My last days in Greece are at Delphi, known to the Ancient Greeks as the centre of the world: the myth is that Zeus sent two eagles off in opposite directions and they crossed paths at Delphi, so Delphi was called the ‘navel’ (omphalos) of the world. Cue many comments from my husband about ‘navel-gazing’ as he likes to refer to my blogging! Don’t get me wrong, he supports my blog but he teases me about everything!
But this is making me think a little about why I choose to blog. I’m usually so much not a publicity-hound, I don’t have endless hours to spare in my analogue life, and I certainly wouldn’t argue that cyberspace needs another yoga blog. The navel-gazing comments have got to me a bit and made me wonder if blogging about yoga is a self-centred activity, just another parade ground for my ego. Is it in fact the verbal equivalent of the yoga selfie?
There’s a long-running and highly emotive debate about yoga selfies, in a way I don’t think there is about blogging. I’m not sufficiently engaged with this to rehearse the arguments, suffice to say I’m personally ambivalent about selfies. Yes, I agree they over-privilege asana practice in yoga, and usually the more ‘advanced’ postures at that, and through this arguably contribute to the various ‘body issues’ that exist in our culture(s) and feelings of inadequacy …
… in anyone who takes such images at face value.
I really wonder if it’s not just the medium that is the culprit (the social networking that is increasingly part of our lives) but also the message we individually attribute to it (our own often subconscious interpretations of such images). But I don’t think yoga selfies are any worse in this respect than any other area of life. It’s always a case of ‘caveat lector (or spectator?)’. More fool us if we believe even half of what’s posted online, any more than we believe what the newspapers tell us. It’s lies, damn lies, and yoga selfies. But if individuals want to post these kinds of pictures for celebration of or gratitude for their practice, for promoting their livelihood, for self-affirmation or whatever else, I can understand that, and it’s not for me to judge. I’m not claiming immunity to such whims myself! Sometimes esprit de faire-yoga (as the French undoubtedly wouldn’t say) is too compelling and sharing something of the magic of my moment just feels right. On the other hand I don’t think any of my selfies are likely to give anyone an inferiority complex!
Anyhow, back to blogging.
Yoganonymous published a recent piece about the reasons for writing a yoga blog. Mostly these don’t apply to me since I’m not a teacher and I’m therefore not trying to market myself. But one of their points did make a lot of sense to me:
It’s meditative thoughtfulness come to life. It’s connection and community and all the things we pursue in our practice, except that it’s a way to stay connected while we’re away from the studio.
I think this is it for me. Blogging is a way of exploring my yoga through the purposeful (yes one could even call it ‘meditative’) act of writing. This is certainly what I hoped it would be when I started my blog. The act of writing helps me to reflect on my practice and what I’m discovering and learning. It helps me ask questions and start formulating my answers to them. Plus I find it’s also loads of fun, a good creative outlet given that these days I’m very out of practice with writing anything other than a business case or progress report.
But more than that is the ‘connection’ from sharing my thoughts and my writing. This aspect of blogging has rather taken me by (very pleasant) surprise as I’ve explored more of what my fellow bloggers are doing, and I have also been touched by the support I’ve been shown towards both my writing and my yoga. And this at a time when I really feel the need of it, since I’m currently missing the physical community of the studio. I had thought that blogging might be a practice in offering without expectation of anything back (very much with my recent reading of the Bhagavad Gita in mind, with its message of renouncing the fruits of one’s actions!), and I thought this was going to be a challenging discipline for me. I’m more than a bit relieved it isn’t just writing into a void, and I am very grateful to those who’ve been in touch with me in various ways as a result of my blog. The online community is a really lovely bonus! (Thank you all! xx)
So perhaps intention is all important in blogging and in selfies, as in yoga practice. I reckon it’s intention and attitude that turns asana into something more than the purely physical. Selfies are usually a presentation of the perfected form, disassociated from any sense of ‘practice’, effort, or discipline (let alone any spiritual aims). And it’s this lack of context that arguably makes them problematic for their viewers. Blogs in contrast are a more mixed bag, ranging from the authoritative and pedagogical to the intensely personal. Some of them seem as removed from the reality of practice as much as selfies do, but others are a more self-conscious depiction of the highs and lows, and promote both self-study as well as community, support, and sharing. This seems very much in harmony with the ethos of yoga as I understand it.
Delphi, where this blog post began, is also renowned for the aphorism inscribed on the Temple of Apollo “know thyself” (γνῶθι σεαυτόν). I think this applies most obviously to bloggers exploring their practice through their reflection and writing but might it also apply to selfie-takers who want to share their physical practice with others for various reasons? I say it should certainly apply to the readers and viewers of these forms of communication — understand your own ways of seeing, the messages you instinctively take. Plenty of opportunity for considering ahimsa and satya, as well as the difference between Seer and Seen, of offering and receiving.