Social Media And Contortionists Might Be Ruining Yoga

Social media is booming with yoga enthusiasts and gym-goers, even those who enjoy contorting their bodies in all kinds of crazy poses. Is this a good or a bad thing? Well, it’s all up to preference. However, Instagram tends to fill up our minds with high expectations and is changing the way we look at the ancient practice of yoga.

Yoga is meant to be a holistic practice that’s been used for centuries to prepare your body for meditation. However, because of the images we are exposed to, people seem to think it means hyper-flexible and perfect handstands. I am a big fan of fusion fitness and using the benefits of different styles of movement in conjunction with one another. However, there is a line and social media blurs the line between yoga, gymnastics, and contortion. We’re forgetting what the core purpose of yoga actually is.

Let’s try to get back to the basics and rediscover the roots,

How Social Media Influences Our Thinking

Once again, we have unintentionally allowed social media to influence the way we perceive something. When this happens, it affects our approach to the situation or thing. Highly dedicated practitioners of yoga like Australian Simon Borg-Olivier believe that modern yoga has lost its way. Simon practices Ashtanga Vinyasa and says that yoga has become separated from its true essence and original philosophy.

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He explains that during the ’70s and ’80s, people saw yoga as boring. It was seen as meditation. He explains that he wanted to show people that it can be more exciting. However, he admits that since then, yoga has gone out of control.

Simon is a partner in Yoga Synergy, a yoga school in Sydney that has been running since 1984. He created a spinal flow that’s inspired by Asian martial arts. Moreover, Simon has a strong background in physiotherapy. Therefore, he created this movement to be a pain-free way for people to exercise and get the health benefits of yoga as well.

We Have Lost Focus

After years of working in the industry, Simon explains that people keep changing their minds and switching things around. This makes us feel very lost. Unfortunately, because of social media, people want fitness and longevity – and they expect to get it quickly. This means short-term gains and more long-term damage to the nervous, reproductive and immune systems. Instant gratification is a blessing and a curse, and it could jeopardize your body more than you think. Movement is meant to be slow progress and not a rapid response system.

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Don’t get me wrong, a strong and powerful yoga session now and then is very good for your body. I also like to feel my body working. However, the true essence of yoga does not involve significant amounts of stress on your body. When you engage in faster, more intense practices, you create a stress reaction. Simon explains that a lot of yoga nowadays is having a negative impact on the musculoskeletal system.

He says that too many people are teaching nonsense yoga. Simon believes that if you practice in a way that causes pain, injury and stress, you’ve missed the point of yoga completely. So much so that it could be even worse than engaging in heavily aerobic activities.

Teacher Student Relationships Are Everything

Times have changed and we don’t all have the luxury of being able to work closely with another person for years on end. However, I think we have forgotten the integral parts of what yoga means. Years ago, yoga meant maintaining a close bond with your teacher – one that Simon says could last for years. He explains that these huge classes of up to 50 people make it difficult for us to establish a connection and this is the true meaning behind yoga.

Simon also disagrees with quick teacher training camps or courses. He says its an epic flaw in the system because they enable the newest of practitioners to be qualified in this sacred art.

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Simon adds that you can’t learn to teach in 200 hours and you can’t learn yoga in 200 hours either. He says it’s an insult to real yoga teachers. It’s very important that we take time to learn what yoga really is, which can take decades. I agree yoga is not something you can simply learn overnight.

The hype on social media makes matters worse because it makes you think that anybody can simply do. Pretty pictures on Instagram are nice and all. But they definitely don’t focus on good form.

There Are No Shortcuts

As with anything in life, there are no easy routes or quick fixes. The issue with social media is it makes people think that they can get rich, famous or fit super fast. Some yoga teachers are concentrating more on how many followers they have rather than learning. Their posts consist of fancier and more intricate poses day by day. These pictures look impressive but they do not promote yoga. In fact, experts don’t know whether or not these skills are gymnastics, extreme flexibility, or borderline contortion. Whichever way, they attract a lot of attention and that’s what these new age teachers are after.

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The beautiful thing is that more people are interested in trying yoga or dance and getting more involved in it. However, they’re only mastering the flexibility and contortion side of things. Simon explains that some yoga teachers are even competing with this. It’s become an obsessive game of who can bend like a pretzel or do a perfect handstand first. Now the question comes up – are you teaching because you love the meaning of yoga or is it just an ego boost?

There’s nothing wrong with self-promotion. But I think this is misleading for many people and it is irresponsible of teachers to promote unrealistic perceptions. Like Simon explained, it is a teacher’s role to promote safe and sound practices and help us stay clear of misconceptions. That’s why many people feel confused about what yoga is and what to expect of it, not to mention that these misconceptions can be very intimidating to beginners.

Remember The Roots Of Yoga

There is nothing wrong with experimenting and playfulness. I think it’s good to allow yourself time to explore different ways of moving. However, some people take it to another level. Especially those who are intertwining dance and yoga. The problem stems from those who are experienced in dancing and can, therefore, get themselves into some very unusual contortionist positions. Not exactly easy for the beginner yogi.

Yoga is meant to be holistic and stress-free, remember?

Whilst it is fun and exciting attempting crazy poses, it does take away the purpose of the ancient healing system of yoga. This system is designed to be good for you physically, mentally and emotionally. Unfortunately, if your first thought is to get in a handstand, then you’re likely going to experience the opposite effect.

These poses are not what yoga means. The average person needs a serious amount of conditioning to get anywhere close to executing these poses. We need to focus on the deeper meaning of yoga and how it can help us heal inside and out.

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For me, yoga is the only thing that has been able to strengthen my thinking daily. Particularly with my stress levels, relationship with food, self-love, and self-acceptance. The best part is that no matter how ‘experienced’ you think you are, you are always a learner with more to learn. More importantly, yoga teaches you to accept that your body has limitations. You learn to be okay with that reality and work around it.

Social media is not always the best place to start your journey. Your heart and soul are better. 

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