Since the massive blast of yoga taking over social media (instagram in particular), yogis around the world have been more and more keen to share bits of their practice, their well executed asanas and the epic capabilities of their yogi-bods (wrapped in the latest yogi-fashions obv).
Those that are all for the “public-displays-of-asana” and those that are, well, not. This I think can cause a lot of debate in the “yogi-world” and there have been SO many articles/blog posts/comments etc on the subject already – but I thought I would add my thoughts and opinions to the stew. (Why? because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want)
Before continuing, I think it’s important for me to add that I do take “yoga selfies” I run a popular instagram feed (@indieyogalife) where I share bits and pieces of my practice and fun little things for people to follow along and develop their own home practice. Having said that, I also fully believe in BOTH sides of this argument.
WHY I DISAGREE WITH THE YOGA SELFIE
- Yoga is an extremely personal practice. It is about the time that you connect with yourself. On your mat. Away from everything else. Yoga is about connecting your mind to what is going on in THIS present moment. When there is a camera on you, there is no way that your mind is connecting with your body at this moment, it is far more likely thinking about what the video is going to look like, where you’re going to post it, and how you’re going to look in it. That’s just the way human nature works.
- When I very first started practicing yoga, I was SUPER keen on getting in on all this selfie-action. I wanted to be part of this little insta-yogi-vibe so I did so many challenges posting single images per day, usually without any kind of warm up. I learnt the hard way, that this is how injuries happen. Early on in the game, I tweaked something in my back, because I was trying to push my body to a place that it wasn’t ready for to “get the BEST. SHOT. EVER.” And, actually, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone how I had hurt myself. But, I learnt a VERY big lesson.
- The yoga selfie gives preference to physical shapes, rather than a holistic view of yoga. To me, probably even more beneficial than asana (physical posture) practice, is the practice of meditation*. But, ain’t nobody wants to watch someone sitting down doing nothing*.
- With the yoga selfie, (and I think sharing yourself online in general), there is a tendency for that nasty little ‘ego’ to creep in. Ego in a sense of “look where I am in my practice!” (hello, see sentence #1) and also ego in the sense of “I have 70 thousand followers. You have two. Therefore, I am more of a yogi than you.” Which is, of course – a steaming load of turd.
- I have seen lots of really “famous” yogis host instagram challenges for “beginners” only to swing into the ‘beginner pose’ from a full-blow handstand. Um. I don’t think that’s really useful. Anyway. To quickly interrupt all my (excellent) points, with a little story that made me quite upset:
The other day I was watching a ‘famous’ yogi on Periscope, which is a live streaming app. The yogi was doing some crazy arm-balance-manoeuvres on what appeared to be a wall, with a very big landmark behind them. “Cool!” I thought, “that is gonna be a great shot!” What then followed was the yogi asking the people who were watching via Periscope what pose they wanted to see, and tacking on, “Where are all my hearts?! Show me some hearts!”. I’m not sure at what place along the scale yoga became a kind of circus act. But that’s what it seemed like. Hopefully I am reading it incorrectly. What then followed was a security man approaching the yogi, half-shouting, telling the yogi to get off the wall. In the flurry, and as the camera zoomed out, I could see that the yogi was actually sitting on an extremely high wall, and had actually climbed over a very clearly demarcated safety railing to get onto this ledge to perform these crazy arm balances. I have no judgement of this situation, and I do have a huge amount of respect for this yogi, because – clearly they have done the work to get where they are. I am ALL for crazy arm balances and pushing your limits and awesome exotic locations! But at what point does being able to balance on your hands elevate you above the status of regular civilians who are clearly abiding by the safety precautions set out. Just something I was pondering. Moving on.
- Following this, asana practice is one very small slither of yoga. But it isn’t where the yoga happens. Yoga is the thing that happens in the mind, in the soul, in the heart. For example, I have (almost freakishly) long arms, this makes touching my toes relatively easy. So to say that my yoga practice is “more advanced” because my arm is 3cm longer than yours, is, you guessed it – a steaming load of turd. And sharing on social media has a tendency to glamourise the ‘end posture’.
So anyway, having said all that,
WHY I AGREE WITH THE YOGA SELFIE
- Social media can be an amazing source of inspiration and community. When I first started delving into this yoga world, I primarily used Instagram as a source of inspiration, to find new poses, to test out things at home. To watch and learn from what other people where sharing and working on. I was new to London and didn’t have much $ so it was a really cost-effective way for me to try and explore this thing called “yoga”. I learnt loads in this time and participated in many different asana challenges on instagram which I found really useful. My aim for the things I share online is to be inspirational to others who are also starting their yoga journey.
- Doing (or hosting) yoga challenges online can really teach you. I learnt so much about the physical aspects of yoga doing some of the challenges I found in my early days, and having a daily challenge taught me a LOT about the benefit of a daily yoga practice.
- I am a massive advocate of home practice. In fact, even with the classes I teach in Wimbledon, I encourage all the yogis who practice with me to develop a home practice: I give them practice cards to take home, I share videos with alignment and flow ideas and offer as much support to them as I possibly can. I think that there is definitely a place for instagram to be useful to people who are developing their own home practice.
- Having a social media account keeps you accountable to your own practice. Yoga is a personal practice, yes, and we should never rely on outside sources to bring us to the mat. But sometimes on the days that we really don’t feel like it, it’s useful to remind yourself that maybe someone out there is looking forward to learning something from you today.
- Although yoga is not only about the physical practice – for many people it’s a good place to start. And then slowly move to the more subtle elements of the yoga practice over time. In this way, instagram and social media is a great way “in” because it is a platform that highlights visible, tangible things.
- As much as I can teach, there is also SO MUCH that I still have to learn, and being part of this yoga community helps me keep connected to all of it.
- For a long time, I have shared my life online (see indieberries.com) and now yoga is a big part of my life and it is just a natural thing for me to want to share it, as I have always done.
- With the things that I share online in the “yoga-sense” I try to keep it as true to who I am as possible. With physical yoga postures, I also share my cartoon doodles (#thisiyogijade) and random thoughts that I have inked. In this way I have hoped to also bring an element that is not JUST physical practice, but also more intellectual, spiritual and self-empowering, whilst staying connected to the things I do well – cartooning, doodling, drawing, musing.
- Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes it IS seeing the “end posture” or a beautiful asana on a beach, and sometimes it is seeing that hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Some things in the physical yoga practice are relatively easy for me (touching my toes) and some things really aren’t. I don’t have a very strong core (currently) and I have worked really hard to build some arm strength to hold me in arm balances (and I still have so much further to go) but I do try to share both the things that come “naturally” for me as well as the things that I really have to WORK hard at. And believe me, I work for them.
- I don’t live on a tropical island (Sob). I don’t have a perfect handstand. I can’t jump through. I actually hate crow pose and some of my arm balances are super messy. But I do what I can, I share where I am and I work with what I have. Yoga isn’t about the beautiful scenery or the perfected posture. It’s about practice. And more practice. (Granted, we’ll be in Australia for Christmas and I am definitely going to BEACH-YOGA THE SHIT OUT OF MYSELF.)
- There is sometimes talk about instagram being a place where people “show off” their yoga practice – which feeds into the concept of ego I mentioned above. For me, this is a fine line and I think it is largely down to intention. I believe there is a very big difference between posting something with the intention “Look what I can do” versus “Look what you can do”. Having said that, I don’t think it is ever fair to label someone as “showing off” because they post more “advanced” postures (‘advanced’, what is that even? Congratulations, your arm is 3cm longer than mine?). That is just where their practice is. (In fact, I scrolled to the very beginning of one of my all time favourite insta-yogis to the very beginning of her practice. And man, I LOVED it. There she was with straps and blocks and sweating and working hard. The (physical) things she shares now are way different from when she started, but, that is just where her continuous practice has taken her. And to me, that is inspiring.
- When I first started sharing yoga online, the yoga I shared was my yoga practice. (Enter: injuries, ego and sucking in my stomach). The “yoga” that I share now online is not connected to my personal practice at all. My personal practice is me, alone, in my sacred space in the morning, moving with my breath and music that I love. The things that I choose to post are the fun playing around after I have finished practicing. Sometimes even in the afternoon.
So anyway, those are some of my thoughts on the yoga selfie.
What are your thoughts/opinions on it? Who are your favourite people to follow (if any?)
I’d love to hear!
But now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a waterfall to handstand under.