The Instagram Challenge Phenomenon

This title sounds like an episode of Big Bang Theory. It’s actually quite befitting as I feel pretty much the same about this sitcom as I do about Instagram challenges; it’s funny and entertaining on one hand, and it’s silly and annoying on the other hand. And yet, I did just participate in another “IG” challenge.

In the case you are not familiar with the concept of an IG-challenge, this is what it comes down to: a “host”, which is usually a yoga teacher or yoga brand with many IG “followers”, announces a challenge that you can join by “following” them and their sponsor. Subsequently you post a picture with a certain theme every day. There is always a certain hash tag associated with the challenge, to be used when posting your picture, so the posted picture appears in the list of pictures other fellow IG challengees have posted. Are you still following…?

Most IG-challenges are about posting a look-at-me-in-a-challenging-yoga-pose picture. I go back and forth between liking and disliking these kinds of pictures. I can see people being inspired and motivated by looking at yogis in unusual shapes and positions in a stunning background. I equally feel these unreal pictures (pun intended – many of the IG yoga pictures that receive a lot of “likes” are staged, taken by professional photographers, and are not taken the day they are posted) can lead to discouragement and a false idea of what yoga is about. What if you are not beautiful and flexible, nor have the luxury of living in a place where you can always practice outside? Isn’t yoga about finding peace inside, rather than what your postures look like?

The challenge at hand – with the hash tag “WakeUpAndYoga” – was only 6 days long,. I decided to join because the challenge felt kind and real. “… It’s about being and sharing the most authentic version of yourself, and when you succeed in that, you’ve already won”, wrote one of the hosts. I was intrigued and curious what themes would be “assigned”. I’m all about authenticity. So as I was standing in my kitchen reading this post by @MacKenzieYoga, I committed to WakeUpandYoga for the week. (Which I do regardless, but you get the point.)

Day 1 challenge: When you wake up, write down a positive mantra that you will carry with you through the week, and take a picture of it.

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“My desires are fulfilled from my True Self”. I chose this mantra – received from Deepak Chopra – as a reminder to relax. I don’t have to do so much, think so much, work so hard, in order to share my gifts with the world. My passion and life’s mission is to inspire people to find their True Self. I can only lead by example. The more I soften, the more I am my authentic self; the more I allow others to do the same. I just let go. From that space I taught my classes this week. I wasn’t looking for results, but the funny thing is that I received several emails from students, telling me how much my classes inspire them…

Day 2 challenge: Bed Asana. Take a picture of yourself doing yoga in bed.

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I woke up not feeling rested. I usually like to get up early to meditate, but I couldn’t get out of bed. I remembered today’s challenge and decided to take a little extra time to snuggle under the blankets. I swung my legs up the wall and lay there for a little bit. And then came the fun part: I needed to take a picture of myself. This was actually pretty hard. The nightstand wasn’t at the right height to put my phone on for a self-timer selfie, so I had to take a hand-held one. As was suggested in the assignment I tried to get my messy hair in the picture, and my legs, but it didn’t fit! My arms weren’t long enough. It became really funny and resulted in pictures not fit for sharing. I ended up with the picture above. Whether it is a good one or not, I had a fun start of the day!

Day 3 challenge: Mindful breakfast.

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My usual morning routine is: get up, pee, scrape tongue (highly recommended, it helps to stay healthy!), brush teeth, get dressed, meditate, do yoga practice/teach yoga class/take Pure Barre class, and then eat breakfast. Since it’s not bad to change things up a little now and then – in this case inspired by this challenge – today I turned my breakfast into my meditation. For whatever reason I normally eat rather quickly. It must mean something, but I still haven’t figured out why I do that. I know it’s better to eat slowly, and it’s also more sociable when I’m eating with other people, but I still do it. Anyways, this was my chance: chew every bite at least 15 times. I did. With my eyes closed. Breakfast took forever, or at least that’s what it felt like. My belly felt happy though, and it seemed I lasted longer before getting hungry again. I think I am going to incorporate mindful eating into my daily practice!

Day 4 challenge: Look at yourself in the mirror and say something nice.

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 “I love you. You are my best friend”. Despite my self-doubt and –criticism sometimes, I do love myself. That’s a good place to be. I remember when I was in a 2-year intense self-development training where we had to look in a mirror in front of the group and say “I love you”. Many of my fellow students couldn’t say it, which filled me with both sadness and wonder. How do you expect other people to like you if you don’t like yourself? Best friends may be mad at each other at times, get annoyed or frustrated, but they still love each other. That’s what best friends do. I love that I have myself to go places with, which is a good thing as I travel so much alone. Today was a good reminder of that.

Day 5 challenge: Take a #nostretchypants picture of yourself in a yoga pose before you go out, as a reminder why you practice yoga.

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Believe it or not, this was the most challenging day of all! Not for the fact that I often walk around in yoga clothes the whole day because I am teaching and now I had to get dressed as a “normal” person, but because I couldn’t figure out the picture. I had decided to take myself out to lunch and had put on my skinny jeans and boots, and then faced the following issues:

  1. I don’t know what other yogis in no-stretchy-pants pictures wear, but my skinny jeans don’t stretch that well. Crow Pose, or any pose with bent knees, was out of the question;
  2. I wanted to take the picture in my yoga room, where – self-imposed rule – shoes are not allowed: I had to crawl around on my knees;
  3. Husband still away (where are those men when you need them!), so I ran into another selfie problem – what device do people use?!;
  4. I put my iPhone on a yoga block, so it was off the floor, and then scooted backwards on my butt (yes, boots still of the floor!). This made the floor to vibrate, so my phone fell of the block…
  5. Phone back in place, I slid backward (good thing I had vacuumed earlier!) and lifted my legs up high for Boat Pose. Unfortunately, my feet where too high (or the phone too low) and they didn’t show in the picture… I was wearing my boots for a reason though!

After 10 minutes of trying, I realized how silly this was. Why was I even doing this? And what on Earth did this have to do with yoga? I went downstairs, sat on the living room floor and crossed my legs. Full Lotus Pose, wasn’t an option: my jeans were too tight. I took a couple of deep breaths. I felt myself coming back to the present. This is why yoga is so important to me: it allows me to cultivate present moment awareness. I picked up my phone and quickly snapped a picture.

Day 6 challenge: Give your mantra to someone else.


The note with my mantra has been living on my desk, leaning against my pink Buddha, for the week. The first person that came to mind I’d want to give it to was my husband. I put the note with the handwritten mantra on his computer. I don’t know when he will see it, and what he will do – or not do – with it, but that is none of my business. As the Bhagavad Gita suggests: I let go of the fruits of my actions.

I already reaped my fruits. From this challenge I have learned:

  • I’m at my best, as company to myself and for others, when I’m my authentic self;
  •  don’t have to try to be someone, or something, else. It’s okay that I am not so good at taking yoga pose selfies;
  • When I chew my breakfast slowly, it takes longer to eat it (duh!). Slow is good, as it connects me with the present moment;
  • I love myself, even when I get frustrated because I don’t manage to take yoga pose selfies;
  • I like challenges (as long as they don’t involve yoga pose selfies);
  • When I honestly feel good about my actions, it doesn’t matter what outcome they have.

I’m looking forward to the next one… Why don’t you join me @beyourownyoga!


Marije E. Paternotte