Type yoga into Tumblr or Pinterest and you'll get plenty of impressive yoga poses with breathtaking backdrops like the ocean or a cliff. But is this the purpose of yoga?
A conversation took place a few months ago with a fellow yogi who has over 11,000 thousand followers on her Instagram account. She must have noticed me watching her set up her iPad in the correct angle, with the correct camera timer on when she said:
“Yeah, my younger brother calls this POGA. Like picture yoga. He’s always asking if I’m POGA-ing yet again”
Don’t try to Google it yet though, because you’ll most likely end up with an Oat Growers Association as your first search result. After reading this article, you are encouraged to use the following terms you read with caution on your social media as other people might think you are speaking in Yiddish instead of English.
Call it yoga selfie. Call it capturing a moment in time when you could finally pull that beautiful, challenging pose you had always wished you could. Picture Yoga is exactly just that, taking a photo, with or without the help of a third party or application while you are holding a specific yoga pose. And most of us who has a ever stepped on a yoga mat before, including yours truly, has been guilty of this at some point in the whole yoga journey.
Practising Yoga for ‘Likes’
A social media expert, and an Ashtanga practitioner, Haley Overland wrote recently of the phenomenon that is steadily sweeping across the global social media channels. The art of shooting and posting photos of challenging, beautiful and often times jaw-dropping yoga poses is undoubtedly helping to ignite inspiration and motivation for others to embark on their journey to health. But it is one riddled with potential injuries and at worse – a very expensive trip to the physiotherapist’s clinic.
According to Ms. Overland, “because of the fragmentary, repetitive nature of social media, there’s been a vast proliferation of glorified yoga “copies” on the Internet—far removed from what we know of genuine yoga traditions”.
And just like her, I have also been randomly tagged on graceful photos of other prominent practitioners usually accompanied with a comment that reads “you should do this” or “can you do this??” Which always leaves me wondering when was the point that turned a spiritual and meaningful practice to one that is all about the physical matter and proving to others that you are worthy of their ‘Likes’?
As with all decisions that one makes in life, it always goes back to the intention. Don’t get me wrong. I fully support those who share their personal practice to the world in an effort to spread the light of yoga and to inspire others to build their own self-practice. And I have seen this, first hand the amazing inspiration that my fellow yogi inspires in some of my students that have never met her in person before. Drawing inspiration from others and the world around you is beautiful. Attempting a pose you have never done in your life before and have completely no idea how to do safely without the help of an experienced teacher is not.
POGA for Inspiration, Not Learning
Herein lies one of the biggest drawback in using social media channels as a method to learn the correct techniques and build a safe practice. While channels like Youtube can include precise instructions from the voiceover of the video thereby limiting but not totally eliminating your chances of pulling a muscle or injuring yourself, others like Instagram that features static photos or 15 seconds video clippings are not a good idea to learn from.
You may already be thinking “well duh, WHO in their right might would actually think they could learn anything substantial from a 15 seconds video clipping on Instagram?” As someone who sees many different types of people with various characters walk through the studio on a daily basis, I can safely vouch they exist. Many of them. And though this shows great evidence that many people are curious about this ancient practice and want to learn more, the function of POGA on social media channels stops there. To inspire. To ignite curiosity and desire to learn. But once this happens, it is best for the person to seek for a suitable yoga studio, and find a teacher whom they can identify with and learn from.
As the founding father of Ashtanga was once heard saying to his student who came with a photo of a yogi in an advanced pose, “that is not yoga, that is circus”.
So allow all the beautiful yoga practicing people you follow on your Instagram to inspire you to deepen your own practice on the mat. But don’t just aim to nail a certain pose just because it will make a very pretty photo to share with your friends.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!