Woman wearing #whitepeopledoingyoga bag in the street

The problem with #YogaEveryDamnDay

#YogaEveryDamnDay is one of the most popular hashtags used by yoga students and teachers on instagram – 9, 987, 342 people have used this hashtag. I am guilty of using it regularly on my instagram posts too. However, I’ve been feeling a growing sense of unease with using this hashtag because it has become a loaded term.

Yoga teacher Rachel Brathen was the creator behind the #YogaEveryDamnDay hashtag and she explains her intention behind its development in an interview with Yoga International.

“I had just joined instagram and wanted some inspiration and I started noticing these crazy challenges. I disagreed with a lot of the challenges because they seemed really unsafe. People in their work clothes just getting into a no-handed headstand for the first time. When I started the hashtag, I wanted to get away from the idea that ‘yoga is a pose.’ I wanted to remind people that it’s about more than that. It’s meditation, contemplation, it’s pranayama, along with the asana.”

A quick instagram search for the #YogaEveryDamnDay hashtag will show you how far removed it has become from Rachel’s original intention. The hashtag has become synonymous with white women wearing expensive activewear and white shirtless men performing advanced asana, often in exotic locations around the world.

There is very little cultural  or ethnic diversity and almost no reference to the ancient roots of yogic philosophy from which it stems. It’s cultural appropriation at its worst. It’s also exclusionary and assumes that to practise yoga you must fit within the dominant cultural norm and have a certain aesthetic – one that is white, thin, flexible, heterosexual, cis gendered, able bodied and fit.

It promotes this ideal that yoga as advanced asana should be practised every day. For many this is an unrealistic and unsafe expectation and ignores the other seven limbs of yoga. It also implies that if you’re not practising yoga asana every day you’re somehow less of a yogi and this reinforces the idea that yoga is something that must be attained through rigid practice of asana.

This is often a confronting and uncomfortable conversation and I am guilty of much of this myself. However, I believe it’s a conversation worth having if we are to change the western mindset of yoga and reclaim the original intention behind #YogaEveryDamnDay. This is not a judgemental diatribe, it’s simply an honest act of love from my heart to yours.

How can we turn this around? Here are some of the steps I am taking personally:

  • Disrupt the #YogaEveryDamnDay hashtag by flooding the feed with more diversity and everything yogic apart from asana – meditation, self study, non-violence, non-attachment, self care etc.
  • Stop using the #YogaEveryDamnDay hashtag altogether and build a more mindful community on social media with alternative hashtags that really reflect who you are, your practice and your intention.
  • Lead by example – be honest and humble about your own yoga practice and make sure your contribution to the yoga community is mindful and authentic both online and offline.
  • Learn more about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, practise the eight limbs of yoga and make this visible by acknowledging what you do and don’t practise.
  • Educate yourself and be conscious of the cultural appropriation of yoga on a macro level as well as within your own practice. Try not to contribute to it and call it out when you see it. Nisha Ahuja provides an excellent online resource that is very accessible – exploring yoga and the impact of cultural appropriation. I highly recommend watching her short film and reading some of the articles in the resources section.

‘Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public’ – Cornel West.

I would love to hear how others within the yoga community are also reflecting upon their practice and taking action, please feel free to comment below.