Yoga selfies are taking over the world. At least, the social media world. Every time I’m scrawling through Instagram it’s all svelte looking girls in bikinis, or toned, shirtless guys, holding themselves in fantastic looking yoga poses and gathering thousands of likes from yogi-wannabes everywhere.
As a yoga teacher, there’s an expectation that I should be doing the same. Not just from my fellow teachers, but from yoga studios too – I’ve even heard stories of studios asking potential instructors how many Instagram followers they have because otherwise, “What are you going to bring to our studio?”.
I can’t think of anything more opposing to yoga’s philosophy than this depthless attitude. And this is one of the reasons why I don’t take yoga selfies.
I see yoga as a journey. It’s a deeply personal journey, “of the self, through the self, to the self” in the ancient words of the Bhagavad Gita. And because of this, I feel like looking at another person’s yogic practice is like looking into their soul. But when it’s a staged photograph, created solely to garner likes and followers, then it’s the most inauthentic form of yoga there is. It’s no longer a personal journey – it’s become a commodity.
I think this is unsafe, for many reasons. It encourages people to try poses, usually quite advanced ones, without being given any direction on how to get in and out of the pose safely. There’s no warm up, no preparatory poses, and no alignment instruction.
People aren’t told that we all have different physiques. Some people are naturally bendier and more flexible, some people are double-jointed, some hyperextend. Each person needs different instruction, and has different risk factors depending on their individual body types. Not everyone can go straight into dhanurasana and expect to get there without some dedicated long term practice.
People aren’t told that you don’t have to be slim, blonde, and be wearing a bikini to do yoga. You can be every colour and every shape to develop a practice. Why do we need to sexualise yoga by wearing as little as possible?
Remember as well the asana (the yoga pose) is only one part of a yogic practice. There are seven other limbs of yoga – ethical standards, spiritual observances, self-discipline, breath control, sensory withdrawal, concentration, meditation. You can’t see any of this in a photo. It turns the art of yoga into just exercise, just fitness, just holding yourself in a pose.
People aren’t told that getting into a pose isn’t the goal. Creating the shape isn’t the goal. The goal is the feeling you’re creating by moving through a practice, being present in your body, being at one with your breath. You don’t see that in a photo.
I feel like if I was to post yoga selfies, I’d be cheapening my own practice into something I’m trying to sell to other people. I’d be preying on other people’s dreams, desires, and insecurities to benefit myself. It would be a false representation of who I am, and what yoga is.
Yoga selfies give unrealistic expectations and set you up for disappointment and injury. I also think that they foster poor self-esteem by encouraging comparison. If you can’t do a pose or you don’t look like the person in the picture then you feel like a failure, and this is not yoga. There couldn’t be anything more contradictory.
I understand there is an element of inspiration in checking out yoga selfies. However, I don’t want to inspire you by how I look. I want to inspire you through what I know, what I’ve learned through my own journey, trainings and travels. I want to make you think about things differently, give you a new perspective, boost your self-esteem and belief in yourself through the things that you do – not the things that I’m doing.
I still do post to Instagram, but I post images of what I find inspiring. Nature, quotes, books, events I attend, landscape, places I travel to. And I talk about my thoughts, my ponderings, what that image represents to me, and how that could relate to you. I simply want to bring awareness to things you might not have noticed otherwise.
If you want to check out yoga selfies, then go for it! But remember, that’s just an image and nothing more. It’s not the goal, nor is it the journey.
It’s just a visual representation of someone else’s journey – not yours.
If you have a different view of yoga selfies I’d love to hear it! Feel free to comment below, I love hearing your thoughts.
With love and bucking the trend,