Are we experiencing a major shift in the way American yoga is practiced? Some would say so. There’s a growing phenomenon underway in the U.S. yoga community. No longer is yoga simply done in the studio, and made a part of quiet contemplation — now, it’s hitting the streets, and more importantly, the social media accounts.
Hilaria Baldwin, wife of actor Alec Baldwin, is part of this new movement. With 37,000 followers on Instagram, Baldwin updates once a day with a yoga contortion in public as part of her “365 Days of Yoga Craziness” campaign. One example image is her performing a Warrior 3 pose in the aisle of a packed plane.
The new trend of turning yoga into a visible event and promotional moment isn’t just limited to any one celebrity, studio or website — participants range from FIT promoting its workout program with a glass-walled yoga studio truck parading around New York City, to Twitter selfies from supermodel Gisele Bündchen.
While it might seem like all fun and showy posing to outsiders, many within the yoga community are critical of the self-indulgent acts, and feel that it’s essentially antithetical to what yoga is supposed to be — personal and contemplative. “It’s a little contradictory to the original intention of the practice,” agrees Roseanne Harvey, head of a popular yoga blog. Others in the industry worry about practitioners hurting themselves after assuming an extreme pose done by a celebrity in high heels is attainable for them, too.
On the other hand, some practitioners, such as Tara Stiles, owner of a Manhattan yoga studio, take a more open look at what is going on. Stiles believes there is room for multiple ways of practicing yoga. “When YouTube started, I made videos,” she explains, citing “Yoga for Hangovers” as one example. “It got really popular, and more people came to the studio. I just want to promote yoga in a fun way.”