Hello, my name’s Natasha, and I’m an instagram yogi. That’s right, I like to post photos of yoga poses, the occasional handstand and videos of my favourite flows on social media….and there’s nothing wrong with that! Is there a problem with yoga and instagram? I don’t think there is.
I’m getting a little tired of hearing that yogis who post photos in lovely locations, in seemingly perfect postures, are not proper yogis. My question is; who gets to decide who is a good or bad yogi? In my opinion, absolutely no one.
I’ve recently seen articles to this effect though, demonizing yoga teachers with a large social media following, such as Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl) and Laura Sykora (@laurasykora), and claiming that they’re ruining the true meaning of yoga. The argument states that they’re turning yoga into a narcissistic popularity competition with a sole focus on making poses look pretty and not showing the hard work behind it all. To those people, I say ‘please get off your yoga high horse, and if you don’t like what you see, simply unfollow’. To me, there’s so much more to it than that, and whether you like it or not, those people are making, or at least trying to make, a positive difference in the yoga world.
Yoga is a process, and it can be a long one at that, and everyone has to start somewhere. The nation, and the planet, is getting fatter and lack of activity is becoming a huge problem. Teachers, and influencers are often looked to for inspiration, and people are looking online more than ever before. If use one person looks through instagram, sees me, or another yogi in what they think is an impressive pose and decides to get off their sofa and find a studio, then surely that should be celebrated. OK, it’s unlikely they’re going to be able to achieve that immediately, I’m not denying that, we should be looking at the bigger picture here; introducing people to yoga.
My yoga journey started in a similar way, I started following a few so-called instagram yogis, was so impressed by their strength that I started going to class regularly. I had A LOT of unlearning to do, which I am working on in my own time. Do I show that on social media? Sometimes. Should I? Not necessarily, it’s something that I do in my own private time. Does that make me a bad yogi? No. Sometimes, you need to start with aiming for the pretty stuff and work backwards, and that’s what I’m doing. I started yoga, and now I’m learning all the intricacies that go with it, there’s no right or wrong place to start. Just the fact that you’ve started.
Another cause for complaint is the parade of designer yoga gear that walks through yoga studios each day. Again, bigger picture! If putting on a pair of fancy leggings gets someone to class, and makes them feel good about themselves, then that’s great. We all need a confidence boost, and for some people, that comes through what they wear. What someone wears on their mat doesn’t affect anyone else in the room (unless it’s crazy see-through of course!), so there is no need to comment.
Perhaps you agree that all this photo taking, and designer legging wearing a little narcissistic, but you don’t have to join in if it’s not your thing, and there’s plenty around to suit everyone, camera-shy or not. Yoga in a darkened room for example or online yoga classes where you can be in your pyjamas in your living room and still reaping the benefits. Not to mention meditation apps, digital detoxes and more. Labelling someone as being narcissistic is cruel, judgemental and utterly pointless. What is there to gain from spreading such negativity?
Yes, there are eight limbs yoga, and in an ideal world, each of those should be adhered to by the most devout of yogis. Out of those eight, only one is actually the physical practice – ASANA. The others being ideologies and ways of living to create what is thought to be the true definition of yoga – to join, unite, or yoke – and create harmony between the mind, body and spirit. Despite there being these eight limbs of yoga, in order to achieve all of these takes years of dedication, focus and practice.
Think of it this way…If you knew someone who wrote in their spare time, published some articles, maybe a short story or two, but not a full length novel, yet they were so proud of that, they shared it with the world…you’d unlikely turn to them and tell them that they’re ‘ruining the image of a true writer’ would you? I hope not. So why is it appropriate to tell someone who is currently only working on, or showing the world, one or two of the eight limbs of yoga, that they’re not a real yogi?
So there you have it, my mini-rant. Taking photos during class, I don’t agree with, of course not, that’s just respect. But snapping a shot outside, where sunshine and sea air have given you a healthy glow, and where you feel confident and happy doesn’t make you a narcissist. Not in my books anyway. So, if you like photos of yoga, food, fancy leggings, and occasionally my cat, come and find me @danceflowlift.