Photo by Anna Goodson
While most of us try yoga for the first time by attending an often awkward class at a studio or gym, nervously looking at the teacher and around at other people in the room to see if we’re “doing it right,” for Jacksonian yogi Whitney Fletcher, it all began with a photo. “I was at home on a Sunday afternoon, and I saw a picture of a woman holding herself up with her arms while her legs were out to the side.” Though the arm balance looked difficult, Whitney took note that the woman was actually smiling. “I thought, ‘why isn’t she straining?’ She had an easy smile. So I googled it and taught myself the pose that day, and I was hooked.”
Photos have continued to play an integral role in Whitney’s practice. That day in her living room sparked many more days of teaching herself yoga from photos. Working at a bank, sitting all day at a desk, Whitney would practice new poses at home at night and on the weekends. She says, “just an hour on the mat boosts your mood so much.” Now she takes photos of her own (very advanced) poses, inspiring over 40,000 followers on Instagram, the ever-growing photosharing app that boasts a strong visual community for yoga.
“It was so much fun. I loved figuring out my body and what it could do. I loved falling over.” She grew up doing gymnastics, has always been active, but had never tried yoga. Immediately drawn to the rewarding effects of working hard to get into a pose, “it wouldn’t be fun if you got it right the first time,” she joined Instagram under the cleverly direct username Yogagrams and participated in a yoga challenge, usually a month-long event in which yogis try one pose a day and post a photo of the pose.
And Whitney’s photos are gorgeous. Her poses have a dancer quality to them, and her bright personality shines through. She drives out to Mississippi countrysides on sunny days, often using a self-timer by balancing her camera on her tennis shoes, and in almost every pose she is smiling. Her tagline is sweet and simple, “Find what makes you come alive,” and her outlook on yoga is playful; she insists, “life and work can be so stressful, for me yoga is to relax and have fun.”
Whitney says she never imagined that she would tap into such a large community, “Let’s face it, taking a photo of yourself doing a yoga pose is a little ridiculous. I didn’t tell anyone that I was doing it.” Whitney has now hosted yoga challenges with fellow yogis from all over the world, and several companies send her yoga clothes and gear to wear in her photos.
In 2014 Whitney completed her yoga teacher training, and though she does have plans to teach in the future, she’s currently working on a new yoga pose: Momasana. Whitney and her husband Stephen, a resident at UMMC, welcomed baby Jack this past December. Whitney says he enjoys “tummy time” held on her chest while she’s backbending, and that he loves to roll around and look at her while she’s practicing on her mat at home.
Whitney’s yoga presence on Instagram echoes her lighthearted and empowering philosophy on yoga: “Every body is different, so every pose looks different on every body. Yoga is whatever you want it to be.” She insists on the positive, mood-boosting benefits of practicing, that wherever you are, in a yoga class, outside on a pretty day, or your living room, “everybody can do yoga.”
Check out Whitney’s photos, Yogagrams on Instagram and her Facebook.