October 23, 2013

Why I Couldn’t Care Less About Posted Yoga Photos—Actually, Here’s One.

To post yoga photos or not post yoga photos—that is the question (of the day).

Okay, I hope you read one of my latest articles on the coolest yoga pose ever—because, basically, this describes my views on both yoga and yoga photographs. 

Having said that, anyone who’s a friend of mine on Facebook—or who even follows me on my author page (cough, coughselfless promotion)—knows that I’m definitely known to take the fun and funky yoga posing picture.

And you might wonder why.

Well, I’ll tell you why I started doing it…

My daughter was born and I spent quite a lot of time practicing at home rather than in classes.

As a yoga instructor I definitely know good form, but I personally think that all of us need checking in with our alignment and postures for simple safety’s sake—and in stepped the infamous photograph.

Thankfully, my wonderful mother—who spent quite a lot of time with my newborn and me during this phase—was more than willing to take photos for me so that I could see where my alignment was off or needed improvement and tweaking. Seriously—this is why I started taking yoga shots.

And they were especially helpful since I got into arm balancing and inversions during this period as well, after my daughter was born. (I find that these postures increase confidence, happiness and core strength, which in my not-so-humble opinion, all new mothers need. I digress.)

Needless to say, Kathryn Budig’s frequent blogs, pictures and postings were not only inspirational, but they were helpful tutorials.

I actually interviewed her for my Toledo yoga column and told her that I admired the way she brought these poses and lessons into the lives of practitioners who don’t have classes like this in their locales (which I didn’t at the time) and who practice a lot at home yet still have the required skills and experience. (Shortly after this interview, I attended my first workshop with her, and let me say, this woman is a real yogi, inside and out.)


So thus began my off-on relationship with taking yoga pictures—it’s fun (and sometimes helpful). Plain and simple.

It’s fun to share them and to see them on the Facebook walls of other yogi friends; not to mention that many studios these days hold yoga photo shoots (which is what this picture was taken and used for, for example).

However, Theresa Pauline’s recent article makes a wonderful point. Have these “yoga” picture postings gotten out of hand? Yes, I think so.

I don’t plan on mentioning names here, but I will say that lately it seems that many famous yogis are often posting pictures of themselves doing the same crazy yogic stunts in beautiful—often—foreign places and while these pictures are stunning and of stunningly beautiful people, I’m wondering why.

Why are you constantly sharing these for your followers?

Okay, one, I think that Pauline and Waylon Lewis via his comment on Pauline’s article, make accurate theories: this is what people want to see.

You want to see less yoga selfies and gorgeous professionalish yoga pictures? Then stop fricking looking at them, clicking on them and “liking” them. Writers, entrepreneurs and those in the world of celebrity will share what the people are wanting. Period.

On the other hand, though, I have to mention the following.

As someone who writes what I think are quality articles with genuinely thought-provoking concerns and ideas and—I’m sincerely uncomfortable writing this—my articles on elephant journal do well. God, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I will tell you that much of “clickable” success comes from knowing how to choose a good title and picture. (On the other hand, having readers who regularly want to read your work and who look for you, now this requires the quality to back it up or, over time, people will move on.)

And another hugely successful piece that posted a few days back on elephant journal was that stellar article by Rachel Priest. It’s a well-written article with a powerful, meaningful and mindful message. I absolutely mean this when I write that it deserved its subsequent popularity.

Still, I will honestly tell you that I think a huge part of the article’s success came from a properly chosen title (remember what I suggested earlier) and—drum roll, please—the picture.

Who on earth doesn’t want to see the accompanying picture of a hot yoga body in a bikini?

Larger than some yogis she may be, but she still looks amazing—and it’s still a yoga picture on a beach of a woman in a bikini.

There, I said it.

Now, do I think there’s anything wrong with this? No. But you’re asking the woman who admittedly likes taking and posting the occasional yoga picture herself and who does, on the rare occasion, still click on those famous celebrity shots to see them a little bit larger.

And who doesn’t want to see what a “real” yoga body in a bikini looks like? A whole lot of people do, that’s who.

Point: if you want to stop seeing so many yoga pictures on your Facebook newsfeed then you might have a larger problem at hand than you believe, because I think this is a trickle-down effect from our generally increasing selfie-exhibitionist-picture-centric-Drakehands-spawning Social Media Culture.

This is what people want to see.

Like Waylon said, it’s getting written about, photographed, posted, discussed ad nauseum only because we’re interested in this as a subject, first of all, and secondly, because there’s a generational gap between what many of us think is “normal” and acceptable behavior and in the trends of the way social interaction are headed.

Meaning, if you think this is a problem in the yoga culture, that’s because it is.

It’s also a problem with the television-cult Christian churches (just to name one other “spiritual” yet “socially driven” pursuit).

Even the President is on twitter.

This is life.

This is our world—and it’s not going to change that easily.

Demanding that this culture stop—and be banished—for the sake of a holy and a (perhaps correct) view of properness—especially in spiritually centered paths like yoga—won’t make it (and these photos) disappear any faster or more completely merely because you think that maybe they should.

What, then, do we do?

And what are yogis who might never even want to practice handstand supposed to think when they see this constant barrage of pictures?

What, like Pauline suggests, will happen to the yoga community if the general population thinks that this is what (and all) we do (hang out on beaches all day in bikinis taking pictures of each other in wheel pose)?

We do this: we write about other things.

We post photographs of other things that matter to us.

In short, we do voice our concerns—and maybe we even write about them—but we don’t focus our lives or our minds or our life’s work on this. Nope, we focus on practicing what we want to see preached.

We walk the talk.

This is why I do write about yoga (and why I’m writing about this now), but check out my elephant journal author page (cough, cough) and you’ll see that I’m also writing primarily about motherhood, about politics, about compassion and about giving—because this is what takes up my mental space and makes up my physical reality.

And, yes, I might be a yoga teacher who has pictures up on her Facebook page of  some more nutty-looking yoga poses.

Of course, I have yet to take a picture of myself posing in a bikini on a beach—not because I’m against it but because, frankly, I’ve never even had the opportunity (and are some of you jealous or envious of those who have had the opportunity and who have it regularly to boot? Just a thought…)

So, yep, I’m not anti-yoga-taking-and-posting pictures—but there are definitely a lot more on my Facebook page of me with my baby, my husband and my friends and family.

Do I plan to take down any and all of my “yoga” pics because we’re being inundated as a society with them? Hell no, but you’ll also notice that I’ve been recently sharing more of my daughter and our excursions to the art museum and local gardens—because this is what I want to see in return.

I want to see mothers and lovers and babies and life beyond bikinis and handstands. I don’t mind bikinis and handstands, don’t get me wrong, but this isn’t my yoga, this isn’t my yoga practice and this isn’t me.

So go ahead and question (don’t stop doing that, in fact), but don’t forget to simply be what you want to see. (Don’t worry, Waylon, I won’t close this out with that fake Gandhi quote.)

I’ll use this one instead:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

~Maya Angelou.

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Ed: Sara Crolick


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