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  • Rosie Iles-Jonas

Seeing Is Believing

These photos of yoga are smashing; beautiful people in well thought out compositions. But they're just representations of a system, a science, a philosophy that's existed for millennia.

The presence of yoga images online has distorted the practice, isolated and excluded people.

And the best bit? Yoga means 'unity'.

As a yoga teacher and student, wresting with thoughts on identity, gender, cultural appropriation, capitalism and inclusivity, generally and of course within the yoga community; I feel we can do better.

And I include myself in that. Look, here's my Instagram; hardly thoughtful or inclusive is it? That's because the words I wrote, the debates I tried to spark went unnoticed. I find posting pictures of myself challenging because they speak nothing to my experience, opinions and qualifications. But that's all people want to see of me in that particular online space.

When training yoga teachers, they learn about human variation, how one asana and alignment does not fit all. They learn about being present and sensitive to the people in front of them, and how their feelings and experiences quite literally shape their bodies. It's beautiful and they're all so excited to get out and be of service to every body... And then we get a google result like the one above.

How do you feel about the representation of yoga?

You all know me. In some way or another, whether I've taught you in person, online, or you receive my teachings through my blogs and the Yoga Pose Podcast. You know what I'm about.

How I hold space for people, I'm inclusive, supportive and encouraging.

What you may not know, but will have experienced is the hours I spend analysing my own language to ensure it's positive and accepting rather than 'if you can't do this, put your knees down' I'll ask students if they can feel their strength in a shape.

You may not be aware of how heartbreaking it is to teach, knowing the majority of people are turned off from yoga because of its online representation. For every student I'm privileged enough to teach, I'll have been contacted by 10 more who ultimately didn't feel able to attend despite my explanation of what Do Your OM Thing is all about.

How many more people could I, and the incredible teachers currently in training support if representations improved?

I can't do this on my OM

Please help. Show up for others; take a 10-15 second film of yourself practicing yoga in a way that inspires people who feel unrepresented and left out.

If you got a 'heck no' feeling when you read my request; great, I want a clip from you even more now!

You only feel that way because you've been programmed by the images you've seen online. Redressing the balance starts with you.

Consider for a moment the benefits you've experienced from yoga and meditation, and how because of how yoga is depicted online, other people are denied the opportunity to receive these same benefits. That sucks. It's unfair and unnecessary.

Over to you

Just 10-15 seconds filmed on your phone and I'll stitch the clips together. You're welcome to show your humour and personality, the raw real life nature of your practice. There are no sunset sandy beach scenes wrapped in muslin... Show us your spare room, that little corner by your bed, some roll downs into a fold as you pick up your children's toys...

I'll give you a week to complete this really important piece of work. And when you're ready; email your clip to me.

I'm going to say thank you on behalf of the people you're going to help.

Rosie x

Rosie Iles-Jonas

Yoga Teacher

Postgraduate at SOAS University

Yoga and Somatics for Healing with Charlotte Watts