Waste or Wonder?: Yoga and the Social Media Realm

Recently I was glancing through Instagram and stumbled upon a thought-provoking post. It’s point, both in image and words, was to say that yoga is different for each and every one of us and that not one of us has the right to preach to others what is and what is not yoga. Debate. No, I’m kidding, sort of.

I rarely get to discuss these kinds of issues in my IRL yoga community, most likely because of busy lives impacting the time we spend in each other’s presence. [tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]So, I often turn to social media, especially Instagram, for a wider, global network, discussion and variety of thinking. Is that right or wrong?[/tweet_box] I’m not sure, but I do have more questions …

What do I get from the realm of Instagram?

A whole lot: inspiration, wise words, teaching ideas, and, most importantly, a big community of people who are mentors, friends, colleagues – a community I choose to be a part of. Some of my greatest teachers are overseas, so the online world helps me to keep in touch and pick up important tidbits from them which I incorporate into my very non-online, private practice and teaching. In fact, I would not know Bad Yogi were it not for Instagram and the like.

What do I not get?

The human, realness of yoga; the stumbles and the gaffs; the verbal communication; the face-to-face and heart-to-heart love. So, if this second answer seems the more important, why continue using it? Because through this channel, I stay connected with people I have met and practiced with in the flesh, I keep learning from the real-life teachers I love, and I discover opportunities to connect with others. And, oddly, maybe, I feel altogether richer in myself and practice for having more than one world to be a part of. And my real world, I guess I value it even more because of what I’ve gained from the social media realm.

But this is just one part of the ‘Instagram debate’.

Many of us struggle seeing the ‘picture perfect’ squares, seascapes that escape our daily lives, bodies that require no criticism, postures (almost?) impossible to even imagine getting into… Are they simply visual bites, off-putting in a superficial appropriation of ‘real yoga’? Or is there something deeper, engaging, even enriching about these posts, in the words and ideas that accompany them? Or can we even go so far as to question whether they might act as forms of inspiration? It is perhaps unarguable that there is a level of surface layers or superficiality about social media images as a whole – and to solely rely on images is, surely, to refute the practice of yoga. But, the majority of those who share their practice through visual mediums are, from my own experience, far from surface level – their images acting as an entry point to a much deeper practice and philosophy.

These images, then, could be regarded as one element of yoga, a part of the modern yoga world, standing alongside yoga’s many other parts. And in a world so preoccupied by technologies and social media, maybe it can be a vehicle for communicating the power of yoga to this new age of young people, in the hope and with trust that it will be seen and experienced as more than an image on a screen.

One of my first significant encounters with yoga involved an Instagram celebrity yogi, another, a YouTube celebrated yogi. Both opened the door, or many doors, to this life-changing practice and journey, from the Instagram yoga community to Facebook kulas to public classes to personal, home practice, to yoga study and training, ultimately, to an on-going richer understanding of myself and a healing journey through grief. I view this as neither wrong nor right.

Sharing social media images, though, is by no means a prerequisite or necessity for journeying on the yoga life path.

It is simply one part of a huge, vast universe, a mirror of our actual universe, where there are so many divergent elements. It is completely understandable that some choose to keep their practice entirely private, and that others choose to share publicly. We are each to his or her own.

Yoga for those of us who practice it, is such a rich practice, with many, many different types, approaches, pathways, teachings, histories, philosophies…and so on. Yoga – the word itself – means union, join, yoke and much else. I personally like to think of it as a journey involving diversity and togetherness. This is my own belief surrounding the yoga/social media discussion, that there is room enough for it all and there is no reason, to come back full circle, to preach whether it is or is not yoga. To each our own.

How does Instagram or other social media factor into your yoga life? Share with us in the comments!

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