End Yoga Porn: Focus on Real People & Stop the Selfies

Image: Mirror.Co.Uk

Just as pornography is not an accurate representation of sex in a loving relationship, yoga porn bears little resemblance to real yoga.

Yoga porn is pictures and videos of skinny white women in bikinis practicing "advanced" yoga poses on a beach or mountain top. Sure these images may look beautiful and may inspire some, so what's the problem?

"The problem with yoga porn is that it doesn't represent yoga. Just as a porn star giving oral sex doesn't represent love." 

Here's why:

1. Even people in a Bikram yoga class wear more clothes than these scantily clad women

2. You never see them doing Downward Dog or Warrior I; it's all about looking good.

3. You rarely see images of men, women older than 30, non-Caucasian women or overweight people in these images, so it does not represent the composition of your average yoga class.

4. Often the alignment looks dangerously wrong, but most people will just be staring at her body, wishing they looked that good in a bikini.

5. Yoga on the beach isn't fun, the sand gets everywhere...

But aren't these images inspiring?

The pro-yoga porn people will argue that these images inspire people to try yoga for the first time. I believe that for every person that's inspired, there are an equal number of people alienated from yoga because they're too fat, too old or not white.

As a yoga teacher and yoga studio owner, I feel the urge to speak out against yoga porn as its just so damaging to women's self esteem and perpetuates the body image problems that yoga is slated to cure.

Further, it alienates the very people who would benefit most from yoga, including people with poor body image, older people, men, overweight people and people with mental health issues. Yoga doesn't discriminate, yet many people believe they don't fit the yoga stereotype, and sadly will never try it for this reason.

My job as a yoga teacher and leader of a small community is to make people feel good about themselves and raise their vibration so they they can rise above ego (ego being the separate sense of self or the small self that separates us from the divine). Fortunately, my teachers weren't into exhibitionism and distilled in me a sense of humility in practicing yoga that I still uphold.

So when I see these images I wonder what their purpose is. They are very rarely accompanied with directions or instructions on how to do the pose; so they're not educational. They are more often used to promote a teacher or yoga studio; but the thing is, just because someone is a good asana practitioner, doesn't make them a good teacher.

The Ego and Yoga

The aim of yoga and all spiritual practices is to dissolve the ego. The ego is the false sense of self; the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, our self image and identity. The ego seeks validation and approval and is the root of all our suffering. Transcending ego is the real meaning of Savasana or Corpse Pose. It represents the dissolution of ego and awakening into oneness. So if these yogis were serious about dealing with their ego, then why can't they just pose in clothes, in a yoga studio and represent real yoga?

Genuine Inspiration

What inspires me isn't the #yogaeverydamnday hashtag or the images on the cover of Yoga Journal, it's the people who come to their mat despite all odds. They breathe, they stretch, the re-connect with themselves and start to feel good for the first time in a long time.

"Real people with real lives are the real inspiration."

The real people are my students with Multiple Sclerosis doing their best, the busy Mums who just make it to class on time to take a breather, the students undergoing cancer treatment who want to make friends with their body again, the young women with severe anxiety who require so much courage to show up, the overweight people who can't touch their toes, the students in their 70s trying something new, and the divorcees trying to get their life back on track. These people all wear clothes, none of them can do the splits or stand on their head because they don't care. And I don't care because striking a pose isn't what yoga is about.


Reversenamaste
Monica is an urban yogi and owner of Cultivate Calm Yoga in Brisbane, Australia. When she't not teaching yoga, doing yoga or writing about yoga, she likes to do nothing. Check out her blog at www.cultivatecalmyoga.com.au/blog or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CultivateCalmYoga