Taking a picture…

By on Dec 3, 2014 in The Unruly Ascetic

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…does not make you an asshole.  But judging someone for it does.


Are any of you a part of one of those internet/facebook “discussion” groups where the mediator brings up controversial subject and says “what do you think?” only to have the discussion (and I use that word with a raised eyebrow) over run with people being insane internet bullies?

When we think of internet bullying most of us think of a gawky teenager who’s classmates make memes of them or ethnic, social, and religious minorities being trolled by anonymous assholes who don’t have to answer to anyone.

But a lot of the time I think of the everyday jerks who need to criticize other people to feel good about themselves.  I think of the people who are too self righteously humble to ever post an asana pic or write a blog.  The self same people who will jump at the opportunity to point and shout about the inflated ego of anyone who does such things.

I do it. in my head, the pointing and shouting. I usually notice my mind’s mean, jealous streak and try to be honest with myself about it so that I don’t make it worse by lying to myself that I am justified in passing judgement on anyone. Because I am not consistently nice and inspiring.  I am not humble.  I am not perfect in my choices.  I am in no position to call ‘ego’ when someone makes a choice that I wouldn’t.  and you know what, I bet you aren’t either.

Hopefully you, the reader, are one of the nicies who will read and digest and put down anything that doesn’t suit you. I’m not worried about you.  I’m talking to a different you… the you who called me ‘vata deranged’ for a hyperbolic piece on quitting, or the you who victim blames my teacher being sexualized for wearing shorts, or the you who hassles my dedicated and beautiful friends (in your head and on your computers) about taking yoga photos in public.

So that’s the question of the day… why would anyone (be so vain and ego driven and terrible to) take asana photos in public?  because that was the question.  The parenthesis was implied, as proven by the myriad of responses referencing ego and being self serving.

How about yoga asana as a metaphor for the off-the-mat practice work that we strive for?  I have many friends who will caption them will lovely notes about the importance of remembering the work of the practice no matter where you are or what you are doing. Metaphor is a thing, a legitimate way of teaching (It’s actually more or less ENTIRELY what asana is).

I don’t take a lot of these photos, and maybe not for the reasons you’d think. As a yoga professional I am somewhat required to have a reasonable website with pictures of me looking like I know what’s up (have you looked at it?  it’s dope.  I love it because I feel like it totally misrepresents me in how sophisticated and professional it is.)  And it terrifies me a bit.  I frequently doubt myself when looking at it or writing for it because I know that people will judge me and think cruel thoughts because they don’t think the work I do warrants the exposure I give myself. It has happened. and part of me doesn’t was to allow any opportunity for people to project their negative crap onto me. People can be real jerks and it scares me.

The projection of asana photos being ego and showiness is really unkind.  I don’t do it because that form of communication doesn’t speak to me, I have too much self doubt (which is different from humility). but I am certainly not going to state or imply that people who express, process, or understand ideas differently than myself are ego driven show offs.  I have met hundreds of people who are inspired to try ashtanga yoga because of pictures they’ve seen of people doing beautiful things. How could you criticize that?

What it boils down to is that the internet is ruining us.  We are using it to compare ourselves to other people and other’s experiences.  Even us yogi wannabes. Instead of being friendly to the happy and emulating the inspiring, as Patanjali reccomends, we revert to the jealousy and dislike we are warned against.

The practice is supposed to be teaching us to see the best in each other.

I am sure some people are showing off, just as many of us do by using our prettiest smile in our Facebook profile picture, but it’s out of a desire to be loved and noticed. Best case scenario it is an attempt to inspire and speak to the work of the practice. Worst case scenario it is a misguided hope for love.

So all you internet yoga trolls who criticize (publicly or silently) your ‘friends’ downtown/mountaintop/on-a-boat asana pics:

I do it too. and when I do, I am faced with the work of becoming a better person. We are not more humble or advanced if we abstain from ‘showing off’ but project cruel, judgmental thoughts of egoism.