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September 20, 2014

Yoga is a Journey: Let’s Love Our Yoga Selfies. ~ Kathrine Conroy

yoga

They’re all over our Facebooks, Instagrams and other social media.

The phenomenon of yoga selfies has become an issue in the yoga community and many aren’t sure how to feel about them.

Regardless, they have become so ubiquitous that most yogis who have been practicing for any length of time more than likely have one.

No doubt, selfies can be a fun way to satisfy our egos and show our friends what our yoga practice is all about.

We can document our yoga journey and watch as over the years a hand moves closer to the floor, the twist becomes deeper, etc. We can show off poses that some of our friends and families have never seen before.

Our egos enjoy all of the compliments and “likes” they generate.

However, yoga selfies can also be harmful: they may prevent potential yogis from taking up the practice because of a false idea of what they think yoga should look like.

The idea that a certain “type of person” does yoga can alienate those who feel they don’t fit the mold.

In the West, the “face” of yoga is thin, white and female. Just take a look at the predominant demographic in most yoga studios. Yogis in the larger-bodied, non-white or male demographics are noticeably outnumbered by thin, white, females.

It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Thin, white females are perceived to be the type of people who do yoga, so those who fit that description tend to do yoga in larger numbers.

The ideal of the thin, white, female in pretzel-like postures featured in most yoga selfies can be harmful if practitioners viewing these images become discouraged because the pose (or physique of the yogi demonstrating the pose) seems unattainable.

We may think:

“I’ll never be that thin/toned/strong/flexible/fill-in-the-blank, so why even bother?”

That’s a great question.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the goal we have in mind is, in fact, unattainable. For example, each of us has that one pose that we want to get into more than anything, but just aren’t ready at the moment.

Why should we bother with yoga if we’ll never reach that goal? It would be pretty pointless, right?

That’s the wrong attitude.

We may never get into our most coveted pose, but there is tremendous benefit in mindfully working toward it.

Every person’s body is different and the deepest expression of a certain pose may not work for a particular body, but yoga is for everybody and everybody can experience the benefits of yoga.

To paraphrase a popular quote making its rounds on social media, saying you’re not flexible enough for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath.

The person who can’t touch her toes benefits by working towards doing that and perhaps needs yoga the most.

That is why we should listen to our bodies and modify, modify, modify! Honestly, we may never be able to do that pose. Since most of us are not training for the International Asana Championships, however, that’s ok.

Really, it is.

We don’t need an advanced practice to experience the full range of benefits yoga has to offer.

For instance, even if our hips are never open enough for full Lotus, our hips are more open from other, more accessible hip-openers we might substitute than they would have been if we’d never done yoga.

And, contrary to what our egos might tell us, we will be just fine if we never quite get into Firefly or some other advanced pose.

The “basic” yoga poses offer all of the same benefits of more advanced poses with the added benefit of a lower risk of injury. In fact, being able to relax and breathe rather than strain and force during class can increase the benefits we are experiencing and in many cases, it is preferable to back off and breathe easily than to strain to stretch that extra inch and lose our breath.

Our practices are perfect and wonderful just where they are. Our bodies know best.

So, let’s take those yoga selfies proudly! Let’s document the journey we’re on and satisfy our egos!

But let us also view the yoga selfies of others in a similar spirit—it is a documentation of another yogi’s journey and should not be a source of envy for us.

The yogi in the selfie is no happier or more enlightened because they have attained a certain pose. A better pose doesn’t make us a better person.

There is no destination when it comes to yoga, there is only the journey (if you are brave enough to embark upon it).

~

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Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Cristobal Garciaferro Rubio/Pixoto

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Kathrine Conroy