I’ve been feeling strange these days in regards to me as a yoga practitioner. There is a disjunction in my thoughts and feelings about the way I present myself to the world. Because we all, consciously or not, create a way to present ourselves to others, being it a truthful expression or not. We usually decide which aspects of our life to make public and which not, the way we communicate and express our believes, and in modern world even the image of ourselves.
With the explosion of social media this interaction with the outside world has become increasingly significant to a point in which our image has become seemingly more important than other essential and transcendental aspects of life. And of course this disjunctive touches Yoga, as a path, as a discipline, as a science and now a days even as a career.
I believe in Yoga as a path, beyond the practice of Asana, I believe in the philosophy exposed by Patanjali. I also believe in the power of tantric practices as “a how to” access subtle energies and powerful states of consciousness, as a way of awakening the energy of creation. I believe Asana moves energy of the dense layers of existence and allows us to access the subtle, but not by itself. I am in a deep search of learning more about Tantric Kriya and Kundalini practices, as I believe this is one of the most traditionally preserved ways of practicing, also one of the most difficult to find or access as this is not something you learn in a yoga class, not even in a workshop or intensive... for this, one will need to find a Guru.
On the other hand, I like and enjoy the practice of Asana. My main practice is Ashtanga, though I continuously integrate alignments I learn from Iyengar method. I feel the benefits in my body, my mind and my overall health. I acknowledge the benefits that Iyengar method brings to my practice in terms of transforming Asana into a medicine. I see how Iyengar method could bring one to experience Yoga through the effort of focusing the mind into developing a deep and refined awareness and control of every little muscle of the body.
I also acknowledge how much Ashtanga Vinyasa practice enables the accessing of subtle energies through a very intense way of moving with the physical body. I see how it purifies the body and how through the integration of elements such is the breath, Bandhas and drishtis with Asana, it can actually contributes in the awakening of the Kundalini energy in our spine, which is one of the main aspects of yoga as a practice, so one can access the consciousness. I like the combination of both practices, I feel they complement each other, their practice is demanding, challenging, and helps me to create discipline.
Beyond the fact that I like and practice Asana, I do other practices such as Kriyas or Karmas for purifying the body, I incorporate yoga theories in my eating habits, I do devotional practices, and I study a lot. But then there is the context in which I live and develop as a “yoga teacher”, a micro-universe in which there is this common and strong -subconscious or not- belief that yoga is just Asana. When I teach, I don’t teach only Asana, I share philosophy discussions, basic Pranayama practices, studying and chanting of Vedic Mantras and Stotras, when I teach or share I incorporate many other studies and practices regarding subtle energies and movement of Prana, but besides everything, being realistic, the main focus of what I teach is Asana and it’s biomechanics. I am completely ok with that, because I know the students finish the course not only understanding but transforming their yoga practice into many other aspects that make of it a life style.
What creates the conflict in my mind is the way I present myself to the world through social media as a yoga practitioner. I do like the photos of Asana, I find them a very artistic and enjoyable activity. I like to go out and find an amazing spot with my partner who is a great photographer and artist, we think about the posture that would fit right with the view and what to express through it… I enjoy this process a lot.
Besides, I understand how a beautiful picture can inspire others to start any type of yoga practice, it can also attract people to read what I write, but at the same time these photos might be promoting the belief that yoga is about doing beautiful poses with the body for which one has to be strong and/or flexible, and this is not the yoga I practice and believe, there is an immense dimension behind it that cannot be express in a picture.
From a marketing perspective, I find my posts having way more engagement and interaction when I share a beautiful Asana picture than when I share a sunset, for instance, and of course I use social media platforms to build a community with whom to share what I do, this is the reason why I have these internal dualistic conflicts. Parallel to building a community when sharing an artistic asana picture, I might end up feeding this belief of thinking that to be a good yoga practitioner one must do complex Asanas, which is the opposite of what I believe or teach. Everyday I find a little bit more balance around it and I constantly find myself analyzing where I’m going with it.
Most of what I share here is shapes or videos of Asana, what you see in my photos is not yoga, at least it’s not for me, it’s mostly a performance, heart-fully done but still a performance.
Remember a person is much more than what is presented to the world, there are many reasons behind the image that each of us project, and this applies to yoga, spirituality, art or any other field. We must learn to not put people in a box, any type of box, and learn to see beyond what we see with our eyes.