A beautiful body, what’s the use if you don’t have a good heart.”
– – R. Sharath Jois
Several conversations/debates are being pushed around and shared on social media right now about yoga selfies, whether or not they are appropriate and represent yoga truthfully. Apparently, the media coverage of Tara Stiles riding around NYC in a plexiglass box doing yoga poses to promote her new series has sparked this debate yet again.
I think it’s a good conversation to have. However in reading articles and their responses, I am questioning myself, my intentions and how my photos are perceived. Just the term “yoga selfie” bothers me. The word “selfie” has gained such a negative connotation and eludes to an arrogant, pretentious person behind the photo. “Am I that kind of person?”, I ask myself.
I’ve recently joined a few yoga challenges, posting daily pics to both Instagram and Facebook. In no way, shape or form, do I proclaim to have the proposed image of perfection many times portrayed in yoga selfies. Actually, that’s a mind block I have worked hard to get over… my body not looking like the posture demonstrated for the day.
In traditional yoga, postures are very specific in alignment and form. But you have to remember… Yoga was originally created for teenage boys. These boys were in preparation for monkhood and would sit for hours and hours on end; in turn, their joints and muscles would get tight. So what did they do?? Get up and move, making shapes with their bodies and breath.
There are a total of 608 yoga poses, and some I assure you, only a teenager should do. So we modern, some of us older, yogis should be very proud of ourselves for even getting into some of these postures. Our bodies are quite different from teenagers.
Moving on to the debate, I think it’s wise to remind ourselves to be yogis about it…
Yoga is supposed to be free of judgement. Who are we bystanders to judge the intent of another’s post? Unless you truly know the person, you really have no idea what was going on in said person’s mind when they took the photo, while they posted the photo, or what they may even have been through to get to the actual posture and photo. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right? It’s true! Every one has a story and who are we to deafen it?
And let us not forget, we all have the option to look at or hide what is feeding through our social media. If you don’t like it, hide it or stop following it. It’s that simple. There’s plenty of stuff (and people) I don’t want to see, so I simply don’t. There’s no need to fixate on what you don’t want to come into your life. Chances are (as the Law of Attraction suggests) if you fixate on something, more of it will reveal itself.
So that leads to the question – Is the yoga selfie representing Yoga truthfully?
To take your “yoga selfie”, you must stop your practice, set up your camera (phone), or ask someone to take your picture. You’re breaking out of a continuum to catch a moment in time. At that point, you are no longer in yoga.
Yoga is the union of mind, body and spirit. How can one possibly illustrate all of that through a picture of being in posture. You can’t.
But to play devil’s advocate, many people find similar feelings while running, swimming, dancing, etc. There’s a connection with the mind, body and spirit in those circumstances and yet people still post accomplishments and it’s okay. You can’t possibly feel what that runner, swimmer or dancer is feeling in that moment. But you celebrate their accomplishment and perhaps even find a little inspiration to do something similar.
So what’s the difference with yoga selfies?
I think there are some people who fear the ancient practice being tainted, so to speak. We’ve already made a Western version of this Eastern practice being that it’s predominantly female-based. Then you have classes such as yogalates, core power yoga, even sweat-your-ass-off type yoga – the list is endless – that are not your traditional yoga. Some adaptations are for the better and some for the worse, some say.
There’s also the fear of intimidating others and scaring people away from yoga, fearing they’ll never be able to get into such postures. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga.” Who starts out running a full marathon without training? That’s a reason TO go to yoga, to increase strength and flexibility.
In the end, I can’t be responsible for another’s fears or feelings of intimidation. Whether you’re inspired to explore something new in your practice or not is up to you. And there’s always something new to try! Tell me, who’s mastered all 608 postures? I personally think it’s okay to celebrate accomplishments and find inspiration from fellow yogis. I’m inspired all the time.
Having said that, I do believe there are people out there who are not representing the practice properly in their pictures – the contortionists, the person who posts a picture without any explanation or advice offered, and/or the picture that’s dull of intent or emotion. And I do NOT agree with the sexualization of yoga, which happens all the time.
I’ve read both sides of the debate and understand both. I definitely don’t want to be one who posts pictures just for the sake of saying, “Look at me and what I can do.” I wholeheartedly understand that can be deferred from my postings. And while I appreciate the support, I still post with some trepidation. What will people think? Do they think I’m trying to show off? That certainly is not my intent. If anything, these challenges work to inspire me to try a posture I perhaps hadn’t given much energy. They also teach me to let go of any expectations or attachments as to how I should look in each pose. And they’re fun.
Again, yoga is more than just asanas.
It’s about breath control and uniting the physical, psychological and spiritual parts of your being.
Yoga is a way of life. Not just something you do on a mat. It takes a lot of sorting through your shit for yoga.
It takes courage. Be proud. Yet be mindful.
Namaste, friends x x