The word "yoga" is now used to describe a variety of movement-based classes that may or may not ever teach actual "yoga poses," reference or pass down spiritual teachings from the classical yogic texts, or even teach the foundational ethical guidelines for those practicing yoga.
Don't get me wrong. I am not the most "spiritual" teacher. I know amazing, dedicated teachers who have spent the better part of their adult lives learning Sanskrit so they can read scripture without the interpretation (and bias) of a translator, spent extended periods of time in isolated, solitary retreat, and taken lifelong vows to gurus they see as leading them to Enlightenment. These same people also learn anatomy, engage with the yoga community, and teach sweaty, vinyasa classes. These days, while I rarely set out to give a dharma talk, and even find myself using the English name of poses more than its Sanskrit counterpart (in an effort to make the practice "more accessible"), I am committed to the path of yoga as a means to liberation, and know that historically, yoga IS a spiritual path. It is not a path of fitness, exercise, physical therapy, or even conscious movement, as modern (postural) yoga tries to rebrand itself. Can yoga be practiced through these mediums? Yes, absolutely. But no matter what, don't call yourself a yogi unless you're devoted to an ethical life.
Let's make this relevant for the modern yoga student/teacher. You own an IG account that is used to represent your online yoga brand. You use it to document your yoga journey, share your time-lapsed yoga sequences, offer Rumi quotes and other wellness and spiritually-minded inspiration, and of course share the occasional green smoothie, acupuncture treatment, or handstand on a beach story. (Yes, I am fully aware of how jaded I sound. This is not my first rodeo.)
You need fresh content, constantly, and reposting is the cyber norm. So you bookmark your favorite images and repost them, with no attempt at finding the owner of said content, and share it in your own feed, whether via stories or posts. Perhaps you even dare to use it to advertise your own classes, workshops, massages, studio, whatever! YOGIS, THIS IS STEALING.
As someone who has spent ungodly, UNPAID hours, building her own brand with highly-regarded, educational, resourceful content, paired with amateur BUT decently lit and edited photos of her own physical practice, I can assure you that my image has been manipulated and taken for others' financial gain. Trust me, I know how much most yoga teachers make per class, or workshop, and while it may not be as significant as American Express taking your image and plastering it on a billboard to sell their new credit card, it is STILL STEALING. (By the way, an Indian yoga school did STEAL two of my yoga images and plaster it on two large billboards to sell the services of THEIR school. A studio has used my image to sell their workshop (without permission). Teachers have used my image to sell their classes (without permission). And on and on.)
While cyber etiquette may lead you to believe that use of other people's work in this manner is acceptable, it is not. Not only is it unethical, it is also illegal. If you can't find the owner of the work, you aren't trying hard enough. If you really can't find the owner so you can ask for their permission, you shouldn't use it! Plain and simple.
If you're in doubt, read Instagram's FAQs on Copyright. Even simpler? Read this Refinery 29, to the point article about what is and isn't allowed.
My personal favorite though, is from Ojai based artist @realfunwow (see “Repost Rules” in his Stories), which not only teaches us how to NOT STEAL other people's original artwork and content, but how to actually respect it. For your convenience, reposted below.
THIS is how we practice Asteya - non- stealing for the modern, digital yogi.