Did you see the article in the New York Times last week about the growing trend of yogis snapping selfies of themselves doing crazy yoga poses (often donning super colorful leggings) and sharing these photos on Instagram? Some of these yogis have hundreds of thousands of followers. Virtual yoga rock stardom.
As you can imagine, this article has caused a stir. How can you be a true yogi if you are self-absorbed enough to post hundreds of selfies for the whole world to see? Is the image of the yoga community that’s being shared on Instagram (mostly thin, white, upper middle class women) creating a skewed picture of what yoga is and who it’s for? Is it making yoga exclusive?
If you look at my Instagram feed, you’ll notice some yoga photos. OK, you’ll notice a lot of yoga photos. More often than not, I’ll post a yoga photo once a day.
Most of the time, the photos are part of ongoing yoga-a-day photo challenges. I started participating in these challenges back in October and it’s become a bigger part of my life (and IG feed) than I ever expected, which totally surprised me.
I don’t really like having my picture taken and I don’t really like selfies. So why the proliferation of yoga poses in my feed?
In part, it’s because I discovered an amazing and supportive yoga community. Yes, there are some beautiful people performing near-perfect poses but more often than not, these are people who love yoga and want to share their passion.
There are teachers who now have a new outlet to teach. Honestly, sometimes I get more instruction and direction in the photo captions and comments than I do in a yoga class itself. They can break down a pose in both words and photos.
Photography is also a very powerful tool. It allows me to see myself in a pose, to pinpoint the areas that I need to work on and, most importantly, to document progress. Photography and video coaching are used in many other sports and I found it to be a huge benefit in learning to surf.
But is that the purpose of yoga? To be coached into a visually perfect expression of a pose? I don’t know.
I admit that I have gotten caught up in competition and comparison inherent in these challenges (and ended up hurting myself). However, it’s also encouraged me to be more creative – with my yoga and with photography. It’s also led me to have more compassion and gratitude for my practice. For example, being able to visually see my progress with inversions is pretty incredible.
But there’s a fine line between real and “real.”
One night, my husband was taking a picture for me as I tried to do a challenging arm balance. He kept missing the shot because I could barely hold the pose. He managed to snap a decent photo when I got into the pose for a split second. I was satisfied and ready to post the photo on Instagram when he said, “Isn’t that like cheating?”
What do you think of selfies and the image they project? Do you use photography or video as a coaching tool?
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