The yoga selfie has become quite a controversial issue. The reasons range from the sexualization of yoga to the belief that selfies contribute to a competitive culture while also detracting from the contemplative aspects of yoga practice.
Many people feel as if seeing a beautiful yogi in a perfect backbend on every social media site is feeding the ego, which yoga is meant to dissolve. Turning our focus inward is the main focus of yoga practice. The yoga selfie, according to some, is shining a light on the outward form.
Asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga practice. The first two limbs are what Patanjali describes as the fundamental directives of ethics called yamas and niyamas. They can be viewed as universal morality and personal observances.
Yamas and niyamas are the suggestions on how we should deal with the people around us, as well as our attitude toward ourselves. The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama, while how we relate to ourselves inwardly is niyamas.
Both focus on how we use our energy in relationships with others and with ourselves. Keeping just that in mind, we are often taught that we must be humble and downplay our self-loving endeavors to prove that we are worthy of such pursuits.
Are We Programmed to Criticize Self Confidence?
If we celebrate ourselves too loudly, we are taught to question if we are somehow undeserving of joy. Celebrate ourselves? Aren’t those very words filled with ego and rife with boastfulness?
Are you kidding me?
Women especially are often taught that they must play small. It pains me to see how often we women are repelled by other confident women. We feel this instant reactivity in the need to somehow criticize in order to explore the undeserving nature of their self- confidence.
This is not an explanation of what separates good people from bad people. This idea of only being worthy of our desires by keeping our passion contained, our light dim, and never appearing too confident is one deeply ingrained in us.
We are conditioned to believe that true self-confidence is an attribute only acceptable in males. I offer here, a few other perspectives.
There is a fellow human being behind every selfie.
I was nearly paralyzed at the age of 18. A metal rod is fused into my spine, and it took about 300 stitches above my right eye to mend the gaping hole in my forehead. Mending my self-confidence, however, is a whole other article.
I had to wear a very unflattering heavy plastic back brace for 6 months as I learned to walk again (certainly not a confidence booster for a teenager). I did get lucky as the Seattle grunge scene of the 90’s allowed me to channel my inner female Eddie Vedder and drape myself in oversized flannel.
That traumatic experience brought on thyroid disease that led to two eye surgeries in my left eye. A scar above my right and one on my left eyelid adds balance, I guess. I developed a nicotine addiction and punished my body for failing me.
It took me a long time to appreciate and love myself enough to realize that my body never failed me—it was always fighting for me. It took time for my heart to catch up to the fearless space that my body tried so desperately to hold.
Be Amazed Now
It was a long, winding road in those years and what remained was a woman who lacked real self-confidence. Unfortunately, lack of self-confidence is more accepted by people than the yoga selfie. My yoga selfies remind me of my resilient body, how far I've come, and inspire me to keep expanding.
"Take a picture of your face and remember that in 10 years, you will be amazed at how gorgeous you WERE. Be Amazed Now." ~ Jennifer Pastiloff
We are only in this physical body for a time. Our bodies will age. They will wrinkle. They will stiffen. They will grow weary. Our yoga practice may shift, and our asana practice may need to become gentler.
Appreciating our bodies and what they allow us to do now is self-loving and surely a practice of gratitude. Feel beautiful in your practice. Radiate gratitude. Inspire yourself to keep trying. Be amazed now.
Observing Our Reactivity is a Learning Tool
When we have strong reactions to things, whether they incite anger or fear, it is then that we can allow that feeling to move through us. Sitting with these feelings, observing them, and engaging in an internal dialogue; “What is happening right now? Where is this coming from?” can help us uncover the truth behind our reactions.
Healing is on the other side of that truth. Our reactions are about ourselves. It has a lot less to do with the yogi on our Instagram than we like to think.
Promoting self-love and acceptance is at the heart of any spiritual practice. Yoga builds strength that allows us to deepen in a certain pose. It may present itself in being more accepting of others, or it may ignite our own fearlessness in self-love. We are worthy of building strength.
The next time we see a yoga selfie, maybe try clicking “like.” Honor the strength that it took that person to get there. Remember the heart inside of the person who has their own story, and you may build strength too as you do so.
"I honor the place in you where Spirit lives
I honor the place in you which is
of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,
when you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,
then we are One."