I have been wanting to write about this for awhile. I was reminded because of seeing 2 recent social media posts referencing in some way to disagree with the way another yogi is presenting themselves online. Most often I simply read the comment, roll my eyes a bit or huff and move on. But I am feeling more and more concerned with the way that this impacts not only us as a yoga community but as another way to degrade each other and most often, other women.
Here's the deal. I get it. I am just as much of an internet snob as anyone else. I scoff at photos or blogs or posts that seem too "whatever" for my liking. But when I look at where that judgement comes from. Where it really comes from. It is always from some part of myself that feels insecure or excluded or unlovable or scared. It comes from the place in me that says that resources like beauty, admiration, love, affection, prestige, happiness, joy are finite and that if someone else seems to have too much of it, then it impacts how much is left for the rest of us, how much is left for me. I have learned to watch this process unfold on numerous occasions. I have found that I now can look at what peers in the yogi world are doing with excitement and happiness for their success much more easily having practiced this lesson repeatedly like a million times. This is straight up from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras 1.33, "friendliness in the happy" or "delight in the virtuous". This is a relevant ancient sacred teaching for a reason. Patanjali doesn't put in any fluff or space fillers. This teaching is there because it is a serious disturber to peace of mind! Yet, here we are, in progressive Portland, Oregon and in the yoga scene no less and someone posts a pic that is too " fill-in-the-blank " and all of a sudden there is no understanding, compassion, progressive values. People are hitting each other with their recycled water bottles and complaining about the loss of "real yoga". And again, I get it. Put a girl up that is super hot, thin, and wearing less clothes then I do while showering and I'm like, "lady, that is so not yoga, get some clothes on girl". But then I remember. Who the hell am I to judge her. Maybe her beauty and nakedness are inspiring someone out there to go to their first yoga class. Even if they are only going because they are hoping to see beautiful naked ladies. They are going to do yoga. So it is a win for all of us. Because yoga, the doing it, is the magic. It takes care of itself. Maybe that person needed that kind of sexy "in" to the practices so that Yoga can help them. Maybe that is the way God is showing up to lead them towards something greater even if it starts off as something maybe not so "yogic". Think of the story of the sage Vishvamitra. He only got into to being a yogi so that he could murder Vashistha. I mean talk about bad intentions. It makes getting into yoga for a really nice butt seem holy in comparison. And in the end Vishvamitra became a Seer and a sage and ended up being a teacher to many and helping serve the world and the teachings. Yoga ju-ju moves in mysterious ways and it isn't our work to be judging it and deciding which path is going to lead where. It is trusting in the mystery to do the work of yoga. Of union. Of connection. And then staying out of its way and trying to do your own work in the meantime.
Which brings me to my next point. The humanity behind it. Each post, each pic, each promotion (even the ones that are cheesy, spammy, obnoxious, desperate, or naked) has someone behind them. Someone who at their core is trying to share what they love. What has brought them joy. And also trying to make ends meet. Put food on the table. Pay their mortgage. Keep a business afloat in a terribly difficult and competitive market. Put their kids in school or save enough to take some classes or trainings themselves so that they can continue to deepen their own learning and connection. And maybe they do it in a way that offends your senses. Or lacks sophistication. Or isn't perfectly PC. Well it loops right back around to Sutra 1.33. "Equanimity for the non virtuous" or "Compassion for the suffering". We do not know each other's back stories. We don't know if that beautiful girl on the beach is a recovering addict who has finally gotten to the point where she can offer a retreat after 10 years of teaching. Or if she found yoga as a way to heal from rape and posting a picture of her body is a way of claiming it as her own and admiring it for the beautiful things it can do. Or if she has a chronic illness and yoga has helped heal her in some way and that picture is a celebration of her journey. All of these stories are someone's story and although we are often bombarded with endless happy yoga pics in our newsfeed, I invite you to see what may be underneath each one. That each one may be a celebration of healing, a strong declaration of freedom, or a victory dance after a lot of hard work. Because in the end, it is only you holding that flag of judgement and disapproval. They can't see it on the other side of the screen and that confusion only adds to your own suffering. So take note when it rises up within you. Watch it carefully. What is underneath? And remind yourself to keep practicing. Everyday. In every way. Even on Facebook.