Yoga on a Ledge: Does Rachele Brooke Smith’s Recent Yoga Video Give the Practice a Bad Name
After posting a video of herself on the internet last week doing yoga on the ledge of an NYC building, actress and dancer Rachel Brooke Smith has managed to stir up a lot of controversy regarding how the kind of exhibitionist behavior reflected through her video may completely tarnish the name, reputation, and true purpose of yoga.
While several have responded to the video in awe of Smith’s skills and have jumped to her defense in the face of criticism, there remain a large number of people who have come forth to rebuke her for engaging in such a display of recklessness, and more specifically, associating that recklessness with yoga.
According to these critics, while Smith is clearly talented, by combining yoga with this kind of dangerous and show-offish behavior, she is detracting from the true purpose of the practice, which has more to do with bettering your mind and body through challenging yourself; it’s about pushing your body to new limits, not your safety.
In a comment on the video on Facebook, one critic sums up the general attitude of those censuring Smith, stating:
“Pushing yourself harder” doesn’t mean risking your life for a shock factor. This is NOT what yoga is about. I am so tired of seeing all of these yoga fanatics trying to do poses off of cliffs and other unsafe backdrops just to “Instagram” it. Let’s not forget the reason behind why we practice and do not lose sight of the spirituality and selflessness yoga teaches us and inspires in us. It’s personal. Not showy.
The concerns of these critics are not completely unjustified, and there is definitely a level of ego that goes into a post like the one shared by Smith online – something which really has no place in relation to yoga, which, in the words of the critic mentioned here, is more about selflessness and spirituality.
However, Smith would hardly be the first person to have posted an image or video of herself doing yoga online. Whether it’s against a dangerous backdrop or in the safety of a yoga studio, by critics’ definition, any image in which somebody shows himself or herself mastering a new move or simply executing an old one has to be seen as exhibitionist and by extension un-yoga-like, for lack of a better term. This would then hold true even in the event that an image is meant to inspire, motivate, and unite yogis, something which should be valued, not condemned.
In this case, Smith has certainly pushed the limits of yoga further than many would like, and by combining it with danger, there is a risk of taking away from yoga’s true meaning. But while critics claim that people like Smith who post these kinds of showy images of themselves doing yoga are doing nothing to promote the ideals and the essence of the practice, a video like this shows a remarkable level of control over one’s body and yoga’s ability to develop incredible strength and inner peace, which holds true in even the toughest situations — all key ideas of yoga.
Yoga on a ledge is not something to be advocated for, and safety should be a primary concern for anybody in any situation simply because it is important, not because it hurts yoga’s reputation. That being said, yoga is as much about peace, spirituality, and transforming your body and mind, and your control over your body, as it is about tailoring the practice to fit you on a personal level and incorporating your own essence into a universally understood and respected practice. What each person chooses to do with yoga should be their prerogative, and by trying to impose a set of rigid rules on the practice and denouncing those who do not comply, critics may run the risk of clouding yoga’s essence even more than they fear stunts like this may.
To see Smith’s full video, check out her Facebook page.
Do you think Smith’s “yoga on a ledge” post sends a bad message? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @tamarahoumi