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November 4, 2014

Whatever Happened to the Eightfold Path in Yoga?

instagram yoga

I’ve been struggling with the changes I’ve seen happening in the yoga community.

At times I’ve questioned my hipness, thought perhaps I was being too judgmental, rationalized that at least these changes were bringing people to the mat.

I feel as though it would be cowardly to continue on my yoga path in silence, even though I know this will be a controversial piece.

There is some majorly f*cked-up stuff going on under the guise of yoga.

As a long-time yoga advocate, it’s just not okay to sit by without comment any longer.

I revere the yogic path and am grateful for the reformative power it has had on my life.

To see yoga turned into yet another way to garner attention as social media dilutes the practice.

It’s counterintuitive to santosha, the niyama which speaks to our self-contentment and our place in the world.

I saw a picture on Instagram of a young woman dressed in black leather shorts, a corset, black leggings and stilettos doing a yoga pose called Tittibhasana with the caption Happy Halloween.

The thousands of likes that this picture will certainly garner will assuage her insecurities momentarily, yet it does not change the fact that the space that she’s in is impermanent.

To practice yoga seriously is to begin to understand there is more happening in the world than just this superficial existence.

To practice yoga is to strive to free oneself from attachment to the self and to reunite with the unlimited consciousness.

In my opinion, the obsession with social media perpetuates our attachment to our physical body and is detrimental to this realigning with our higher consciousness.

There’s also a seedier side to this “sexy pose” stuff—there are a lot of perverts out there following these young yogis/yoginis. I had a conversation with a local yoga student; he’s about fifty and single:

Me: “What’s the point of following so many yogis/yoginis on Instagram?”

Him; “Because they’re hot. Why do you think they put pictures up? They want people to look at them.”

Perhaps I’m naïve but I wasn’t expecting to run into Caligula on this spiritual journey or at least not on my yoga mat.

I believe the way to counter the sexualization of yoga is through the Eightfold Path.

Begin to explore all of the branches of the yoga tree and then practice them.

Find out about the yamas and niyamas and incorporate them into your daily life.

If you do you might find yourself less tempted to chase the latest Instagram pose.

If you learn about the whole of the yoga tree you will realize you don’t have to have the perfect body or be able to do fancy poses, you only need to show up and meet yourself exactly where you are.

By practicing the Eightfold Path, I think you will find yourself becoming more at ease in your own skin.

“Practice and all is coming.” ~ K. Pattabhi Jois

So keep practicing by all means—yoga’s good stuff—but next time you have the urge to Facebook or Tweet about your journey, look to the motivation first.

If it can help someone else on their journey then tweet away, but if it is simply to feed your ego, maybe you should examine what that’s all about.


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Author: Lisa Aniello

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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