The online yoga space is becoming increasingly crowded with some incredible human specimens. If you do an instagram or google search for yoga teacher, yogi - or even more telling yoga girl - you will be inundated images of the most impressive bodies imaginable. Perfection. Accordingly, the level of success in a yoga instructor’s career is measured by the beauty and extremity of poses that they are able to do. The top yoga celebrities of our time are all beautiful - astoundingly beautiful - and reed thin, toned, and supple. They promote veganism and talk about mindfulness and sprout yoga philosophies in a California drawl.
Its a difficult space to find your own voice in. Mostly because the gaze is not actually on your voice, but on your body. My body lets me down. It gets sick or stiff at times, and I’m not a perfect size 6, or whatever the 21st century ‘ideal’ is. Whenever I review the yoga teacher market I feel dejected. I castigate myself for being nowhere near as impressive. I sift through Instagram feeds and pick out all the poses I can’t do. I ask myself, why do I try at this? I’m not even low-carb vegan! I have been healthy vegetarian for over a decade, but I eat cake and quiche. Guilty!
Its at this point that I try to remember to put the hand break on the negative thoughts. I step outside and breathe in the country air. It is silent on my yoga deck apart from the odd cow mooing happily and the hushed sigh of trees.
Sometimes I want to toss my mobile into the river and give up on the use of social media as a tool for building my yoga career altogether. The pressure I feel to share my yoga practice regularly through these channels and constantly ‘market’ myself as a yogi in order to gain clients, is downright intrusive on my own integral and very private daily ritual of yoga.
I often wonder if other yogis have found that their practice changes if they have planned to record and share an aspect of their practice that day? Mine doesn’t seem as focused if I want to capture it. The thoughts are on the external gaze, rather than the internal. That worries me, and I try to manage resisting that ego and externalisation with the pragmatic need to network and advertise myself as a yoga teacher.
I worry about the trends in international yoga at times, and I am inspired by them in others. Under those same hashtag searches you’ll find people sharing their yoga journeys with determination and honesty. There are reams and reams of yoga related images, where people who are not very adept at asana practice are keen to share snatches of themselves in the process of trying and learning. There are often messages of self-motivation below these images. They are every bit unprofessional. And that quiet, determined, measured commitment, is what regular yoga practice is all about . The circus of beautiful bodies is not.
There appears to be much ego, vanity and competitiveness at the top, and just as much (if not more) honest commitment below that.
I ponder over whether the sharing of yoga imperfection is a touch point for positive self-image and daily strength. A source of general go-do-it motivation. That would be positive. But in this pursuit, how much of the positivity is gained through externalising ones gaze and reaching outwards, rather than inwards? How do we harness the power of sharing in an online global community of yoga practitioners without loosing sight of how yoga - in order to be yoga and not just exercise - is principally an internal journey?
I don’t know that answer to this. I think it is a challenge of our time if we are sincerely invested in yoga as a life pursuit. What I do know is that I have made a promise to switch off my mobile - and switch on my mindfulness - at least 85% of my yoga time. That 15% is the tax rate for all the self-indulgence.