Feeding Savasana: Are teachers and studios spiritually licensing photographs?
I remember vividly my early days practicing yoga. I had a close family member taking a downward turn in health with a chronic illness that found me identifying with many roles that required I keep my shit together at all times... working professional in a fast paced environment, competitive recreational athlete, emotional support for the primary caregiver of my family member. I was stressed but I kept my shit together. I would do yoga primarily for stress relief (and hey who doesn't like to de-stress while cross training).
I would sweat and grunt my way through awkward movements. My normally stoic facial expression contorted much like my tense and tight physique into strange and unusual shapes - but it was cool, I was anonymous. None of my friends or colleagues were into this "hippy shit "- I could really let my hair down without fear of running into a colleague during my "me time" unlike when I would go to the gym. I was uninterrupted by the lure of my ever present smart phone - part of the appeal of the whole exercise.
At the end of our hour and a half together I remember the windowless room lulling into a pitch black darkness with only a small ray of light entering through the door. The teacher would coo about the importance of corpse pose to integrate the work we've done in our bodies encouraging us to be as still as possible to really let it all sink in. I would squirm because I knew as soon as the stillness came the tidal wave would hit - an uncontrollable urge to cry. I wasn't a cryer in my mind - but after a while... damn if it didn't feel good to finally not have to keep it all together for everyone else all the time. No one else knew because they couldn't see it. I could let it all go because I had that time, that space to do it. My environment had given me permission.
Studios and teachers alike make such great efforts not only to market the experience of yoga but also to create that environment that give us that permission to experience the "let go." We usually don't allow our students to bring cell phones into classes let alone film their yoga practice for their instagram feeds. We ask permission before giving a hands on assist. We do our best to create a sanctuary for whatever their individual needs are, whether that's sweaty drips or teary ones. Why can't we then as teachers let go of our need to create content for that hour? Why don't we afford our students the ability to opt-out of mid class live streams? Does our need to hustle and market the yoga practices we deliver supersede our students needs for space and privacy in our public classes? Have we as yoga teachers spiritually licensed ourselves to make exceptions to our own actions? Do we need to add a line about "we reserve the right to film your savasana and use it for our promotional purposes" in our studio waivers?
Often when I have casual conversations about it, it's met with the pressures that studios and teachers feel they need to market themselves 24/7, that the ends of having more people practice justify the means of posting pictures of people without their permission or simply the question of "no one can tell who they are, they're just people lying down". Our cultural obsession with the virtual reality and how it acknowledges and validates us has lessened our focus on the reality happening right in front of us - Every student's individual experience. We don't know when we snap that pic what is underneath the surface of those flaked out bods just as we don't know what's underneath the surface when we go do adjust someone's shoulders. Could be years of traumatic experiences and injuries, could be a passing low moment at the end of a hard day, could be that they would love a photo as acknowledgement of their hard work in class. The fact of the question remains, are we creating a sanctuary for them to feel safe inside our space or are we spiritually licensing ourselves to make the call use their private moments for our own motives? Do our intentions as teachers and online presences line up with those of our subjects and students?
What do you think? Are we given permission to our students or are we taking permission for ourselves? Is it necessary to self-identify as having permission to post to create that space in the online reality too? How do you go about this?