I live in Encinitas, California, a place some have called the yoga capital of the world. There is a yoga studio on every corner. Yoga Tropics, Soul of Yoga, Bliss Yoga, Yoga Six, Core Power Yoga, Foundation Yoga, Yoga Bergamot and the list goes on. In fact, there are exactly 150 yoga studios in north San Diego County! You can't walk the streets without seeing extremely skinny girls in yoga pants, carrying around their bright orange yoga mats. And that's a good thing. Really. They look great and I'm sure they worked really hard at it. In fact, I'm kind of proud that I live in an area where wellness is important. So that's not the problem I have with yoga.
Here's the problem I have with yoga: Some of those same women I mentioned above have taken their egocentric, competitive selves to social media. I can no longer open my Facebook timeline without seeing nearly naked girls contorting themselves into snakelike poses, one attempting to outdo the other. My Instagram is filled with selfies of women in teeny bikinis, with their legs spread wide, some doing handstands on top of surfboards, some are in the sand and on top of horses (I kid you not!) and producing sky-high leg lifts exposing parts I really would rather not see. I am bombarded by breasts, butts and crotches, all attempting to compete with each other. By the way, where are the male yogis? They don't seem to be participating in this pageant show of body parts. Interesting.
Now, I am the first to admit I am no yogi. I haven't practiced yoga for about 15 years. But I know enough about yoga to realize that there's something kind of creepy and hypocritical going on. Yoga, a highly personal journey and practice of breathing, moving and silencing oneself, and as Merriam-Webster defines it "a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind" has turned into look at me in all my skinny, doing freaky things with my awesome bod! I don't know about you, but this kind of competitive nonsense doesn't feel very inner peace-like.
Oh, and I haven't mentioned the "You can't do this, you loser" mentality that goes along with the new I'm-the-best-yogi-and-I-want-to-show-you-my-crotch competition. By taking these over sexualized, yoga posing selfies, and posting them for the world to see, these women make it almost impossible for women like me (whose hands don't even come close to touching the floor when we bend over) to feel good about going back to our yoga practice. If these women think for one minute that these pictures are motivating in any way, I say shame on them! They are on par with the media's incorrigible, sexualized portrayal of woman, complete with the perfect tan, the perky, overflowing breasts and the arched, seductive poses. These women might as well have a bubble over their head that reads, "You can't do this, you loser! But I can and I'm going to be in your yoga class!" Yeah, makes me want to run and grab my mat, stat, right?
Now, before you go all crazy on me as an anti-yoga chick, please know that I realize there are thousands, if not millions, of great people out there deeply practicing their yoga, keeping in shape and finding real inner peace from their practice. And I hold you in very high regard. I really do. I am not anti-yoga at all. It's not you I am writing about. So feel free now to go do your handstand or your downward facing dog in peace.
I am asking the women who feel compelled to compete with each other and publicly post their nearly naked yoga contortions to please stop. Yoga is not competition. Yoga is not an opportunity to outdo another person. Yoga does not give you safe permission to expose your private parts for the world to see. And lastly, yoga is a fiercely personal inner journey, so get OVER yourself and get INTO yourself. I'm going to Pilates now.