Author Archives: Laura De Stefano

Protect Your Yoga Property!

Having seen an increase in sharing accounts without accredited sources for their content, it would do social media users well to read the following. If you post images on social media, particularly Instagram, you need to be especially aware of this.

Even though it isn’t possible to directly lift photos from Instagram, it is possible to get hold of the image without crediting the source, via a repost/regrann app. What usually happens is if you want to repost someone else’s image – say a flyer for a yoga challenge – you’ll download your reposting app, hit the three dots next to the image, and go ahead and “Re-gram” the image. What these apps do is they automatically save the photo to your device AND copy the text that goes with the image with a note either on the image or in the text stating the original source (e.g. “Regrann from @lauradestefyoga”).

What too many sharing accounts are doing is uploading the photo and not pasting the text or tagging the owner. They post the image with their own hashtags and promote themselves. No mention, no credit, NOTHING to suggest that the photo they have just posted does not belong to them. Under Instagram rules this constitutes “impersonating another user”. Under wider law? Theft of intellectual property.

If you are a sharing account you’ll gain credibility through crediting your sources. Us yogis love our work and words being shared. What we don’t love is someone taking our photos and using them behind our backs without acknowledging that they don’t own them. You’re gaining followers for something you haven’t spent 10 years of your life working towards being able to do. That’s not cool.

Most of the accounts who don’t share nicely ignore all comments requesting accreditation. Even when it’s the owner of the image themselves asking them. They simply don’t read the comments. Or if they do, they ignore them. Which makes them even less deserving of the tens of thousands of followers they have. Integrity is everything.

If you’re a sharing account and you credit your sources: thank you! We’re cool with that. We’re glad you like our work enough to share it AND to say to people “hey, we think @abcdexyzyogaetc is SO awesome here’s what he/she/they can do”.

If you are a yogi who has had their work stolen by a sharing account, then you need to report it. Instagram are known for being shoddy with their customer services but keep pushing them. If another account is posting your images without your consent and without tagging you, it is theft of intellectual property and under Instagram law they are impersonating you. By Instagram’s own rules this is not allowed. So pursue the accounts who lift your photos and report them to Instagram every time they do it.

It may help somewhat for yogis to begin either watermarking or putting a noticeable text line on every photo posted so that, if it is lifted and reposted, at least you know the image is still linked back to you and everyone who sees that image will see your Instagram handle and know the photo does not belong to the sharing account. There’s a chance that, if the sharing account is being deliberately unlawful, they might try to manipulate the photo and erase your mark. So try to position it on the image so that the photo itself will be compromised if they try to colour over your text. A tiny line in a corner is no good. Better than nothing but so so easy for sharing accounts to remove. I know it detracts from the image but until Instagram gets its act together and stamps down on accounts posting images that don’t belong to them, or until the people behind these accounts develop a conscience, we’ll have to do something to protect ourselves.

It is a compliment to have your photo shared. But the biggest compliment is to be credited for it.

Yoga & Instagram

When you start out on your yoga journey, what inspires you? Why do you come to yoga? Why do you choose this particular path? And is it something you’re going to share with others? Keep to yourself?

Whatever the reason for beginning yoga, if you choose to share your yoga journey it is important to remember a number of things. I speak as a yogi who for 3 years didn’t share my yoga journey, but at the time was sharing my mental health journey. Then two years ago I switched my focus to sharing my yoga. I joined Instagram. I posted a LOT of photos on Facebook. (Although I was kicked out of a Facebook yoga group for posting a photo of me in shorts on a hotel bed stretching my legs in Happy Baby pose so I’ve never been one for yoga “groups”.)

Anyway. Some pointers for you. If you do want to post your yoga journey to Instagram (or other social platforms) you need to ensure you never stray from the reason you started yoga. To be fair if you started yoga just to post cool photos, it’s not the best reason to begin yoga – but everyone starts somewhere. I started my own yoga journey as I needed to find a fitness routine that suited my tricky circumstances: I needed something gentle on the joints, that I could learn and practice entirely at home and on my own. Arthritis + agoraphobia + social phobia is the perfect recipe for yoga. I began with the Wii Fit, then I learned to create flows by following a DVD, and then I took the leap and started working entirely on my own, putting my own flows together. I gained so much more than physical strength, balance, flexibility and fitness though. It helped my mental health immensely. My spiritual journey began as soon as I realised that my dedication to the physical asana was inextricably connected to my mental and spiritual wellbeing. Yoga spoke to my soul and healed some very painful memories and events.

Then I began filming and taking photos of my practice and sharing my love for yoga on social media. Learning to navigate Instagram was a journey in itself. It’s hard to maintain a balanced ego. Sometimes when you’ve worked for 5 years to achieve a pose, you post it full of so much happiness and joy and, if you don’t use the right tags or you don’t have the followers, you might get 5 or 10 likes.
Reality: it’s disheartening. You feel like, “what’s the point” and you compare your pose to others that have done exactly the same and got 11,369 likes.
Reality: likes are not everything. If YOU are proud of your achievement then posting it online should be about creating an online journal of your progress and achievements. Think of your Instagram as a personal diary. A timeline of your yoga journey. It encourages you to think more realistically about social media and brings you back to why you started yoga. It’s all about balance. If you feel your ego getting too big (“I deserve more likes than that!”) step back, stop filming your flows for a week. Spend some time on Instagram supporting other yogis. Then come back to posting with a fresh mindset. Gratitude is important.

Something you will also notice is that some of the big names in yoga have a huge following and you might not be able to understand why. For example, I’ve practiced yoga for 5 times as long as some of the Instagram yogis who are trained yoga teachers but have only been practicing for one year yet have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers.
Reality: it’s disheartening.
Reality: yoga isn’t just about amazing poses and pictures or videos. It’s about being authentic. Yogis especially are very astute at spotting who is authentic and who is more egotistical. Why not try being open about your emotional and spiritual journey? Make your captions count. Talk to the world. Be honest. If you faceplanted out of that crow after 0.025 seconds? Tell your followers! They will love you for it. Share your downs as well as your ups. Part of your journey as well is realising that social media is the least important part of your journey. There’s no point pretending it isn’t part of the journey because in the modern day, it just is. It’s very natural and normal and of course lovely to feel appreciated and recognised. It’s better to be respected by fewer people who have a lot more of a genuine feeling for you, than to have a massive number of followers who really aren’t all that interested and couldn’t name you if anyone asked them!

As weird as it might sound, something you will also quickly come across is yogi sponsorship. Some of the clothing brands who specialise in yoga kit sponsor certain yogis in return for promotion through the yogi’s posts. There are so many incredible, big-name brands out there and it can be very hard to understand how or why these yogis were selected to be sponsored and gifted these stunning clothes (or props, in some cases). It usually comes down to number of followers and consistent style of the yogi’s photos: they’ll select people who can show off their items in ads every day to a massive audience. Of course these clothes are too often unaffordable to the average Instagrammer, and many “make do” with sweats or joggers and sports bras off the high street which are incapable of holding your boobs in place whenever you get inverted.
Reality: you feel disheartened and left out if you can’t afford what is basically advertised, inadvertently, as “the best yoga clothing”. Because this stuff looks incredible and you see so many yogis wearing the clothing. The subliminal message is simply that the best yogis wear the best brands.
Reality: clothing doesn’t matter. What you wear means nothing. It does not make you a better yogi and wearing top brands will not make you a better student, practitioner, teacher. The only reason we notice what a yogi is wearing is if they point it out, or if it’s unusual or unique. Plenty of people go so far as to practice in their underwear, bikinis or even in the nude, and yogis – men and women – of all body types embrace this and still do incredible yoga. Having lovely, top brand yoga clothing is a nice feeling but most of your followers will not care what you’re wearing.

When you put yourself out there into the virtual world, it’s a peculiar version of reality. It is real but it isn’t. It’s modern life. We usually see the result but not the journey. We can’t change the way social media works. We can’t all be sponsored, we can’t all have 100k followers, we can’t all write the perfect caption or post the perfect crystal-clear photos. But we can be authentic. We can be honest, we can be ourselves. We can make our personal Insta-Gallery real and a reflection of our physical and emotional journey. We can make it whatever we want. That is where our power lies. We can be ourselves, and that is enough. We are enough. Just as we are, in that moment. The right people will find you. The right number of people will find you. It might take time, but people on your wavelength, people who emit and absorb the same vibrations, will be drawn to you.

Instagram brings you full circle and can teach you important lessons that better you as a yogi. You start yoga to better yourself. You share your yoga and through the journey of building “your” community and finding your place in the larger Insta-Yoga community, you have to learn to maintain your focus on your journey and your authenticity and discover the place of the ego, what it is to be human and how to manage the more complicated challenges your mind brings up.

I come back to the message I love to put out there as much as I can: yogis are, at the end of the day, human. Even the best, happiest, most perfect yogi in the world is human and started where you are. To be a yogi simply means to be on a journey, a lifelong self-development adventure which has no ending.

Being a “True” Yogi

I am a yogi. I am also a human.

I love unconditionally. I have times I hate and get frustrated.

I smile and I laugh. I frown and I cry.

I dance with joy. I throw mini tantrums.

I say kind words to myself and my loved ones. I say not so kind things to myself and my loved ones or I say nothing.

I’ve done many selfless acts in my life; I’ve saved lives; I’ve bettered lives; I’ve given my life’s work to someone else’s dream. I’ve done many selfish things in my life; hurt people; made their lives (temporarily, at least) worse for my actions. I now have no work.

I have done things and let people go because my intuition told me to and not regretted it. I have done things and let people go because my intuition told me to, but I did it in a way I regret.

I have hundreds of achievements to my name. I have hundreds of mistakes to my name.

I try to learn from my mistakes. I sometimes repeat my mistakes.

I have lived, inside and out. I have died, inside and out (lupus feels anyone?!). I have loved with all my heart, and I have lost. Sometimes through nature. Sometimes through choice. I once resented the losing part. Now I choose to be grateful for the love I experienced.

Does the above make me any less of a yogi?

I am young, not even 30. I accept I am naive and, relatively speaking, spiritually and emotion immature. I have hard lessons to learn and a lot to figure out in life. Maybe one day I can be that yogi that hits every yama and niyama every day, uses asana and pranayama and all the other limbs it takes to become a “true yogi”. And yet… I am human. You are human. The most dedicated yogi on the planet is human. We cannot expect to rid ourselves of our humanness and associated complexities because we want to be a yogi.

In 5 years of learning, there is one thing which to me describes what a yogi is. That is intention. If you intend to embody yoga as far as you are able and happy to, it does not matter if you stray from the eight limbs.

If you are a yogi, you will come back with the intention to try again. To learn more. To enlighten your soul.

How each person begins their journey as a yogi makes them no less of a yogi – but no yogi can stop being human.

Light After Dark (Part 1)

Seven months. It’s probably the longest I’ve gone without writing since I met my husband 4 years ago. It has been an uphill battle just to survive these last 9, 10 months or so. Depression turned into severe mood swings cycling through every mood in the human reservoir (with irritability featuring as every other emotion) every hour of the day. I slept 18-36 hours at a time and had nightmares. Being awake was a nightmare. I felt nothing, I was numb. Eventually, at some point around 4 or 5 months ago, I started listening to my body more; the cravings for a natural lifestyle were overwhelming, to say the least. I was sick of trying every drug under the sun to control my lupus and pain. I was sick of taking anti-depressants that obviously were not working. I was sick of eating junk food and binge eating. I was very sick.

The first step to rediscovering myself was to take control of my medication and diet. My body wanted natural foods, so I started adding more and more fresh veg to meals, eating fruit, drinking more water. I came off the anti-depressant. I did it cold turkey. I figured there was no point titrating it; it was doing nothing for me. Within days I felt happier than I had in months. After around 6 weeks, my symptoms returned; not as severe but certainly extremely marked. I also started on a new-old treatment for the lupus and arthritis that exacerbated my symptoms and, at one point, sent me into a severe neurotic, bordering psychotic, episode. I made the decision based on my gut instinct.

Yes, I wanted a cleaner body, as chemical-free as possible. But I also needed the disease to be under control. I re-introduced the anti-depressant, and at present I take it just two days a week so I can take the treatment for the lupus. The trouble is, the combination for the lupus (Etodolac and Prednisolone) was the first thing to work. Last year I went through codeine, tramadol, buprenorphine, fentanyl, even morphine. I eventually opted to go back onto an anti-inflammatory drug and, perhaps unsurprisingly, my pain drastically reduced. Etodolac was prescribed as a long-term sustained-release option, but wasn’t controlling the disease; with the re-introduction of Prednisolone at a low dose, all my pain, all my symptoms, were virtually gone. I couldn’t give that up, having spent months wanting to die to escape the pain, having had to suffer the humiliation of needing to be lifted out of bed, waking crying at night with joints that had locked, being put into and out of the bath, and being dressed head to toe by my husband, all at the age of 27. As much as I want to be chemical-free, I’m glad I’m on a regime that currently works; especially knowing what I know now (we’ll come to that later).

Back to the anti-depressant, having just taken it blithely day after day for month after month seems to have been masking the real issue; making me believe I had depression and that was that. But I know now, the real issue was not depression. I’m awaiting assessment for Level 3 care (high intensity therapy) to help me understand and manage my depressive episodes better, but the depression is only a part of a bigger picture. We ruled out bipolar a long time ago, before understanding the different levels. There’s not just bipolar I and II, but III, IV, and V.  It’s a broader spectrum. Like lupus. If you had to put lupus into five levels, I’d probably be a four. So we can’t rule out bipolar. However, the diagnosis that ticks every single box, every diagnostic pointer, and explains so much of my behaviour, my feelings, my beliefs since childhood, is borderline personality disorder. It helps to explain my difficulty in maintaining close friendships. My irrational but sickeningly real fear of abandonment. My permanent belief of, “I’m not good enough, I never will be, everyone is better than me”, “I’m only ever good enough to have potential, I’m never good enough at anything to have a purpose in life”, which leads to the suicidal thoughts of, “People would be better off without me”. I ended friendships based on this fear and this belief. I left my job in part because I was overwhelmed with feeling this way.

As my pain improved, and when the depressive episodes lifted and I had a burst of motivation, I began to step onto my yoga mat again. And it is through this, and the yoga community, I believe I found my path.

“To Those I Love”: An Open Letter

To Those I Love Public PDF – Download & Print

Published May 2015
25,000+ views, shares, likes and comments
Featured in local news


To Those I Love,

A Letter from the Heart.

If I cannot come to see you, or to see you if you come to see me, know that it’s not personal; it’s never you.

If I try and I fail, it is better to be happy for me that I tried than to be sad or frustrated that I failed. Every attempt, no matter how far I get, is a step I am taking back to you.

If I am able to reach you physically yet cannot meet your eyes, speak, stay or seem to be comfortable in your company, it’s not personal; it’s never you.

If I try and I fail to be there emotionally, please try to remember that it is because my demons are taking my attention away from you and making me uncomfortable.

If I seem selfish in my behaviour, it is because I am trying so hard not to be selfish. I am trying to find myself and reclaim my mind from my demons so that I can be there, in mind and body, for you.

If I become so uncomfortable to the point my behaviour screams that I want to get away, know that it’s not because of you. Sometimes I have to leave in order to redeem myself and to protect you from feeling uncomfortable or from worrying about me quite as much. Sometimes I have to say to myself, “I’ve done all I can for now. I will try again another day.” I will come back to you. If not that day, then another day.

I came to be this way because of life experiences that imprinted into my young and influential brain that certain situations are not safe for me to be in. Years of seeking help and failing to get it meant that the longer I went untreated, the more ingrained my behaviours, thoughts and fears became. By the time someone listened and I did receive help, my demons had become so deep-rooted that even twelve years on, I haven’t been able to fix all the things that went so wrong.

Anything that reminds me of those experiences encourages the demons to come forwards, and it often takes all my energy to hold them back until they relent.

And they do relent. It is possible for me to put them in their place and to live life just as me, without my demons. But to bounce back from a time when they got the better of me, from a time they have ruled my life, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do. Sometimes it feels like a constant fight. I am told that one approach to recovery is to stop fighting. Yet to stop fighting means to fight against the urge to fight. There is no easy way for me to recover and live the life I want to, and it will take time. It might take weeks, months, or even years. No-one can know how long it will take. Matters of the brain and mind are complex. All I can do is keep trying. Some days will be better than others.

I have written this to you because you are one of a select group of people who have loved and supported me through the tough times. You have also seen me at my best and therefore have the belief and knowledge that I can be fully present and safe in life, no matter where I am. Your belief in me gives me hope and faith and reminds me that I can get back to living my life as I was, with you as an important and regular feature, enjoying your company and love and sharing days and life experiences with nothing to get in the way. No-one can understand how much I am missing that freedom right now.

I am more grateful than anyone can ever know for those people who love and have loved me. I am not an easy person, and knowing that makes me appreciate and love you all the more for the fact that you have accepted me as a part of your life, whether directly or by association.

Thank you for celebrating the good times with me, and for supporting me through the difficult times. I hope one day to be able to return the kindness, stability and love you have given me when you also need it most.

With much love….