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Yoga Soft Porn


If I was a space alien, with the same sensibilities as the human Victoria, and I was descending onto Planet Earth and used Instagram to find out what humanity was all about, I would probably hurry on back home.

But before that I would write a really crap review on Tripadvisor: Planet Earth, A hell-hole, populated by self-destructive narcissists.

And if I looked up the hashtag YOGA, I would be disgusted. It definitely wouldn't be anything I was interested in pursuing.

I am, however, a human who is a (white) yoga teacher. And I must admit, I've increasingly started feeling embarrassed telling people what I do for a living ...

Starting a few years ago, some high profile yoga teachers stopped calling what they taught 'yoga'. Back then I couldn't really understand why, because I was (still) so in love with the idea of yoga, it seemed unfathomable.

And I STILL love asana practice. Even though it bothers me that asana is what people largely think of as yoga, when it's such a small part in the ancient tradition.

The satisfaction I get from a well-crafted, challenging flow class with a great soundtrack, both as a student and as a teacher, is undeniable.

BUT. There's so much that's rotten in the so called yoga world. From all the guru sex scandals, the misguided body worship, the cultural appropriation, the whiteness of the scene. The exploitation of teachers and students The bullshit 200-hour teacher training system that has churned out thousands upon thousands of unqualified teachers and unleashed them onto vulnerable students (I was one of them once, a seriously unqualified newbie, certified to teach after only 200 hours crammed into one month of learning which now often is crammed into three weeks). AND the birth of the Instagram yogi.

One of my very first Instagram posts (since then deleted) was a photo of me doing Natarajasana (Dancer's pose) in front of a temple in India. I hope none of you ever had to see that atrocity. So fucking embarrassing on so many levels. The fact that my form wasn't that great was just the beginning of it. And even worse, I was old enough to know better! I wasn't one of those twenty something yoga girl clones running around all over Ubud, Bali, drinking green juices in plastic to-go cups on their way to their next Mandala making workshop or 'transformative' yoga class.

I post few pictures of myself on IG. And very few of them are of asanas. And none of them are of 'fancy asanas' (the capture above is about as fancy as it gets). And this isn't only because I'm very un- photogenic. And it's not only because my close-to-fifties-body doesn't want to do most fancy asanas any more.


I know that you get more social media engagement if you post pictures of yourself. The insta algorithm favours selfies. And yoga teachers who post lots of pictures of themselves doing fancy asanas seem to gain followers quickly (or maybe they just buy them?)

I guess that looking at (skinny white) bodies pretzeling themselves up in cool settings, like on a beach or a mountain top. In front of a a landmark building or in front of a graffiti wall, is like soft porn for some.

These types of photos, which you'll find thousands upon thousands of, if you look up #yoga, bore me to death. And I also find their message dangerous. They often perpetuate fucked up beauty standards, and also send out the wrong message of what yoga is. You are NOT going to find inner peace by learning to wrap your leg around your neck!!!

Personally, I'd much rather look at cute puppies or house plants or messages from Greta or Light Watkins.

Even Rachel Brathen, A.K.A Yoga Girl, who started the insta yogi trend, and built her career on it, has long stopped posting those types of pictures. If you stalk her on social media these days, you'll have to scroll far back to see any of the stuff that inspired thousands upon thousands of other aspiring insta-famous yoga teachers to spew out asana pix.

I have also heard her say in more than one interview that she regrets starting the trend, and is slightly embarrassed by having started it.

I am definitely more forgiving when it comes to non-white, non-thin bodies doing asana on instagram. Because I think that there's some value in that. Because it's challenging the norm. Redefining beauty.


But ultimately, you can't photograph what's in someone's mind or heart. And what this ancient practice really is about is to create a clearing in the dense forest of one's mind and to open one's heart.

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© 2020 Victoria Larsson