When I first started teaching Ashtanga Yoga back in the stone age, there was no social media, and there were far fewer Yoga teachers. We all knew about each other, and the students somehow knew how to find their teacher. We relied on the most powerful marketing tool there is - the word of mouth. Students found their way to teachers' locations and websites, and from there found their way to international retreats and workshops.
With the explosion of social media and the growing number of Yoga teachers, the situation is quite different today. The popular appeal of the practice means that many people teach Yoga and many more are practicioners. Social media allows us all to show our craft and to remain connected to one another across continents as well as igniting interest in the practice. These are wonderful benefits of this new communication and marketing tool.
However, as a result of social media, our attention span has shortened: rather than plowing through a lot of information on a teachers website, we have become accustomed to seeing a great picture, maybe reading some inspiring lines, and then happily attending workshops and classes with teachers we only know superficially. Social media presents, we could say, its own version of Yoga as lifestyle which can fluctuate in its accuracy and integrity.
Personally, I also want to be seen, would love people to know what I do, what kind of a teacher I am, and about the interesting retreats that I offer. What I struggle with, however, is the moment when I - in the middle of laughing, smiling, loving something, or being immensely moved - catch myself grasping for my iPhone. Because every great event in ones life deserves to be shared, doesn't it? I ask myself then, when I sit in a Buddhist temple with my lama receiving a sublime teaching, if I should be taking pictures of the colorful exotic decorations, the devout sangha and the little old ladies with their malas and prayer wheels who own nothing but their faith? Or should I take pictures of my students from all over the world absorbed in their Yoga practice?
Here in Nepal, there are indeed many great things that could serve as an exotic backdrop for promoting myself - the spiritual life around the temples, wandering yogis or the colorful tribal people walking the streets. But what seems exotic to the outsider is still people's everyday life and it deserves some discretion, doesn't it?
For me it is all about finding a balance: I don't want my whole personal life to be presented on social media. Nor do I have positive affirmations to offer four times per week along with pictures of myself doing perfect handstands.
But, due to the transient nature of the Yoga world here in Kathmandu, with everyone coming and going, social media has become a way to stay connected to my extended circle of practitioners and students. With them, I share the love for Nepal, as everyone who comes here is deeply touched by this country and its people. BY sharing some of my life here, I feeli like I am helping to attract more seekers of Yoga to Nepal. My wish is for people to know that Nepal has wonderful Yoga studios, a great community of yogis and that gorgeous retreat locations that are not merely comfortable resorts, but are deeply connected to sacred and powerful places.
I have found my balance like this: as an old dancer and performer, I like to create things. Rather than sharing my own life, I like to make videos and pictures that I arrange and create and that are - like Nepal- funny and original rather than perfect! The trick is separating this creative process - the creation of content to be shared - from my own deep sadhana while maintaining integrity and truth in the content which I create.
So watch out - you might run into some new versions of me in the future - doing Yoga, philosophising and offering highly unauthorized advice on your iPhone!
Join Ellen for an incredible Ashtanga Yoga Journey in Nepal next October!