To be fair, how Hilaria Baldwin responded to backlash to her yoga photos

I suppose I firmly, but not entirely, put myself in the camp that thinks yoga selfies — or, yes, photos of yourself taken by someone else that more or less mimic selfies– are missing the point.

So, to be fair, here’s a link (from the NY Post) to coverage of the responses to some far more outraged reaction than mine by one of the celeb yogis most identified with these photos, Hilaria Baldwin. Which she did via Twitter. Such as:

I know negativity & bullying sell…But what would happen if we promoted positivity instead? What would happen if we supported each other?

You can read the rest at the link above.

My reaction is consistent with what I said in my earlier post: I don’t think what these photos capture ought to be called yoga. They are pretty, even impressive, acts of physical contortion, which is fine. I just wish, as I wrote before, there was a way to distinguish between an asana practice and a yoga practice.

Baldwin also is featured this weekend in a New York Times story. Quick excerpt:

The eminently shareable and sometimes controversial pictures show yoga as Ms. Baldwin likes it: fun, athletic and unapologetically sexual. Here she is striking a camel pose in Washington Square Park, there a handstand in a bathtub, wearing only underwear and gripping the shower head with her foot. In January, she drew criticism for appearing to annoy her fellow first-class passengers with a pilot pose on an airplane. On Valentine’s Day, a photo of Ms. Baldwin doing a handstand above her reposing husband, the two locked in an upside-down kiss, went viral. The quirky shots have garnered Ms. Baldwin an enthusiastic following among people who enjoy pictures of fit, funny mothers doing yoga in stilettos. But do they not interfere with Mr. Baldwin’s attempts to make his private life less public?

One of Baldwin’s Tweets does, I think, support my contention that yoga in the West has been redefined by a lot, maybe most, yoga teachers:

This happens because teachers have evolved the practice and aren’t afraid to take chances. I take chances every day with my #hilariaypd

I read that as meaning that what we’re seeing online, what’s being practiced in gyms (and, I suppose, lots of yoga studios, too) is a Western-take on yoga — an “evolved” practice.

I don’t argue with that, beyond thinking that “changed” would be a better description — because evolved suggests improvement. And I’m not sure that’s the case. I’d even say it’s a bit presumptuous to think it is, although there are elements — its being open to all (even if that’s probably more an ideal still than a reality), for instance — that probably are.

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

8 thoughts on “To be fair, how Hilaria Baldwin responded to backlash to her yoga photos”

  1. Thing is you don’t really know what a person’s yoga practice is like beyond the selfies that they take and post…maybe that’s just one tiny fragment of their practice. If something doesn’t take away from your own practice then does it do any harm? I also think that it’s not very yogic to judge someone else’s yoga. But that said I can’t imagine taking photos of my own practice, too much of a distraction and not sure my practice is very photogenic!!

    1. I appreciate the points. A few responses:

      1. Not knowing what someone’s practice is from / beyond the photos, in my mind, reemphasizes my point. The photos don’t really show anything — or at least anything that is truly “meaningful.”

      2. On judging (and this is a pet peeve, I know): I don’t get where not judging = “yogic.” Isn’t practicing yoga supposed to help our discernment of the world around us, and, in fact, make us better able to judge? Does Richard Freeman talk about polishing the mirror of yoga? If someone has a great-looking asana practice, but then spends the rest of the day — let’s be fairly ridiculous here — as a hired assassin, should I not judge that his yoga practice is flawed?

      Again, I admit this is a pet peeve. I don’t find a lot of value (personally) in thinking whatever someone is doing is OK or equally valid to what others are doing. It devalues things that are truly important, or excellent, or beautiful, etc. Some things are just better than others. (Which I think is OK.)

      3. It is fundamentally impossible to have your picture taken doing yoga if you know the pic is happening — it takes you out of yourself. So, yes, definitely a distraction!


  2. I’ve also been thinking about HB’s remark that “True yogis dont make harsh judgements. So my advice to the haters: … (is) make peace with diversity.”

    To be a teacher is about making judgements–what to encourage, what to let go of, how to help students move in a direction that one has ‘judged’ to be desirable. In a class, if a student was doing a feet-grounded posture but raising up the heels, a teacher would ‘judge’ that and offer correction. Likewise, mentioning that wearing high heels could cause injuries is not “negativity & bullying,” or the mark of a “hater,” as she claims. I think those words are an effort to deflect the discussion of whether posturing and external form are a useful direction to focus on.

    In my experience, a good teacher encourages a class environment in which students do not feel the need to posture or compete, because that is a healing environment that allows students to discover new worlds. It seems a shame to mislabel the teachers who raised concerns about injury and the full experience of yoga as “haters” who are “not at peace with diversity.”

    I have wondered why HB does not recognize or credit any of her teachers or influences. In Eastern arts, this is part of the practice. For an ‘evolving’ form (such as newer forms of dance or mixed disciplines), teachers and influences are also considered important to mention.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      I met someone for the first time yesterday — somewhat notable person here in LA, who recently had some serious health issues. I was happy to have the opportunity to say, basically, Glad to see you up and looking so well. We ended up talking for about 20 minutes, and at one point he said that he’d come to realize what mattered was “love yourself, love your neighbor, don’t judge anyone.”

      I thought about my stance on judging, and it reminded me that — like most things — it’s complicated. And that’s really my pet peeve about “don’t judge.” It makes everything to easy — as I said, nothing then is of higher or lower value.

      But I think it is more a matter of “don’t judge without any cause.” And I don’t have cause when I see someone — I’m taking the first thought that comes to mind over my first cup of coffee, so don’t judge me! — asking for help at a traffic light. I don’t know why they have ended up there. And obviously we don’t judge people for things outside their control or for reasons that have to do with ourselves (insert any -ism of your choice).

      But I can judge or discern, as you say, something that’s wrong in my educated or thought-through perspective. I know the individual I mentioned above would and has done that. And very publicly.

      I think other, studied and serious yogis, can judge other studied and serious yogis if they think the latter are doing something counter to their understanding of the practice.

      That’s a convoluted sentence I would only write this early in the morning, and I judge it harshly!


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