by Elisia Young
Close your eyes. Imagine practicing in the space of your dreams. What does it feel like? What does it look and smell like? Some of you are picturing a jungle bungalow where you can be your wild, muddy self without caring what anyone thinks; or a paradise on a secluded beach with just yourself and the ultimate teacher to keep you company. And some of you are mentally calculating what spot will make for the best photos when you undoubtedly strike a gorgeous Natarajasana with an epic sunset behind you and your handy photography crew.
Welcome to the new school.
People have been photographing asana for quite some time (instant flash to photos of the late Iyengar in a particularly scant outift), but there’s something different about the new generation of yogis that’s got some folks in a funk. Here are some of their qualms with Instagram (a social media app that allows a user to share photos with virtually anyone who has a smart phone):
A. There are people solely learning to do yoga from strangers on the Internet.
B. Yoga is supposed to be about the journey within, and the asana a representation of inner growth. Taking photos of yourself doing yoga and posting them is contrary to this.
C. It creates an uneven playing field: teachers who are new and inexperienced are being endorsed by companies and able to earn far more than some incredibly talented and experienced teachers who happen to not use this app.
Well…. All of this is true. In fact, I was once purely an Instagram yogi (cue dramatic music and aghast looks).
I had never seen people doing yoga before Instagram, and I was intrigued by what they could do. I had just moved to Washington from N.C. and was only one month sober from alcohol, suffering from hand tremors and constant flashbacks. I had replaced alcohol with hot tea, and somehow the sensation of constantly floating to the restroom was not keeping my newly jumpy heartrate down. I joined a beginner’s challenge (Instagram yogis often host competitions where they assign a pose daily and whomever consistently posts the best photos wins a prize. Yeah. I know) and that’s where I learned asana, thinking I was learning yoga.
Life went on like this for at least a couple of months before I realized I NEED TO GO TO A REAL YOGA CLASS. Thank God. I didn’t even know anything about different styles, I just went to the studio that was walking distance from my apartment. By divine intervention of the universe this studio was Laughing Buddha in Mill Creek, an amazing temple of hatha, vinyasa, reiki and pure bhakti. Under the gentle guidance of many goddesses there, I began to breathe. That was the first thing I noticed. I was breathing. Before I lost my cool at work- I breathed. The second thing I noticed- I’m strong.
As I put more concentration into asanas like Downward Dog and Bakasana, my hands shook less and I stopped thinking of myself as an addict and started thinking of myself as a yogi.
The breakthroughs that I was able to achieve made me realize that I wanted to be able to help people just like myself find happiness through yoga, which inspired me to enter the 200 Hr Vinyasa Teacher Training at Sattva Yoga. Now I’m teaching and feeling my dreams dance in the palm of my hand. All of this to say- maybe taking photos of yourself doing asana is vain. Maybe people who are really into photography and editing get all the breaks. Maybe Yoga Girl is just an adorable blonde who made it big by doing handstands on the beach. But maybe Instagram can bring more people to yoga, than can be achieved without it. And maybe you will accept an Instagram yogi with a big hug because we’re people who suffer too. And hell- just maybe you’ll realize that watching your progress unfold through pictures is pretty gnarly.