Yoga Selfies: Selfish, or Selfless?

Selfies seem to be everywhere now, being taken by everybody from kids to grandparents. There are selfies of all kinds: dangerous, funeralcelebrity, illegal, and lately, yoga selfies, which have been more uproarious than you might think.

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Although the New York Times profiled the phenomenon last summer, the conversation–or controversy–really picked up in May of this year after an article by the New York Post. The article covered Tara Stiles, a “model-turned-yogi,”  who was transported through the streets of New York City in a clear, mobile yoga studio. The stunt was promoting a workout program at W Hotels–and also, presumably, Stiles’ own brand of videos and clothing. The article also printed y-selfies from celebrities like Lea Michele, Lindsay Lohan, and Gisele Bündchen before delving into the Instagram trend.

The internet took it from there, with blogs and other publications giving their two cents. Women’s fitness magazines seem to love selfies, even instructing you how to take a good one. But not every yogi feels so at peace with them. Continue reading to see a breakdown of both sides, and then decide for yourself whether you want to get in the selfie game.

The Argument Against

Naysayers argue that it’s exhibitionistic. They say that the flashy and self-indulgent nature of yoga selfies runs in total opposition to what is meant to be at yoga’s core: the contemplative and personal. By running to set the timer on your camera or phone before performing crow pose, yoga-bitionists are concerned with the picture and how they look. They’re pushing out core principles like inner reflection to focus on whether or not a picture is going to get them more “likes” on Instagram.

It can also be dangerous for a yoga newbie who attempts to perform a more difficult pose unsupervised. Or even replicate a situation. Hilaria Baldwin (wife of Alec Baldwin) doing warrior III pose in high heels with a baby stroller, for example.

On that note, some deride what they claim is a competitive aspect as well. The more expert, and expertly polished, stances can seem to challenge the viewer: Look at how easily and beautifully I’m completing this difficult pose.

The Defense

Yogis for selfies tout their photos as motivational, not competitive. Many argue that their growing community encourages well being by promoting yoga as part of a healthy and active lifestyle. As one writer from the Observer puts it, “And maybe — scratch that, definitely — they’ve inspired a lot of their followers to take up yoga thanks to their Instagram efforts.”

There’s also the argument that turns the ardent criticism that selfies aren’t yogic back on itself. “True yogis don’t make harsh judgements. So my advice to the haters: get on your yoga mat & breath [sic] & feel, until you make peace with diversity.” (Hilaria Baldwin)

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