Dear yoginis and yogis,
if you are remotely interested in yoga and live in the Western world, you are likely to have noticed that yogis are very present on social media. Yoga asanas (postures) make nice photo material, often in combination with a beach background and/or sunset, and yogis tend to have supple and strong bodies, so that’s a lot of good photography material right there.
The delightful Yogibanker (himself a social media “influencer”) wrote a good article about the whole issue of “Yogaporn” (yes, that’s a popular hashtag!) this summer: “Daring or deceiving?”
(that’s him right there enjoying a seated twist in Menorca! Pure “yogaporn”!).
I often wonder what a traditional yogi living in a cave in the Himalayas, or bathing in the Ganges in Varanasi, would have made of this.
In my first yoga teacher training, held at an ashram in India in 2007, we were told again and again that the ultimate aim of yoga is to “destroy the ego”, and not to identify with the body. Our body was meant to be the vehicle for our soul, and therefore to be kept in good shape, so that it would serve our soul well (mainly by allowing us to sit comfortably in meditation), but sexiness and the whole “look at me!”-vibe were certainly not desirable.
When the Indian yogis brought yoga to the West in the 20st century, some say they were on a mission to spread Hinduism, or hoping to foster world peace in turbulent political times, or they just wanted to help us poor stressed-out Westerners cope with our lives.
I would say that all three aims have been successful to a certain extent.
But what has happened in the process, is that yoga was adopted by and integrated into the Western mentality. Also, yogis in the West needed to make a living in the context of a society where they could no longer rely on donations, and if they really enjoyed yoga a lot more than their day job, they naturally chose to make it their profession.
So yoga became, to a certain extent, a business, an industry. Yoga teachers are usually self-employed and need to make a living to pay their rent and feed their families. Business-savvy entrepreneurs, meanwhile, have watched yoga become popular and decided to build an industry in order to supply props and accessories around it. Nothing wrong with that, actually (especially if a yogic mentality of non-violence is applied, so the supply chains are earth-friendly and don’t exploit workers). I love “yoga gear” as much as the next person!
But for some of us, having to keep an active presence on social media in order to make sure potential students “find us”, when we’d rather be spending our time teaching or studying yoga, can be a bit disheartening. And having to say “look at me!” all the time is, as explained above, a bit puzzling for a traditional yogi.
This is why I long resisted joining the fast-paced world of Instagram, which I finally gave in to this month. I was already on Facebook, mind you! And of course, I have this blog, which allows me to share information whilst being an outlet for my love of creative writing. But apparently people “find you” more easily on Instagram than anywhere else these days.
So now you can “follow me” under “susannehaegeleyoga“. My aim is to avoid yogaporn (unless it comes with a pinch of humour!), to try and share relevant information, or just messages that make people happy and optimistic (rather than envious or needy or anything negative like that).
It is not easy to portray meditation, pranayama, and the yogic values (called yamas and niyamas) on Instagram. But a few of my yogi friends, I find, are doing a good job at it (check out the people I “follow” if you’re curious).
So, if social media made its way into yoga, let us, at least, fill social media with the positive values of yoga!