Robert Sturman has traveled the world making photos with people doing yoga. In the photo essay that follows, he shares some of his favorite images and stories and explores how these trips—and the timeless grace and embodied mindfulness that he has witnessed—have expanded his view of the practice. Perhaps his vision can inspire yours.
Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
“This was just such a magical day. I made photos with Tracee Stanley in front of the Taj Mahal, but the back of the building is where the local people go. Even from this angle, we were enchanted by this extraordinary structure. The Taj Mahal is one of those creations where human beings seem to reach toward excellence to touch the Divine. In my photographs, I look for a way to have the human being share space with these bigger- than-life structures so that neither is shadowing the other.”
Mexico City, Mexico
“The Prison Yoga Project asked me to do some work at a federal prison in Mexico. In my downtime, I met Marcos Jassan, a yoga teacher with a love for architecture. We wandered around, looking at the buildings and cathedrals in Mexico City. Marcos is a devoted practitioner; he can pose anywhere. It was an incredibly inspiring day.”
“I was with Dice Iida-Klein on this pilgrimage to Sukhothai. It is said that the Buddha walked there, so you see Buddha statues and ancient temples everywhere. When you are in places like this, you have to keep in mind that they are very sacred to the local people. You don’t want to be disrespectful or exploit the scene in any way. When I’m making photos, I want to be sure we’re not disrupting their experience.”
Lamu Island, Kenya
“Africa was where I began my journey to see the yoga world as truly diverse and beautiful. I was working with Africa Yoga Project, documenting the yoga community on Lamu Island, off the Kenyan coast. There’s a thriving yoga community there; it’s where they hold the Lamu Yoga Festival every year. Billy Sadia was one of the teachers with AYP. That day we were just walking, enjoying the views of the Indian Ocean. We saw that boat and it was too beautiful not to photograph.”
“This is Ashika Gogna at the Duomo, a cathedral that’s considered one of the greatest pieces of architecture in history. It’s one of those Renaissance buildings that leaves you speechless. In Florence and Rome I truly began to see how my love for photographing the poetic expression of asana fits into the history of art itself. There’s a longing for something higher. I want this concept to show up in my work.”
La Habana, Cuba
“The streets in Cuba are the most beautiful streets in the world. And the streets, las calles, is where everything happens. The cars, the music, the sweetness of the people—their joy and also their suffering—it’s all there. Rina Jakubowicz has family there but had never been, so we decided to go. She met relatives she had never seen. We also met up with Eduardo Pimentel, the godfather of yoga in Cuba, and we made pictures all over the city. It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful part of the world.”
A dedicated yoga practitioner, photographer Robert Sturman travels the world making photos. He teaches his art in his workshop, “A Celebration of Humanity Through the Art of Yoga Photography,” at robertsturmanstudio.com/workshop. When he isn’t traveling, he is based in California.