I follow a few very physically gifted yogis on Instagram: bendy, strong, inevitably thin and young and long-haired nymphs whose command of yoga poses is stunning and enviable. They have thousands, hundreds of thousands, or in some cases a million followers.
When I first found some impressive accounts, I felt conflicted about adding to their instacelebrity. Is this yogic? I thought. Isn’t yoga about looking within? If yoga philosophy tells us to practice non-attachment, aren’t these women demonstrating vain attachment to their physical prowess? Are these accounts less about yoga and more about ego?
Maybe. But maybe they aren’t so bad.
The history of asana in Indian tells us that traveling bands of talented yogis would often hold exhibitions and shows to demonstrate poses. For over 200 years, there have been yoga competitions in Indian, and today we have them here in the United States. Although many of us who participate in the practice wish to leave competitive feelings out of it, there is a place and tradition for exhibition and evaluation in yoga.
It is my opinion that the sexy, gifted yogis of Instagram are not in violation of yoga tradition, nor are they doing a disservice to the practice.
No one blinks an eye when a tattoo artist’s page is full of his creations, nor do we fault florists for posting photos of their arrangements. We are living in a media culture of sharing, and a yoga lover whose account is full of poses is simply sharing her work.
My feelings when I browse their pages tell me more about myself than they do about the gorgeous creatures in the photos. If I feel glum and inadequate, it reflects my dissatisfaction with my own mastery of a particular pose. If I feel inspired, it reflects a sense of hope in me and a drive to move forward with my own practice.
Advanced poses are a radiant celebration of health and vitality. I’m sure that there are some Instayogis whose intention it is to garner attention and be perceived as talented and attractive, but I venture to guess that the majority of them genuinely want to share their successes and inspire people.
It is easy to call out narcissism when we feel that someone is being a show-off, but in the case of Instayogis, I believe that what they are showing off is the amazing things we are capable of with patience, practice, dedication, and time.
Keep the handstands coming, ladies. I will be cheering you on!