Social Media Sensation Jessamyn Stanley On Importance Of Body Diversity In Yoga

December 5, 2016  |  

I almost cried during my interview with @selfmagazine when they asked about my experience with self hate- honestly, it's bizarre to me that I'm perceived as such a confident person when I spent such a huge chunk of my life buried under truly toxic body shame. And it's not like those feelings have completely dissipated- just like anyone, I have ups and downs. And I always roll my eyes whenever people draw the conclusion that yoga is the source of my body confidence. I mean, Instagram is littered with proof that an aggressive yoga asana practice can unintentionally sow the seeds of body negativity. But there's no doubt that yoga has made me stronger- but the physical strength isn't really the point, is it? If you want to watch me get choked up and talk about body shame, click the link in my Instagram header! Photo by @nadyawasylko (Btw, I can't remember who made this sports bikini but I EFFING LOVE IT and need it in every color. I only ever want to practice in my underroos and when the #teamSELF crew said "…are you cool with wearing this?" I almost started frothing at the mouth from excitement. THIS IS WHAT FAT GIRLS WANT. 👙👙)

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If you’ve ever peeked inside a yoga class, you’ve probably noticed that many of the women in it look a certain way. And if you’re interested in taking up the practice, it can be something that can keep you feeling disenchanted. In fact, I’ve watched news stories (Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel to be specific) on controversial Bikram yoga creator Bikram Choudhury, where he tells a student, a teacher in progress, that they’re “fat ass” who needs to lose weight.

Yeah, it’s quite hard to push out negativity and focus on your breathing if you feel like everyone is focused on your body.

There are no words to express what it means to have y'all share your love with me. It's overwhelming at times, especially since I'm such an introvert. But if I could ask for anything in this world, I'd ask that everyone who has ever said something nice to/about me would look in the mirror and say those exact same words to themselves. It is so much easier to tell others "I love you" or "You're beautiful." It is so fucking hard to say it to ourselves. Please say it to yourself. Please look in a mirror and say "I love you." I appreciate you more than words can say- please appreciate yourselves. I'm teaching my first @yogajournal LIVE workshop at @yogajournalevents Florida on November 12th- Click the link in my Instagram header for more info! (Also, never have I ever appreciated and loved my belly the way I do in this moment.) ALSO, for those who asked what my tats say: "Esse Quam Videri", "Whose world is this? The world is yours." & "What I'm looking for is not out there, it is in me." 📸 by @nadyawasylko for @selfmagazine

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But if you follow master yogi Jessamyn Stanley on social media, you finally get to see the body diversity you’ve been missing in yoga. She’s courageous, confident, and can hit some of the most complicated poses like a boss. That’s probably why the 29-year-old yoga teacher has amassed such a strong following (including 243,000 followers on the ‘Gram).

“I cannot be contained within a definition,” Stanley shared in an awesome interview with Health.com. “I think that it is important for other people to see that and to acknowledge that they don’t have to be contained by a definition either, and they can just be whoever they are.”

Throwback to making serious yoga face during my awesome @fullbeautystyle classes last week- and, when it comes right down to it, isn't yoga face kinda what it's all about? You know, I don't think of myself as a yogi. In fact, I don't think I've ever referred to myself with that term. Using it has always felt mildly disrespectful to me, like I'm not worthy of such an auspicious title. Obviously, the same goes for calling my teachers the word 'guru'- in my opinion, these words carry much more weight than Westerners are usually able to understand, and I respectfully agree to disagree with anyone who feels differently. In my mind, I'm just a yoga practitioner who is lucky enough to teach the practice she lives- it's nothing more, and nothing less. I don't think any of us need to be the Jane Fonda of yoga or even a post 2nd wave feminist version of Bikram Choudury . We don't have to be thin, but we also don't have to be fat. We don't have to be a specific color or commit to a specific style of eating. We don't have to be anyone other than ourselves. We don't have to be anything but present in our daily lives. We don't have to do anything but learn from our missteps and become stronger as a result. And that's yoga. That's what yoga ACTUALLY is. Anything else is….straight up shenanigans, basically. Also, YES THAT'S @amandakater! #partner #beplayFULL #fullbeautySPORT #OwnYourCurves #fullbeaut

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According to Stanley, she got into yoga after finding herself in a really dark place while dealing with depression. She worried about losing weight and being healthy while dealing with her sadness, and according to her, “Yoga pulled me out of that.”

Since then, she’s been about helping other women, of all shapes and sizes, try and love yoga despite what stereotypical images are attached to the practice.

“That is probably the reason why I am teaching. There is this stereotypical idea, this physical picture that comes with it, which is typically a slender, white, traditionally educated, and affluent woman, and if you are not that then you are automatically different,” she said. “That is why social media is cool. I feel like I can get out there and show what the yoga lifestyle really looks like, and being able to showcase that is critical at this point. At the end of the day, we are not trying to be popular; we are just trying to be ourselves. And if I can encourage other people to do that, than that is amazing.”

I am leaving for London tomorrow and I'm scared. I know some people grew up traveling to far away places, but that wasn't my life at all. Unlike a lot of jetsetting yoga practitioners, I didn't grow up with a silver spoon. My parents are hard workers who celebrated having a little extra cash by taking me and my brother out to dinner at Golden Corral, not jetsetting off to Europe. And now I'm going on the longest plane ride of my life to a place that is literally the furthest I've ever been from home. And I'm scared. I'm almost thirty, and I'm scared to go this far from home. It feels cathartic to admit it, actually. But fear is a really powerful emotion. It's telling, actually- every time I'm really afraid of something, it's usually an indication that I should try to do it. Crossing boundaries and leaping hurdles is scary as fuck, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. You never go anywhere if you don't "go" anywhere, right? This photo is a throwback to a shoot I did over a year ago with the amazingly talented @paulsundayphoto- so much has changed since this photo was taken, but somehow everything is basically the same. My practice hasn't changed- my love for #yoga has never wavered. But have I been jaded by the fuckery of the Western yoga world? Yeah, that's a definite possibility. I'm grateful for THAT change, though- taking off my rose tinted glasses has made the future way more clear. Not crystal clear, but….you get what you need not want, right? International travel virginity fear aside, I'm stoked to see you this weekend, @hotyogasociety1! I am so excited to meet you guys- I'm teaching on three different days and I think there are a few spots available throughout the weekend- check out jessamynstanley.com/tour for registration info! Also, I'll be a guest on my boo @sofiehagendk & @dfdubz's live podcast, #TheGuiltyFeminist on March 10th at Canal Cafe Theatre! If you're in town and you'd like to join us for some hilarious but woke feminist dialogue about all corners of the body positivity conversation, check out my facebook page (I'm Jessamyn Stanley over there) for the event + ticket info! Also,see you at noon tomorrow, @durhamyoga 💋 #jessjetset

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Stanley feels the most confident when she walks in her truth, unbothered by who is looking at her and what they may think. So if you are like most of us and struggle with body confidence at times, she has some helpful advice. Do you, sis.

“If I could go back and talk to myself when I was younger—because I used to have horrific body image—I’d tell myself, ‘Don’t think about what other people think about you; you think about what you think about you. And try not to obsess over everything.’ You must always just work towards this light; work toward living in your truth. As long as you are doing that, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you.”

Check out Stanley’s full interview over at Health.com.

 

Images via Instagram

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