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Yoga posts have a large amount of shares on social media.
Yet, many of my female friends have struggled deeply with community guidelines across platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. Even though they follow the guidelines, their posts are removed, or misappropriated. Instagram can remove any post showing someone in a yoga position, as they deem it “sexual.”
I grew up seeing swimmers in swimwear and gymnasts in leotards, and it has boggled me that YouTube now classifies swimwear as 16+ content. The practice in my video below took me eight years to learn, yet because of what I wear, it has been given an age restriction.
I feel completely hurt that my eight years of training can be put into a restricted bracket, because of what I wear—yet anyone can watch the gymnastics and swimming events in the Olympics.
At the beach or pool with my daughter, wearing the same outfit would cause no issues—everyone holds respect, or does not sexualise them. So, if contextually, a swimsuit at the beach or pool with family and friends is okay, why on social media do they say it is 16+?
On Instagram, you can wear full coverage leggings and top, and they will still remove your post, claiming it is too sexual. You can also post photos adhering to the community guidelines for nudity like @nude_yogagirl, and while her posts will remain, smaller accounts will be removed, shadow banned, or receive a violation for sexualisation.
Nude Yoga Girl is doing an amazing job to help others and encourage social media to change its perspective, but smaller voices also need to be respected and heard, not silenced, or misappropriated, otherwise what are the guidelines for?
It’s important for us to look at the contexts of the guidelines we are placing online, and make sure that reality aligns. Robot algorithm checking is also causing massive issues with not being able to see colors and assume it is skin. If you ask for an appeal, the automatic response is, “We decline your appeal.” They do not give time for a human to check the post.
We are not helping each other, or our children, when we are confusing everyone with misaligned online and offline worlds. We are also causing more issues with sexualisation, misappropriation, and online bullying when we do not address these issues.
We are in a visual world today more than ever, and we choose to share our journeys online. This is the new world, and we need to use it more wisely.
I find it confounding and interesting that our culture is about what is, or is not, appropriate. Studying yoga teaches you that the heart of yoga isn’t about the physical practice or the postures—it’s about the connection with your breath and your consciousness.
I believe that in order for us to be able to have better alignment between online and offline worlds, we must dissolve the ego as Pantanjali believed. We must gain control over our mind, body, and senses, be responsible with how we use it, and care for each other online.
Any social media post, like yoga photographs, are no more ego driven than a selfie with a friend. It is simply a photograph that we take and post. Old photographs exist of those practicing yoga in India. The only difference is that they put them in magazines, newspapers, books, or hung them on the wall, as there was no social media to share it with.
Many of the men practicing also wore little and were not discriminated against for that (they are often not today either). I feel there is still too much judgement around women who are actually sharing amazing and valuable content.
Assumptions and judgments are taught not to be made in yoga. Instead we should live with an open heart and mind, and be the upward spiral of kindness. Yoga asks us to be mindful and compassionate of the differences in this world, accept ourselves and others for who we are, and to love with an open heart.
Ahimsa means to practice in a way that causes no harm or violence. Making assumptions about a photograph or video, or creating online social media guidelines that misappropriate a human is creating fear and harm. Can we truly say, based on an online post, that this person is appropriate or not?
When we do not speak about this, or how yoga practices are being misappropriated and placed on porn sites, we also create shame and hurt to those who are already suffering deeply in the online world of cyberbullying and judgement.
Transparency is important I believe, and this is hard for me to write about, because so often people are cruel. However, after the silence that bore witness to the Ashtanga community having decades of survivors of abuse themselves, it’s important to not let that happen online too. We should open the lines of communication to address these issues, for the future generation, and for those who are currently suffering.
There are so many community guidelines that are not supportive, and we need to speak out about these experiences. It will be the beginning of a much larger discussion for yoga communities and women online that needs to be had so we can stop misappropriation, sexualising every post, and restricting those with smaller accounts.
We live through a little piece of time that is ours on Earth, but that piece of time is not only our own life—it is summing up all the other lives that are simultaneous with ours. We are all an expression of history, and the greatest disempowerments are the lies we tell ourselves, and stay silent on.
If we cannot address things like swimwear being appropriate for the beach but not online, we create two different realities. This will not only damage the way we see the world, but how we interact too.