Is YOGA-SHAMING a thing?
Shaming is a form of publicly humiliation for not fitting into what is considered acceptable behavior or form. If you've never experienced it, consider yourself lucky. First, there was body-shaming, then slut-shaming, then food-shaming, and dog-shaming; and recently, political-shaming. And now, is YOGA-SHAMING the next form of public humiliation?!?! Let's face it, we live in a culture of shaming and as social media becomes more and more a part of our lives, it not only creates a platform for shamers, but also publicly exposes the shaming culture itself. How about that for an ironic twist?
Recently in the yoga community, there has been a lot of chatter about "yoga porn" -it's not what you think, get your mind out of the gutter! The term yoga porn is referencing women who are generally young and fit, with no obvious ailments or disabilities, performing challenging yoga postures on social media -often times in exotic locations. If you have been on Instagram, gone to yoga class, and haven't been living under a rock for the last 5 years, you have probably noticed chatter about how this type of public display of yoga isn't "real yoga" and that "real yoga" is a personal journey to the self. There is also a lot of chatter about how this display of advanced yoga discourages people who do not fit this ideal from practicing. Or maybe you've even heard talk about how this type of yoga makes a mockery of yoga and makes it all about doing handstands in a bikini on the beach. But, the irony again, is that the only people discouraging anyone from doing yoga are the shamers themselves.
So who are the targeted group? Kino MacGregor, Caitlin Turner, and Shiva Rae, are just a few of the hundreds of Instagram-famous women who have posted photos of themselves doing difficult postures in a bikini on the beach. Despite the harsh words they often receive, these ladies are not ashamed to share their talent with the world. And, despite criticism have continued to do their thaang! If they are "ruining yoga", I'm in love with the way their doing it! They each have hundreds of thousands of "followers" on Instagram and are bringing awareness to the practice of yoga. They have helped ignite the recent upsurge in yoga practice today.
I too have experienced yoga shaming. I don't have hundreds of thousands of followers like the aforementioned group, but I can tell you that more times than I can count on both hands (and all my yogi toes) I have been made to feel bad for going into a more advanced variation of a posture being taught in class. Many teachers have felt the need to give a disclaimer to my posture or bring attention to it in a negative way. I've even questioned whether or not to even practice them sometimes but always end up deciding that this my own personal practice whether in a classroom or at home. I quickly remember that my ability to put my leg behind my head is from a very dedicated every day practice and that 6 years ago I wasn't able to touch my toes ( I had never been able to touch them, not even as a child). I also remember that several years ago I suffered a life-altering illness where I was wheelchair-bound for over a month and couldn't even stand up to brush my teeth and my dedicated yoga practice is what got me to my feet again. When I remember these things, you'd better believe I proudly move into my standing splits.
Whether new to yoga or a seasoned veteran, yoga IS about a PERSONAL journey to the self. You CHOOSE what you want to see. If looking at someone's yoga practice makes you feel bad about yourself, then that is a PERSONAL CHOICE. When starting my yoga practice, I chose to be inspired by people with an advanced practice and it encouraged me to explore yoga in a deeper way. I do post yoga photos but that is not the only part of my practice it is just a part of self expression the same way a dancer or a painter displays their passion.
The word YOGA means union. That is what yoga was meant to be, a connection. The "real" yoga that people idealize is about coming together rather than shaming others. So instead of being insulted or ashamed by someone practice, let's welcome diversity in all types of yoga practice and yoga expression. Advanced postures and yoga photos don't discourage people from doing yoga, it is cattiness, judgment, and negative self-talk, that discourage people from doing yoga. So if you see me in class with my leg behind my head in an arm balance... #SORRYNOTSORRY
Namaste, Bendy Babes!