Please, Don’t Take A Photo Of Me In Yoga Class
I used to take pictures of my students during class.
Two years ago, I received this text: “Hi! I know you’re marketing your business. But, I don’t think you should take pictures of your students in class.”
My friend, whom I respect not just for her opinion but for the guts it took her to tell me this, went on to share the many reasons why she objected. What if a student was skipping work to come to yoga? What if her partner didn’t know she was in class that day? What if he simply didn’t want his picture taken while he was trying to meditate? What if her nipple was showing or her boobs were sweaty or she just didn’t want her damn picture taken while she looked that way?
In response to this measured and valid criticism, I immediately became defensive and angry. I was simply engaging in a tried-and-true practice that every yoga teacher uses. Everyone understands I have to share these types of photos to generate buzz, right?
I defended myself to her, then I spent the next few weeks defending myself to myself. I eventually arrived at the conclusion that my actions were indefensible. She was right.
Of course, I didn’t tell her she was right. Unless this counts. Does this count? Friend, you’re right. I shouldn’t take pictures of my students in class.
Our studio policy is “no photos during class.”
When I opened the doors at a new yoga studio, one of my experienced teachers asked me if I’d be snapping pictures of her students during class. “No,” I immediately said. Though I hadn’t thought it through, I followed with, “Our policy is absolutely no cameras in the studio.”
I hate our policy. Our studio is gorgeous, our sound system fills the room with great vibes, and our students sound so lovely breathing together, that sometimes it’s all I can do to not seize the opportunity to show the whole thing off.
Yet, when I see videos of the inside of yoga classes, I know we’ve made the right choice.
I can’t pretend to be a yoga teacher who doesn’t look at my phone all day. I do. I look at my phone while in line at the supermarket, while waiting for yogis to come into the studio, while sitting on the couch simultaneously watching TV, while my husband gets up from the table at dinner, and every single time it dings to tell me something new. It’s the first thing I look at in the morning.
I’m as addicted as anyone, despite my best efforts, and I know our students are, too.
You know when I don’t look at my phone? When I’m teaching or practicing yoga. Not once. Not for a full 75 minutes. Sometimes a little longer if I can ride the high. Those 75 minutes feel longer and more indulgent than any minutes of my day. I can solve my day’s greatest problem in the span of a single yoga pose.
Our policy says, “Put down your phone and be here.”
Our policy also says, “We won’t treat your yoga practice as marketing content for our business.” Because it’s not. It is your practice, this is your time, and you have paid for us to help you create a space separate from the influx of information and technology you receive all day long.
If I happen to be in your coffee shop, or passing you on the street, please ask my consent before sharing a photo of me on the Internet. I will probably give it to you.
But, while I’m in my chair pose, face focused, pit stains, boob sweat, thankful for the 75 minutes without my phone, don’t even ask my consent. You won’t get it.
I often see yoga feeds full of pictures of people in postures only to then see a post with the famous Sri Pattabhi Jois quote affirming, “Yoga is an internal practice. The rest is just a circus.” I wonder if we are being honest about the contradictions in the juxtaposition of these two images. I wonder what our students think when they see themselves in these pictures?
Is it a, “Hey! That’s me!” moment? Are they proud to be a part of the community in this way?
Or, are they wondering, “Was my teacher honestly on Instagram while telling us to remain fully present with our breath in savasana?”
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