What Yoga Selfies Don't Show

Karen sent me this article to read the other day:

We both like the topic but find the article itself confusing, and this is why: it says one thing with words and another with pictures, much like the authors’ Instagram account.

She starts the article saying:

‘It was my dad actually who showed me, though, that the very images that I saw as strengthening the community also weaken it. “I’ll never be able to do yoga,” he said, pointing to photo of me. I asked why not. “I am 65 years old and I’m not flexible,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to tie myself up like a pretzel or learn how to do a handstand, nor do I want to.”
I was taken aback to learn that after all the years I’d been teaching he still thought yoga was just about how well you could do fancy poses. And then I realized that a lot people probably don’t see #inspiration and #yogalove in all the stunning images on social media but something more like #wtf #nothanks.’


I totally relate to her dad.

I understand that we humans are attracted to beautiful images - hence the existence of art. But those fancy yoga pictures don't speak to me as relating to my everyday life or as something I want to do for myself.

That said, they do work as selling tools and I imagine they do work on a certain audience.

More everyday looking Instagram accounts (like ours) don’t get that kind of epic viewership. That’s ok, we made a deliberate decision NOT to feature ourselves doing ‘advanced’ yoga poses. Also, not in bikinis. That’s not what we sell, for a start, which means people would be disappointed if they saw pictures of us in say, handstand splits, then came to class and we tried to teach them to stand upright correctly.

But also, I find those images jarring.

The main reason is that they often, I might go so far as to say almost always, involve some sort of joint angle that offends my biomechanical sensibilities. You’ll notice I only ever post those kinds of images of myself if I want to point out something I was doing WRONG. I can do a lot of those poses with much better alignment now, but seriously? I'd rather post something more universally relatable.

I also seem to be getting increasingly prudish over the years and I just don’t want to see some stranger's bikini clad crotch spread in my face.

I always feel like I should be dating her or something, not looking at her bits on social media! Maybe that’s just me. 

I am a 40 year old woman with a big ass and my main interest is in remaining strong and healthy as I age. I really enjoyed this excellent and analytical post on whether yoga selfies really do inspire people to practice yoga.

She’s even got STATS and you know how much Karen and I like a bit of research!

The upshot? Those images inspire people to LOOK but possibly not to practice.It’s a ubiquitous form of marketing though, and I was fascinated to hear how many of our 2016 teacher trainees are there to learn so they can teach yoga to PEOPLE LIKE THEMSELVES because they feel underserved as a population.

Men and older women in particular. The bikini yoga selfies certainly aren’t inspiring those folks to practice.

Which brings me to what yoga selfies don’t - and can’t - show: 

  • the mixed groups to whom it is actually possible to teach yoga (everyone actually can do it and benefit)
  • the peace from your own yabbering mind that comes from moving and breathing with awareness 
  • the increased self-knowledge that empowers you to make better choices. For me that’s been both in a biomechanical sense and also in an emotional sense, for example with knowing what my behaviours are around stress and having alternate coping strategies
  • the moments of stillness within when you have a meditative moment

You get the…er…picture! It’s helpful to remember that those images are marketing and as such not necessarily ‘real’.