Yoga has long been a very powerful force in my life. It's something that swooped in and saved me from a deeply dark and deprecating time, and for that I am forever grateful. To this day I use breathing techniques and certain stretches to better my day, my attitude, and myself as a whole. Due to a sustained injury, I'm not in a place, at present, where I have access to practice in a heated room (the real good stuff -- in my opinion), surrounded by the energy and emotion of other breathing, grieving, forgiving bodies. However, my hiatus from a typical yoga practice has taught me that yoga is whatever you choose it to be, wherever you choose it to be. It's personal, intimate, exceedingly vulnerable at times, and although explorative and exciting, it's very individual and completely (and most importantly) ego-less. After all, regardless of yoga being incredibly accessible (popping up around corners like Starbucks -- gross), at it's core it's a spiritual and ascetic discipline.
And yet, if you were just to flick through your social media channels, you'd probably beg to differ. Intimate? Vulnerable? Spiritual? Ego-LESS? And I'd have to agree with your scoffing. For example, #yogaeverydamnday is now a hash tag that trends worldwide (I'm convinced, solely to give me an ulcer). And although I'm sure some self-indulgent moron came up with it with good intentions, it comes off as tacky and vulgar. There are definitely monks trying to bust the fuck out of their coffins (monks are buried in coffins, right?) right now to burn down our franchises and break all of our phones. And who could blame them?
Especially since there's this new breed of yogi who wears spandex tit tops and posts photo after video after photo of themselves "practicing yoga" -- personifying narcissism and yet doing it in the name of a practice whose sole intent is to unify and better the individual and others around them.
And the worst part about all of it is the people out there who comment and praise these photos, fueling the fire. "OMG YOUR ABS ARE SO FIT HOW DO I GET THOSE ABS?" "OMG YOU'RE SO AMAZING!" "OMG YOU'RE THE MOST AMAZING EVER!" Those people make me want to put my foot in a blender. Are you smoking crack? Your fingers are better utilized picking your fucking nose than typing those comments. And you may think, hey! Maybe those people are being inspired. But that's the thing. Those photos released out into the world aren't convincing anyone to experience the real and incredible benefits that yoga has to offer. They're advertising commercial advantages like abs or cute, tight clothing that not everyone can wear or afford (or have the stomach for). They're creating yet another thing we look at and yet don't explore further (due to intimidation, etc), causing jealousy and a desire for this very physical and surface benefit of yoga (honestly, all of these people need to take aerobics, talk through class while chewing gum and then go home and throw themselves out of a fifth story window).
In my opinion, the true benefits of yoga can't be captured in a showy photograph. How could you Instagram bettered sleeping patterns, increased patience and gratitude, decreased anxiety and depression, improved mental strength, and the realization that the physical will host, manifest and, most crucially, release the emotional (if you let it).
One of the reasons I fell in love with yoga was because of how inclusive and compassionate it was. How it helped inspire and improve the quality of life for those with physical and mental difficulties instead of alienating them because they could or would never be able to sport booty shorts (which, FYI, show everyone all of your pubes the second you bend over), or achieve the impossibly perfected figure we all lust after and see daily in the media. And now it's bombarding our social media streams, hanging out upside down in front of the Eiffel Tower, or the Himalayans or (my favourite) splayed out on the floor of a bedroom... like a stripper.
How about we start a new hash tag that doesn't offend the very essence of the practice itself, and connotes a genuine, encouraging and all-inclusive message? Something that wouldn't wanna make me hurl if I came across it in my feed. Something, perhaps, like #thisismyyoga (and please can these photos be humble? Mostly clothed? And at most once a month? K cool thanks)?
Mindfulness is key. Namaste... (bitches).