Enter the age of yoga selfies. Oh, they’re selfless, of course. (Aaaand I’m being facetious. Of course.) Have a camera and a bikini? You too can be an internet yoga star! No, silly, you don’t really have to practice yoga.
Ah, but what to make of this online yoga sharing, and over sharing, in an age when technology baits us to be ever increasingly “social” with TMI, OMG NSFW?
This New York Times article on Inst-yo-gram superstars had me pause mid-duckface pose to reflect on my own epic fail to achieve true internet yoga fame. What have I been doing wrong? Why didn’t I have 145,000 followers on Instagram? I mean, I practice yoga, I do enough navasana to feel confident in my beach scorpion pose wearing nothing but henna tattoos and mala beads. What do they have that I don’t? (By the way that last part is not true and is likely the blasted obstacle, the 6th klesha (!), in my way of achieving true instant yoga stardom.)
What does it take to be an insta-yoga-internet sensation? Let’s examine the steps! Explicated with quotes from the NYT:
1. BE DEDICATED: Because with yogapop stardom comes responsibility. There are people who depend on you!
Like many yoga aficionados, Laura Kasperzak, 36, practices early in the morning when she can get some time by herself. “No one’s up at 5:30 with me,” she said, referring to her husband and two young children. But unlike most other Zen seekers, before she does her first downward dog, she sets the timer on her Nikon camera to photograph herself every two seconds. After all, about 245,000 people who follow her on Instagram are waiting to see the results.
2. SET GOALS: Start small and then go for it all. Sky’s the limitless.
“It’s still shocking to me how many followers I have,” said Ms. Kasperzak, who lives in Lincoln Park, N.J., works for a software company and has been doing yoga for 16 years. “At first I thought, ‘If I get 100, I’ll be happy.’ And then my goal grew.”
3. GET EXOTIC: Location, location, location.
Indeed, Caitlin Turner, 27, a yoga teacher in Scottsdale, Ariz., has picked up more than 40,000 Instagram followers as @GypsetGoddess by picturing her practice in exotic locales, like the Galápagos Islands; Ecuador; and Chiang Mai, Thailand, generally using a self-timer on her iPhone.
4. GET THE RIGHT CAMERA: You don’t need much yoga or training, just make sure your photos are pretty. Start with the right equipment.
“What’s important is if your photos look appealing,” Ms. Goldman said. “Come on, I started like seven months ago. There are plenty of other yogis who are better than I am, but I have a good camera, which takes pretty pictures.
5. LOOK GOOD: Wear the right clothing, tight clothing or less clothing, and you’re sure to catch fire.
A pair that looks like a mermaid’s scales are a favorite, and a recent shot of her in a standing bow-pulling pose shows her in lower half clad in fuchsia-and-orange stripes. “Fashion and yoga are kind of similar,” she said. “With both I like to be lighthearted.”
6. BE ENTERTAINING: Gotta mix it up and keep ’em coming back for more!
To keep them entertained, Ms. Kasperzak does a lot of moves Indra Devi never would, like on her birthday when she posted a shot of herself upside down, eating a cupcake.
7. IF ALL ELSE FAILS: Hire a professional photographer. They know your best angles and how the light reflects just so off your tanned skin in eight directions while in astavakrasana. You’ve been working hard perfecting that pose so you can post it. You owe it to yourself and your followers to spend $750+ for 10 freaking fantastic shots.
And there you have it!
So, I know in this age of smartphones, Instagram, insta-video, facebook and mirrors we’ve pretty much all been caught with a case of the selfies. Look at that beautiful mug, who could resist? But when you can post a pic of your bod contorting into impressive shapes while tying your shoe with your teeth and baking a casserole? Now that’s some serious follow, favorite and share shit right there.
One might argue all this virtual and serial yoga exposition is in direct conflict with the nature of an inward practice. They would probably read this article on glorifying unrealistic pregnant bodies and try switching out the word “pregnancy” for “yoga” in this quote:
“We glorify the perfect pregnancy body for the wrong reasons, and there is nothing authentic, true or affirming about that. Pregnancy is hard, and often amazing, but how we look in our pregnancy skinny jeans shouldn’t top the list of importance.”
They probably think all these beautiful yoga photos perpetuate an unrealistic and unattainable fairytale stereotype leaving people feeling intimidated, inadequate and confused as to what yoga practice might be for them. They probably hate pictures of cute puppies, too. Hey, newsflash haters, it’s my body and my yoga, I can exploit them however I like! Besides, everyone knows the ultimate reward of having 250,000 Instagram followers is to feel completely whole and content with ourselves in the world. It’s definitely on like half of those 5 million top 10 lists on how to be being happy and fulfilled.
Don’t we all have the freedom and right to post yoga photos of ourselves and feel good about it?
Well, sure! If they’re beautiful. Even if it does run the risk of confusing certain people into thinking all yogis have to be young, thin women doing fancy tricks, like perplexed Instagram user yavarmi who commented on the above photo: “I took yoga class expecting to see hotties instead its full of grandams.” Ugh, sorry dude, major letdown.
But photos are powerful and speak louder than your average ‘yoga for everybody’ prattle.
As prolific professional photographer to the yoga stars Robert Sturman states:
“We live in a world where pictures are the most prominent way of communicating there is,” Mr. Sturman said. “I know how to make yoga pictures look beautiful, and I might as well share it.”
Well, duh. And thank goodness for that. Because if you don’t post a beautiful picture of your yoga, it didn’t happen.
- Project Bendypants: Practicing Yoga While Fat
- Body-Positive Yoga for Larger Bodies, Yes
- The Comfort and Sexualization of Yoga Pants
- Book Excerpt: ‘Teaching People, Not Poses’ by Jay Fields