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Daring yoga selfies turn it into the extreme sport it shouldn't be

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Debate: Are extreme yoga pictures inspiring or narcissistic?

Heights, beautiful people and daring stunts have always been an enthralling combination. So it is no surprise that people started talking when Rachele Brooke Smith posted a video of herself doing yoga on a ledge 15 stories high. But, while there is the usual array of "ooohs" and "ahhhs" that accompany such a stunt, the pictures have rekindled a yoga controversy.

I blame Hilaria Baldwin and her #yogapostureoftheday campaign. She proved that doing headstands on train tracks was not only inspiring, but would also earn you a Baldwin brother. Plus, she looked so quirky and cute balancing on the side of her kid's crib or blending in with the furniture on a staircase that she made the rest of us think we could totally do extreme yoga selfies too.

But, there is no Hashtag Pose in yoga... yet. Many yoga-lovers started questioning the point of turning yoga into an extreme sport. "Is it possible that extreme yoga selfies are a sign of engaging in action for the sake of reward? (Look at me! Look at what I can do!)," writes one yogini who adds that yoga isn't about getting a great shot or likes on Instagram — it's about developing a lifetime practice for internal rewards.

Yoga is also, at its core, about extending and enriching life — something that's hard to see in Rachele's beautifully dangerous variations on Dancer's Pose as she balances without any safety equipment on a ledge barely big enough for her foot. While adding the element of danger certainly makes it more entertaining, does it add to the value of the pose? And that's not even mentioning the fact that she was doing it as part of Casall sportswear's new marketing campaign. (Is there a Sponsored Pose in yoga?)

Debate: Are extreme yoga pictures inspiring or narcissistic?

Photo credit: Rachele Brooke Smith/YouTube

In addition to personal safety and yoga purity concerns (both of which could be dismissed with "it's her choice, haterz"), many worry about copycats. Serene yogis don't like to talk about it, but yoga is quickly becoming a competitive sport. From the clothes they wear to the poses they do to the mats they do them on, everything is up for comparison. This competitiveness can lead people to try yoga postures they're not ready for and could easily get injured doing or it could scare newbies away.

Rachele, for her part, doesn't see what the big deal is. "I did feel safe on that ledge, otherwise I would never have done it. I practice every day and feel extremely confident in the moves that I was doing," she said to the Today show. "It definitely was a little scary being so high, but I never felt, in any way, in danger."

But, is it her that's in danger or yoga?

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