The yogawebs are ablaze after the New York Post published an article about yoga selfies yesterday, with much of it focusing on “yoga rebel” Tara Stiles’ recent campaign for W Hotels. She rode around New York City doing yoga poses in a glass box on a truck, with pics being shared on social media while encouraging her fans to share images of themselves using a particular hashtag. This was her way of promoting yoga, but more importantly, promoting her most recent product, a series of yoga videos she’s created for W Hotel guests.
The article included an interview with Stiles; commentary from yours truly, Jennilyn Carson of YogaDork and Kay Kay Clivio of NYC’s Pure Yoga; and mentions of other celebrity publicity shenanigans from Hilaria Baldwin and Gisele Bündchen. At the heart of the article is the question, “Are celebrity yoga selfies mocking the ancient practice?”
YogaDork thinks so, responding “It’s showy and basically everything that the practice is not supposed to be about — ‘Look at me and these awesome poses I can do!’”
IAYB agrees, and has mocked this bizarre celebrity trend right back. I told the journalist about a project I did as part of my 21-day Yoga Body adventure:
Numerous Facebook campaigns to post real yoga bodies have sprung up in a backlash to the yoga-showoff movement, including Roseanne Harvey’s “awkward selfie” project.
“I did this project to subvert the selfie,” says Montreal-based Harvey, whose popular blog is called “It’s All Yoga, Baby.”
In it, Harvey, 38, mocks the perfection of yoga selfies, opting instead to share unflattering snaps, like her lumpy bottom and a closeup of her arm.
Still, the devoted yogi concedes that the showy poses tend to get more likes.
“It’s a little contradictory to the original intention of the practice. I personally don’t [post them, but] people do like them — as opposed to images of people sitting quietly in meditation. It’s not as sexy or glamorous.”
Stiles posted on Facebook that she had the last word in the article, stating “I just want to promote yoga in a fun way, and not the way it’s been promoted for the last 50 years in America, which [is] so rigid.” Her posts are getting some support from her fans and followers, with many condemning the “negative” comments from the yoga bloggers/haters, but a few expressing dismay in her PR stunts.
Truth be told, the article is sparking some much-needed conversations all over the place. As the article gets shared (it’s popped up in my feed many times), there is a lively discussion with views from those who feel against, for or indifferent towards yoga selfies. But there is also another counter conversation about the deeper consequences of public displays of asana practice.
I’m reminded of how the early founders of modern yoga (Vivekanada and “scientizers” like Kuvalyananda) railed against the postural excesses of the street-performing hatha yogis of their time. Back then, the shunned contortionists were generally outcastes, seen as impediments to Indian physical pride and medical advancement. Today the benders are the outcastes of global capitalist fame, belonging to a social elite defined by the “body beautiful”, imprisoned in glass, overwritten by photoshop, and swimming in a wash of pseudoscientific health claims. Weird twist? Reclamation of a story almost no one remembers? Just more of the spectacle society?
Booyah. There are dozens of thoughtful, intelligent and respectful comments on his post, taking the conversation to the next level.
Inspired by this all this activity, I reposted the pic of my aforementioned “lumpy bottom” on Instagram (on which I just became active again after a year-long hiatus). Because the best way to counter the body beautiful yoga selfie trend is to subvert it. Why just break the rules when you can subvert them? So from here on, I’ll continue to post “awkward selfies” using the hashtag #subvertyoga. Join in! Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, FB and Google+! Let’s keep this conversation rolling.