As I have become increasingly familiar with the fitblr world, one of the major trends that I have noticed is “extreme yoga.” This was nothing unexpected; I predicted that a good amount of freakishly flexible and unbelievably fit women doing fantastical yoga would appear on my tumblr dash with regularity. However, what I did originally think about is how the perpetuation of these extreme yoga ideals through social media might shift yoga in the mainstream away from its original purpose: to attain a state of permanent peace of mind to experience one's true self.
Sometimes I think that tumblr may bring about the downfall of yoga.When I see videos and pictures posted of people doing yoga on tumblr, it is inspirational and beautiful...but mostly intimidating. I rarely, if ever, see someone proudly displaying mountain pose, triangle or a simple yet elegant forward fold. It’s more likely back-bend-to-bow-with-one-arm-tied-behind-the-back-asana or handstand balanced on a pinky while holding a pitcher of water on the toes. I worry that all these fancy tumblr asanas may have some unintended consequences.
Here’s why: It could alienate those who are newer to yoga. It may discourage those who can’t, don’t or shouldn’t practice the more advanced postures. In particular, I am concerned that those who might be greatly served by the practice will be intimidated by what they see on social media and may walk away from it altogether.
These tumblr yoga images may also reinforce the misperception that yoga is about extremism. Yoga is about breath, concentration, and connection with the self. I have never taken a yoga class in which my teacher is more focused on me nailing a pose than on the breath I take. Tumblr does not depict that reality and it seems like more people take the tumblr version of yoga for the truth.
When I was first starting my yoga practice, I never felt afraid or uneasy about taking resting poses. I did not feel like I was being judged by my peers or that if making the pose was the point of the class. I fear that with the way social media like tumblr presents yoga, fewer people will have an experience like mine. The honest truth of yoga is already mutilated by western culture; let’s not let social media take this mutilation any further so that we can all still enjoy our own practices for what they are.