Stunning or dangerous stunt? Yoga pose on ledge sparks debate

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Rachele Brooke Smith/Facebook

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By A. Pawlowski

A video of a woman doing a yoga pose while balancing on a New York City building ledge has many yoga aficionados frowning and debating the merit of such images.

The striking clip, posted Sunday by actress Rachele Brooke Smith on her Facebook page, shows her doing dancer’s pose on a beam 25 stories above the city and barely wide enough to accommodate her foot. There appear to be no safety nets or tethers.

#stretching the limits over #NYC,” the accompanying text explains. Smith said the video was recorded after she took part in a photo shoot at the location.

"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," Smith told TODAY Health.

"It definitely was a little scary being so high but I never felt in any way in danger."

Shared hundreds of times, the video has also attracted a lively debate, with some commenters praising her focus and “fierce concentration,” but many others criticizing her for taking unnecessary risks and wondering what would have happened if she had a cramp or faced a wind gust.

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Many also worried such exploits paint the wrong picture about yoga.

“Yoga and danger don't mix. Nice backdrop, but that could've been done in a studio with the same effect. Risking your life like that is unnecessary, and we can only hope there won't be any foolish copycats,” one commenter wrote.

Another said this was 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.”

But others came to the woman’s defense.

“Amazing how many people who are the deciders of what is and what isn't yoga. The people who pontificate on yoga the most are usually the ones that know the least,” a commenter wrote.

The Yoga Alliance declined to comment on the video.

But Drew Overholser, a certified yoga instructor in Denver who has been teaching since 2000, said it sends the wrong message because it's a stunt that turns people off.

“A person who was considering starting yoga and saw that pic might decide to run the other direction. Their mind would say, too dangerous, too scary. Yoga is not for me,” Overholser told TODAY Health.

“I appreciate yoga photo and video demonstrations that show difficult poses because they are beautiful and inspiring. Adding the dangerous situation is purely self-serving. Yoga is a healing mind/body practice, not a gymnastics competition.”

When yoga is presented with stunts, there's a wow factor, but there's also a chance it comes off as gimmicky and not authentic, added Jennilyn Carson, founder of YogaDork.com.

The website recently published an essay expressing mixed feelings about the general trend of people taking photos of themselves while doing yoga (like Alec Baldwin's wife Hilaria, who is a prolific Instagrammer.) The pictures can be wonderful, but "our power is not in a picture. Practice for practice’s sake," the essay advised.

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