The problem with #TransformationTuesday

Progress is beautiful. Too often we focus on how far we have to go instead of how far we've come.

This #TransformationTuesday trend has people posting millions of photos of their weight loss progress/fitspo on social media. (Yes, there are millions.)

The sheer mass of these photos exposes that we, as a culture, are hyper-focused on the physical — further instilling the belief that our bodies' physical appearance (read: being thin) determines our worth.

Some of these photos are downright inspirational. Humans never cease to amaze me.

(I just pulled a few random posts from amazing humans using the #TransformationTuesday hashtag. Aren't they awesome?)

I'd be a hypocrite to say these hashtaggers are yucky because I myself posted a #TransformationTuesday post once, and it certainly wasn't coming from a negative place.

However, #TransformationTuesday isn't something I partake in on a weekly basis. In fact, the photo above (from February) is the only one I've shared, because I don't want my students to think the point of yoga is to improve our wheel pose.

The real transformation I’ve experienced cannot be seen. In fact, as I transformed on the inside I my frame grew larger. My flat stomach became grew some fluff and my pants inflated by six sizes. I was fighting an eating disorder, and many would see a before/after “transformation” photo and think I had “fallen off the wagon.” But what this photo wouldn’t reveal is that the before photo — the “hashtag-worthy” ab-exposing pic — was a very sick girl. 

You see, the real transformation in yoga can't be hashtagged.

It happens in the breaths between the poses. It happens when we least expect it. It happens when we release what no longer serves us into the mat. And it happens when we take what we learn on our mat into our daily lives. Asana (poses) is just one part of yoga — the true challenge isn't posing; it's the yoga of our everyday lives.

Physical transformation can certainly go hand-in-hand with mental and spiritual transformation. In my experience, when my mind and spirit are healthy, my body follows suit. But I think in our culture, we're doing things backwards. We're trying to transform from the outside-in instead of the inside-out.

It's the reason 50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives to control their weight (Source).

It's the reason nearly all of the #TransformationTuesday posts are focused on a physical transformation.

It's the reason Americans are feeding the diet industry billions of dollars annually.

What if we idealized a sound mind with the same intensity that we idealized a sexy bod?

It's easy, especially in our culture, to get wrapped up in the "pretty" parts of yoga — the asanas. But yoga is deeper than that.

In fact, asana — the physical practice of yoga — was considered the least important aspect of yoga by the first yogis. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras doesn't even mention the physical postures in his definition of yoga. More value is placed on the mind than on the body. These yogis sought to transform from the inside-out rather than the outside-in. Isn't that rad?

Yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind.
— Yoga Sutras: I, 2

When I began my yoga journey, I was trying to transform my body. It was by happy accident that I transformed in mind. And to be honest, if you would have told me that the point of yoga was to transform the mind and not the body, I probably wouldn't have been interested ... but if I understood what that meant and how much more content I would be — more content than size 0 jeans could offer me — I would have been all in from the start. 

Something magic happens on the mat. Every yogi has that moment when something clicks, and their way of thinking fundamentally shifts. 

And as my practice deepens, I continue to transform — sometimes in subtle ways and often in surprising ways. But always in ways that are far more transformative and exciting than the progress of my wheel pose or the number on the scale.

Happy Transformation Tuesday. I encourage you to focus on transforming from the inside-out rather than the outside-in. Because the feeling of peace is far superior to the feeling of a pretty wheel pose.