If you're on instagram and happen to search "yoga" you'll find a number of beautifully talented people wrapping themselves up in awe inspiring yoga poses. I "know" (meaning we have talked via instagram) a few of these people- some of them yoga teachers as well, and they are kind, supportive, and offer tips when I've asked. Their photos are beautiful. But lately, some of the photos and captions are making me recoil.
It feels like yoga on instagram is breeding a sense of competition and building on ego which is the complete opposite of what yoga's about. I've seen weekly "pose challenges"- which seems irresponsible as it could be dangerous for an inexperienced yoga student to jump right into a pose without warming up or knowing proper alignment. In these challenges you're asked to tag and hashtag the teacher so all your followers will see her and start following. I've also seen a promotion where you can win another yogi's wacky pants if you incorporate a certain letter of his name into your yoga pose. Huh? When did yoga become so... egocentric?
To me, yoga is a simultaneously personal and collective experience. The class setting is a prime example of this: on that mat, you are doing your own personal practice, focusing on the private intention you set at the beginning of class that most likely differs from everyone else's. Yet at the same time, you're in a room full of people whose breathing is loud and powerful, the soundtrack of the class, perhaps, and the collective energy fuels everyone.
With regards to instagram, it's personal in that it's your photo, and you can choose whatever caption you want. Yet it's collective in that you're sharing the photo and message with millions of instagram users. So I get the "bringing people together" thing that sorrrrrt of seems to be the reason, at first glance, for these "pose challenges" and competitions to win the pants. But the rules of the games make it seem like we're getting away from the sense of community and personal practice.
Now don't get me wrong- not all yoga on instagram is disheartening. There are many yoga people I follow whose photos and captions are inspiring. I'm inspired by people who share their photos and say whatever's on their mind- maybe it's a quote that speaks to them, or maybe it's just simply the sanskrit name of the pose. I don't place more value on a photo based on the pose's level of difficulty, but rather on the integrity and honesty.
When the photos turn into promos for the yoga lover, it is, at least for me, a complete turn off, and makes me feel saddened for the people who are being exposed to yoga for the first time and are being sent this message of ego and elitism. Yoga's not about trying to impress anyone, competition or ego- so keep that in mind the next time you're scrolling through.