Yoga Practice

Public Posing – Yay or Nay?

I have mixed feelings about publicly placing my body in these peculiar poses for the world to see. I mean it’s one thing to do the downward dog but throwing your legs over your head and showing off that damn good behind of yours is a different story. You see stunning photos of these pros bending backwards, looking ever so elegant and gracious, yet the mere thought of it puts my sweat glands in overdrive and somehow I think that people on the streets could do without my attempt at these postures, completely putting myself out there while doing so.

Must one be advanced along their yoga journey to justify bending in public? Have you ever seen a modest yogi, simply doing a few tree poses and maybe a trikonasana? (Thank you Google!)  Is it always the jaw dropping, extreme acrobatic poses one must do to justify doing it at all? I practise yoga for peace of mind, relaxation and the ultimate personal downtime. I have found out the hard way that it doesn’t exist when I try and do this in a public area. No relaxation, physical nor mental has been achieved in my attempts when people watch me in this vulnerable state.

Attempted instagram yoga pose, outside and in the open! (ok in my back garden)

Breathing technique is out the window, and rather than a meditative state my mind lands in paranoia mode – am I doing this right? Does it look ok? She looks like she practises yoga, she’s judging me. What ultra cool pose shall I do next? No thanks. No satisfaction in it for me.

In the summer of 2014, while I was on a crazy European adventure, I moved to Amsterdam and worked in a hostel right on the beach. With no personal space what so ever, (a challenge in itself, and the reason why yoga was needed) I planned on being the right beach yogi, getting up every morning and creating an ultra Zen ritual of yoga and swimming in the sea. Of course, this didn’t last long after I started indulging in Dutch daily life and found my morning ritual to be either recovering, sleeping or working. The beach was always full of life. Locals, tourists, backpackers alike flocked to the waters and soft sand of Amsterdam to enjoy a day of relaxation, of which never consisted of yoga. I never came across a fellow yogi and always felt a sense of isolation. I didn’t feel comfortable in the midst of these beach bums, bending over so they could see mine in all its glory. The beach is a popular public place to do yoga after all, and I thought I would be like those ultimate bendy happy people with an exotic Instagram feed showing my dreamy lifestyle and daily Zen ritual with impressive poses and beautiful backdrops.

Safe to say I resorted back to an alternative, more publicly acceptable fitness regime for my time in Amsterdam. Swimming is boring to watch, no one sees you hiking mountains, and no one even cares about you running. My dreams of being a beach yogi were put on the backburner. Even if I had the courage to stand upside down for a few minutes for all to see, I still don’t see how this may be meditative. Yoga should be purely about the practise, thus creating a sense of meditation and pure relaxation – and the day that I’ll be mentally in this state, while physically in that state, well it would be one to tell the grand kids!  Who knows about the future, maybe I’ll find a more secluded beach to begin my public yogi journey. For now, indoors, on my mat and with soothing music is just right.

so much zen in the mountains

What are your thoughts on this matter? Have you tried to incorporate a more public practise into your regime? If you have had more success than I have, or if you feel the same, I’d love to hear from you! Let’s start a discussion about this in the comments below.

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13 Comments

  1. Amanda

    Amanda

    March 10, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Great topic! It’s prevalent nowadays to “do yoga” out in the open to get and post the photo. Seems to me, however, that in a lot of cases it’s not so much a public practice as it is striking a pose for the sake of Instagram. I’ve done it myself a couple of times, though I too get very self-conscious about that, and tend to do those photo ops when no one else is around. 🙂 I once saw someone in a full-on yoga practice in the middle of the airport, and I felt turned off by it. You could see she was very aware that everyone was noticing her…it felt unnecessary to me, and I’m no stranger to long days in airports. I walk around a lot and even stretch a little, but I’ve never done a full yoga practice right there. The public yoga I’ve done has mostly been in a class. I took a couple of classes on the beach, and I taught class to a friend in the park once. It’s interesting that you bring out the difference between, say, running in public vs. doing yoga in public — because there is a difference somehow, isn’t there!? While running can be very meditative and “internal” as well as physical, I think it’s the nature of yoga being a personal “work-in” rather than a “work-out” that makes it more awkward in public. Your body is put in vulnerable positions, and your mind is right there with it. Long story short: I’m with you, keeping my practice indoors or with a group in a public place.

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      Elaina

      March 16, 2016 at 9:40 am

      I have no problem with people posing in public, but I would feel myself uncomfortable if someone was next to me at the airport doing a full on session! I totally agree that it’s more of an “internal” form of exercise and release, and I think that people still associate it with a certain stereotype because of it, but this may just be paranoia in my head. Either way it’s something I have to work on and get over to be able to join the yogis outside! I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way. 🙂

  2. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    March 10, 2016 at 8:57 am

    I actually have been having serious anxiety about this. I’m headed to Jamaica in a few months, and couldn’t be more thrilled, but of course, staying in a small hotel room with my husband doesn’t give me much room to flap and flail around in my typical yogic fashion. I see all these perfectly balance yogi’s on Instagram with their beautiful Caribbean bodies and backdrops and I can’t help but fear that when I land on this gorgeous 7 mile beach, my 4 foot 11 body ridden with cellulite and bruises will be in the forefront of my mind rather than the medicative and meditative reasons I actually participate in yoga. My husband, a supportive and non-judgmental hero, has vowed to snap pics and oggle over me while I vinyasa in the sand. Just the thought of my husband being there and watching over me as I lose balance and gather sand in my hair puts me a little more at ease with practicing in public.

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      Elaina

      March 16, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Megan, It’s nice to know there are others out there that feel the same! It’s always better when you have a friend/partner there supporting you through their presence. I find it distracts from the shame I generally feel trying to get into the grove of my yoga poses. I think there is just too much pressure for your yoga to be impressive if you are going to do it in front of people, but this is my opinion. I would love to see more people just doing a few basic stretches and I would be encouraged to join them! The tree pose is so under rated 🙂

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    Yvette

    March 11, 2016 at 4:41 am

    I think this totally depends on your personality, your practice and the place. I am by no means a well turned out yogi. I haven’t been practicing long…I can’t handstand by myself, I can’t forward fold without bent legs my hamstrigs are so ridiculously tight, and I can’t link my hands behind my back with flat palms and arms straight because my right shoulder is not my friend. Clearly there will be no flashy poses anytime soon for Instagram credit. And I’m totally ok with that, I use instagram for inspiration and to record my progress so I have a visual aid. I have done the whole pics in weird/urban places for Bad Yogi and other challenges, and yes you are aware that people may look. Personally, my favourite place to do yoga if I can is with my toes in the grass. I have done yoga in the park down the road, in the Botanic gardens in town, wherever I can “if I feel it”. The place usually calls to me and says “go on you know you want to”. I even broke out and did my own modified sun salutations for quite awhile on the Table View beach in Cape Town while we were on holiday. My husband actually ended up filming me because I took so long and he felt the need to do something! It was basic. There were tree poses and lunges and nice simple mountain pose, there were people, there was wind blowing sand everywhere, and I didn’t care. Neither did they. The same can be said at the parks. I think the more people who do it, and yes in groups is probably easier, the more “acceptable” it may be. As a side note, I thought there were actual yoga areas in the big airports now, so yogi’s can go and borrow a mat and get their stretch on. Or is that only in America? (I live in New Zealand and I’m sure I heard something about that).

    1. Amanda

      Amanda

      March 11, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Yes, some airports are adding yoga spaces now! 🙂

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      Elaina

      March 16, 2016 at 9:55 am

      I totally agree. I think it definitely depends on your personality, and also how comfortable you are in your yoga journey. If there is no one around, I much rather digging my toes into the soil or sand and breathing in the fresh air as I do my yoga sequence. That is by far the most meditative and enjoyable I have found, but more often than not finding a place without fear of people passing by is too difficult. I applaud people who can say f**k it and do it anyway. For me if I’m in a group then it’s ok, otherwise I’m just more comfortable inside. I’m loving the sounds of airport yoga areas though, it’s good to see it encouraged to drop and do yoga where ever you are. Hopefully people will start to take less notice!

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    Lauren

    March 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    I don’t like to draw attention to myself, but I want to do yoga outdoors. Hearing the birds and the wind, etc, is very relaxing to me, and I just enjoy it. That being said, there’s a beautiful park I go to sometimes and I love to do yoga there… when there’s no one around. But there’s always people there, so I’ve had to just get over the onlookers and eventually I stop paying attention to them. In the summer I like to do sup yoga on the river near my house. But I prefer quiet days when there aren’t so many people. That’s about as public as my yoga gets. And I wipe out, but as long as I’m laughing at myself then I know I’m not letting my ego get in the way. I don’t want or need the attention, but I do want to get over it more so that I can zone out and bend when I feel like it no matter where it happens to be.

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      Elaina

      March 16, 2016 at 10:01 am

      I’m right there with you! I much rather having the serenity of the outdoors around you, and if I had more confidence within myself and my yoga I would be outside all the time. But I get more out of it being completely relaxed in my own environment without distractions. If I’m not trying to incorporate a meditative form in my session, then I may attempt doing it outside, and as you said yourself once I forget about my ego and laugh off my worries and mistakes then it works. I think it all depends on what you want to get out of your yoga session as well. It’s all a process and a learning curve at the end of the day.

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    Lennae

    March 13, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    I normally practice in the morning, but one day I wanted to work out a little later in the day. I was working at my university at the time. Luckily there was so much open grassy space and it was the summer term so there were less people. Honestly, it was really lovely and I was able to find a space where I couldn’t even see the looks on people’s faces. I also have mixed feelings about practicing in public. I think it depends on you and what you feel like that day. If you don’t mind being looked at, that’s okay. If you don’t feel like being looked at and people passing by will interfere with your concentration or meditation, then it’s okay to find a more isolated space.

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      Elaina

      March 16, 2016 at 10:05 am

      Exactly! If I simply want to stretch and refresh my body on a break or before work, then I could try and find a secluded spot outside, block out the fact that people may see me and just commit to the practice. I much rather the fresh outdoors incorporated into my yoga practice and try to take advantage when I can. That said if I want more of a meditative, mindful practice for my body and mind, I need to eliminate all distractions, externally and internally and that for me is being in public. There are pros and cons with both options, and it’s good to mix it up!

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    Mercedes Franco

    March 14, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    In all honestly, Yoga is about yourself and what you feel happy doing, accepting yourself and not waiting for others to accept you. If you enjoy doing Yoga in public, that is perfectly fine with me. If people wants to inspire others by posting beautiful photos, that is fine as well. I don’t do it. Yoga is personal, even when doing it in classes. Also I have body image issues, so public photos are … well, not my favourite. Having said that, I have done classes where photos have been taken and then published in Facebook and… well, nothing happens!
    I’ve one did Yoga in the beach while on holidays to see my family… winter, cold sand.. I decided to do it with my trainers on (after a run along the beach… ) and got my foot stuck!!! I laugh at myself and sat down, creating the cool air and seeing the beautiful sunrise!

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    Elaina

    March 16, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Yes I agree, I think that you should do what makes you happy and comfortable. Explore your options and develop your yoga journey, it’s inspiring to see people with such confidence and impressive poses! I just wish there was more emphasism on regular, beginner and basic yoga so that everyone would be encouraged to try it! Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves, but I would never post a picture of myself doing a downward dog or a simple lunge, for fear people might find it too “average”. I also have gotten into some sticky situations from yoga poses, and love it! All you can do is laugh and keep going. The fact that we are continue to get on our mat/sand is achievement enough 🙂

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