As part of the “you do you” tribe, it’s a little unusual for me to share some of my (often conflicted) thoughts about certain issues on this blog. While I’m honest about everything I choose to share, I tend to steer clear of engaging in more controversial topics both in my personal life and online.
Of course, if I feel strongly about something, I take a stand for it. But when I’m entertaining a tangle of thoughts – which I usually am – I tend to keep my opinions to myself.
But there is one thing that has been on my mind for a while, and I feel that it’s time for me to share my thoughts on it: The “Instagram yoga” phenomenon. Are people still talking about it? I don’t really know.
I do know that it has garnered a lot of attention and debate among yogis in recent years. You know, how does the yoga community really feel about the scantily clad women (and men) in contorted yoga poses, selling us (inadvertently or not) an image of the ideal physique with a side of trendy athletic wear. Besides all the debate on the rise of bikini yoga, it goes a lot deeper than that.
On the surface, I wouldn’t say that I am against Insta yoga. I mean, as long as people are being true to themselves, are happy, and are spreading joy, then what’s not to like? That’s all part of what the yoga community strives to do – right? And hey, I like a good yoga legging and some handstand inspiration. I myself have followed such accounts, pin pictures of postures I’d like to get more advanced in, and get inspiration from them where I can. I do this with the full knowledge that these images typically feature stunning photography and models with not a hair out of place.
However, a part of me can’t ignore the gnawing feeling that something isn’t right when it comes to how yoga is often portrayed. Yoga, at least to me, is ultimately a very personal and spiritual practice that connects both your body and mind. Besides the lean bodies and high-end threads, Instagram can breed a larger focus on the shape of a pose rather than the process of actually getting there. What gets lost in these images is the idea that honoring your body within your practice can only be achieved when you step inside of yourself, and not when you crank your body into “like”-worthy shapes it’s not quite ready to get into.
There is no right or wrong practice, and everyone’s journey is different. Not being able to reach your toes quite yet does not make you less of a yogi. Compromising the integrity of an asana for the sake of an Instagram shot keeps the focus on the external, which is the opposite of what we can ultimately achieve through our practice.
Yoga isn’t an exclusive club. Much of what we see, though, perpetuates the idea that yoga is elitist. Because it so often resembles advertisements, Instagram can create falsehoods – which, I think, is ultimately where the controversy really lies. Whether you’re a complete beginner or not, yoga is not about “checking off” a bikini body, a zen mind that would make Bruce Lee jealous, and a hunk of a boyfriend to practice with. While all that can be a wonderful byproduct of an authentic practice, yoga itself holds no such objective.
Instagram yoga could be alienating both potential and current yogis, one edited beach pose at a time. On the other hand, Instagram yoga can be also inspiring for some. While seeing someone who has been practicing for just a few months nail every inversion would sometimes make me want to curl up in a sorry little ball (my problem, I know), it encourages others to keep practicing. I’ve learned to appreciate my practice for what it is rather than draw comparisons to picture-perfect asanas. Finding acceptance for yourself on and off the mat, as you are, is the real journey.
So whether Instagram yogis inspire you or fill you with a sense of despair, find what works for you and let go of the rest.
How do you feel about Insta yoga? I’d love to know your thoughts.