Kino MacGregor on yoga + social media

Kino has become a well-known name for many modern-day yoga students. She has a dedicated Ashtanga practice of 18 years, and is a certified teacher, author of four books, studio co-founder and more. She is also one of the yoga pioneers of Instagram and has built an online audience of over 1 million followers. During a visit to triyoga, Kino sat down with Yogamatters to discuss a whole host of topics including inclusivity and being responsible when it comes to social media. She’ll be visiting us once again from 27th – 29th September 2019. Details on how to book are shared below. 

Social media can have a big influence on the fear that stops us coming to practise – this potentially intimidating perspective of what a yoga practice looks like. What do you think as teachers and as a community we can do to dispel any myths that yoga is just for a certain body shape? So that across all styles we are encouraging a more inclusive, accessible practice.

Study with an open mind.
As teachers we need to be well-versed in how to make the practice accessible for different body types and different ages, etc. If you practice a traditional style of yoga like the Ashtanga yoga method, it can be really intimidating. If you look from the outside, it almost looks like yoga soldiers. Everybody is exactly on the count and they are dropping through and dropping back, and then you come in for the first time and think “Well I don’t even have a good yoga mat. How will I do this?”.

If somebody comes into your class never judge that student. There are so many stories from bigger bodied students that say when they first walked into a class the teacher just assumed the class wasn’t for them. This is a mistake. Your role as a teacher is to figure out a way to make the practice accessible for every student that walks in. So, if someone has had knee replacement surgery, your job is to make your practice (whether it is traditional or modern) accessible for that student. The teacher’s job is to meet the student where they are. On a practical level this is really important.

Kino MacGregor practising yoga in London, triyoga

The second part of this is how you portray yourself on social media.
This is a multi-tiered perspective to think about. You can’t really change your size or your shape, you are who you are. Some people may have a very tall thin muscular body, other people may have a bigger body, other people like me, may have a small muscular body. No matter what shape you are I have noticed that nobody feels like they are good.

If you’re tall and skinny, then you are self-conscious about being too skinny or looking too long. If you are bigger bodied then you may have a self-consciousness around that, or if you’re small like I am, you have a self-consciousness about that. So, in terms of social media we have to be very conscious about sharing our truth, our naked transparent reality and not engaging in this competition of extreme ableism. A way we can do that is to not only post our best pictures where everything is perfect, manufactured and it’s taken 300 shots to get the picture. Be vulnerable in your captions or in your stories, creating a bit less of a filter between you and your world.

The last thing is to open your mind to who you follow.
If you are a teacher and you only follow comments and stay engaged with other people who look exactly like you and who perpetuate that exact same messaging, then you perpetuate the monotony of what a yogi is. As a teacher, see if you can find inspiration in people who don’t look like you and people whose practice is different to yours. If you are an ashtangi, find inspiration in someone who is doing a different type of yoga to you. If you are someone that is blessed with natural strength and flexibility, and can do handstand presses and all that crazy, beautiful, inspiring stuff, see if you can find people that you can follow who may be struggling.

Find people who don’t look like you, from race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age and see if you can support them to create this micro community of people you are engaged with. This helps us expand our minds and not just auto select and echo chamber, where there are people who look like us and speak like us – this further entrenches us into a self-created narrow bubble. One of the things we really like to do on the Instagram feed for my online channel OMstars is feature the participants that are in the yoga challenges that we sponsor and host because this shows a natural diversity of the actual people that are practising and this is really important for us. And then our teachers, we really strive to be diverse, not only in terms of style but also age and ethnicity to create a welcoming atmosphere of inclusivity.

On the topic of social media, you have over a million people following your account. We know this comes with a huge amount of responsibility that you take very seriously. How do you manage and navigate this?

For me, one of the things that has been really important is not trying to be perfect. I make mistakes all the time and I believe very much in admitting those mistakes when I make them. I try my best to communicate as personally and directly to everybody who comments or sends me a message. I can’t get to everyone, but I respond to as many comments in whatever time I can devote so people can see that I am present.

It is a great responsibility to be a teacher because then you are a leader in the yoga world and I believe as teachers we have a voice that we must stand up for. Holding ourselves and holding any companies that are in the yoga world accountable in accordance with yoga values. We all have blind spots. When students in our community can point out “Hey I think you’re out of alignment here”, that’s great. The danger with this is you’re never going to please everyone. Check in with yourself and recognise whether or not you feel you’re in accordance with yogic values, whether you feel like you have done the best you can do in that situation.

Always take time to commit with your personal practice. If you come from a place of purity, genuineness and you engaged with speaking the truth, then you are responsible for what you’re putting out into the world but not responsible for how people respond…

What about the yoga community?
I think we are doing a pretty good job. Something that is really present for me is this question of how we support dialogue and development within the community. What I am noticing is that we are relying on social media as a vehicle to express thoughts and communicate with each other and no matter how well-spoken you are, how well-written you are, there’s so much that gets lost in social media-based communication.

There are things that you would never say to someone looking at them in the eye that you would say online. I don’t know how to do this but one thing I would really like is if there’s a way we can model for the world what enlightened dialogue is. So even if we are communicating online it never veers into hate, we always communicate in alignment with the core yogic values. I think that would be really powerful.

Click here to read the full interview, ‘How yoga can change the world with Kino MacGregor’.

triyoga will be hosting Kino MacGregor in London once again, this time at the Oval Space from 27th – 29th September 2019. Click here for more information and to book your place at Kino’s weekend of workshops ‘depth, power + presence: a three-day ashtanga yoga journey’.

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