Yoga Selfies - What Do You Think?
Last week the New York Times published an article about the recent wave of yogis that are posting photos of themselves using apps such as Instagram. To say that the article has raised both ire and defenses is an understatement. Proponents and fans of the yoga “selfies” are putting up their dukes to proclaim they are wonderful, inspirational and encouraging others to get on the mats. Conversely, those that dislike these public displays of asana are citing them as flashy, arrogant and highly unyogic. Many of us are left asking who is right?
The truth is, this discussion about yoga photos is merely a continuation of a current trend in conversations about what is a.) wrong with yoga in the West and b.) clash between modernism and tradition. The article and its ensuing ripples have dipped another toe into the pond started by chatter about naked yogis in ads, yoga celebrities and other such topics. Traditional versus modernism clans have clearly taken up battle arms and refuse to come to a truce.
But the question remains WHY is it important to have such “rightness” of opinion? Is yoga not for anyone?
Two years ago I decided to blog every single day about my yoga. My method was to include a photograph and a song, to find my yoga on or off the mat, and to share all three with my readers. Nearly once or twice a week I got my elves to take a photograph of me doing a yoga pose somewhere and I posted it on my blog. I was chronicling my practice, not pronouncing my fabulousness. The photographs were for me, were taken by my family and they were shared for my readers. The practice of doing these photographs and blog posts inspired me to keep coming to my mat and also inspired readers to tell me that it did the same for them. Did these pictures make me less “yogic” or were they contrary to traditional practices of yoga? I argue that they were not and instead were merely a modern way of sharing something I so deeply believe in and live.
Is sharing photographs different than demonstrating an asana when I teach my yoga classes, really?
This battle between traditional and modern approaches to yoga in the West has made me sad. Rather than connecting as a vital and powerful community of healers and practitioners, we are fighting amongst ourselves in a way that seems completely against the practice we so ardently live. Perhaps it is time that we stop taking so much time to judge each other, and instead delve deeply into some Svadhyaya. We need to reexamine what it is that makes this practice so profound and to turn our attention inward rather than bashing so much of that exists off our own mats.
In our virtual cybersangha it is time we close our eyes and reconnect with our inner witnesses, the ones that see without judgment.
For those who find it more challenging to let these differences soften like shoulders in Tadasana, I remind them of the powerful practice of Brahmavihara. Particularly relevant is empathetic joy: the celebrating of success of others without judgment or anger.
There will always be differences in yoga, from styles, to temperatures, to voices , to studies, to traditional versus modern. It is time to create a 2013 yoga that involves inclusion and non-judgment. In my vision of this yoga there is space for all because all can practice whether it be in a photograph, in an ashram or at home on our mats.