The problem with yoga selfies goes well beyond what one picture says

The New York Post this week adding to the ongoing debate about the value of yoga selfies — or the same debate that says those photos devalue yoga.

You can check out the piece at this link. And just to clue those in who (luckily) aren’t totally sure what this discussion is all about:

Stiles’ limber loop through the Big Apple may be a savvy marketing ploy, but it spotlights a growing phenomenon — the yoga showoff who’s more circus sideshow than beacon of motivation.


Carson says there is a growing number of practitioners who feel that the self-indulgent nature of yoga selfies and performance posing is the complete antithesis of what yoga is meant to be — contemplative and personal.

“The discussion has been evolving over time since Instagram began. There’s a sentiment [among the yoga community] that they’re doing a disservice to yoga by putting these pictures out there. It’s showy and basically everything that the practice is not supposed to be about — ‘Look at me and these awesome poses I can do!’ ”

We’ve noted this phenomena before, and I was going to just ignore the Post’s piece until I came to this part of the story, one paragraph from the end:

Kay Kay Clivio, the lead teacher trainer at NYC’s Pure Yoga, says Baldwin twisting herself into a pretzel in a pedicure chair for all to see is far from inspiring.

“To me, that’s more of a publicity stunt,” says Clivio. “Yoga is a practice of body meets grace. And being humble. And I don’t know how humble or graceful that is. I don’t know what her intention is. Is it teaching people how to manage their stress or uplift themselves — or is it just wanting people to follow her and have the most followers?”

I’ll highlight what really caught my attention: “Yoga is a practice of body meets grace.”

Nope. It isn’t.

Seeing one of the “opponents” to the yoga selfies state that got me thinking that the real problem with this whole debate is that the folks on both (all) sides fundamentally misunderstand or misdefine (or maybe have redefined) yoga.

Here’s what I’d suggest yoga is: Yoga is the stilling of the actions of the mind.

Yes, Patanjali. And there’s nothing about the body to it. Nothing.

I’d agree that dance or ballet, or gymnastics, may be a practice of body meets grace. Maybe even ice skating. But not yoga.

Yoga can’t be captured on Instagram or in a selfie.

The trouble is that the way this debate is playing out, it’s already lost. Yoga as a pose, as a contortion of the body, is the default definition that underpins the argument. From that definition, folks then try to decide if this person’s pose/picture or that person’s Instagram/asana shows off humility or grace.

And that misses the point. Well, worse — it has changed the point. Everyone posting photos of themselves in asanas are helping to complete the redefinition of yoga (at least here in the West).

Now, I recognize that may sound pretty … oh, the word may be “conservative,” and I suppose it is. But it doesn’t mean I’d promote outlawing asana selfies or even people having some fun with their yoga practice. I even understand how these photos can inspire people.

I just wish there were some way to convey as easily as posting a photo that there is a little something more to the whole practice of yoga than what meets the eye.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

10 thoughts on “The problem with yoga selfies goes well beyond what one picture says”

    1. Nope. She isn’t mentioned at all in the story; I didn’t think of her once.

      That said, I understand why you’d mention her. She’s out there on the Instagram.

      It really was the Lindsay Lohan picture the Post ran that I had in mind. 🙂


  1. I’m all in favor of the yoga selfies and frankly, just discovered them on Instagram (I even have my own insta-yoga page). One, the human body looks really kick-ass doing yoga poses, even basic poses like triangle. Two, seeing the variety of poses people post inspires/reminds me of the variety of yoga poses, so that when I’m sequencing for myself or my classes, I add many of the selfie-poses I saw on Insta and elsewhere.

    I think the “debate” is much ado about nothing. Vacations are supposed to be peaceful, but we all take pictures of ourselves on the beach, eh?

  2. I love the yoga pictures on instagram, they inspire me, they are fun and they are beautiful (well, many of them)

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