A few months ago, I tried participating in one of those challenges where you take a picture of yourself doing something, tag it, and share it online. This particular one was a yoga challenge, and you were meant to post a picture of yourself doing a specific pose (determined by the people organizing the challenge) every day. The prize package for the winner sounded awesome, and I thought the challenge itself would be a lot of fun.
I can’t remember what the pose was on the first day, but it was something I couldn’t even do. I think the second day was side plank; I asked Nat, my fiancé, to take a picture of me doing the pose, and then had to force myself to post it online because I found it so unflattering. On day 3, the pose was another one that was (and probably still is) beyond my level of ability. At that point, I decided this endeavor was not for me, and I gave up on it. The pictures that I was seeing online of other people doing the challenge made it look like all the participants were advanced yogis with perfect, lean bodies, and a lot of flexibility. In fact, I’d say that 99% of the yoga-related pictures I see online feature models that fit that description, along with a complicated pose, and a beautiful setting.
We live in an age where photoshopping is de rigueur; nearly every photograph we see has been altered in some way, and that includes all those pictures we put our own ready-made filters on and then post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I guess it’s not all that surprising that the images circulating through the yogiverse would be held to the same standard as the rest of the pictures we’re exposed to. But when I see it in this context, I find it even more disappointing than I do when I see it everywhere else.
The image above was posted alongside an article entitled, “Is it Okay that I Will Never be Able to do that Yoga Pose…Ever?” Obviously, the answer to that question ends up being, “Yes, it’s okay!” In yoga, any expression of a pose is okay–whatever you’re doing, you’re pretty much doing it right as long as you’re not pushing yourself beyond your limits. The goal isn’t to touch your forehead to your knee while in a full standing split, or balance the weight of your entire body on one hand. There’s a reason it’s called a yoga practice. It’s not perfection. There’s no such thing as perfection in yoga. It’s not meant to be the ultimate anything in any way. So why don’t we get to see any of that in yoga-related media?
I want to see the openness of yoga and the diversity in its practice reflected in the pictures we have representing it. I want to see bodies of different shapes and sizes and yogis of varying abilities doing their practice. After all, that’s what yoga is–there’s beauty and grace in a long, lean body doing dancer’s pose, but yoga should also show us that there’s beauty and grace in every body in any pose. If nothing else, can’t we at least see a picture of an everyday yogi alongside an article about being one? Because if we’re really supposed to believe that it is okay that we might not ever be able to do that yoga pose, wouldn’t help to see someone else not doing it, too?