Jessamyn Stanley doesn’t have a stereotypical yoga body, but frankly, that’s irrelevant. The 29-year-old self-proclaimed “fat femme” has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares photos of herself mastering the gamut of yoga poses, curves be damned. And forget trendy, reductive buzzwords like “fat yoga”; Stanley believes everyone can benefit from the practice.
In her debut book: “Every Body Yoga,” out in April from Workman Publishing, the Durham, N.C.-based yoga instructor shares her own path from depressed, bullied teen, to a young woman who’s found strength and passion in her daily practice.
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But yoga is a tool, not a cure-all; as she puts it, “your practice will continue to buoy you while your life continues to unfold.” With over 50 poses and sequences, the book also serves as a how-to for a yoga novice or anyone who wants to deepen their practice. Stanley calls in to talk about how to get started with yoga, why she likes to practice at home and her trick to staying motivated.
How taking yoga selfies helped her body image issues
When Stanley began photographing herself mid-pose to post online and get feedback from the yoga community, she ended up realizing the “very clear disconnect” between how she sees herself and how she actually exists, she explains.
“In the moment when I’d be in the pose, I’d be like, ‘Yes, I’m so strong, I’m connecting with my breath, everything is amazing,'” says Stanley. “And then I’d look at the photos and immediately start talking s—t to myself, ‘Oh my God, I’m so gross, my neck is so fat.’” Discovering this contradiction has helped her inch closer to a body positive mindset by realizing that the self-hate is all in her head.
Just get on the mat
Stanley gets that motivation is a fickle mistress. No matter how committed or Type A you are, everybody has days when they feel like skipping out on exercise.
Stanley’s advice? Thinking of yoga as a “spiritual practice you need to take care of every day” will help you tackle the hardest part: getting on the mat.
To keep herself accountable, she always leaves hers rolled out, whether at home or in a hotel room, so that there’s really no excuse.
Doing yoga at home
If you can’t afford to pay $20 a pop for classes at a studio, or you don’t have time in your schedule, Stanley recommends practicing at home. For her, it was liberating: “I was free to wear whatever I wanted, hold poses as long as I wanted, and break a lot of rules,” she writes.
Stanley herself offers online classes on Cody App; she also recommends yogaglo.com, which offers unlimited classes for only $18/month. Or follow along with “Every Body Yoga,” which details sequences of poses to suit a variety of intentions, from “I need to stand strong” (cycling through warrior II, mountain pose, extended triangle pose) to “I want to see the world from another angle” (begins with downward facing dog and ends in a headstand).
How to start your day, take an afternoon break and chill out before bed
Morning Warrior II pose: “It reminds you that you’re strong, you can literally feel it when you’re on the mat. When you go out for the rest of the day, you’ll still feel that grounding."
An afternoon Forward Fold: “Sometimes during the day we just feel like everything is weighing down on us and we can’t see anything new. Flip yourself upside down, shake it out, let everything release and then roll back up and you’ll feel like a completely different person. You need the jolt. “
Pre-bed hip opener, the One Legged King Pigeon Pose: “The stress and tension of our lives gets trapped in our hips and they get really cramped. Some people never empty their hips, and then when they do, It’s a very emotional reaction. Just let all of it go. When you’re passive like that, it’s a very nice introduction to bed.”