It seems like everyone is on social media these days, and the yoga community is no exception. Instagram, a social media platform where users can post pictures and original photographs, is especially popular among yogis. Yoga teachers and practitioners alike use Instagram to share their yoga journeys with others, and some have gained hundreds, even thousands of followers. They post all sorts of things: green smoothies, inspiring quotes, daily yoga challenges, and pictures of themselves in a particular yoga pose.
But not everyone in the yoga community supports social media, and the use of Instagram in particular is a hotly-debated topic. Many believe that it not only goes against the teachings of yoga, but that it can have a damaging impact on those who engage in it.
Yoga isn’t a competition, but those who oppose Instagram argue that even the most innocent of photographs can start a competition in a person’s mind, especially if the photograph was posted by a highly respected and “Instagram famous” yoga teacher. Such posts are meant to inspire followers, but run the risk of inadvertently creating jealousy, or hurting a follower’s self-esteem. A follower might, for example, see a picture of an attractive-looking yoga teacher with a flawless physique striking a perfect handstand and be motivated to work towards handstands in their own practice one day. But another person might look at that same picture and feel discouraged, envious of the teacher, or just not good enough.
These kinds of pictures are a romanticized portrayal of the yoga practice, and can, whether intended to or not, promote unrealistic expectations of what yoga is supposed to “look like.” But what’s important to keep in mind is that each person’s practice is unique, and what is true for one yogi might not be for another.
Yoga teachers who have a significant following on social media are in a position of power. They have a considerable amount of influence over their followers, and they must wield this power wisely. Remember: it’s not about the teacher, but the teachings.
Thankfully, there are a lot of yoga teachers who use Instagram to teach their followers how to safely transition into a pose, share recipes for delicious smoothies, or get the word out about an event or important cause. But perhaps most inspiring is when a yoga teacher shares his or her most intimate struggles, and the challenges that they face, such as overcoming an eating disorder or the loss of a loved one. And in doing so, they might be able to help those who are going through something similar. And there’s nothing wrong with a yoga community, on Instagram or in real life, that inspires its members, and fills them with hope and gratitude.