I started out strong, sharing photos of myself trying new poses on Instagram right after finishing my teacher training. I was confident, I was self assured and I had learned to love my body no matter its shape, tone or flexibility. I was on a yoga high, just thrilled with my new outlook on life and enthusiastic about sharing it with others. I was constantly scouring Pinterest and my fellow yogi Instagramers for inspiration, never feeling turned off that they were able to do something beautifully that I was still working on. I know this is a practice, not a perfect. I know yoga is a personal journey of spiritual, mental and physical growth. I am not bothered by seeing others strongly and proudly displaying their skills via social media. Why is that? Because yoga taught me more than just how to take care of my mind and body – it taught me something about living in the present too and loving without boundaries. But I’m torn in how I want to proceed in the manner of which I share my passion of yoga, particularly after reading this very intriguing article on the topic of the “yoga selfie” – a perspective I had not considered in the slightest. There was later a rebuttal article in defense of the selfie. But I’m still torn. Here’s why:
Yoga is a practice of surrendering to God. It is an extremely personal journey, and no two people are on the same path. In Eastern cultures, yoga is practiced as a way to grow spiritually, and to spend time alone in prayer. Western cultures have since taken this spiritual practice and focused more on the physical benefits – I’m not saying there is nothing wrong with this, as yoga has been shown through scientific studies (here, here, here & here + here) to improve the body in more ways than one (trust me, as a scientist, I obviously looked into this claim pretty deeply upon becoming a yoga teacher). And it is important to take a more preventive approach to healthcare, than the retrospective one that Western cultures survive by nowadays. So anyways, as I take a photo in a yoga pose, I’m not trying to show off my “skillz”, but rather to inspire, or to share a little bit of my personal journey with you. We all seek to connect with one another, and I’m always inspired by others who share their own journeys via social media, books, blogs, and other outlets. Some may not realize, but sharing your thoughts, emotions and personal struggles online (or in communities, groups, forums, etc) opens you up to vulnerability – but accepting that vulnerability as a way of letting go of self judgement and attachment is perhaps an underlying purpose that even more don’t understand. It is a way of “letting go“, something my teacher training has taught me.
I mentioned yoga has opened my life up to more than just self acceptance… I learned that on this path to samadhi, to letting go of control and surrendering to God, there are other limbs or paths to help get me there. Some of these are truthfulness, humility, non attachment, self discipline, self study, and living with contentment (gratitude) just to name a few. Growing up in the Christian faith, these “guidelines” or yamas and niyamas were not new to me. However, they were presented to me in a more tangible way that I more readily and vigorously grasped and was able to accept and practice, thanks to two other limbs of yoga like asana (the poses) and pranayama (the breath). So the question I ask myself is.. what does my yoga selfie say about me?
I often take these photos after a class, or after warming up, and I try not to jump into them cold as that could result in injury (but let’s be honest, this does happen from time to time). I generally share a bit of advice, a challenge, or an inspiration, or perhaps I share some alignment cues, or some experience that has led me to try this new pose. Or even more, I often share the poses I’m working on, using the images to map a progress, but recognizing that the moment I feel I have “conquered” the pose, I have succumbed to pride and must begin again. It’s accountability, perhaps? It’s inspiration for my students, as I share my yoga beginning and now my current state, as testament to how you + yoga can enhance your life. At least, that is my intention. Perhaps these images are not perceived in the same way (hence, the article I shared above).
So then I continue to ask myself: what’s next? If this is the new age of technology, is it necessary to bring yoga into that world? Is it a disservice to an ancient practice to try to mold it to an image or phrase plastered all over Facebook or Instagram? But is that what we are doing with yoga selfies?
I think the answer lies with the person asking the question. And the person asking the question should be yourself, not those around you. Does this support my spiritual growth? How do you define your own spiritual growth? We make assumptions when we define these parameters for others, and those assumptions are things yoga teaches us to release.
This isn’t an argument for or against the selfie, but rather my thought process as I try to understand what this means to me. You’re welcome to comment and share your own thoughts too.