Tree Pose = More Likes

We’ve all seen them. Our friend makes it to the top of a mountain with a beautiful view: cue tree pose. Our other friend visits a beach, hence the headstand next to a candidly timed sunset. Or perhaps a pretty background with some crazy method of wrapping their legs behind their head. In any form, this method of sharing what was once a spiritual and sacred practice.

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More than 15 millions Americans practice yoga; an ancient Indian discipline that has been linked to society’s culture of wellness. While the practice itself is different for everyone as some use it to destress and others as sport, it attracts and connects different people from all different walks of life. i started practicing yoga over two years ago and knowing nothing  more than downward dog and shavasana (another word for the moment you get to almost sleep in yoga) I was totally incompetent when being led to different poses.

Similar to many wellness trends, social media sharing and posting of workouts and studios has increased significantly on people’s personal platforms. It is trendy to post images from soul cycle, equinox or barry’s bootcamp, but it is a lot more difficult to show your progress from these classes as it is to show off your new skills from yoga. Showing how fast you can cycle isn’t nearly as exciting or engage as showing off your new ability to hold crow pose or a headstand on a rock.

When searching for #yoga on Instagram, more than 31 million posts are associated with this term. You will find a stream of photographs of mostly young, beautiful, fit women in almost contortion-like poses. While each post is different, some more natural, others more altered and edited, there does seem to be a stereotypical person associated with yogis. In addition to pictures of strange poses, you will find healthy meals, lots of traveling and people that appear to be living “colorful” lives. As all social media platforms are ways to manipulate and formulate one’s personal brand, this intertwining of health/wellness with typical lives creates a dangerous connotation to this discipline. By showing how a yogi is “supposed” to live, average practicers may become intimidated to start practicing yoga. These complex poses lead some to believe that if they are not flexible enough or skilled enough they can’t do yoga. Additionally, by posting pictures of intense and difficult poses, amateur yogis and even people who have never practiced before will try poses that can actually lead to injury.

This association with social media is limiting Yoga to the ability to pose for 10 seconds in a headstand or standing in tree pose with a nice background. This 5,000 year old practice has been dumbed down to a science that will produce the most likes. The biggest problem, as with much of social media, is that these pictures show what is too perfect, images that are too unrealistic, and in fact unachievable to the average person. These images aren’t representative of how people actually practice yoga or achieve these poses. This reflection of yoga is the reason why so many people are reluctant to try it as the most common reason people don’t try yoga is that they see it as an exclusive practice: one for young women who are already skilled.

 

With all of these images starting to flood my social media feeds, I can’t help but imagine this is helping the yoga industry in general. In the past four years, the number of Americans doing yoga has grown over 50%. So while there was no research I could find that directly linked the increase of social media usage surround yoga to the increase in yoga. I have to imagine it is a perfect combination of the increasing of stressed out Americans and the new outlet of stress moderation found in Yoga.

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I have to admit there is something incredibly ascetically pleasing about yoga poses. I’m not sure if it is the calming nature of the practice, or the strong lines in each of the poses, I can’t help but feel a little centered when flipping through these photos even if these perfectly uncapped photos are constructed just in order to get more likes.

 

 

 

8 comments

  1. Love this post. I actually read an article recently about how social media is “killing” yoga because people think it’s all about the poses and flexibility, when that’s really only a small piece of the practice. The article talks about how the purpose of yoga is to learn to control your mind and connect with your inner consciousness through meditation and breathing. The positions are just a part of this. I also totally agree with your point about how people see these images and try to mimic the poses, causing injury and dangerous situations depending on where the poses are attempted. While these poses are definitely aesthetically pleasing, they seem to be stirring up trouble.

  2. Interesting post! I really enjoy yoga, and I am always trying to get my friends to go to classes with me. A few of them have actually said to me what you mentioned here — that they don’t want to go because they feel like they could never do the crazy poses they’ve seen on instagram. I am glad, however, that the research you found says that yoga has grown in popularity and that the social media posts have not overwhelmed new yogis.

  3. Nice post. I hadn’t previously considered the connection between social media and Yoga before, but now that you mention it, I do see alot of Yoga pictures online and I can’t help but think it affects its visibility and adoption.

  4. Awesome post! I always look at these types of pictures and simultaneously admire them because I know that I cannot for the life of me do any of those poses, but I also question, “what are you doing balancing on one leg with your arms twisted on a rock? probably not so safe”. But I definitely agree that is stirs curiosity and that the admiration can lead to a new goal and new yogis.

  5. Interesting post on the linkage between Instagram and the sudden popularity in yoga. I have to agree with you, I think a huge reason why I haven’t tried the activity is because there seems to be certain connotations associated with practicing yoga – all of which can be found in the hashtags of a typical “Instagram Yogi’s” Instagram post. Implied requirements such as veganism, clean-eating and the ability to hold crazy-hard looking poses have deterred people away from focusing on yoga’s true mission of mediation, self-reflection and inner peace. In fact, seems kind of ironic that most people’s purpose with yoga is to achieve quite the opposite…

  6. Really interesting take on connecting social media and yoga! I personally am one of those people who have not tried yoga because I think I’m not flexible enough and am intimidated by complex poses. Now I realize that this way of thinking most likely initiated from seeing so many complex poses on social media. And there’s no reason why I should be so intimidated because not every average person who does yoga, let alone tries it for the first time, will compare to the best of the best. My roommate has a yoga mat, so I think I might give it a try with her tonight. Thanks for sharing and opening my perspective on social media yogis!

  7. I found this post to be really interesting. I’d never thought about social media’s impact on a practice such as yoga. As you described, my basic understanding and conception of yoga comes from social media apparently, which are these poses being performed by very flexible young women in a variety of exotic and beautiful locations. It’s crazy that the term “yoga” immediately conjures up that image in my mind and that it has been completely warped by social media. While it may alienate some potential practitioners, I believe this unintentional branding on social media has boosted yoga’s reputation as many women (and men) find these posts amazing and want to get in on the action. Yoga is essentially a microcosm of Instagram effects: promotes a somewhat unreal reality, still promotes the practice.

  8. Extremely interesting post, as it initially grabbed my attention from your first comments on the “tree poses.” I never really thought about it until after reading your blog post, but you’re right — yoga poses at cool, exotic locations are definitely the new, trendy, thing to do. I’ve seen this done many times by some friends who are very into yoga, but never thought about the changing image and perception of yoga due to these pictures. The image is definitely not being properly portrayed that represent the values and principles behind doing yoga, and I think it is an important point that was extracted from your blog post. Great job bringing the attention of this issue!

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