Mind Your Own Mat
You’ve seen the blog posts and the Facebook rants. It seems there is always some curmudgeon who thinks posting asana pictures online makes you less of a yogi. Or that it cheapens the practices.
You know what I say to that?
Firstly, when did being judgmental become more yogic than doing a handstand on camera? How is it acceptable to post condescending rants about what someone chooses to put on Instragram? I won’t quote sutras here because, let’s face it, it’s not my strong suit. But, I have read them and know that remaining neutral and centered is pretty much the goal of all this yoga business. Isn’t the point to get to a place where there is no need to label things as good or bad, right or wrong? Aren’t we trying to peel back the layers to find that unshakable equanimity within us? How does casting judgment about another’s actions, and about their yoga practice in particular, fit into that? I really can’t understand how the irony keeps escaping these people. Having an opinion about the validity of another person’s yoga practice says a lot more about your practice than it does about theirs. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Secondly, is there not some value in these images? I’m as “guilty” as anyone of posting fancy asana pictures on a daily basis, and you know what? I get messages several times a month from people asking about yoga, telling me my pictures inspired them to look deeper. Should we really be so skeptical of something with so much power to draw people in to the practice? I know for a fact that these so-called superficial images are a key component in sharing yoga with the new generation. Hell, even with the old generation.
Asana pictures have played a huge role in my journey in the practice. I’ve been practicing ashtanga yoga for nearly seven years, but it wasn't until two years ago when I discovered Kino Macgregor online that I learned about the benefits of daily practice. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I have her to thank for exposing me to the true depths of this practice. If she had never posted those exciting postures in trendy yoga pants, which propelled her to social media stardom, I’d still be going to the odd led primary and perusing David Swenson’s practice manual when I had a question about a posture. (More on David Swenson’s incredible manual later!)
Also, I cannot over state how crucial asana pics have been in the creation of an online, but still very real, ashtanga yoga community. There is no shala in my hometown. There are no authorized teachers. It’s just me and a handful of other ashtangis plugging away at our daily home practices. Without the social media ashtanga community, I’m not sure I would have had the dedication to keep my practice going all this time. My experience with the practice certainly wouldn't be as rich without it. I’ve met some amazing people through the power of these “one-dimensional” images, some of whom I know will be lifelong friends.
So, bottom line - mind your own mat. Do what works for you but give others the space to do what works for them. There is no such thing as a bad yoga practitioner - only those with more to learn. Which is all of us. So let’s be humble. Let’s remember that we don’t know everything. And perhaps let's take another look at those Yoga Sutras when we feel the urge to comment about someone else’s Instagram feed.
Special shout out to my online-turned-real-life-friend Amy Howe for inspiring this post! Love you sista!