Taking a photo of yourself in the gym can bring up a lot of introspective thoughts, like, Am I the vainest person on the planet? Definitely not, says Jessamyn Stanley, yogi, body-positive activist, and author of Every Body Yoga. "It's a very empowering kind of experience to have with yourself," she says. Stanley takes tons of pictures of herself doing yoga, mostly upside-down in a headstand or twisted in a yoga pose, for her Instagram account. "When you look in the mirror, you see a distorted version of yourself, because it's based on your perception," Stanley says. "Even a photo is, but it's something that happened already, so you're going back in time and have a genuine connection with someone that is real."
Photos of yourself doing yoga can also be helpful teaching tools, Stanley says. "When you're practicing the pose, you're remembering all the little cues and letting them sink into the body, whether they're physical or emotional," she says. "Then, you see the representation of that, and it's powerful." Some yogis might consider taking photos of your yoga practice sacrilege, but Stanley has thoughts: "I would make an argument that yoga practitioners over the course of time would have all loved this technology," she says. There are even recordings of Iyengar, who's known as the father of yoga in the West, practicing, she says. "He's on his shit to look good, but you can see how photography helps you understand your body in a different way."
Stanley wasn't always open to the camera, though. "For a while, I didn't want to take pictures of my body, because I was scared of it," she says. "I was like, Fuck, I don't want to see myself in a pose." But seeing curvy, vibrant bloggers on Tumblr, like Big Gal Yoga, sparked something inside Stanley. "I was like, I think I can look at myself, finally," Stanley says. Having studied film and video production in college, Stanley knew a thing or two about how to set up and take photos. She read blogs about how to photograph herself, but they were mainly tips for food or fashion bloggers, so she figured the rest out as she went along. "It's been a long journey since the first pictures I took of myself," she says.