I just read Patrick Nolan's latest post, in which he relates an incident that came up with regard to the Ashtanga instructional videos he has made with Kino (they are very helpful, by the way; you should check them out, if you haven't already). Patrick writes:
"My teacher Kino had re-posted some of the instructional videos we made
together and so I re-read the disparaging comments about my physique
made by some lonely shit-heel out there in cyberspace. The same
sequence of gut reactions that I had the first time I read the comments
played themselves out again. First, amusement at the comments, which
are actually pretty funny. Then, some self-doubt and body image
insecurity came up in spite of myself. I know I'm not obese or even
overweight by most any criteria, but neither could I be an underwear
model. One or zero. "If you ain't first, you're last," as Ricky Bobby
said. Then, annoyance at the guy who made the comments, but that turned
to compassion for him when I did a personal inventory. I want what I
have, so I have what I want. While I can't say for sure, I'm guessing
that this is probably not the case for the person who has to tell
people, anonymously in a youtube comment stream, about his six-pack abs
and chiseled arms."
As a veteran of, ahem, one youtube yoga video (if you haven't already seen it, you can see it in this post), I think I can relate at least to some of the things that Patrick brings up here. I think I'll start by saying this: It takes a great deal of courage to make a video of yourself doing yoga and to put yourself out there in that way (especially if your name is not Kino MacGregor :-)). This is even more so if your intention in doing so is to help others with their practices, and give people who would otherwise not be able to go to a yoga class the opportunity to get some much-needed yoga instruction. I mean, think about this: If you are just making a video of yourself doing, say, the primary series (now, I think I know somebody who just did this recently...), all you have to do is do the primary series while the camera is rolling, and be sure to place the camera at such an angle that it tends to show your body from a flattering angle. Whereas if you are making an instructional video, you inevitably have to place your body in some rather awkward and frankly, not-so-flattering positions while you demonstrate the finer points of the posture to your viewers...
But anyway, I went over to Youtube earlier today, and looked at the offending comments that Patrick talks about. While, like Patrick, I can't say for sure, I am actually more or less certain that those comments came from a place of insecurity, inadequacy, and uncalled-for negative judgment on the part of the commenters. Why else would anyone feel the need to put somebody down for not having the body of an underwear model?
Which brings me to the whole "If you ain't first, you're last" mindset that seems to pervade much of our contemporary capitalistic culture. This is basically an all-or-nothing mindset: "You either have a job, or you don't", "You either are a movie star, or you're not", "You either have an underwear-model-worthy body, or you have a crappy-looking body..." I could keep on multiplying examples, but I think you get the picture: Either you have something that is great and exalted and worthy of public exhibition and praise, or you have... nothing.
Anyway, in my humble opinion, I think that a big part of our yoga practice (or of any spiritual practice worth our time, for that matter) lies in freeing ourselves from this kind of all-or-nothing mentality. Because as much as our mundane capitalistic world today wants us to believe otherwise, life is not all or nothing. What is life about, then? Well, that's a big question to try to answer here, but I like to think that among other things, it is about making choices: We can choose to focus on our practices, and not pay too much attention to what others may or may not say about us. Or we can choose to do the opposite, and buy into the all-or-nothing mentality, and severely limit our own life-horizons in the process. The choice is ours, and it is one that we continue to re-make and reaffirm everyday.
Anyway, I guess what all this means is that you probably won't be seeing any instructional videos from me anytime soon (I'm not sure you want to, anyway...). So, if you had subscribed to my Youtube channel in the hopes of seeing such videos from me, well, I'm sorry to disappoint. Hey, it's still not too late to unsubscribe, you know...