If you teach a yoga class and you don’t Instagram it, did it really happen? —Alexis Marbach
To the wonderful people who show up to practice in my classes,
As you finish setting up for savasana, I make my way back up to the front of the room and find a seat on a bolster so that you can rest without hearing me walk around. From where I sit, I can’t help but look around and think to myself, I wish you guys could see yourselves—you look so relaxed! Occasionally I catch someone flinching, the way we all do as we start to drift off into sleep. I think, I wish more people could be in this class with us, experiencing that deep level of relaxation! With all the large windows in our practice room, when there’s a big rainstorm or snowstorm during class, I say to myself, This class looks like a dreamy snow globe!
While I sit silently and even out my breath, I prepare to bring you back to reality with grace and ease. I practice a brief loving-kindness meditation for you, hoping to send you out into the evening with just a little bit more support, levity, and warmth than when you came in. But...I stay with you.
Why do I feel the need to let you know this? Because I don’t know if you know this, but there are teachers who are taking photos of you during savasana. And it is freaking me out.
Students, your experience is important to me, and I promise to continue to hold the space for you—without taking photos—because:
• When a teacher steps into a room to teach, that person needs to keep 100 percent of their attention and focus on you. The teacher needs to be that present in order to know when to change their cueing, bring you a block, or change the pace of their class. I need to be able to notice your breathing so that I can tell if you feel settled in a restorative pose. Our job as teachers is to help you advance your practice, but also to keep you safe and healthy during the process. If we open up our phones to take a picture of you, we’re no longer present. We ask you not to engage with your phone so that you remain fully present to your practice, and you should hold us to the same standard.
• You never gave me permission to take a photo. I know many of the folks who come to my classes each week, but not always well enough to know their history with yoga and why they practice.
• After I left Colorado in 2006, my abusive ex-partner tracked me down numerous times. Any of my friends who remember the six phone numbers I had between 2006 and 2008 probably also remember how I’d lose it if they ever tagged me in a Facebook post with a location attached. I debated putting up a website for my yoga business because I didn’t want to say where I was teaching. I gave up a job because it would have brought me to Atlanta a few times a year (where my ex had moved). Needless to say, if a teacher had posted a picture of me in savasana during that time in my life, I would have been distraught—yet too embarrassed to ask the teacher to take it down.
• As teachers, we ask you to do two things that would be totally irrational in any other context: to lie in a vulnerable physical and emotional space with your eyes closed, and to trust us. Taking photos of you while you are laying it all out there violates the trust and safe space we’ve promised to hold for you. If savasana becomes an opportunity for a photo op, I wouldn’t be surprised if you either covered yourself entirely with blankets and rolled to one side or opted not to return to class at all.
• My assessment of your feelings could be completely off. You could be lying in savasana thinking, Wow, this class did not give me what I needed. Meanwhile, I’m posting a picture of you with a caption that reads: “This class was magical and transcendent! #blessed!” I’m inserting my own assessment, my own story, to promote the class instead of being present with you and holding the space for you until the moment you walk out the door. I am here for you. You are not here for my social media posts.
So, as a student, what do you do if your teacher is taking photos during savasana and it concerns you? Talk to your teacher, talk to the front desk staff at the studio, or talk to the management. Demand more from us as your teachers. If a teacher posts something on social media that makes you uncomfortable, send them a message (maybe with a link to this article!). On the other hand, if it’s not a concern for you, then awesome—one less thing to be concerned about! Remember, though, that we all have a responsibility to take care of one another, and it can be an incredibly powerful experience to stand up for an issue you support that does not directly affect you. Allies can help to move the needle for those who feel silenced or are afraid to speak up.
And to the amazing and loving teachers I consider my teachers, colleagues, and peers, I will say that we, as a community, need to take a step back and think about this. We are lucky to have the opportunity to teach yoga, and we should treat the practice with more reverence. I understand that we are all trying to show others how awesome our classes are, but we can do that through our writing. We can make Facebook/Instagram videos in which we talk about our reasons for teaching, and what we’ll practice during class. And we can ask interested students to write testimonials.
Demonstrate to students that the real practice is much more than the asana practice by staying present—without attachment to the effect of the practice and the teaching on your career.
Teaching a class without posting about it will not lessen in the least your incredible influence on the people in the room. And those are the people who ought to matter most.