Instabodies & Dismantling the Guru

I kind of almost joined a quasi-yoga cult in my early twenties.

We sang in Sanskrit while we Chair-ed and Warrior-ed and Boat-ed. By chanting and spinning our arms and holding our hands in specific mudras we invoked the power of archangels, whose light would surround our cars and protect us from accidents, according to our teachers. We visualized prana shooting out of our heads, we reset our karma, and we huffed a variety of breathing patterns for energy, purity, and balance.

I liked the yoga and the singing and brushed off most of the lofty spiritual stuff. I liked belting it out with stretching it out so much that I contemplated becoming certified in this particular school of yoga. And so my fellow yogis and I took a trip to New York for a workshop with the school’s founder. The guru.

He sat on an elevated platform in an airy room packed with people, wearing a headset microphone, smiling and ebullient. He seemed lovely, really, and capable of giving world-class hugs, but as I watched the people around me rapt and doe-eyed, lapping up the guy’s archangel-summoning-chakra-cleansing-universal-consciousness-tapping dogma as though his mouth were the fountain of youth, I knew I couldn’t do it. It helped that the training cost about 250 percent more than other yoga certifications, and the school was somewhat sketchily a 501(c)(3) organization.

There are countless fitness and wellness gurus on Instagram, each spouting their own brand of self-empowerment-eat-clean-lift-heavy dogma. Their ripped abs are on display, or their bulging arms, or their killer butts. Maybe they’re executing a complex yoga pose. It’s tough, because these professionals post very useful stuff—no gym-workouts, quick circuits for people who don’t have much time to exercise, a funny meme here and there. But they also post powerful images and dramatic text linking strong, chiseled, and/or thin bodies with happiness, fulfillment, and a good life.

Like this woman, for example. Actually, you do look like the girl in the magazine.


My 28 day & 12 week Meal & Workout Programs Click the web link in my profile! . . I think we’ve all experienced being in the “misery pit” before where we feel we’re stuck and can’t get out. We feel down and unmotivated to train or eat healthy or do ANYTHING. It all seems “too hard” to make changes so we don’t and we just stay there getting more and more miserable. So I thought I’d share a few things I do to get myself out of feeling unmotivated and down: . • I have a cry! I allow myself to feel what I feel and do what I feel like doing.. this might be running along the beach, eating chocolate, moping around the house – whatever it is I do it. It does us no good shutting ourselves off and bottling all our feelings up inside. . • I do something fun and different. I’m cooking more, getting outdoors, learning to hip hop dance and I’ve been spending time with friends having fun and having a laugh. . • Get some perspective and appreciate. I try to look at all the things I DO have and not what I don’t. I realise that people have it so much worse out there. That doesn’t mean that my issues aren’t important but it helps me to see that it’s really not so bad after all. Appreciate the life we have and really take notice of the little things; sunsets and sunrises, the ocean, the trees, birds, butterflies, flowers etc. Most importantly appreciate the people (or pets) in our life. ☺ • Reevaluate what I’m doing. Do I currently have a goal? If not I create one. It’s easy to feel “down” when we don’t have something to focus on and work towards. . • I commit myself to a goal, research, plan and work hard but I allow some “fun time” to do the things I enjoy too! I believe that working hard and smart for things is important but if we don’t have balance and some time off we can easily become stressed, miserable and unmotivated. . . – These are just some simple things I have done this week that have completely changed my perspective and have helped me get back on track and feeling my positive, motivated self again. It only took me a couple of days of doing this and I was feeling so much better! . . Workout vids: @emilyskyefitness . Snap chat: emilyskyefit A photo posted by EMILY SKYE (@emilyskyefit) on

Or hot Emily, who posts this provocative, professionally photographed photo of herself looking like she’s about to use her impeccably toned muscles to pounce on someone, paired with advice on how to deal with sadness. It’s the sexy image that makes this post disingenuous. I mean, if you’re writing about feeling sad, maybe you could post a picture related to feeling sad? Is she supposed to look sad in this photo?


I feel like the fitness industry can easily convince people they’re not good enough. Oh, you’re not lifting 100 pounds? Yikeeeees. Oh, you don’t squat 101 times a day? Why do you even workout? Oh, you can’t running marathons? Why do you even run? Oh, fitness isn’t your life? Go home. I want you to let the following sentence sink in: you are enough and don’t need to be something you’re not to take care of your body. This lifestyle isn’t about lifting the heaviest weights in the gym. It’s not squating until your legs fall off, or running until you puke. And, it’s certainly not about being completely and entirely consumed with working out. I would be considered a “fitness personality” but that doesn’t mean I live in workout clothes. I don’t break out into planks whenever in public and I DO look disgustingly sweaty after a workout. I don’t want the fitness industry to intimate you from taking care of your body. You don’t have to turn into something you’re not, you just NEED to take care of your body. I know the gym can be an intimating place and that’s why my guides can be done in your house (or anything, really!) They come with full length follow along videos with me motivating you through every step. I remind you that you’re moving your body because you love yourself. They are also reaaaallllyyyy cheap because I want to make fitness accessible. They’re the EXACT workouts I do! You can learn more through the link in my bio! ❤

A photo posted by Sophie Gray (@wayofgray) on

Sophie writes, “I feel like the fitness industry can easily convince people they’re not good enough.” WELL SHIT SOPHIE GUESS WHAT YOUR PHOTO JUST DID?


You can have whatever you choose in life, as long as you go and get it. I was fat, I was broke, I was depressed, I was on drugs, I was tired, I was a drunk, I abused prescription medications, I sold dope, I went bankrupt and divorced in the same month, I’ve had a gun to my temple, I could of died 1000 times. What’s my point? There are millions of people who deal with some of the same things you see above and think to themselves (just like I used to think) no way this is it for me, it’s just my luck, it’s how I grew up, I’ll just do my best. Then there are millions of people who have come from way worse than you read above and go on to do the unthinkable. Achieve success and create purpose beyond measurable. What do u think is the biggest difference between these two people? Leave your answer below. Then #tag someone. PLEASE. A photo posted by Michael Morelli (@morellisworld) on

And here’s Michael, whose swole somehow represents his recovery and put-together life.

Kudos to these fitness folks—they work hard to look the way they do. But they also make a living looking the way they do, and by selling their look to others. Who knows if they’re happy. Who knows if they’re tired. Who knows if they’re going to scream the next time they have to pass up pizza.

Fitness looks different on everyone, yet the industry is powered by a monotheistic, hyper-athletic image. It’s an image that seems to drive our entire culture forward, alongside the belief that happy, carefree lives are lived in pure and disciplined bodies.

We’re lucky to live in a time rife with resources on fitness and wellness, and with a bit of research and experimentation, most anyone can find a modality to suit them. As ever, there’s also plenty of diets, powders, and fitness programs trying to sell you on a better, more well-lived life.

Tune out the noise, tune in, and be your own guru. Your body, and your mind, will thank you for it.