June 9, 2014

In Defense Of Yoga Selfies. ~ Beth Prandini

Photo: Lisa Picard via Flickr

Why is The Yoga Community So Disturbed By The Selfie Trend?

Over the past few years I have become accustomed to a constant stream of yoga selfies on my various social media feeds, and I am fine with it. After all, I am an asana (physical Yoga) teacher. What do I expect?

Naturally, I care about asana, and many of the people I care about, care about it too.

What I am not fine with however, is the latest outpouring of self-righteous judgment by members of this same yoga community ever since Last week’s New York Post Article “Celebrity Yoga Posers Have Yoga World in a Twist” and About Time’s “About Time: We Stopped The Yoga Selfie.”

Somehow my beloved social media feed has transitioned from lovely photos of Natarajasana on a tropical beach to venomous strikes at the yogis post these pics.

Seriously, not since see-through leggings have I seen the social media yoga community get their bandhas in such a bunch!

Ego Versus Fear.

So, in defense of #selfies, I want to know, has this sudden collective veil of condemnation about asmitā (Ego) somehow blinded all of these social media yogis to their own clinging grasp on an equally destructive branch of ignorance—abhiniveśaḥ, or fear.

Tell me, #haters, are we so afraid that the Eight Limbed Path we love will be tainted by a passing modern technological trend, that we are willing to lash out at yogis who are simply displaying their love of asana? Regardless if the yogis in question are celebrities or not, is your judgmental fear somehow less offensive to me than their so called “ego problems?”

To borrow from another Spiritual tradition;

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? ~ Matthew 7:3

While I am at it, why are we so ready to assume that all these yogis posting pictures are out-of-control egomaniacs in the first place?

#IMHO the majority of people posting these selfies (myself included) are living out their personal calling to teach asana, and these selfies are simply a business tool, to help them play out their personal Dharma (path).

If we look at it from the lens of Ashrama, the Classical Sanskrit concepts of the four stages of life, most of these people are rightly doing their duties in the Householder stage of life, working at their chosen profession with dedication to providing for themselves, and their families as is appropriate.

Don’t Be Afraid

Selfies are simply a marketing tool for modern yogis. Just as the teacher at the root of my lineage, Krishnamacharya, revived Hatha Yoga with public demonstrations in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40s, today we upload a pose to our social networks for the exact same reason—to spread the news about the benefits of asana.

Perhaps a student viewing a gorgeous photo of an asana is then inspired to turn to asana as a means toward greater physical health. Why would we want to down-play or shame the teachers who are leading students to all of the blessings physical yoga provides? If Asana was all that we had, wouldn’t its blessing be enough?

We all know it is not just physical.

Luckily, Asana isn’t all we have. Most of us know that only three of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras make mention of Asana at all. Yes, blogosphere, there are #sevenotherlimbs, so why fear that students might get lost in a purely physical practice?

We all began the practice of yoga somewhere, and for many of us in the West, the introduction to the practice was physical. I myself, started yoga when I was very ill, just like other teachers in my lineage, and I am so grateful I found it, as it truly changed the fate of my illness.

I like to practice The Eight Limbed Path organically, but it is clear that the limbs were arranged in ascending order for a reason.

The consistent practices of living right by others and yourself leads you to respect your own body with Asana.

Once the physical container is strong, it is easier to regulate the breath. When focused on controlling the breath, the mind is less likely to become distracted by the senses. It becomes easier to concentrate and ultimately, to meditate and immerse with Self.

Why cut people off from exploring this complex path, because they are currently enjoying one aspect?

As an Asana teacher, I have had the opportunity to watch students delight in the discovery of the layers of the subtle body and enjoy an exploration of heights of Raja Yoga, but where would they be today had their love of asana not brought them to this point?

The first kosha isn’t all that there is, but it is the obvious place to start. Since physical asana is the gateway from which most of us found Yoga, why are we so shocked by its current incarnation? Why would we want to cut people off from the entrance into a larger path to freedom?

We all need to start somewhere, so be where you are.

After all, they are just “poses.”

Patanjali’s yoga sutras only makes mention of asana three times for a reason, because: it’s just asana people, calm down. Maybe, just maybe, posting selfies cultivates feelings of friendliness and goodwill in some yogis, and is not the perceived evil we seem to think it is.

In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.”

(maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam) – Yoga Sutra 1:33

My dear Yoga Kula, I hope you will hear my defense for yogis who like posing.

After all, posing is what asana is.



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Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Lisa Picard via Flickr

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Beth Prandini