This thought’s been long brewing but last week something snapped. I came across an Instagram post of a yogi I followed and she was naked. Completely naked. But here’s the thing.
1. Nothing on her body surprised me – I had all those bits on my body too.
2. Nothing about the image surprised me – I’ve seen naked bodies all my life – personally & -professionally – naked bodies – alive & dead – in the room, on the lab table, in text books images as well as media showcasing highly graphic & provocative imagery as well as body positive movements. Well, an anatomy teacher really can speak body parts without flinching… but… this was different.
This one upset me…. on a very different front.
I felt offended as a yogi.
The picture was supposed to be a symbol of body positivity, acceptance and a rebellious act against body shaming, etc Her body, her pictures – I didn’t care about that. But the caption included a reference and gratitude to yoga for allowing her the courage to do that & the ongoing conversation and comments with people signing up to practice with her or learn from her to be able to come to that level of courage and/or body acceptance.
Now, hang on a minute.
I agree with a lot of people working in various ways to make peace with their bodies and learn acceptance and self-love, but…. that is not yoga. Yoga can help amplify the process, but it is not the reference point for nudity and instagram following.
Anyway, the algorithm apart, I was offended for the culture of yoga.
I felt hurt & sick to my gut that a practice that comes from a place of conservative society is used to navigate body positivity through nudity.
Do we have to be naked to truly accept our bodies?
And more importantly, why did one need to connect the power of yogic practice with the attitude shift to pose in the buff on IG?
While I’m quite the liberal for an Indian or even for an Indian yogi, I do understand the culture of my roots and of heritage. And this felt offensive & disrespectful. I may be your liberal Indian yoga teacher in contemporary times, but I’m not radical to disregard the sanctity and devotion – the honor and respect that I was trained to offer to the practice or the culture of my practice. I do not mean ritualistic – I mean respectful.
What I fail to understand is how some of the yoga teachers seem to talk yoga philosophy and yogic wisdom, but it seems rather textual instead of fully living it. And others take a very tangential approach by making references to certain yogic terms and terminology, but basically working on other aspects of holistic wellness and referring it to yoga – but painfully, not practicing yoga or honoring it.
Practicing yoga doesn’t mean you suddenly dress in Indian clothes, put on a bindi or tilak and dress in a sari or dhoti – heck! even I don’t do that! But it certainly does not mean you work on body acceptance, post nude pictures and claim that to be a result of yoga. It is not.
I’m not suggesting that yoga teachers across the world observe a set code of conduct that includes behavior, but a certain level of decorum especially attributing it to the origin and roots of yoga could certainly be worked in…?
As for me, I pose for the camera, yes…and I love it… but most certainly, I am not going to pose naked in the name of yoga. I would probably feel it disrespectful to my teachers, my lineage and my students to do that. I may be liberal, but not at the cost of disrespecting a tradition and culture of the practice.