Guess what? Yoga poses- of the selfie variety anyway- are posed. I did a little experiment on yoga selfies this week. I posted a short yoga video on Facebook to see what kind of feedback I will get. The result? I got more likes from one video than, say, the cumulative likes of any 10 animal rights links that I often post.
What is with the obsession on yoga selfies? I suppose part of it is because yoga asana is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Another part of it is that it feels good to show the world how far we've come in our practice and we think a little validation won't hurt.
Many of us forget that in many ways these pictures are staged. We actually had to ask someone to take our photos or videos, disrupting what could be a normal flow in our practice. We could be posing before we are warmed up or we could be posing after we're done with our regular practice.
These are the steps I took in order to have the posed yoga pictures above. Just to be clear, it was not spontaneous. I knew I was going to have pictures taken for this essay I wanted to write.
1. I highlighted my eyebrows (which I don't really do to practice yoga asana).
2. I did about 30 minutes of yoga asana by the pool area of my condo building.
3. When I saw the maintenance staff, I asked him to take my pictures.
4. I kicked up several times in handstand. I was able to hold it three seconds tops, but the picture captured it forever and nobody has to know I barely held it.
5. I came into a bound variation of standing spinal twist. Then I switched sides because the Jivamukti logo in my yoga pants is on the left side and I wanted that to be visible.
6. I thanked the guy who took my photos. I resumed my practice for another 20 minutes.
7. I realized that three pictures would look better than two in a collage, so I asked the same guy to go back and take other pictures.
8. I tried to do flying crow but I kept falling on my face. Worried that I am taking too much of his time, I did crow instead.
9. I used an app to get the three pictures together. I checked out options on lighting to see how tanned I could look in the pictures.
10. I practiced a bit more, packed up, and went back to my condo unit.
Even though the pictures happened, they do not show the complete reality. They showed a tiny part of the process. The reality is that I was sweating in the heat, I was a bit insecure about my belly fat, and that I had deleted other pictures because I had the luxury of selection. It brought out the vanity in me.
But yoga is about being real. It is not about editing who we are to look good or appear a certain way. In fact, it is the opposite. It is accepting where we are and who we are meant to be without regard to how we may appear to the rest of the world. It is about falling and rising back again. It is about the imperfection, the process, the steps, the single most important moment which is the present. It is about looking inwards rather than outwards, which my little adventure on yoga selfies did not do for me.
We can pose for yoga or we can be the yoga that we seek. We can tread lightly on asana or we can dive into the depth of the yoga practice- the yamas and the niyamas, dhyana, bhakti, satsang, nadam, shastra. The yoga practice is beautiful. Let us do ourselves a favor. Let us pose less and practice more- not just the practice of asana but the practice of compassion towards all beings.