You know you do it. We all do. #yoga. #yogaeverywhere. #yogaeverydamnday. #yogaoffthemat. #facedownasanaup. #getcrazywithourhashtags.
If you were born before, let’s say…1990 or so, you still remember life without social media. I come from a generation of kids probably much like yourself (who might be reading this blog based on a social media post)- we are super connected. We are on our smartphones, and more than that, we are becoming dependent on them…think about how often you plug in an address to your GPS in a city you’ve lived in your whole life! There is research emerging about how social media is actually detrimental to our self-esteem, and I would begin to argue that it is actually fostering a sense of competition that isn’t necessarily healthy. We are constantly announcing everything from mundane tasks to pregnancies to mourning deaths. I even saw one person throw up a customer service number to a business she was unhappy with and advocated that if you were pissed off or having a bad day, to call and yell at the customer service manager. Ouch. I often wonder what a healthy relationship with social media looks like- especially when so many of us fail to find balanced lives in our general day to day actions.
Social media has not only deeply penetrated our lives in general, but also the online yoga community. I would “pose” (pardon the pun) this question to you: in a culture that already places so much importance on the asana, what are our intentions in posting them all over social media sites? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to criticize those that do share beautiful asana posts, but I want to instead shed some light on what you might be provoking and pervading- aside from the obvious (ego).
It’s so easy to covet beautiful people and beautiful practices like those of @LauraSykora, @yoga_girl, @beachyogagirl, @dashamalove… and those are just a few that I personally followed. Let me also preface that I do not personally know these people, but even those that I do know that participate in #stopdropandyoga, #summersplitchallenges, #bamhandstandchallenge, #mayIbegin, #backbendbonanza….whatever it may be… my immediate judgment of the intention of your photo is that you want people to see what you can do. One of the beautiful things about the online community is that we celebrate each other. Congratulations for getting 20 likes for doing an inversion on top of a mountain. However, I want to challenge you (and bring to light) that what you are also saying (by not saying it), is “Look what I can do….that you can’t.” So not only does it seem that we are building onto our already pervasive ego by getting comments like “you look so beautiful!” or “that is so awesome!” people are also saying “I would never be able to do that.” I already think that our asana practice is expensive and therefore exclusive…so why are we as yogis promoting exclusivity with daily postings of asanas- most of them way past beginner poses? Furthermore, how is that bringing more mindfulness into the community of yoga practitioners, the communities we live in, our countries, and our world?
From personal experience, I had to check myself. I had to quit following the strangers who looked beautiful in their asanas because it began to make me feel bad about my practice, my non six-pack abs (read: beer belly), and my occasional hormonally induced junk food cravings. I let myself fall into the easy trap of comparing my body, eating habits, lifestyle, and practice against theirs. The fact is, after 10 years of practice, I still can’t do a handstand. Or wheel. Or most inversions and arm balances. I found myself having to convince myself that those things don’t make me any less or more of a yoga practitioner. I had to take a hiatus. I quit following all those people. For me it boils down to being really rooted in who I am and the only way I can check myself is by not participating. I also have to continually check myself not to judge those that I personally know who participate in the aforementioned challenges, because I do appreciate that there is an element of fun to it. But, I also think it arguably borders on narcissism. Even if they posted pictures/videos of practicing kindness…I would still question why. And I think we should. It’s about finding a balance of sharing the practice without making it about you.
So while on occasion, I will use hashtags, and post pictures of my lunchtime meditation attempts (mostly of foliage- #notselfies), I think it is time think broader about the effect it might be having on the average individual. Are they trying these poses at home? Are they safe to practice for the average individual without the guidance of an experienced teacher? Furthermore…what is the reason for your asana posts? Ask yourself, and be honest about it, are you doing for some form of social acceptance? Is it inclusive or exclusive of the average individual? I would challenge our yogis and yoginis out there to get mindful about our presence on social media and how we are representing ourselves to the overall community. Before you answer “How are you feeling?” and then press “post,” take a breath. Treat it just like any other practice. Find an intention, and then hold to that. Maybe even share more of your heart, and less of your body.
Pictured here (but not yet posted on social media…until now), Megan Escalona is “almost” native to Atlanta and has been practicing yoga for almost 10 years. She’s not your typical “flexible” yogini and promises to ensure that some form of each pose can be accessible and comfortable to each student. The foundation of her personal practice is pranayama (breath work) which she integrates into her classes. Megan hopes to help her students reach their physical goals through their asana practice, but also believes the spiritual practices and philosophy can deepen your quality of life and therefore aims to bring in these elements to her classes as well. She is a lifelong learner, speaks fluent Spanish and lives with her husband Eduardo and Lola, her German Shepard mutt. She loves cooking, eating, craft beer, music, and sunshine. You can check out her Facebook page at for Vida Yoga or go see her on Thursday and Friday evenings at Vita-Prana Yoga in Smyrna.
**repost from My Yoga Scene Facebook**
OK – so I took some time yesterday to think about WHY I do the Instagram yoga challenges, as well as other yoga poses and post those as well. The answer is very simple. Because it makes me happy. It’s the same reason I post pictures of my puppy (Brutus is the cutest), Makenzie (because she’s the best human on this earth), and food (because I’m a self proclaimed fat kid). I’m a bit of an open book, and I love to share all of me with everyone. And yoga is a huge piece of who I am and how I got to be me. When I look at some yoga poses on IG that I’ve never tried (Heron being one of the most recent ones) it makes me what to try it! It makes me want to deepen MY personal asana practice. I’m not saying ego isn’t involved. I think that ego is involved in all social media outlets, but I think your article will help people open their eyes inward and double check that if they are posting #yogaselfies that they’re doing so with intention more than with ego.
Thanks for posting Jami. Yoga photos should be looked at and used more for grounding inspiration. Yes, we should all be aware and witnessing social media influences. Social media is also another means for of connecting, not necessarily all to show off and oh look what I can do. Let’s be real, and set aside all other b.s. When that is done, one can learn to look at a published yoga selfie photo as just neutrally observing someone else’s practice and borrow if you want to embody it. Use mirror neurons to be with he sensation you see someone else feeling. It’s like watching a child laugh, and not help but laugh with them too. The more I teach yoga and continue as a student, the more I enjoy witnessing many people practicing with their special touches on yoga that can empower and inspire beyond themselves and their ego.
and KUDOS for starting a dialogue. This is def got me talking and I guess that was the point.
I read this post and while I thought it was very well articulated, I disagreed with 98% of it.
I think the issue with yoga selfless isn’t the inherent narcissism of taking a picture of yourself to share with others, that is a product of the times, sister. The problem is with people feeling “less than” because they project their feelings of inadequacy onto the ones the deem “advanced yogis”. I don’t look at a difficult or technical posture on social media and say to myself ” Wow, I can never do that, I feel bad about myself for not being at that level. Whatever, they are just showing off anyway”. When I see a beautiful picture on social media I say “ Wow, I cant do that YET, but if I try and practice, maybe one day I will… and maybe one day I wont”. The idea that yoga selfies should stop because there are people who can’t do them is like saying that beautiful people should wear burkas because it will make me feel less beautiful. It’s totally ludicrous. We shouldn’t see something difficult and feel bad about ourselves. We should see something to aspire to. Or if that isn’t a part of our yoga journey, we should appreciate the beauty and the fact that some people need to get through the physical layer before they can even tap into the energetic –let alone the spiritual one.
I follow those insta-famous yogis and whenever I see their crazy poses it reminds me to get on my mat every day. It reminds me that yoga is an every day journey not just a once or twice a week “get your sweat on” kind of deal. It also reminds me that for many people it is exactly that. Because I have been practicing for many years sometimes I forget that what started me on this journey in the first place was the physical practice of asana. It took me years before I was ready for the spiritual side. I thank the instagram yogis for introducing our culture to yoga in the most effective way for our society, through beauty. I don’t think the instagram yoga community should be to blame for the way our society places way too much emphasis on the physical. They are human and being a yogi doesn’t change that.
The problem here isn’t yoga selfies, the problem here is judgment. What needs to stop is the judging of others and how they choose to find their path. What needs to stop is the judging of OURSELVES against others.
I too have felt the insecurities in myself after looking at some of these complicated and out of this world poses-perfected by someone with rock hard abs and killer duds! I take those insecurities and use them to find the happy place within myself, with my mediocre headstand-against the wall and my soft curvy figure. 🙂
Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thanks Megan for your post. I have mixed feelings about the yoga pictures on social media. I do feel that some people could see these photos and only see one side of yoga and immediately think ” I can’t do that…so Yoga is not for me”. Which makes me sad because yoga can be something amazing for everyone (Mind, Body, and/or Soul)! On the other hand, it is beautiful to see poses through different body types. It’s also inspiring to see what people have accomplished. Some poses allow for people to shine and it takes a whole new meaning if you know their journey and their story. A picture says a thousand words…even if one of the words may be “ego”. I am one of those Yogi’s who post pictures of my asana practice, but I tend to do the non-inversion pics because I think Trikonasana, Balasana, or even Savasana are just as beautiful and allow for people to shine in their pictured practice! This topic is always interesting and I thank you for bringing it to the table!
Megan, I once was exactly on the same side of the fence you are. And it’s not just with yoga. It seems to be the same with everything on Facebook, and Instagram and Pinterest.
I saw pictures of perfectly decorated tables and then looked at my own table half covered with papers and a random collection of children’s toys. It made me feel like a sloppy mess.
I saw pictures of perfectly cooked and Whole30/Paleo/Vegan meals and felt like I was being judged by my meal of French fries. (Yeah, I said it….French fries!)
I saw pictures of perfectly coordinated children and perfectly placed hairbows and I felt like Slacker-Mother-Of-The-Year looking at my own children who looked like mismatched ragamuffins. Seriously, I’m happy they even brush their teeth every morning let alone their hair!
I saw pictures of perfect yoga asanas and knew I wasn’t coming close to achieving those pictures. I judged my body and my own yoga practice.
But, after doing my own introspective work, here’s what I’ve concluded: IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. No really, it’s not. These pictures are celebrations of the work that these yogis, moms, people have done. It’s certainly not my place to decide their motives. And I can choose whether I give these pictures the power over me to affect my own self worth.
I may never have a picture perfect house, perfectly groomed kids, gourmet meals, or that ever elusive handstand. But, I will celebrate in yours and others accomplishments! And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get there one day too.
Thanks, Deva. Agreed. I wonder if we sell ourselves short with the line of thinking that #meditationeverydamnday wouldn’t gather the right “kind” of or “enough of a” following.
Shit…just realized I replied to the wrong comment. Jules, I also agree with you. I had to take a step back and realize that it’s not about me or my feelings of inadequacy. However, I still think that as yoga teachers we are called to teach beyond the asana. And my opinion is that placing that (the asana) front and center on social media doesn’t create that mentality and/or encourage more mindfulness in the community at large. I appreciate that they are celebrations of work, and I most certainly have posted those too…but it is important to return to the question why. Ultimately, if they are celebrations of work we have to be honest- you are feeding ego. We work = we get rewarded + social media = we feel accepted. We should be working towards acceptance of self and acceptance of others without conditions. And I’ll also bring back my point of inclusion…by saying “I can do this” by posting a pose….you are really saying “You can’t.” Many people who might be following you might not even have access to a yoga studio. Or splits might not be available for their body type. Once we sign on to teach, instruct, and lead the yoga community we are called to practice all 8 limbs. Posting a ton of advanced postures on Instagram was never part of that deal. We lead by example.
Perfectly crafted, Megan! Its a dichotomy of inspiration that crosses into the realm of enhancing the ego and the very qualities of it that we work to balance and acknowledgment through the philosophical teachings of yoga. Many yoga ‘selfies’ are used as a way to self-promote, gain an audience, and earn more ‘yoga work’ by displaying yoga skills. I would love to see exhibitions of meditation, but the problem is that no one would follow #meditateeverydamnday. Lol! As a teacher and practitioner of yoga, there is an emphasis on the physical body and less on the tradition. A handstand will come and go with age (watch…), but the classical teachings of yoga are infinite.
Deva…I accidentally responded to your comment on Julie’s post. See below for my response and thanks for engaging in thoughtful dialogue with me.
“Thanks, Deva. Agreed. I wonder if we sell ourselves short with the line of thinking that #meditationeverydamnday wouldn’t gather the right “kind” of or “enough of a” following.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this blog!!!! I too can mirror everything you wrote and have even blocked former people from seeing their posts in my FB feed for the reasons you wrote above. Thank you!
Thanks for the comment, Heather. I think we are called to something larger than the asana and it’s hella hard not to (self) indulge, but I appreciate your commentary!