August 25, 2014

Lights. Camera. Photoshop. Yoga Journal. ~ Stephanie Devine


Yoga is meant to be journey.

It’s been discussed for years, but yogis all over seem to have hit their limit with Yoga Journal’s latest issue featuring Hilaria Baldwin holding Natarajasana on a rooftop in four-inch heels and a body-shaming article discussing how one can look thinner on the mat.

The superficiality found in the Western yoga community is nothing new. Lululemon’s been profiting from it for years. But seeing how far yoga’s fallen in Yoga Journal—for many years a respected, if uneven publication—had many of us reeling.

How are we supposed to counter this over-glamorized “yoga photo porn” (including the Instagram yoga trend that’s all body, all style with little substance) which has quickly become the standard for “being a true yogi?” Yoga is my soul and passion—yet there are some days I feel like I’m a fake simply because I happen to look…human…doing Vrschikasana in my underwear.

Am I not a true yogi because instead of being greeted by a dramatic, hair-blowing breeze after I roll over my toes into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, I’m met with a wreath of sweaty curls haloing my face? Does the heritage that keeps me pink-skinned, a little bit rounder, and profusely drenched in my own sweat when I work out mean I’ll never join the big league yogis who look so graceful and ideally unblemished when they move through their asanas, and then through photoshop?

Is cellulite what’s stopping me from connecting with my inner divinity? I mean, who needs mala beads when you can just count the 108 dimples on your ass to guide your meditation, right?

I’m guilty of getting sucked into it all, though.

Instead of setting a goal to find more peace within myself, I actually set a “photo” goal for the end of the year. (I’m going to drop some weight and then post an amazing photo of myself doing Mayurasana/Eka Pada Koundinyasana/Tittibhasana by a beach/cliff/somewhere else dramatic. Don’t forget the abbreviated, mistranslated Rumi quote)

I mean, seriously? An obsession with looking good isn’t what drew me to yoga.

And it’s certainly not what I teach in my classes.

But when I scan through Instagram or Yoga Journal, it’s easy to see how my priorities got reshuffled somewhere along the way.

What we accomplish with our bodies in yoga is something I feel it’s okay to be proud of. And if we want to be cute, sassy yoginis and pose in heels or in a body we worked really hard for—we should go for it.

Yoga can be light. Yoga can be fun. Yoga can be silly, funny. But yoga shouldn’t be shaming.

Our priorities are all off. As a community, we may be drifting.

Yoga is not about some socio-sculpted perception of beauty. Yoga is not about perfection. And it’s definitely not what you look like to others.

Remember the Megan Fox Media Blackout Day?

We need something like that for all over-glamorized yoga photos. But, for six months. Take yoga practitioners out of this era’s compulsive need to post and share photos. To look “the part.” To make every action in life merely an opportunity to post another enviable selfie.

Yoga is meant to be journey. Not a Photoshop artist’s source of income.

Let’s get back to yoga basics. No cameras. No air brushing.

Just us on our mats.

You in?

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Stephanie Devine