Shiva Rae recently posted this on her Facebook page:
‘yogasanas and vinyasas are not “tricks” to be learned or performed…let us be aware of how our “likes” and what we are putting out there on FB, instagram, etc are transforming the heart of yoga here in the West.
yoga as an emanation of deeper consciousness
expressed through our whole being as the wholeness of nature
one’s Self, creative by nature expresses reality through bodily expressions – sahajayoginicinta, 13th century yogini
elevate-emanate-yoga for all’
Back in the day of my youthful yoga world, the yoga superstars of the day (to me anyway) were the likes of Shiva Rae, Seane Corne, Gurmukh, Sharon Gannon and David Life. When I look back I find it interesting that social media wasn’t a part of what made these teachers ‘rockstars’ of the day. Sure they had websites, but they had also written books, made DVD’s and featured in the glossy pages of printed magazines. Social media as we know it had not really become a thing back then.
I dreamt of going to the states to study with these great teachers and over the past decade I did just that and was never disappointed in the reality of these teachers compared to their virtual presence in my life. They were authentic and inspiring.
But in more recent years there have been several yoga teacher scandals, I don’t think I need to rehash the infamous John Friend scandal here, or the debate surrounding Uma Thurman’s brother at Jivamukti in New York, the ongoing nasty rumours surrounding Bikram, locally at home in Australia there was the fall of Yoga in Daily Life due to the bad behaviour of their Swami and I’m sure many others that I don’t have the time of inclination to research.
I think the yoga community is partly to blame for these scandals and the fall from grace of our superstar yogis. We place them on such high pedestals and then wait for them to topple, once they become seduced by the fame, money, power that we so easily offer them, they show their oh so human characteristics and fall and fail spectacularly. We are shocked! We are horrified! We then turn into a pack of hyenas and ravage them and their reputation.
So when I read Shiva Rae’s comment a few weeks ago I was all like ‘you go girl!’.
What is this with these instagram yoga superstars? I love a good yoga image, I love beautiful photographs, I love exploring yoga shapes advanced or simple, I adore Robert Sturmans work and think that it’s truly art. There are some teachers on social media that I love to follow as they integrate beautiful imagery, with real life and a deep yoga understanding (Kathryn Budig comes to mind) and I am inspired by their online presence.
But there are also what seems like hundreds of yoga teachers on instagram uploading images of themselves in increasingly impossible poses, running instagram challenges where followers copy said impossible pose (#socialmedialawsuitinthemaking), there are many a sexy bikini beach babe busting her yoga moves, sexy tattooed yoga guys wearing just his pants while hanging upside down, watered down yoga philosophy being used for self promotion and all the while we are lapping it up.
These yogis have hundreds of thousands following them. They are young, they are beautiful, they are the new yoga superstar but it feels to me that they lack the credibility and integrity of the teachers of old. They fill workshops and classes based on how they look holding a handstand while balancing on a rock and the newcomers to yoga will think this is what yoga is all about – buff bodies doing tricks. I imagine this would be quite intimidating to some wishing to dip a toe into yoga for the first time.
It all feels a bit empty. It all feels like we are repeating our mistakes and placing these young bendy teachers on pedestals and what will we do when they fall?
I would love to see these teachers offering less tricks and more about the real teachings of yoga. Or at least a combination of both. Can we as a yoga community start a new hashtag #nonasanayogaeverydamnday and transform yoga in the west to be inclusive, inspiring and an emanation of deeper consciousness?