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Debunking the Yoga Selfie: 4 Functions and Intentions

Lifestyle | People

We’re here to talk to you about what some people are calling 'yoga porn'…yeah, again! We’ve all heard about it, and I’m sure most of you already have formed some kind of opinion.

(In case you’ve missed it, "yoga porn," aka yoga selfies, are the taking and posting of yoga photos online.)

Regardless of which side of the the issue you fall on, keep an open mind because we are about to debunk the myths surrounding this ancient philosophy and how it translates into the digital world that we find ourselves in today.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Opponents of this phenomenon worry about how these photos might not match up with the spiritual and moral practices of yoga. Is posing in a form-fitting outfit and sharing an image online a violation of this ancient philosophy?

Some say that it is egotistical, vain, and not in alignment with yogic values. Although this may be true for some individuals, it certainly does not represent the entire yoga community.

As an Ashtanga teacher who studied in India, a student of yoga, and a member of this community, I took a strong interest in this issue that the yoga world seemed to be hyper-focused on. I began with my own informal research, and at a certain point of interest, I began to collaborate with other students at my university in order to further dive into this topic.

After reading countless articles on yoga selfies, and exploring numerous examples through Instagram, Facebook, and interviews, we have come to understand this topic and how it affects the Western World in a new way.

The Question Is: Is Yoga 'Porn' Even an Issue?

Really, the intentions might not be all that bad. More times than not, we found that yogis are posting these photos with the intention of artistic and self expression, entrepreneurial promotion, and education.

1. Yoga Selfies Are a Form of Self-Expression

Credit: @talia_sutra using yoga as self-expression @talia_sutra using yoga as self-expression

In the past, these photos may have been misinterpreted as egotistical. Rather, Irene Pappas, an influential yoga teacher with nearly 500,000 followers on Instagram, puts a fresh spin on this. She says,

“In the end, I cannot control whether someone is intimidated or inspired (or anything in between) by my posts. Teaching and sharing my passion for yoga has made me extremely happy, and I can only put the best intention forward and hope that others see things the similarly” (Mulqueen).

Here we see a prominent viewpoint from photo posters showing that self expression plays a large role in the sharing of these photos.

2. Yoga is Art

@yogagallery- Debunking the Yoga Selfie @yogagallery using artistic expression

Let’s be real, these aren’t actual yoga “selfies.” Who really has the time or the balance to whip out a selfie-stick in the middle of Downward Dog? In reality, these photos are staged in an artistic and deliberate way to capture the pose with the best possible setting.

3. Yoga Teachers are Taking Entrepreneurship to the Next Level

Kino MacGregor- Debunking the Yoga Selfie @kinoyoga promoting a fundraiser

There are three prominent types of promotion within yoga selfies. The first, is promoting yourself and your services through a photo. The second is promoting yoga brands through photos, while the third involves promoting fundraising causes.

I think we can all agree that using social media as a tool for entrepreneurship isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows yogis to make a living out of what they love. Promotion isn't the problem, rather a misconception of the poster’s intention. Let’s all be up front about what our intentions are, and call a promotion a promotion.

4. Yogis are Providing Education and Inspiration

@dylanwerneryoga uses selfies to spread information through his #inspirationgenerationchallenge and education through a breakdown of the featured pose. @dylanwerneryoga uses selfies to spread information through his #inspirationgenerationchallenge and education through a breakdown of the featured pose.

Yoga selfies allow for education! They provide instruction, and information on poses, and just like any source of education, you have to choose the best sources available. Safety needs to be a huge consideration, and finding a credible teacher to provide information is key to avoiding injury.

For example, Kino MacGregor is a credible teacher and dedicated practitioner, who does an excellent job of educating on the physical and spiritual components of yoga through her social media captions on her yoga selfie photos.

This allows for accessible and affordable instruction for a broader audience than studio classes would allow for. Yoga selfies help yogis to connect with each other, find community, and also find more sources of information, which all contributes to a more aware community. Social media as a platform for these photos also provides a space for inspiration and motivation to either learn yoga for the first time, or further their existing practice.

Wait…Are We Actually on the Same Page Here?

Really, both sides of this issue could benefit from adopting the viewpoint that yoga selfies isn’t actually an issue. As part of the yoga community, we all want to preserve the roots of the philosophy by upholding certain moral, value, and spiritual standards. With the shared intention of honoring this through consciousness and aware interactions, we have a great place to start.

Let’s all stop focusing on the small-scale issue of yoga selfies and instead, together let’s work on mindfully transitioning this ancient philosophy into the digital age of the Western world.

Instead of leaving you with what not to do, we want to start a new discussion and figure out how yoga fits into today’s technologically advanced society while still preserving the ideals of yoga.

What’s your stake in this? How are you going to start this new discussion?

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