As a Yoga Teacher, I have many friends who are serious practitioners and teachers. We all share a common love for the practice. I have noticed a trend on the internet lately that is starting to increase my concern that Yoga is losing its Yoga. Yoga selfies, you know all those pictures of beautiful people contorting their bodies into amazing expressions of Yogic art. I call this art because it is a visual representation, not reality. The poses themselves have very little to do with Yoga other than that they are the more tangible, visual aspect of the practice. The poses are a starting point. They are a place for us to meet up with resistance in our bodies and to retrain our nervous system to react to exterior stimuli in a more balanced way. It doesn’t matter if we look amazing in a pose. It doesn’t matter how we look in the pose at all, as long as we are safe from injury. What’s important is what is happening on the inside. What emotions are being released? What thoughts are coming up? What muscles are helping that don’t need to? What is happening with breath? These are the important things. The way the pose looks is no reflection as to how well the Yogi/Yogini is progressing along the path.
The images that are showing up on our social media sites of Yogic Art can look intimidating, and suggest that how the poses look are an indication of mastery. Those of us who post these pictures are proud of how we look. We get a charge out of showing off our expertise, and we use it to market our skills as teachers. That isn’t Yoga. It’s artistic expression. It’s a shallow representation of something much deeper and intangible. Yoga is connection to all. It is a process of transformation. It is something that cannot be represented in photographic art, but rather in the joyful eyes of the practitioner.
When we take up the practice, we struggle. We confront parts of ourselves that aren’t pretty. Parts that do not show up in these pictures. Fears, anxieties, past traumas all surface and get released. It is not always an easy process, but it is a worthy process. The physical practice is only 1/8 of a complete yoga practice. When practiced seriously and completely, without regard to outward appearances, yoga gives us freedom. Yoga gives us freedom. Freedom from the sense of separation. We feel confident, secure, happy, joyful, energetic, and we emanate that in our outward appearance. One cannot see all of those things in the photos. The poses don’t matter. What happens to us as a result of complete practice is what matters.
Practitioners be mindful about whether your postings are to represent the practice or to stroke your own ego. Practitioners, and non-practitioners, go ahead and admire the beautiful artistic expression, but remember, this is not what Yoga is all about. It doesn’t matter if you can touch your toes, or backward bend like a pro. It matters that you show up and have the courage to explore your own experience of mind, body and spirit.