playing an instrument exclusively on one side meant the young artist had to take extra precautions in college, she says. Knowing long-term injury had the potential to derail her burgeoning career, Perico took to serious self-care. Acupuncture, massages, physical therapy, and yoga “helped me focus my mind, move my body, and return to safe alignment,” she says. Between four-hour viola sessions, Perico stretched and inverted her way toward better circulation in her upper body and strength in her wrists and shoulders.

“Playing music at an elite level requires sophisticated functioning of the physical and psychological systems of the body,” says Bronwen Ackermann, PhD, a musicians’ physiotherapist, musculoskeletal anatomist, and health researcher at Sydney Medical School. Ackermann has worked on numerous studies that demonstrate the injury prevention benefits of physical activities such as yoga for musicians. One such study, a 2012 article published in the BMJ journal, Injury Prevention, found that strengthening and stabilizing areas of the body such as the neck, shoulders, spine, abdominals, and hips may reduces occupational injuries in professional orchestral musicians.

Perico uses yoga on tour to avoid injury and keep focused.

As yoga gradually helped Perico relearn healthier posturing to protect from future damage, the practice also unleashed undeniable psychological and spiritual repercussions. She says her practice is what has supported and sustained her through the past decade’s extreme highs (playing sold-out arenas) and devastating lows (unexpectedly losing her father last year). “I really had to work on finding a sense of home within myself,” she says. “I think once I figured that out, I was more prone to being at peace in my everyday life.”

See also  How to Travel the World Teaching Yoga

Perico moved to Los Angeles in 2012 to try and make it big in an infamously unforgiving industry. Almost immediately, the hustle and constantly in-the-car culture began to take its toll. “I felt terrible,” she says. Once again, yoga helped her find her way. “I started practicing every morning at Runyon Canyon park in the middle of LA,” she says. “That really pulled me into grounding, and I immediately started meeting really beautiful, like-minded, soulful people.”

Once she laid down roots, her career soared, starting with an overseas opportunity that led to one international tour after another. “Producers who told me it takes a few years to get settled in LA were totally right,” she says. In 2012, she met Hazley, Metzler, and violinist Molly Rogers when they accompanied Japanese rock star, Yoshiki, on an international tour. The foursome went on to form the orchestral-pop troupe Orchid Quartet, performing alongside recording artists like Morgxn (Rogers has been working on other projects while the others perform as The Wicked Strings, but they reunite as their schedules allow). In 2015, Perico accompanied Ariana Grande on the Honeymoon Tour, and in 2016, Adele came calling. Through all of it, Perico kept a strong yoga practice, building on it and thinking about yoga teacher training. In October 2017, just before the Panic! tour kicked off in July, 2018 Perico completed her 200-hour certification at YogaWorks in Santa Monica, CA. Today, when she’s not touring with some of the industry’s biggest acts, she teaches studio and private classes in Southern California.

After Panic! wraps its European tour, Perico will head to Bali to complete her RYT-500 training and hopes to one day offer workshops to fellow musicians—she knows firsthand how much havoc the postures of professional playing can wreak. Right now, it’s hard to imagine when she’ll find time to add “workshop leader” to her list of credentials, but for now, she’ll continue prioritizing her practice — even if it’s a little hard to predict where her journey will take her or how much time she’ll have to herself along the way. “Meditation, yoga, and the cultivation of inner peace are absolutely the reasons I’m not spinning out all the time from the chaos around me,” she says. “Of course I get homesick, feel lost, lose my sense of grounding but the ability to reign it all back into reality and my inner sense of home has made all the difference.”

Photos by Lenore Seal.

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