Above: Erin Joosse, Hein Hong and Julia Nathe from Source Yoga
I recently saw an article that had a list of extreme yoga poses on Instagram. Here are a few of my thoughts as I scrolled through:
- Wow, impressive abilities!
- Wait, how on earth did she get her foot there?!
- Hmmm, if this is yoga, I must be doing something wrong because I can’t (and probably never will) be able to do that
Apparently, I was not alone. I looked at the comments to see numerous people stated that images like this caused them to never try yoga. That it wasn’t inspirational, and they would never be able to do that.
On one hand, I get it. Fancy photos of fancy poses that are really hard, get a lot more interaction than simple poses that literally anyone can do. We have a race to do the craziest poses possible and as we all rush to the finish line, we’ve left behind many people who could truly use the healing benefits of yoga.
The thing that blows me away about the constant sharing of poses no one can do is that these are postures that you will almost never see in a yoga class. If you decided one day to give yoga a try for stress relief, chances are really good that you won’t be asked to put your foot behind your head. Chances are also good that your teacher can’t put his or her foot behind their head. So the fact that the image of yoga has become poses that aren’t often taught in class is what confuses me the most. Imagery of simple postures can be just as beautiful as insanely extreme variations.
There is a huge issue behind sharing photos of insanely advanced yoga postures without any backstory. That issue is people will attempt these poses. You may think as a yoga teacher that no one will ever try doing something like a headstand backbend without years of practice. Trust me… they will. While photographing yoga fans at various yoga festivals I’ve seen individuals who have very shaky inversion practices attempt headstand backbends because I had a camera in my hand. Where did they get the inspiration? You guessed it… They saw it on Instagram.
Should you share advanced asana images?
I’m sure it sounds like I’m someone who is completely anti-advanced asana on social media. In all honesty, I’m really not. I just believe it should be done mindfully. Be sure your followers know that you’ve been practicing for a long time. Tell them about modifications, what poses you did to warm up, or how long you worked on this pose.
It’s awesome to share your accomplishments in asana, and when you are able to conquer a pose you’ve been working on forever, you should be super proud! However, as someone who is creating and shifting the image of yoga, it’s important to be aware of the influence you have.
My 2017 intention for Sukha is to try to create an image of what someone could actually expect in a yoga class. I hope to create a space on the internet where child’s pose gets as much attention as handstands. To make sure that people who are exploring the idea of seeking the healing benefits of yoga have a place where they can feel inspired instead of intimidated.
Fear not, newbie, the poses on this post are far more likely to be in your future than really anything you’ll ever see on Instagram. Yoga classes are full of support and joy, usually without pain or extreme postures.
Above: Alison Olt Kerr from PranaVis Medicine
Above: Pamela Higley from Pamela Higley Yoga
Above: Diana Ratana from Diana Ratana Yoga
Above: Lara Ederer and Dikla Kafka-Hamudot from Yoga Bliss
Above: Connie Lucas from Yoga Soleil
Above: Howard Lamb from Yoga for Life
Above: Humble and Grace
Above: Angela Glaz from Eka Yoga Seattle
Above: Teanna Gentry from Hot Feet Fitness
Above: Anne Arntson from Yoga Soleil