What’s your advice to new teachers looking to make money and potentially become “yoga famous” i.e: yoga influencers? What is the one value you think is generally lacking amongst famous/ insta famous yogis? If you were to change the current yoga teacher climate (specifically to insta yogis & general teachers) what would you say that would improve our current status/help us level up?
New Age Yogi
Dear New Age Yogi,
I wouldn’t have this job if it weren’t for Instagram. I am a yoga teacher and a writer, and I have fused the two as a way to connect with people who maybe would have never come across yoga, otherwise. I like some things about yoga on Instagram, specifically the things that build real community. Do I see a lot of crap out there when it comes to yoga and “yoga influencers?” Yep, I sure do. Do I absolutely detest it? Of course. Am I fascinated by it anyway? You bet. It’s hard not to be. It’s also hard not to compare the poses or the way someone markets their practice with my own. And that is where the problem lies.
For younger yogis and yoga teachers today, I think that it’s important to distinguish between sharing and selling your practice on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. There exist yogis who share their class offerings/schedules, and even pieces of their heart on Instagram, and they tend to be doing so from an authentic place. They genuinely hope to connect with students on the mat and in real life. They aren’t looking to collect followers. Then there are the yogis who sell their practice with a complicated arm balance in “partnership” with a trendy fit-fashion brand, with too many hashtags to count, for the sake of expanding their follower-ship--often leaving their followers feeling as though they are lacking in their own lives. By showcasing their practice in this way, they are contracting from the responsibility of the impact they have on people who know absolutely nothing about yoga--other than what they see on social media platforms--and creating a very skewed and idealistic representation of an incredibly sacred practice.
This influencer-type yogi is what is failing this current era of yoga. It’s something that homogenizes the societal perception of what yoga is by proudly exhibiting what yoga is not. Yoga is not arm balances in over-priced clothing. Yoga is not a caption full of irrelevant hashtags. Yoga is not a product or a grid of well-manicured, professional photography. Yoga is connection. Yoga is showing up for your community and it is also offering up your skillset as a teacher for the benefit of others.
This is not saying that all yogis who fall under the influencer category are what is flawed in the Yoga-Instagram exchange--some of those influencer yogis are legitimate teachers who have worked their butts off to get where they are and deserve to make a living through yoga, and Instagram is merely a tool that has provided them with a huge “following.”
What is lacking in Instagram Yoga is what is lacking in the rest of our media, and also in the majority of our society: Authenticity. If this new generation of yoga teachers wants to “level up,” then they need to be able to get real with themselves about how they want to show face in the yoga world. They need to drop the brand-centered mentality and start asking themselves what yoga is to them, as a practice. They need to show up and do the actual work; teach classes and private lessons, cultivate a living, breathing community that meets in real life, and drop the ego. Do they want to show that yoga is more than just a handstand in pants that aren’t allowed to be put in the dryer? I hope so. I hope that the integrity of Yoga is more important than the integrity of a piece of spandex. I hope that the words attached to videos of yogis practicing yoga explain things like the many benefits of pranayama and dharana in relationship to āsana. I hope to see more teachers making sure their classes and sequences are actually accessible for the majority of their students.
Are these yogis up to the challenge of bringing yoga off of Instagram and into the world?
As teachers, practitioners, and students, we have a responsibility to all those who came before us and all those who will come after us to uphold this life study. Instead of tapping hearts on a screen, let’s tap into our own hearts and find our authenticity within this practice.