Jenny Holt, Freelance Writer
Back in the 1960s, when yoga first hit American shores, the media branded it as a "hippie" thing, connected with the counterculture, rock music, and teenagers.
Now it is comfortably entrenched in the mainstream, the yoga industry rakes in $27 billion per year. More people attend classes, buy books, magazines and DVDS, and sport yoga apparel than ever.
Along with high-profile gurus, instructors and apparel companies, yoga now has a slew of Instagram stars and influencers. These include teachers and self-styled yoga gurus who demonstrate poses on the Internet. While video instruction has been a regular feature of social media since the advent of the medium, teachers as yoga influencers now have a big say in promoting certain apparel or merchandise brands.
Rise in Injuries
The New York Times has noticed another social media trend – yoga "show-offs." A recent article examined the proliferation of students practicing too many repetitions of advanced handstands – and photographing them. This trend has sent many people to emergency rooms with wrist sprains, tendonitis, or serious muscle tears.
You'd think there's an ongoing competition for the most complicated posture, sexiest yoga pose or the weirdest place you've done yoga after perusing Instagram and Facebook posts. The posts are often posted by students who are proud of what they've accomplished, but photos of some yoga practitioners exhibit more "poseur" than "pose."
Yoga isn’t a Competition
The purpose of yoga is to help people get fit and healthy and feel balanced on an emotional, mental and spiritual level, like many forms of physical fitness. Yoga is a personal journey and not a competition. There aren't any medals for Best Rishi's Posture or Headstand in the Olympics yet.
Maybe we should look at the Instagrammers who give the impression they are only in it for being credited as performance artists who use yoga. Think of it as an alternate use of yoga. Or maybe this Instagram/yoga influencer trend is just that, a trend that will fade away just like shiny cargo pants or shrug sweaters.
Social media popularity has nothing do with our worth as a yoga student. We shouldn’t feel the need to be an Instagram star to feel we’ve learned something. Nor should we feel the need to share any photos of our yoga practice with the public at large.
We should use social media as a platform to share the positive aspects of yoga, encourage other students and trade tips. Like any other technology, it’s the way you use it that makes the difference.