8 Limbs of Yoga?

Via Caley Alyssa
on Oct 29, 2013
get elephant's newsletter


My idea was simple: #NoSelfieNovember.

I set out on a mission to gather a group of inspirational yoga teachers to join me for a new (slightly radical) social media challenge—

—and failed.

With plentiful ego driven “selfie” inspired Instagram challenges, I thought this challenge would throw an interesting twist into this mix. And with November being the month of Thanksgiving, it seemed to be the perfect time to share what you’re thankful for and what inspires you and your practice as opposed to a flurry of “selfies” in the most recent handstand variation.

Alas, it wasn’t a popular idea with my fellow yoga teachers. Perhaps it was the #NoSelfieNovember hashtag that scared them off?

Let me rewind and explain things a bit better: I have been involved in a few Instagram challenges (#DailySoul, #innerdrishti) and post regularly on social media. The response to photos and, in particular, the impact social media has had on my yoga career has been measurable and positively addictive.

Instagram has also helped to form little communities of yogis around the globe, making it so that you can travel anywhere, and most likely know someone in your area. This is rad to say the least. A community of support and encouragement from around the globe all centered around the practice of yoga!

The business of yoga and self promotion being set aside, it seems that Instagram has also brought to light another glaringly obvious issue in the current state of yoga: asana has taken over all other aspects of the practice.

Somehow this branch has grown to be much larger and more important than any other. Yoga is not merely exercise, it’s mindfulness, awareness, cultivation of contentment and peace within (and so much more.) Asana is important, and it’s definitely how most westerners come to find yoga, but our practice should be continuously morphing and growing, teaching us new things, not just new poses.

Yoga, after all has eight limbs, not just one.

I knew that this idea of #NoSelfieNovember may not be the biggest hit with my fellow yogis and Instragam community, but I felt in my gut it was at least a topic of conversation I needed to throw out there and get started.

The idea wasn’t meant to take the asana completely out of the photo, but instead it was meant to shift the focus from our personal asana practice to that of our students and friends, or to highlight other areas in our lives that help to inspire our practice and teach us how to delve deeper.

Unsurprisingly, I was met with an almost unanimous and resounding “no” to this idea. Here were a few responses I received:

 “I’m happy with the ability to share my practice both for personal growth and inspiration for others.”  

“For me the asana was the vehicle that drove me to a deeper awareness of myself  and I think for many people this is the case.”

“And although yoga is obviously about a lot more than the asanas, the asanas are a great way to explore the uncomfortable shit in life in a safe way.”

“Honestly my social media is a huge sector of my business. At this moment it just wouldn’t be a smart business decision.”

I love value, and appreciate all of my fellow teachers and each and every response I received.

It is so amazing that we can even have this conversation. It’s incredible that we have the power to determine how our generation of yoga teachers will be seen and what we will be remembered by in the future.

I still plan on shifting my focus for the month of November to my amazing students and yoga community who inspire and teach me on a daily basis and who challenge me to be a better teacher.

My first loving, beautiful, strong, passionate, fierce, driven student I am proud to share with you is Sonia. I am so proud of this incredible women and all of her hard work and dedication she has put into overcoming the obstacles life has thrown her way.  She has been working on getting her handstands away from the wall for quite some time now and in the past two weeks I have seen her nail it over, and over again! Sonia, you inspire me.



May this inspire you to shift your focus for November, too.

Instead of building up your own asana brach, maybe you can help to grow other branches on your tree by sharing  photos of your loved ones, your favorite book, your fuzzy slippers and hot tea. Share the things that are helping you to deepen your practice both on and off your mat.

May we continue to help each other grow from an authentic place.

May we always be students at heart. And, most of all, may we continue to challenge and motivate each other to be better, and do better!

I want to hear from you.

What do you think about the current and upcoming generation of yoga teachers? What would you like to see more of from us, both on the mat and in the social media realm? How can we, as yoga teachers help to inspire you and motivate you to learn more and delve deeper into your own practice?

If you’re a teacher, how does social media help you to teach your students? How can we use it to help us become better teachers?

Love to each and every one of you.


Want 15 free additional reads weekly, just our best?

Get our weekly newsletter.

Ed: Cat Beekmans

{Original Artwork: Aaron Whitaker}


About Caley Alyssa

As a D-1 collegiate athlete with a background in nutrition and anatomy, and an internship with a naturopathic center for healing, Caley Alyssa found herself wanting to help people achieve healthier, happier lives. She quickly came to realize that she wanted to promote preventative and therapeutic methods encouraging active, energetic lifestyles rather than focusing on treatment centered around prescription drugs and the increasingly paramount “band-aid” mindset. In 2006, Caley moved to San Francisco and began to study yoga completing her 200 hour training with Yoga Tree with Janet Stone, Darren Main and Elise Lorimer. From there she went onto study with Shiva Rea and obtained a certification to work with children and at risk youth. In 2010, Caley’s quest to bring health and happiness to others lead her to enroll with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York to become a Holistic Health Coach, registered with the American Drugless Practitioners. Caley now lives in Los Angeles with her husband. She designs and leads seasonal cleanses for individuals, yoga studios and corporate businesses sharing her lifelong journey of finding balance, wellness and happiness in all aspects of life!


5 Responses to “8 Limbs of Yoga?”

  1. Shauna says:

    I agree with you 100%! In fact, I've even made the suggestion directly to some of the high profile social yogi's to illuminate other's rather than themselves as part of photo challenges so that they may use their 'celebrity' to highlight others doing equally great things yet don't have the profile. The whole 'teaching yoga on Instagram' is a cop out. As a teacher myself, it would be irresponsible of me to suggest a student take to social media to learn the practice (asana or otherwise). Adding spiritual dissertation or a 'how-to' has become a way for social yogi's to rationalize what is essentially a marketing tactic… which is fine (marketing is essential these days), but just be honest about it – like one of your responses above. I have also noticed that while there is alot of response and often questions, many high profile yogi's don't even answer! A one-way communication is not teaching, it's self serving. The other trend I find disturbing is that, particularly on open source profiles like Instagram, 'fans' are very unkind to anyone that even suggests something might be amiss when the person and the 'brand' don't necessarily jive. Thank you for having the courage to speak up! I will certainly join you in #noselfienovember… watch for me on the hashtag!

  2. drillsergeantsuz says:

    I have to say that I agree with you. I have been practicing on and off for a dozen years. I am no longer as capable as I once was — balance, flexibility etc — but I still love the sometimes brief moment that I'm in a zone where my breath slows and everything "shimmers". Recent classes I've attended have caused me to grit my teeth because I was dreading the series of difficult poses coming up — I quit the class. Just yesterday, someone locally posted a new class starting in November and the 11 poses shown were incredibly advanced. Guess what? I won't be attending. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find a gentle, meditative class to attend. I already do something akin to CrossFit a few times a week and I'm not looking for a "power" strength training yoga. I'm looking for the meditation, the breath, the "shimmer" of understanding. And IMO, as long as yoga instructors keep showing us selfies of them in their most difficult poses, it will continue to be difficult to find such classes.

  3. Kirsten says:

    I am reminded that the business of yoga is ego based. Traditionally, students come to you because spiritually you can offer them the ability to hold space for their practice. Yoga has traditionally NOT been profit making or a "get rich" scheme, still isn't. People need to be reminded that teaching yoga is different than teaching Asana. Majority of our teachers today are just fitness instructors contorting their bodies, this is not wrong – this is a useful vehicle towards the inner elightenment we can find and expereince. I appreciate your shift of focus. The photo is simply another aspect of Maya, the great illusion. In the end, the posuture really means nothing, it is the vehicle to take you to the light, not the light itself.

  4. joan says:

    Thank you! As a new teacher I have no selfie pictures and I'm just fine with that. I find it almost intimidating to see these pictures. When I follow these yogis I'm looking for ways to find inspiration for my students, become a better teacher myself, not just oooh and aah over the fact that they can get into "those" poses. I came to yoga myself for spiritual growth not a rockin' bod, and want to share with my students what an amazing gift the practice of yoga is on the inside! The outside benefits are just a bonus 😉