Yoga Porn Every Damn Day

If you agree with ideas presented in the article “End Yoga Porn: Focus on Real People & Stop the Selfies" then you should probably know I take yoga pornography photos and you should probably not follow my Instagram account theyogacouple.

I want to offer an alternative perspective to what is being called yoga porn and how we can use the teachings of classical yoga to deal with it.  

“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 beaches or mountain tops,” Monica Deane wrote.

Webster dictionary defines pornography as "the depiction of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement." It’s sad to think that pictures of yoga are being compared to erotic behavior intentionally meant to cause sexual excitement. But since this topic seems to be going viral on the internet, let’s try to follow this thought through and get to the bottom of it. I can’t speak for everyone on Instagram, but as for myself, when I look at photos with the hashtag #yogaeverydamday, I don’t find myself feeling randy , but rather I find myself appreciating the beauty of photography, in awe of human beings amazing capabilities, and proud of my femininity. This term “yoga pornography” didn’t actually exist before this article, and for the sake of yoga I hope it doesn’t stick.

"As a yoga instructor and studio owner myself, I would be sad to see yoga likened to actual pornography which is sometimes created by sex slavery, sexual exploitation of underage woman and proven by studies to create depression and interfere with our natural hormonal balances."

Is it actually fair to say that yoga selfies are in any way comparable to pornography? Since it is proven through research that yoga actually increases health, happiness, as well as hormonal balances and doesn’t involve slavery or exploitation, I would have to say no. So let’s X out the idea that Monica literally is comparing Instagram yoga selfies to actual porn and follow through the second idea she presents, that yoga selfies when taken by white skinny woman on beaches is a poor representation of yoga and actually detours “real people” from trying yoga.

Tony Hawk placed in the top three places of the X games 5 years in a row. There are thousands of photos and videos of Tony Hawk on the internet today demonstrating incredible skills in skateboarding. If Instagram was around during the age of Tony Hawk, I think his hashtag would be #skateeverydamnday and I think his millions of fans would be using it.

Mozart started composing music at age five, and by the time of his death had completed over 600 works that would forever become a part of our music history and influence the world of music even to this day. If Mozart had a hashtag, it would be #playeverydamnday and it would be filled with hundreds of thousands of videos streaming amazing 20 second clips of compositions.

And how many Olympic medals has Michael Phelps won in his lifetime? How are regular people supposed to feel about taking up swimming, if that is who they are going to compare themselves to? 

Perhaps Monica would say that these masters are false representations of their skill and should not be looked up to by “real people” in order to not become discouraged. Disregard the endless hours these people spent mastering their skills. The dedication, passion, and determination that it took them to achieve the things they achieved. Disregard the millions of lives they touched and people they inspired along the way. Because if someone is publically displaying their awesomeness, it is only an egotistical way to make minorities feel bad about themselves, right? Would you compare Tony Hawk’s skills to pornography because his achievements are immeasurable to the average skater? Or Beethoven or Phelps? Of course not. That would absolutely be an insult.

So how then did yoga become such a controversial topic of conversation, where we are actually considering that those who are mastering the practice of physical yoga and publically displaying it, are shameful examples of what the practice actually stands for? Well, this is singularly due to the fact that yoga by definition is actually not a physical practice at all. Yoga is the “methodical transmutation of consciousness to the point of liberation from the ego personality,” according to The Yoga Tradition  by George Feuerstein, PH.D.  Monica speaks about yoga and the ego in her article stating that the true goal of Savasana (laying on the floor in meditation), is to let the ego go entirely. And she is right. But are the goals of arm balances and handstands the same goals we have in savasana just because they are all a part of the same practice? If we let the ego go entirely during a handstand and transcended into universal consciousness which liberates us from our bodies, would we not fall on our heads and break our neck in that very moment? So the goal we have for Savasana, can’t possibly be the same goal we hold during an inversion.  And if the entire goal of yoga is to transcend our egos, then why are we doing poses at all? Why not just meditate and call it yoga? Well, let’s talk about advanced poses and find out.

What does it take to do an arm balance or an inversion? Well, it takes extreme muscle control, strength, and complete control over the mind in order to eliminate fear and remain focused, present and safe. According to Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras (one of the staple texts of classical yoga), “yoga is the restriction of the whirls of consciousness.”

His method to dissolve the ego is to gain complete control over our mind, body and senses in order to allow ever present universal consciousness to shine forth. If we do not gain complete control over our bodies, muscles, five senses, and mind, Pantanjali believes we will be unable to lay in Savasana and transcend at all.

"According to Pantanjali, those performing stunts of complete control in inversions (I’m talking about the girls in bikinis balancing on one finger using the hashtag #yogaeverydamnday ), are surely on their way to liberation and proving it." 

But if your mind happens to clouded by judgment of the photos you see, you should first practice controlling your thoughts and choosing them more wisely by means of meditation before you attempt a handstand at all because without controlling the mind, a stunt like that can be dangerous (according to Pantanjali).

So, yes, Monica, if you are still finding yoga selfie photos offensive, you are right, more Savasana and less asana would benefit you. As for the “regular people” (because skilled yogis must not be human) who are looking at these photos and thinking yoga is not for you, I want you to logically ask yourself if you are intimated of skateboarding because Tony Hawk lives, or can’t bear to pick up an instrument because Beethoven is just way to good, or if you will never get into a pool because you will never beat Michael Phelps? Just like any other activity in life, yoga will serve you in the way you want it to and at the pace you want it to. And if you have been following along at all, you will understand that the whole purpose of yoga is to realize you are the only one who has control over your own body, feelings, and thoughts…just as Pantanjali states. So choose them wisely.

Pantanjali’s Sutras are only one out of hundreds of texts written on the methods of obtaining yoga or wholeness. And because there are so many sects of yoga, not everyone will agree with his methods. But one teaching that I find had been accepted in all sects of yoga pre-classical, classical, and post-classical is the method of “annulment” (apavada). This method was invented by the sages of the Upanishads and literally translates to “not this, not this.” It is the constant remembering of what we are not, in order to realize what we are.

In an excerpt from the Nirvana-Shatka, a perfect example of this method is illustrated in a poem ascribed to the sage Shankara. Whenever we cast judgement this poem is good to reflect on as a part of our yoga practice and journey to abolishing our egos and residing in our truest state, "Super Consciousness":

Om. I am not reason, intuition, egoity, or memory. 
Neither am I hearing, tasting, smelling, or sight;
Neither ether nor earth, fire or air.
I am Consciousness Bliss. 

Do you think Consciousness Bliss casts shame on to beautiful human bodies naked in the flesh exhibiting incredible feats of strength, focus, and control in front of a back drop of earths most gorgeous world wonders? I think if Consciousness Bliss had a hashtag it would say #yogaporneverydamnday


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Ashley Cottrell is the co-creator of Evolution Yoga and known for her inspirational style of teaching that incorporates not only the physical aspects of yoga, but also the spiritual. Known on social media as The Yoga Couple with her husband Mathew, Ashley shares her practice daily on platforms like Periscope and Instagram where she has created an online yoga community that inspires through t...READ MORE