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Author Neada Jane

In the morning (after approx four hits on the snooze button), the last thing I want to see is #fitspo.
Scrolling through, one eye half open and I’ve missed my yoga class…

But, once I’ve managed to open the other eye, fitness Instagram accounts can be pretty inspiring.
In the studio, we’ve been talking about the shift from where we get our news and information, from magazines to, now, social media. And sometimes you get more than that, even inspiration on how to live.

Like, when I see a crazy photo of abs and then I decide to actually go for a run. (Fine, jog slash fast walk.) Or a healthy salad makes me choose fro-yo over gelato. It’s the little bites of motivation…

So we wanted to talk with three women who all dedicate their Instagram accounts to posting inspirational images promoting a healthy lifestyle. Mary Helen Bowers who started Ballet Beautiful, Hannah Bronfman who founded, and the creator of Strala Yoga, Tara Stiles. What’s cool is that they all have different approaches to working out, but they all think carefully about what photo they’re going to post (admit it, like the rest of us…)(seriously, “Insta pressure”!!) and have used Instagram to help build their fitness lifestyles into a business…

Mary Helen Bowers
Founder, Ballet Beautiful

N: So, just first up, what inspired you to start Ballet Beautiful?

MHB: Ballet Beautiful was the workout that I was always searching for as a professional dancer. As a dancer, your body is your instrument. It’s really your entire life and you have to take such good care of it. So, what I learned along the way was that I needed to be doing much more for my body than just dancing every day — taking class, rehearsing, performing at night. I needed to exercise to cross train, but I had to do it in a smart way that built the right muscles for me. And so, this is a work out, so many years in the making, that I created initially for myself to be the strongest I could be on stage and off stage, and then, when I returned from New York City Ballet, to keep me in really top shape, and then ultimately as a workout to help other women have the strength, the elegance, and the beauty that I think is inherent in ballet.

N: You’ve been so successful in that. And just beyond the studio, how does a healthy lifestyle for you extend beyond being here in this space?

MHB: I think lifestyle is the keyword. It has to be the way you live every day, it can’t be, you know, just what you’re thinking, that you’re on a diet, the foods that you are or aren’t eating. It has to incorporate into the way you approach fitness — that you’re working out, you’re exercising, you’re always moving your body whether you’re in the studio or at home or traveling with work. Wherever you are, you’re making your health a priority. So, eating well, sleeping as much as you can, and making really good choices for yourself.

N: And also you document so much of your day-to-day exercises and poses on Instagram. Why do you love to share?

MHB: I think it’s fun just to kind of give people a peek inside of your daily life. And, you know, if I have a new exercise or a stretch that’s really effective. But also to try… You know I think that fitness can be… sometimes it can feel like a punishment or a chore and, you know, it’s not a world that’s infused with beauty, per se. So I really like to put a ballet spin on it.

N: And have you found Instagram to be a really nurturing platform for you and your business and Ballet Beautiful in general?

MHB: I think it’s a great way to reach people and to sort of share your story. Because this brand is very visual, I think we do really well on Instagram and people respond really passionately to our photos.

N: And do you ever feel pressure to post the perfect image? How much thought goes into everything you post?

MHB: I mean, you know, I’m not posting pictures of cheeseburgers and calamari, but I’m not eating a lot of that stuff. So, you really want it to inspire people and to help them stay connected to the healthy aspects and the active aspects of their lives as well. So if it’s, you know, a tutu and a pair of slippers or just like a beautiful sunbeam on the floor, they inspire me in very similar ways. But we’re not like photoshopping… The majority of it is shot on my iPhone.

N: Aside from the cheeseburgers and the calamari, what are some things you would just never publish on your Instagram?

MHB: I think that anyone has to think before posting something on the internet, particularly if it’s an aspect of your private life. But there’s not a tremendous amount that we’re trying to hide or cover up. You just want to be thoughtful, of course, about what you share. And I think that’s probably more true, too, as you have a family and as your personal life becomes more layered…

Tara Stiles
Founder, Strala Yoga

How did your love for yoga develop?

When I was a kid I meditated in the woods and had my own self-taught practice, so I was connected to the ideas of interconnectedness since I can remember. After being formally introduced to yoga when I was at conservatory, I started to share the practice with others mostly informally. I didn’t have a plan to develop a business out of yoga until spending a little time in NYC doing other things and seeing an opportunity for change in yoga.

What are the best and worst things about a complete yoga lifestyle?

I suppose a complete yoga lifestyle means different things to different people, but having a regular practice you can come back to and the knowledge of self-care is incredibly valuable whoever you are.

When and why did you start using Instagram to share your yoga journey?

I used YouTube in 2007 uploading simple how-to yoga videos that started to reach and help a lot of people. Instagram for my purposes is a nice tool for sharing moments and inspiration to connect with our broader Strala community now.

Do you really work for a great image? Like the one of you balancing on the pool float?!!

Ha! That picture was taken by a photographer working with the W. We have some fantastic images from our events around the world. For images I take myself I prefer sharing moments and things less staged. I like real and goofy moments and don’t worry so much about goals with posting.

Do you feel “Insta pressure”? Be honest, we feel it.

I don’t think I’ll be taking yoga crotchy contortion shots or spending a silly amount of time arranging my breakfast or buying followers to get more likes, but that’s the insta world we live in :)

Who do you follow on Instagram that you find motivational?

The Tao of Dana, Ceizer, Deepak Chopra, StreetArtGlobe, Kennyscharf... 


Hannah Bronfman

Why is an active lifestyle so important to you?
I truly believe that an active body directly leads to an active mind. In other words, I don’t feel like I can be productive if I haven’t gotten a proper workout in—it’s a necessary ritual for me!

Like the rest of us, do you ever just think: “Eugh, I don’t feel like working out today!” ? And how do you handle that?
Waking up in the morning isn’t always easy for me! I just have to remind myself that it’s worth it to workout, to get my day going. I also make sure to schedule my workouts ahead so that I hold myself accountable for them!

Why do you think there is a fitness movement that’s more focused on strength than being skinny?
I truly believe that 2015 is the year of wellness. Women are empowered to be strong minded and I think the same goes for their bodies. We are seeing women in the media with curves and these icons aren’t about being stick thin – they are about being healthy and strong. This movement really reinforces my mantra, #StrongIsTheNewSkinny!

So much of your exercise is documented on Instagram. Why do you love to share?
Instagram is such a great way to keep a visual diary of life! I use it to track my progress and to document my goals. By me sharing this type of content on IG it allows people to get motivated and to stay on their own path and achieve their goals.

Was the support you received on Instagram part of what encouraged you to launch HBfit?
HBFit started as a hashtag that I was using to illustrate my personal wellness journey. It was through Instagram that it became a sticky term and thus evolving into a site and business.

What are the Instagram accounts you follow to motivate you to be healthy?
I am personally obsessed with Australia—their wellness game is the strongest in the world! So naturally, my fitness inspo comes from girls like Kayla Itsines, Amanda Bisk and Amy Pejkovic!