There have been a flood of posts lately poo-pooing yogis and yogninis who depict themselves in advanced asana on social media sites. Media is everywhere. With social media we can keep connected with our favorite yoga teachers and “celebrities” more than ever before. There are several reasons some feel flaunting asana isn’t what yoga is really about, such as:
- These photos encourage envy.
- They cause intimidation.
- They spread the message that yoga is all about how bendy you are.
- Lastly, and most ridiculously, that asana does not make you a better person.
I feel that these types of criticisms are missing the point. Sure, there may be some ego behind the photos in question, but let’s reframe the way we look at this whole situation.
Here’s why I think showing off your asana is awesome.
1. How others react is none of your business.
There may be some who feel envy or intimidation when they look at a pose they can’t do. The truth is that there’s going to be an equal (or greater) number who feel inspired when they see an amazing asana. If we were to refrain from doing things that may make others jealous, then singers wouldn’t sing, dancers wouldn’t dance and amazing cooks would eat takeout. The point is that if someone chooses (that’s right, it is a choice!) to envy or get intimidated by a posture,she’s only stunting her own growth.
2. Sharing helps spread knowledge.
What if Kino McGregor never posted her videos? What if Tara Stiles never did her wicked dancer’s posture for the camera? I can say I wouldn’t have the practice that I do if it weren’t for these visual examples. I’ve learned countless postures I didn’t even know existed because practitioners with greater skill than I have posted asana photos. There are many people out there who have expanded their physical practice due to seeing a photo of someone else. Why not allow these photos to be inspiring?
3. It’s traditional.
In the early days of yoga’s resurgence (100 years ago) yoga was basically a traveling circus. Pattabhi Jois took his followers around to public places to practice asana to increase awareness of yoga. Kino still does it! Would you not say that these photos of bodies in asana still increase awareness today? Like it or not, asana is the portion of yoga that we can most clearly demonstrate.
4. The asana practice is the draw, while the rest comes in time.
Asana is but one of eight limbs of yoga. There’s much more to yoga than being bendy. We learn discipline, respect, how to control the mind and how to treat others and ourselves. But the truth is, most people first come to yoga for the physical practice. It’s the foot in the door. We all want a yoga booty (OK, I know some don’t care about that, but I’m speaking generally here). Once you begin your path, no matter what the original intention, I believe that you’ll be taken on the journey you were meant to take. Yoga has deep roots. Trust that if asana is what brought someone to the practice, the practice itself will keep them there.
5. No one believes a handstand makes them a better human.
I don’t recall a time when I thought I was closer to self-actualization because I could touch my foot to my head. Those who come to yoga and stick with it will find the deeper meanings of yoga. You can be an awesome person and do handstand. You can be a terrible person and do handstand. For most, starting a yoga practice without asana is impossible. Just because someone posts a photo of themselves in an impressive asana does not automatically mean that they are neglecting all other areas of yoga. It simply means that they can do that asana. Why bother judging where their hearts and minds are at?
6. It’s better than the alternative as an example for young people.
Lastly, and I feel most importantly, is this. Media is everywhere, especially social media. We’re inundated all day with messages. So are our children. I would rather have my daughter looking up to “yoga celebrities” with advanced asana practices than Britney Spears. I would rather my son idolize a man in handstand than Brad Pitt and his shooting accuracy. Media exists, and it’s difficult to shelter your children from it, so why not fill it with images of yoga and allow these images to be what they aspire too? I would rather see a million photos of yoga asana on my Facebook feed than one photo of a half-naked celebrity. The kind of influence social media has is powerful. Let’s use it for good.