Has our yoga world become completely infiltrated by people posting semi-naked yoga poses?
Has the real reason and meaning behind our yoga practice become completely overridden by the heavily filtered infiltration of ribs, boobs and teeth inundating social media?
In this sense, has yoga become more of a fashion industry, the measure of an individual’s success progress defined by likes, views and followers rather than an inner journey, feeling of peace and self-acceptance?
This is a conversation I woke up to this morning among my yoga sisters—girls who I love and admire and are very much a part of my yoga community and journey. I felt a pang of guilt as I read this, being a regular blogger on Facebook and Instagram. I post pictures of my yoga journey daily and yes, I, like many others, use filters and hashtags and have sometimes chosen to wear yoga clothes determined by my fashion preferences rather than practicality.
Upon thinking about how to frame an answer to the conversation, part of me really wanted to tell them that it’s wrong! That yoga isn’t a fashion industry, that posting semi-nude pictures does promote the wrong meaning, and that caring about how many likes and followers you’re getting rather than your own inner journey is completely contradictory to what yoga is and should be. Part of me does agree with this sentiment and I don’t feel like anyone should ever feel the pressure to do, be or follow any of these things.
On the contrasting side, I also feel like people shouldn’t be bullied, criticised or dismissed from the yoga world for wanting to express themselves.
Through my yoga journey, I’ve learnt that one of the most important things we be is ourselves. Speaking the truth of my inner journey for peace and stillness is important.
However, as well as a yogi, I am also an artist advocating to help people feel confident, self-expressive and empowered both physically, mentally and emotionally. Rather than being practiced solely in isolation, yoga has become my way of helping to build a sense of fun, empowerment and community by providing an opportunity for students to physically express themselves, play, laugh, have permission to fail, challenge and question in a world that often tells us not to.
Creatively, my body is my canvas and yoga is one of my truest vehicles for artistic expression.
Posture by posture, it allows me to work through all my anxieties, attachments and emotions, finding the place where they’re held in my body and breathing, twisting and stretching through them one by one until I feel completely free. It allows me to be present, taking me out of my head and helping me to paint everything I can’t put into words, say or even understand through a physical language.
I guess to me, yoga and movement have become my first and preferred language.
When I’m teaching—whether it’s in my homeland, Europe or Asia—it helps me to connect and build relationships with people through a medium where words no longer matter. When I’m teaching in countries where English isn’t the mother language, it’s taught me to connect with people on a physical level. To feel rather than speak. To sense rather than ask and to intuitively respond rather than waiting for a verbal answer.
As someone who can often be verbally awkward, who stutters and is emotionally shy, through my body and movement I’m able to feel the most alive, fluid, expressive and open. I love this silent language and the way it allows me to connect, understand and learn from others. Being a practical learner, I often find it very difficult to understand and follow verbal instructions. Movement is the way that I learn—doing rather than saying, feeling rather than thinking and trying rather than questioning how or why.
In this respect, the body is a vehicle which should be completely free and uninhibited.
Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that we all take our clothes off and start doing naked yoga, although that’s perfectly fine if that’s your choice of artistic expression. What I’m getting at though is that we should each have the freedom to present ourselves physically in a way that represents our truth, individuality and expression.
Each morning when we wake up, we make choices about how we want our physical appearance to communicate and interact with the world. From the clothes that we wear, the make-up we choose to avoid or put on, and whether or not we decide to wash, brush, straighten or leave wild our hair. These choices become our physical language: “I’m ready to make friends,” “Leave me alone,” “I feel good about myself,” “I feel insecure, happy, lost, shy, angry.” These choices help us communicate the words we’re sometimes to afraid to say and build our interactions, friendships and relationships with others.
In the same way, the choices we make when we pose for a yoga photo communicate how we feel that day with the rest of the world, whether it’s: “Look at me posing in my bikini, I want attention,” or “I’m in the most beautiful country, having the most amazing experience with the nicest people and I want to capture this moment and share it with the world.”
To me yoga isn’t about being naked or overly sexualised, or covering myself up. Nor is it about finding the most perfect alignment or being the most spiritual and perfect person. It’s about being authentic and having the freedom and self-expression to share my truth with the world.
Now, you’re never going to find me posting yoga pictures in dresses or heels because if I can’t move or walk in something, I want it completely away from my body. Neither am I going to post a thousand naked yoga pictures because some days I do feel insecure, shy and insular about my body. However, what I strive to be along with my flaws, insecurities and edges is myself and I aim to use my practice as way to help and guide me. When I feel insular and need connecting I meditate, when I feel expressive and energetic, I move and when I feel anxious I just sit and breathe.
In a world where we’re constantly judged and criticised, one of the most challenging things to be is yourself.
I’ve often been judged, dictated to or criticised—about the clothes I wear, the words I write, the choices I make, and even the styles and vehicles I choose to express my yoga practice. And yes, some of these criticisms can often make me feel lost, angry, sad and unsure of myself. Regardless of what people say though, the only person who can truly define me is myself. We can’t choose other people’s thoughts and the words that they say, but we always have a choice as to how we respond and what we do with it.
To me, integrity is about getting naked with yourself and having the courage to mentally and emotionally explore who you are. It’s about having the patience to feel rather than think, the confidence to try rather than ask and the self-acceptance to just be rather than waiting to be granted with approval, acceptance or a permission slip from someone who may not understand.
The biggest gift we can give both to ourselves and others is to just be us through creativity, freedom and our own self-expression.
Author: Rebecca Hannah
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: We Are Social/Flickr