So don’t get me wrong, I LOVE seeing yoga photos of fun, happy people, climbing up lamp posts or scaling phone boxes or walking across the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral on their hands; It’s yoga meets art, creativity as well some impressive strength (and leggings!) and it genuinely makes me smile. In the same respect ‘Transformation Tuesday’ type photos of progress that people have made make me happy for them and full of admiration for their commitment and dedication to their practice.
But when does it go from taking photos of yourself in postures as part of your own progress or perhaps an online daily challenge, and posting them on our social media accounts to inspire people to get on their mats and give it a try, or show people that yoga can be quirky and fun; to posting a photo online and obsessing over the number of ‘likes’ you get?
This type of attention can create (or feed) insecurity and the result is an overly inflated ego, hungry with this need to be seen. So more photos are posted as the desire for cheap praise grows. Then, ultimately, this fame hungry, attention craving monster is created, blindly followed by people who they’ve never met, and probably never will, and losing touch with real people because they ‘don’t understand’, which becomes self-destructive. But then you can even pay facebook or random people for more ‘followers’, so who needs real life friends and family when the number of followers you have on your Instagram defines you!?
“It’s not this ‘look at me’ approach to practice that bothers me as such, but the expectations that are being set”
Another bug bear (I appear to be on a roll) – is barely dressed students (and teachers!). There are many amazing bodies in the studio but most are covered up. And believe that I am too busy focusing on not falling over than your lovely firm midriff or how much your new sports bra gives you a great cleavage. Yes, we wear fitted clothes (a baggy t-shirt generally flops over my face in down dog which is somewhat distracting) and yes occasionally my gym top may struggle to contain my bosom but this is an inconvenience, trust me!
It’s not this ‘look at me’ approach to practice that bothers me as such, but the expectations that are being set. It’s no wonder that people are intimidated by what is meant to be a personal, internal practice when they have photos of scantily clad women with impeccable abs to compare themselves to (which they shouldn’t of course, as everybody is different, but most of us can’t help but compare).
In the same respect, people come to class expecting to be able to do a king pigeon straight off because they saw someone doing it online, but are frustrated when they’re corrected into a forward bend. It distracts from the very basic idea that it’s not about the end result, nailing that posture and getting your foot on your head, it’s about the journey. And this mad rush to achieve postures leads to many an injury – I am constantly seeing people try to force their legs into full lotus before their hips are anywhere near ready, which ultimately puts enormous pressure on their knees.
I regularly remind my students that if they ‘feel that’ in their hamstrings by moving a fraction towards the posture, they are getting the exact same thing from it as I am with my head on my shins, I just have to go further into the posture in order to challenge my already well stretched muscles – and then there is always further to go after that. This is something we should all remember and remind ourselves, and our students.
I have a level of excitement I have nicknamed ‘Handstand Happy’, being that when I’m that ecstatic about something, I just want to get upside down! It’s not showing off and it’s not for anyone else but me, I’m not taking a photo and I’m not trying to prove that I can to anyone – my handstands are sloppy even; but they’re fun!
I do take the odd yoga selfie, and I do intend to find an IG challenge to do in the new year, but that is for me, because my daily practice has fallen away somewhat lately and having a pose to post each day will get me back on my mat each morning (hopefully). I was also requested twice in the last few weeks to post some more postures; because it was inspirational, and I know for a fact that a few of my friends have tried yoga because of my progress.
I showed an old photo of an arm balance to a student the other day compared to a recent one to show where I started. They were surprised to see I was once exactly where they are – and I still have a long way to go too!
Ultimately, you’re going to do what you want to do, but I think you should be mindful not to hurt anyone in the process, including yourself. Don’t let your ego become so big that there is no room for anyone else. Stay humble, stay present, we aware of what’s real and what’s fleeting. Beauty fades, attention is fickle, self-respect should be paramount.