If we are going to post photos of ourselves partially nude or that are sensual or perhaps sexually suggestive in nature (even if we think that they are not, some might) on social media we might possibly get some feedback…especially if we are Yogis, and even more so if we are Yoga Teachers. Some people may even be quite critical of our choice to do so, some may even be quite disrespectful in sharing their opinion of our seemingly poor decision to share our semi-nakedness, or what we thought was ‘sensual art’. No-one deserves to have derogatory comments flung at them, and hopefully people can express their dislike or concerns in ways that are respectful. But…people will comment and never-the-less, people may not always express themselves well in the process. We may not ‘deserve’ some of the comments…and on pages accessible to the public, if you put it out there…expect comments.
One of, if not my favourite, quote is: So considering the circles I float in on social media, I find it quite curious that offence is taken by some Yogis who post risqué photos of themselves when people merely question them, and respectfully too, about why they do. Even more curious to me is the resounding scream out to the internet ‘The only opinion that matters is your own’ as some attempt to justify posting themselves half-naked.
So, where is the line of decency…because it sure seems like volatile debate can erupt when people cross it! And…as Yoga Teachers do we have an obligation to maintain the Ethical Code of Conduct (Yama) of appropriateness called Brahmacharya? And if we do, what does that look like on social media, just how much flesh can we show and how do we determine what is and isn’t ‘sexually suggestive’…cos there ARE rules about this on Instagram and Facebook.
If a person is aware that the photo is sensual, and if they are aware enough to know that others may perceive it as sexual, and if they are already questioning themselves, and if they even state that they are not sure about sharing the image because they’re afraid of what people will think…yet they go ahead and post any way…you can pretty much bet they are going to receive some comments that may express disapproval.
But…there is a whole other consideration we might want to make before we let that sexy, or self-proclaimed ‘innocent in my skin’ photo of ourselves out there into cyberspace. Some people will look at such sensualised or sexualised images and get turned on, use them to masturbate to or even use them to fuel their sick sexual fantasies that include rape. You don’t know ‘who’ is looking…you can’t control who sees the images and you can only moderate/remove offensive comments or block people once you’ve released the photo that has generated the response.
On the issue of shame, because many of these images are in the name of waging a war on body shaming, or are done with the intent of declaring to the world a newly found appreciation, love and respect for their body that they once felt ashamed. In my opinion, nowhere is the battle cry for reclaiming body confidence more misplaced than on the pages of so-called ‘Yoga Teachers’ professing their vulnerability and their ‘right’ to demonstrate their newly found connection to their sensuality and sexuality by sharing post after post of sexualised photo of themselves.
Shame, is a double edged sword. Without it we risk being without the ability to determine the appropriateness of our own actions and the associated shame and remorse that should naturally arise as a consequence of immoral, inappropriate and dishonorable conduct, and that potentially determines us as psychopaths. Yet, we should not carry inappropriate shame, especially not about something as natural as our bodies, however, many of us do, and perhaps there is healing to be done there. Yoga can provide a forum for us to come to terms with some issues around this.
What we cannot control is how others respond to us sharing photos of our partial nudity, our sensuality and sexuality. So it is up to us just how much we bare…and if we dare to bare then put up with comments we must, because some will comment and some may use our images to fuel their sexual acts. This, I think, is why there is a concern about the appropriateness of posting such images. This is why some people consider it inappropriate. This is why, perhaps, there is a judgement that these images should be private.
Where is that line of what is sexually suggestive? Is a particular photo sexually suggestive? Well, to some people it may be and to to others it may not be! It may serve as sexual stimulating material for some, it may stir sexual urges in a 13 year old, or it may be seen as innocent art…but…control of that is in the eyes of the beholder.
Do we have an obligation to follow the rules of Instagram? Yes.
Do we have an obligation (especially as Yoga teachers) to protect the eyes of teens from inappropriate exposure? Yes.
Brahmacharya (appropriateness) is a foundational code of conduct in Yoga. So yes, we have that obligation. We are obliged, especially as Yoga Teachers, to ensure that which we share does not give opportunity to fuel desires that may drive those who are not in control of their urges into committing heinous acts…because some will.
When confronted about the appropriateness, or lack thereof, of their images some people staunchly defend their right to display their flesh as they see fit (despite having already had images banned by the enforcers of policy), despite their images being what most people would have trouble determining to be anything other than ‘sexually suggestive’ and despite the fact that minors, and perverts, can access the images. Where do we draw the line of sharing our opinion if we think an image is ‘too much’? Well, the line is already drawn for us, albeit a little blurry…Instagram has rules, and if we are to include the plethora of Yogis and Yoga Teachers in this then, Yoga has Yamas, in particular Brahmacharya, which would ask us to consider just exactly what purpose is being served by the semi-nudity that is running rampant on social media tagged with some inspirational message to ‘love ourselves as we are’.
Now before we all jump to the old retort of ‘don’t judge’ I will bring attention to the fact that Yoga asks us to discern correctly, in other words to make wise judgments. It does not ask us to withhold our opinions, only to be respectful and considerate when giving them.
I assume that those who post such images are comfortable with what they share, although some actually do proclaim their uncertainty delivering a digital image to the world that will remain forever permanently accessible, despite this they do so anyway. Others are not comfortable to share the same, and are not comfortable viewing such images. The line of decency is fine, but it is there, and we should all be doing the right thing on social media. If we question whether or not our image is sexually suggestive then perhaps it is best not to post it.
I think that we should be compassionate and respectful when expressing any of our opinions. However, it is apparent that many people cannot cope with anything other than praises sung for their exposes, even if they expressly asked for our thoughts. In fact, I just had a Yoga Teacher with over 96k Followers block me for sharing my opinion, which was done respectfully, and upon her request, and she had even agreed with several of my comments. Perhaps she felt persecuted? And that would be a vulgar mistake, as Emerson said, as my opinion and responses were well thought out but perhaps simply contrary to hers.
Respect (of all things), or lack thereof, is learned. We are taught, from an early age, by the actions and words of those around us how to conduct ourselves. In the discussion raised by the above mentioned teacher, another follower asked “Do we accept a friend who breaks the law?” in response to her request for comments on people sharing their opinions about the nature of images. I say, separate the behaviour from the person – we may abhor the behaviour and still extend compassion to them yet want no more to do with them (depending on what was done). Instagram has rules. Some may see that certain people and Yogis are breaching the rules (in fact Instagram has banned a few of images of several Yogis that I follow). So? Do we not accept them for their breach of the rules? Do people who feel others are posting inappropriate images hold back their opinion? Do they not challenge them, especially if they consider them their teacher? I defer back again to Emerson, as long as respectful communication is maintained, then contrary opinions may bring different insights, and we should not make the mistake of being offended, especially when we ask others to tell us what their thoughts are.
Some of these images come with quotes about being happy or free being themselves, self-acceptance and self-love, with a direct inference that they do not care what others think and that theirs is ‘the only opinion that matters’, even if their image is inappropriate (and perhaps they forget 13 year olds have access to their images and content). If being our self is offensive to others because what we do breaches rules or laws, or is violent, disrespectful or harming to others…then we must check our self…self-study (Svadhyaya)…forgive our self for our poor conduct, be accountable and make amends. Some people have much to forgive when being themselves. Some content is considered damaging to others because it exposes minors to sexually suggestive images, and because it breaks the rules of use.
This image by Al Margen is from a blog entitled ‘What’s Wrong With Today’s Society?
Now, when it comes to the message that often accompanies such photos on social media, I can’t subscribe to the idea that the only opinion that matters is our own. Ego much? That these images or supposed ‘works of art’ are often being shared in the name of self-acceptance makes me wonder; do we really need the pendulum to swing so far over the other side? From suppression to potential indecency? If your image is breaking the rules of the wonderful social media created for you to use, and often be addicted to, at your will, then just don’t share it! Keep it for a private crowd. Certainly don’t do it while sporting the title of Yoga Teacher. Remember, on Instagram 13 year olds can see this image. Where, when and how we share images of nudity and partial nudity are guided by rules and laws, whether we like them or not.
If we need to worry ourselves over what people will think, then perhaps it is because we are breaching a rule or common guide of etiquette or decency. I am not so sure that putting partial nudity out on Instagram when teens can access it is such a great idea (depending on the context of the image). It is a fine line. Others obviously feel comfortable with doing this, and doing it often. I wouldn’t share such an image of myself not because I feel ashamed but because I feel obligated to follow Instagram rules, and because to me sharing my breasts for all to see on Instagram may be sharing a sensual image with a minor and may fuel inappropriate desires in those who lack control over their sexual impulses. I don’t do this also precisely because I am a Yogi and a Yoga Teacher, and the Ethical Codes of Yoga would at least have me question my motive for doing so.
Well at least I no longer have to witness the naked bottom tilted to the light of the Yoga Teacher who blocked me from her account!
However, I still have to be subject to, whether I like it or not, images of many people who suddenly think they are porn stars on social media these days.
No…I don’t want to see shots of your naked butt tilted to the camera. No…I don’t want to see some ridiculous photo of you in your underwear looking as if you are about to take your nickers off despite the fact you have snow boots on! No…I don’t want to see your half submerged body in a bath full of milk with light directed into that part of you which is usually reserved for private activities! Especially not tagged with some repeatedly regurgitated impersonal personal development quote!
Why? Because it breaches codes and because most often it is the antithesis of Yoga.
In my opinion, it is ego driven.
Now, I am ok with playful bikini shots and fun photos of friends doing stuff that one would normally do in public…but if I wanted that sexualised wannabe porn star shot I’d be surfing some other site on the internet!
Put your arse away. Put your clothes back on. And file your sexual objectification back in the private section.