Quit Calling it “Yoga Porn”

Elisha Thompson
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There is no doubt that the practice of yoga has spread like wildfire across the Western world. The spreading popularity of this beautiful practice has brought about some challenges as well. There is a growing debate over the potential detriment of yoga selfies to the yoga community. With the soaring rise in the use of social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram, there has been an undeniable increase in pictures of women in difficult yoga poses being shared. So the question becomes: are yoga selfies truly demeaning and dismantling the teachings of the ancient philosophies of yoga and its teachers? Or are they simply pictures of people sharing their love for yoga?
 
Those who are against yoga selfies have been quoted as saying that the growing mass of images depicting girls in yoga poses goes against the true meaning and intention of yoga, calling them “yoga porn.” Author Monica Deane recently criticized yoga selfies in an article on yoganonymous.com by claiming that you never see an image of a male or non-Caucasian woman over the age of thirty. In addition, she stated, that the yoga selfies do not teach proper alignment, “discourage real people from trying yoga,” and that selfies are essentially “yoga pornography.” Others state that yoga selfies simply inflate the ego and are a distraction from the true intent of yoga which is to quiet the fluctuations of the mind in order to reach a state of calm.
 
The statement that the majority of yoga selfies are of scantily clad thin young white women is a rather far reaching generalization likely having more to do with the Facebook and Instagram accounts that the claimants are following, rather than a realistic representation of what is available on social media as a whole. In addition, the majority of social media users are under the age of 30 according to a poll by Pew Internet Research Center. When I scroll through my social media feed, I see a beautifully diverse representation of the yoga community. There is a plethora of images of all body types, skin colors, and people in general practicing yoga and taking pictures of it. One just has to expand their view and be open to what they find.
 
Those who dislike seeing yoga poses filling their social media claim that the growing number of photos of women in difficult poses such as handstands, headstands, and arm balances scare away “real people” from trying yoga. Sure, a picture of a highly practiced yogi in a beautiful handstand with a gorgeous backdrop might intimidate some, but to say that they scare most away is a dangerous generalization. Furthermore, to suggest that a thin white woman under the age of thirty is somehow less of a “real person” than any other person is not truly in alignment with the teachings of yoga. Yoga is about love and acceptance, not judgment, and certainly not the belief that one is somehow lesser than another – for any reason. We should take this as a lesson to see others for who they are at heart – not their physical capabilities.

To suggest that a thin white woman under the age of thirty is somehow less of a “real person” than any other person is not truly in alignment with the teachings of yoga.

The heart of yoga isn’t about the physical practice or the postures. It is about the connection with your breath – your consciousness. Yoga, when roughly translated, means “to yolk” or “unite” in Sanskrit. It is about uniting the body and the breath so that you can find liberation from your mind. According to George Feuerstein, PhD, author of The Yoga Tradition, yoga is the “methodical transmutation of consciousness to the point of liberation from the ego personality.”
 
In order to find transcendence, Pantanjali believed that we must first dissolve the ego by gaining control over our mind, body, and senses to allow for universal consciousness to shine through us. This includes letting go of the ego, judgement, and assumptions. Taking this into consideration, is a yoga selfie really an ego-filled, shameful representation of what the practice stands for? I don’t believe so. It is simply a photograph. Assumptions and judgments can be made, but yoga says that we mustn’t make assumptions and judgements of others. Instead, we must let go of our judgements and live with an open heart and mind. When we practice living in a way that supports who we are, rather than who we are not, goodness will follow.
 
Are yoga selfies of beautiful yogis really deserving of the term yoga porn? Of course, some may post a picture to garner attention and praise. But is that really the same as pornography? And honestly, does it really matter? Yoga asks us to be tolerant of the differences in this world, accept ourselves and others for who we are, and to love with an open heart.
 
One of the core principles of yoga is the practice of ahimsa. Ahimsa means to practice living in a way so as not to cause (physical, mental, or emotional) harm or violence to ourselves or others. To make assumptions about the practice and lives of others based solely on a photograph is not in alignment with ahimsa. Can you truly say, based on a photo alone, that a yogi’s life is out of alignment with “right living”? When you live a life that is in alignment with ahimsa, you make space to release anything that doesn’t serve you and stands in the way of personal peace. This includes judgement – judgement of yourself and others.
 
Ultimately, the decision over the goodness or badness of yoga selfies is one that must be made by you. It must be one that supports you, your way of living, and your yoga. Just be sure to stay true to who you are and what you believe and to not impose it on others. That is the true yogi way.
 
Namaste beauties.
 


 


 


 


 


 

#yogalove not #yogaporn

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10 Insane Yoga Photos
You may have also seen yoga selfies occasionally catching some flack, (do a quick Google search of “yoga selfies” and you’ll see what I’m talking about) but regardless of differing opinions, we can all agree they are better than “duck face.” We personally can’t get enough of these 10 insane yoga photos!
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Elisha Thompson

Elisha Thompson has her masters in Creative Non-Fiction Writing from Arizona State University. She is also a newly certified yoga teacher and loving every minute of her practice. Her Miniature Pincher, Harley, is her pride and joy. Elisha can usually be found at her computer, working on her latest novel. She fully believes that love is all you need and will one day save the world.

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