It’s easy to feel frustration when engaging the emotional threat that comes with and through, some of Instagram and other social media yoga posts. The posts for which I speak, primarily focused on sexy postures and lines– nakedness, free flowing hair and makeup naturally confusing to the senses. Sexual beauty objectified, for the purpose of inspiration and motivation.
Yoga porn, a relatively new term, permeates deep to the center of the conundrum we western yogi’s find ourselves in, currently.
I have been practicing yoga for over 25 years– it has been five years since I’ve stepped foot into a community studio. As someone who began my asana practice after reading the Bhagavad Gita and while reading Autobiography of a Yogi— my perspective is traditional and encompasses a need to reevaluate what it means to genuinely teach yoga in the west.
Paramahansa Yogananda discussing the Bhagavad Gita says “The physical ego, the active consciousness in man, should uplift its body-identified self into unity with the soul, its true nature; it should not allow itself to remain mired in the lowly delusive strata of the senses and material entanglement.
As it appears to me, yoga as it’s taught in the western world can and often does reflect ‘delusive strata of the senses’— Instagram, most definitely ‘material entanglement’.
Yoga is a slippery slope in the west, mostly for the fact ‘teachings of yoga’ if not presented with cognitive teachings and continuous study from wisdom such as Bhagavad Gita, Autobiography of a Yogi, or the Noble Eightfold Path can be deemed stretching, not yoga.
Yoga means Unity– unity is a process, not an event~ unity is the natural journey of matter uniting with itself and others, exploring our inner and outer worlds, while transitioning from birth to death on a forever cycle.
The fact that we, as a western society, are missing the deep and profound yogic teachings meant to be weaved within an asana practice, is what’s wrong with western yoga overall. Even if we are physically flexible, if we are not equally spiritually pliable– our perceived yoga practice is lacking beneficence to ourselves and the world at large.
In the true story of the Tiger Swami as told by Yogananda; in order to ‘master ourselves’, we must free ourselves from our perceived boundaries, allowing then, the natural wounds of attainment to arrive. Wounds are ugly and metaphorically bloody. There is no way around this.
When becoming a yogi– if we are unwilling to bleed, we must question our authentic desire to become a yoga teacher. If we do not bleed in front of our fellow students, who will show us, we too will bleed?
In the context of Instagram yoga, bodies positioned merely as beautiful visuals, is quite frankly spiritually inauthentic and disallows for the unification of mind and body– it’s simply, stretching.
When we study ancient wisdom we begin to look at ourselves critically; we then begin to wrestle the tiger in our own lives, taking responsibility for our human darkness disguised as fear. We all have a metaphorical tiger within and when we wrestle and become bloody on behalf of our tiger, we gain wisdom of self, and a sense of dignity manifests as love for oneself and ultimately reverberating in love for ones neighbor.
Furthermore, when we share our vulnerability and our bloody wounds with not only ourselves; but also with our neighbors– we allow for the metaphorical blood and struggle to show itself to the world. Subsequently, bringing with it, the healing modalities that only work if they are earned through the work we do becoming yogis. Flexibility does not mean yogi.
If we allow for no immediate end– no quick fix, no fluffy words of false confidence to make it better, we can relate with the object of struggle– we then become the eye of the tiger– we become one with our inner force of struggle. We become liberated or enlightened.
It is important to recognize surface spiritual teachings have their place and help us recognize our awareness. Deeper wisdom is oftentimes difficult to process, and can cause temporary cognitive dissonance— however, within awareness of cognitive dissonance, comes the potential for awakened consciousness. We must choose to see, there is no coercion in spirituality or enlightenment.
Stretching can potentially equate to awareness. Yoga definitely equates to consciousness.
The women and girls who objectify themselves in the name of yoga are at best, ignorant. At the same time, anyone who judges them and their individual path towards enlightenment falls prey, as well.
There are 4 types of yoga, Karma, Bhakti, Gyana and Raja. Asana (yoga postures) are one of eight folds within Raja yoga. All four of these paths seek to be understood by everyone who carries the label yogi.
Karma Yoga – the path of unselfish action.
Bhakti Yoga– the path of devotion and love.
Jnana Yoga– the path of knowledge.
Raja Yoga– the royal path of mediation.
With this information; we should not attack other western practitioners for what they don’t know.
We don’t know, what we don’t know.
What I would like to see, is those who call themselves yogis, begin to bring the actual wisdom of yoga to the mat and to our social media posts. Please show us an authentic yogic path that includes, but is not limited to, asanas and postures.
I would love to see more pictures of nature, unity with family, friends and community. I would love to see the reality of metaphorical blood; unity with the dark side of life– ultimately serving practitioners and followers a great deal more, than perfect lip gloss and unattainable line filled postures.
Westerners overall, could and would benefit greatly from a better understanding of the vastness of the yogic path. I would be willing to bet many of the young people practicing yoga today haven’t yet been introduced to yoga the way it’s meant to be taught.
Yoga has been around for centuries, its debut in the western world a mere scratch on the surface of time; authentic yogic wisdom overshadowed by arguments about yoga pants and sexy pictures.
It appears we have been swept up in the fascination of yoga and what it says to the world about who we are and what we believe.
I love yoga. What I don’t love is the lack of truth taught on the western mat and the lack of unity between folks practicing and living within the same studios. Differing parties maintaining different esoteric opinions while merely focusing on the physical postures– while the depth of authentic yogic wisdom takes a back seat.
I suggest we all look deeper and begin to authenticate yoga and the teachers whom share this sacred and healing art with our societies throughout the last 5000 years. Let us please look to all the yogic truths and begin a discourse between ourselves and our studios.
We must all seek to bring the teachers whom have used and taught this wisdom for centuries and for the betterment of humanity, to the mat and to our social media posts.
We must seek to eliminate narcissistic yoga within ourselves– stopping our incessant need to look and see others who are beautiful when stretching. But rather we must, as authentic yogis, return yoga to what happens in our hearts, minds, homes and communities after we have bled and wrestled with our darkness, only to find ourselves standing on our heads with our tiger laying next to us quietly purring.
Recognition of stretching can lead to the consciousness of yoga. Let us, no matter who we are today, seek to be more yogic in our practices tomorrow.