I’ve been doing yoga regularly for about a year now, and as someone who is still relatively new to the practice I often look at Instagram for inspiration and motivation. For example, I’m currently doing a 14-day “yoga challenge on IG that led to me trying a headstand yesterday for the first time!
While it’s amazing and inspiring to see the backbends and inversions these ladies (because, despite yoga having been a practice that was closed to women for a very long time, these days on the internet and in most yoga classes, the practitioners are a majority female) do, it only takes a few minutes of scrolling before you can’t help but notice that the most popular posters are thin, white, female, and decked out in the latest leggings from Lululemon or Alo.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, and being a fairly thin, definitely white woman who is currently waiting on Fedex to deliver a Lululemon order, it’s not that I can’t relate to these graceful women even if I don’t have a body that could be confused for a model’s. But it doesn’t reflect the yoga enthusiasts I’ve encountered in real life. In the yoga classes I attend, none of us have six-pack abs. Many students are beyond their early-to-mid 20s (my mom has started attending yoga classes recently, for example). Some are black, some are asian, some are men, some are children. Some practice chair yoga or have limitations due to disabilities or sorenesses.
That’s why reading Jessamyn Stanley’s book Every Body Yoga was such a breath of fresh air. Part yoga guide and part memoir, she describes her own journey to body acceptance and how we can balance our desire to emulate the cool asanas we see on social media with a practice that is kind to and loving toward our own bodies. What I love about the book is that she doesn’t say “Practice in your most tattered gym shorts and don’t even look at Instagram or you’re not a real yogi.” She totally acknowledges that buying brightly-patterned leggings and taking photos of yourself in your best dancer pose can be fun and even helpful. It’s just that you don’t have to do that, and you don’t have to look a certain way, and that your practice is yours to grow and embrace.
If you like to look at athletes or yoga practitioners on Instagram, then Jessamyn (@mynameisjessamyn) is a must-follow.
Here are some other Instagram accounts that offer body positive inspiration for your yoga journey:
Dana Falsetti (@nolatrees)
Like Jessamyn, Dana is one of the most well-known body positive advocates and yoga practitioners on Instagram. She’s open about her past struggles with her body image and her weight, and even more open about her love for her body now. She’s also vocal about the ways that yoga marketing perpetuates a false reality that there is only one type of person or body that does yoga, and how wide and diverse the true range of practitioners is. She’s smart, funny, and insightful, and her yoga photos are interspersed with beautifully artistic photoshoots that celebrate her body and encourage you to celebrate yours.
I’ve only been following Ally for a few weeks but I’m already obsessed with her hilarious captions and inspiring posts. She often posts transformation shots that show how she has gotten fit and gained muscle over the years, proving that sometimes you need to gain weight to feel (and look) better. She’s also in her 40s which, while not old by any means, is much older than most of Instagram’s popular posters but that proves that there’s no age limit for a powerful yoga practice.
Michael Hayes (@buddha_body_yoga)
One thing that’s often missing in yoga posts on instagram: props! Whether it’s blocks, a strap, or a bolster, there seems to be this unspoken rule that if you can’t do the full, unassisted expression of a pose, you don’t post it. Not Michael. His photos are full of helping accessories and modified poses that make yoga accessible for older, larger, and injured people. Plus, they’re interspersed with fun and inspiring quotes to give you a motivation boost before a tough practice.
Valerie Sagun (@biggalyoga)
Valerie Sagun was one of the first people to start posting about yoga and body positivity on instagram. Her honest, uplifting captions and near-constant smile would make anyone want to give their best downward dog a shot. She’s inspired many other body positive yogas and folks who don’t fit the “lululemon mold” to share their practices online, and has surely inspired many more to start their own practices which maybe one day they’ll share with us. Plus, not that it matters what you wear when you do yoga, but she has one of the most fun and vibrant yoga wardrobes around.
Steph Gongora (@casa_colibri)
The thing that makes me close out this list with Steph’s page is less about her images (although they’re gorgeous) and more about her words. You know how a good yoga teacher makes you leave class feeling like you can do anything? Like, sure I can’t do a flying pigeon today, but someday? That’s how I feel about her posts. Whether she’s giving toe tap tips, sharing poetry, or making an empowering statement about menstruation, her thoughtful captions combine with her amazing poses to make you want to do what she does, and make you believe that you can.