This year introduced me to the #yogaselfie, as well as the controversy surrounding the latest trend in our “selfie” culture. Are the photos and videos of twisty arms, legs, and beach bodies (that seem to be flooding every social media) taking away from the purposeful image of yoga, and replacing it with more ego and narcissism, as well as an unreachable ideal for the rest of us?
I’ve wondered about this for some time, debating on posting poses during my increasing interest developed over the past year. For the first time since that first downward dog in high school on my parents’ kitchen floor, I enrolled in a yoga class. For the first time since my senior year of college, I’ve practiced daily for more than a month at a time. And, for the first time ever, I’ve connected with other fans of yoga.
Social media, especially Instagram, is what I consider the “main hub” for yogis and yoginis. I have one or two in-person friends who will occasionally discuss yoga with me, but everyday I can go on Instagram and like a photo, see #yogachallenges, and become inspired by the variety of shapes, sizes, and types of people molding into their asanas.
My perception of the community is certainly created by my own experience. The first Instagram challenge I participated in was created by @yoga_girl Rachel Brathen, who focused on all the other aspects of yoga, not just the poses. The Yoga Girl Challenge created space for self-reflection, for forgiveness, for creating good habits and good energy. Participant’s posts reflected the goal of the day, not the pose they held the longest in their daily asana practice.
Currently, I’m participating in the #beSTRONGin2015 yoga challenge. This Instagram challenge does feature some kind of giveaway at the end of the week, that I believe is nice but not necessary (or remembered). We do focus on the poses, and posting those poses every day. Of course, “we” are not all perfectly fit, extremely flexible people. The “explore option” on Instagram, or following the challenge’s hashtag shows just how many other regular people are getting into a headstand for the first time. I’d also like to point out the intention behind this challenge: growing stronger (it’s in the name), and deepening yoga practice. Leading the challenge are @kinoyoga, Kino, and @beachyogagirl, Kerri, who focus on teaching the poses correctly, on the reason behind the pose, and all the things yoga is suppose to be about.
For those not familiar, Yoga was created as a way to strengthen the body for the act of meditation, even helping the mind to connect more with the body and the Self through motion, which is my favorite aspect of the practice. On days I cannot focus my mind on only my breath, a quick practice allows a following meditation to become that much easier.
For me, posting my imperfect poses and baby triumphs is terribly liberating. The daily posts hold me accountable to get on the mat “#everydamnday” and encourage me to try poses I’ve never tried before, let alone imagined I could do. Certainly, there’s some ego behind it, but there’s more self-realization, deeper focus. I can feel my body becoming stronger already.
I guess my decision to post my own yoga selfies is very much in line with Alexandra Crow’s article on Yoga Journal: I’m contributing to the image of real yoga practice. Imperfect, flawed, real. Yoga selfies that do this, that show men and women, of all body types, of all abilities and backgrounds, open the practice of yoga to everyone.
And that’s the whole idea.