The mysteries of existence, philosophical quandaries to question, spiritual doctrines to contemplate, and Shakespearean tropes to ponder are countless for us humans. What is the meaning of life? Where was I before I was born? Are you sure there is gluten in pizza?
Yet, for modern yogis, the one query that plagues so many is perhaps the most profound—to yoga selfie, or not to yoga selfie??
Okay, you guys. Let’s get real. We live in a culture of vanity. I don’t know if you have noticed, but we are all our own paparazzi.
Unless you avoid all social media by living off the grid in a yurt where you compost waste for energy, while raising your child named Spirit Journey who only eats acorns and wears birch bark diapers, chances are you post pictures of yourself on the Internet.
Sharing Images as Self-Expression
Visual imprints are how we tell the stories of our lives.
Maybe they are not always the most accurate—you don’t see me broadcasting images where I am fighting with my kid in my stained sweatpants, crying into a chocolate bar with 34 percent cacao about the futility of existence… Because as far as the world knows, I only eat chocolate with 80 percent cacao!
We tend to put the best images of ourselves online to maintain a sense of control on how we are perceived. The intention, however, isn’t just to boast about how great everything is, but also to share who we are with the very people with whom we’d like to share parts of ourselves and our lives.
“This is me, everybody! Check me out! I smile at dinner parties and sometimes try on funny hats! Isn’t life grand? Will somebody PLEASE pay attention and validate my existence?!”
The Loneliness of Modern Times
Modernity is so lonely. We are isolated in contained boxes, living solitary lives in parallel lines. Most of us don’t dwell in shared settings where we integrate into each other’s days. We live in houses and apartments that shut the world out, and, as a consequence, we shut ourselves in.
We don’t know our neighbors—if we do, we message them on Facebook rather then actually spending time with them. “Hey! Check out this video of a donkey cuddling a bear cub. :) See you never!”
Community has become something we have to actively seek out, not something that just is. By the way… Will one of you guys please join my online knitting group? Because I have no real life friends who leave their home!
Selfies are not the problem with culture; they are a symptom of it. This technology is a façade for the deep longing we all have to feel understood. Sure, the unique capacity to edit, upload, and share images over social media has only become possible in the last decade or so, but the motivation is as old as mud.
We just want to be loved.
The Yoga Selfie: A Celebration of Identity and Life
The yoga selfie, therefore, isn’t about the struggle with the ego. This excessive pressure for practitioners to transcend the corruption of all earthly attachments and never succumb to the seduction of narcissism is missing the point.
If someone wants to celebrate their practice, that doesn’t make them hypocritical. We can’t expect perfection of each other while at the same time spouting the rhetoric that it is “all about the journey.”
It is more contradictory to be a yogi hating yoga selfies than to be a yogi taking them. The yoga selfie isn’t about bragging; it’s about involving the people we cherish in who we are—and for most of us, yoga isn’t just a part of life; it is our life.
When we post a picture of that one-armed handstand we’ve been working on for several months, even years, just to pull off, this shouldn’t be held to any different standard than when we share pictures of ourselves doing other things.
Challenging Oversexualization in the Media
We live in a world where it is totally acceptable for a woman to sell cars, beer, watches, etc. by pushing her breasts together, opening her mouth, and expectantly awaiting insertion. The majority of visual stimuli in media and advertising sells us products we don’t need by sexualizing the female form.
So for there to be a movement of men and women demonstrating yoga poses that rejoice in a practice that honors strength, spirituality, and balance… I would think that is infinitely more positive for people to be witnessing.
Instead of looking at ads of a young woman deep-throating a Carl’s Jr. burger, we can instead turn our attention towards powerful bodies and minds that show us what is possible through hard work, practice, and commitment.
Conveying Messages of Yoga
If the yoga selfie is marketing yoga—what could possibly be so wrong about this? I would much rather my daughter grew up in a world surrounded by pictures of back bends and crow poses, than of waif models with their hands on their hips and a concave midsection, telling her to buy more shoes.
The fact that yoga is even part of today’s mainstream conversation proves the transformation of humanity. For every yoga selfie circulating the web, there is at least one person who thinks to themselves, “Hey, that looks cool. I am going to try that.”