Take one part #girlboss, one part yogi extraordinaire and one part social media superstar, and you get Jessamyn Stanley. A self-proclaimed fat femme and one of the most popular home-practice yogis on Instagram, Jessamyn doesn’t have time for the haters. She’s redefining what it means to be a yogi, and she’s not down for body shaming or making excuses. You know the secrets yoga teachers want you to know, you’ve repurposed your old yoga mat, so get ready for some real talk from one real cool lady to get you ready to take your yoga to the next level.
B+C: You started practicing yoga regularly in grad school. What got you hooked?
JS: I started practicing during one of the darker periods in my life and by the time I crawled into my local Bikram yoga studio, I was looking for anything short of Xanax or Prozac to help me feel like a normal person again. Depression is just one of the many ailments that yoga medicates perfectly and it completely changed my life. But my practice has kept me afloat through the constant fluctuations of happiness and dissatisfaction which inevitably reach all of us and which NEVER end. Ultimately, my practice helped me realize that no matter if the sun is shining or if I’m drowning in a life-size tsunami, I can always weather the storm as long as I look within myself.
B+C: What are your home-practice must-haves?
JS: Oh man, oh man: Everyone’s list is different, and everyone has their favorite brands, but here are mine:
- Yoga Mat: Liforme Yoga Mat
- Yoga Straps: Mamakuka Pro Sphere System
- Yoga Block: Manduka UnBlock
- Camera: GoPro 3 (Pro Tip: Everyone should record their home practice!)
- Leggings: So many brands, but right now I love Von Scher Active and Torrid
- Sports Bra: Manduka Made for Yoga or Von Scher Active
- Hydration: Water with lemon and/or coconut water (ideally from fresh coconuts, but I’m pretty bougie)
B+C: Advice for ladies looking to start their own home practice?
JS: Try to approach the practice as you would your tooth brushing regimen: It’s a necessary part of your day that immediately relates to your overall health. You might brush your teeth in a way that’s kind of different from your best friend, but you wouldn’t chastise yourself for brushing your teeth “not as well” as your friend, would you? Give yourself the same courtesy in your yoga practice. Even if you’re modifying yoga poses or moving much slower than everyone else, you’re still giving yourself the necessary medication you need that day. Just believe in yourself and believe in your own strength.
B+C: What is your best piece of advice for “non-traditional” yogis?
JS: Stop doubting your own strength and making excuses. Don’t belittle your body. It’s stronger than your mind even knows. Get out of your head, get in your own skin and make a revolution for your damn self.
B+C: Does self-confidence play a role in yoga? If so, how?
JS: I think self-confidence can be a side effect of yoga. It’s empowering to see that your body can do things that your mind can’t comprehend, and that can result in an extreme boost of confidence. Unfortunately, due to western beauty ideals and body obsession, many people can bypass the self-confidence boost because they put their practice under too much scrutiny or allow their practice to become entwined with self-worth. I think as long as you avoid that road, self-confidence can abound.
B+C: Why did you start posting your practice on Instagram? And are you surprised how much your page has grown in such a short amount of time?
JS: I started posting on Instagram because I wanted to track the alignment of my body while practicing asana. That’s literally the only reason. I wasn’t trying to attract attention and I’ve always been very overwhelmed by the attention that’s resulted from my Instagram. When I first started posting, I was surprised by the reaction I received. While there were some practitioners who were looking to build community across borders, there were way more people who were genuinely astounded by the fact that fat people could practice yoga. I found and still find that to be absurd because there were and still are so many fat-bodied practitioners across the globe.
After that point, the need for visibility of fat bodied athletes became my driving mission and I think the response shows that many other people want to see more diversity in the athletic body as well. I don’t consider myself or my success an island — I think it requires the force and magnitude of many people to make change. So yes, I am surprised by how much my own page has grown, but I’m not surprised by the growth of the movement at large. Society is hungry for change, and this is what change looks like.
B+C: Help a sister out — I’m headed to my first yoga class. I should….
JS: Calm down. Really. Why are you stressing about yoga class? It’s literally the only place where you are ABSOLUTELY NOT SUPPOSED TO STRESS OUT. Stop it right now, for real. You’re wasting your time and mental energy. Are you worried that people will judge you because you’ve never been before? Dude, chill out. It’s really not that serious. Anyone who judges you is pathetic and doesn’t understand the true meaning of yoga. That’s sad. But you’re not sad, you’re awesome. So get over yourself and get your ass on a mat.
B+C: Favorite pose?
JS: My favorite pose?? OH MY GOD I DON’T KNOW I LOVE THEM ALL! UGH, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PICK. Okay, I love Camel Pose (ustrasana) and headstand (sirsasana). But seriously, I love them all. Except chaturanga dandasana — I HATE chaturanga. But that actually means I love it because it’s so hard. So I take that back. I love them all.
B+C: So, what’s next? Where does Jessamyn go from here?
JS: On the immediate horizon? International Yoga Teaching Dates (London: March 4-7, Dubai: March 17-20), US Tour Dates with Dana Falsetti (Denver, Chicago, Boston, Texas, Florida + so many more!), Live Everybody Yoga Cody App Classes and a new class plan release on Cody App, a constantly fluctuating list of photo/video projects and my first book will be published by Workman Publishing in Spring 2017. Oh, and practicing yoga ALL DAY, FOREVER. This year, I’m working on my arm balance game.