Is Perfectionism In Yoga Changing The Age-old Practice?

vamitrasana) or elephant’s trunk pose (Eka Hasta Bhujasana), has yoga become intimidating? Can the pressure to achieve the perfect pose take away from the essence of inward reflection that yoga teaches? We explore.

By URLife Team
21 Jun 2021

Through breathing exercises, meditation and asanas, yoga is meant to create harmony between mind and body. It is meant for all—whether a lithe Caucasian who can contort their body in acrobatic poses or someone who can barely touch their toes. It is a practice of self-love and compassion, one that encourages inward reflection. But look on Instagram and you’ll find, the focus now is on the outward appearance of yoga. It is also driven by visuals of athletic poses and slim physiques.








When Mumbai’s Dolly Singh, started sharing her images on Instagram, she was only doing it to catch the flaws in her posture. “Sometimes people are quite surprised that I can do a handstand,” says Singh, who is fairly athletic. “People forget that as long as you practice a skill regularly, stay consistent, anything is possible. You can learn and improve,” she adds.

A 2018 study titled, Yoga and body image: How do young adults practicing yoga describe its impact on their body image?, found that though yoga bolsters one’s sense of body image, self- confidence and gratitude for one’s body, it can have a negative impact on body image when individuals compared themselves to others and participated in negative self-talk. Positive impact on body image was found among individuals (with higher BMI) who discussed one’s yoga accomplishments but a negative impact was observed when they compared themselves with others.

There is also constant comparison between the different yoga schools. Some encourage a more meditative practice, stressing on inner growth while others focus more on the outward appearance and the discipline of achieving the correct posture. “A 45-year-old lady once told me she was laughed at in a yoga class because she fell while trying to balance,” says Dr Seema Hingorani, a clinical psychologist based in Mumbai. “Because yoga is so structured unlike running, there is a correct way or an incorrect way to perform an asana. This makes people very conscious and quick to comment. The focus can become what you look like rather than what yoga can do for you on the inside,” she adds. Reminding yourself of why you started the practice in the first place can help overcome this fear of judgement.

“Because of the kind of images I post on Instagram, my nieces and nephews think that everyone can do everything. The sweetest DM I’ve got is of a school teacher sharing that she showed her students my page when they were discussing inspiration. The narrative has to change and the coming generation needs to know our physical appearance is not a reflection of what we can achieve,” says Singh.



Traditionally yoga is much more than a tool for weight loss. It’s an inward journey of self- acceptance and being at peace with oneself. When done with the right mindset it can improve mental and physical well-being. Niva Piran, a psychologist created the concept of positive embodiment, which is being at ease in your body—feeling a sense of being at home. It is the comfort with which you engage yourself with the world around. The practice of yoga can teach coping mechanisms and self-love. Appreciating our body for what it can do, shielding it from the cultural narrative of perfection is a good place to start.


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