by Kelly Barrett
A few weeks ago I did something I never thought I would do: I changed my Facebook profile picture to a photo of myself doing yoga on the beach.
The next morning, I walked into my office and the first thing one of my coworkers said was, “How do you even do that?!” It took a moment to realize what she was talking about, but then we had a conversation about the pose. I explained how you get into headstand, and we chatted a bit more about yoga in general.
But I couldn’t help but feel bashful about it.
Then a few weeks back (because it really was just a matter of time) The New York Times published an article about yoga selfies and the entire Internet rolled its eyes. I braced myself to play defense for a team I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be on. But I’m on that team, Team Yoga Selfies.
I am not even remotely a yoga selfie Insta-star (as are several of the people interviewed within the Times’ article.) I started taking videos of myself doing yoga at home one morning about four months ago, when I placed my MacBook on the floor in my house and set a video to record to see what my alignment looked like in an inversion. It then occurred to me what a great learning tool it could be, and that it could serve as a means for watching my asana practice change over time. One night I took a crappy, low-resolution freeze-frame of peacock pose and considered posting it on Instagram. I thought, would that be the most narcissistic thing ever?
I decided that yes, it was slightly narcissistic, this being social media, where a certain element of narcissism exists at the core of most user’s individual experience. But I reasoned that my sharing these images came from a place of education, inspiration and appreciation for yoga. I believe there are many yoga practitioners on the Internet that see it this way as well. There isn’t one pose I ever learned to do entirely on my own. Yoga is the practice of getting to know your true self, but it’s also deeply rooted in community. If people saw a beautiful pose and it inspired them to check out a yoga class or deepen their own practice or correct something unsafe they were doing, or if they could correct something unsafe I was doing, for me it was worth the vanity of the selfie. I continue to hope that the intention behind the image will shine through, despite what the potential perception is by some.
There have been moments where I’ve had to keep that intention in check. Sometimes, I feel myself prioritizing getting a good shot over getting through my sequence or focusing on my breath. These are times when I’ve had to take a step back from sharing. I make it a point now to go through my practice in the morning and then if there’s time, record a video after, or later on that night. For me, for now, this works.
But is posting pictures of one’s yoga practice on the Internet a yogic thing to do? This twinge of hesitation hasn’t quite left me. But I think that’s a part of the nature of sharing, because while we can certainly control our own intentions, we cannot control those of others. My hesitation emerges when I get creepy comments from strangers or I’m followed by a girl on Tumblr who is clearly battling with issues that a yoga pose picture isn’t going to help. My hesitation wanes when it prompts a conversation with someone who otherwise wouldn’t have thought about yoga at all that day, like my coworker.
When it comes to these Internet yoga-lebrities, I cannot speak for their intention. However I would say it’s quite obvious that their focus is on likes and clicks and eyeballs on their page and more advertising dollars or bodies in their classes and workshops or whatever. Yoga is a big business now, and I don’t think that’s going to change and perhaps in some ways that is a good thing. Perhaps we need the fancy (yoga) pants poses to get people interested in the practice, and then they find their own path from there, a path that isn’t about standing on their head, but about what that enabled them to do off of the mat.
As the viewer of these images, we have the power to exert our own intention as well. Will it come from a place of intimidation or respect? Will it come from a place of envy or appreciation? Will it come from a place of judgment or growth?
Kelly Barrett is a PR professional and yoga teacher living in Washington, D.C. She completed her 200-hour teacher training in the spring of 2013 after spending years falling in love with the transformative quality of yoga. Kelly also writes about her experiences with yoga at her personal blog, nomnomnamaste.tumblr.com.
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- How to Be a Beautiful Yoga Selfie Star
- This Yogini Is Mad As Hell About Yoga Fashion And She’s Not Going To Take It Anymore
- Gentle is the New Advanced Yoga