Jessamyn Stanley, phenomenal yoga instructor and author of Every Body Yoga, is on a mission to let the world know that we can all practice yoga, no matter what size or body shape we are.
She got into yoga while in graduate school and going through a period depression. A classmate encouraged her to join her in a Bikram yoga class. She had tried Bikram yoga while in high school and didn't like it, but decided to give it one more chance.
"Yoga led me to a place of being able to understand that there are good and bad things that happen in this life and you have to have both in this life to exist. There will always be ups and downs, and all I can control is my reaction to those changes," Stanley told ESSENCE.
Like most women in America Stanley says she suffered from severe body image issues which still reverberate to this day. She spent a large portion of her adolescent years trying to lose weight but has learned to accept her body and did not into yoga for fitness.
She calls herself a "fat femme" and says that while it makes some people uncomfortable, she says it because it is a statement of fact. "I say it because the word fat has become the worst insult you can say to a person. It has stopped meaning large, which is the definition. Now what is says is stupid, or unworthy or ugly. People say, 'you are not fat, you're beautiful.' I can be fat and beautiful, or strong, or powerful. It doesn't have to be either or."
When she started practicing yoga, she learned that it is not about fitness or losing weight, those are just side effects of the practice. "It's really about the spiritual connection with yourself and self-care," she said.
Stanley teaches yoga but never had any desires to teach. She had been posting her yoga poses on social media as a way to log her home practice and had people reaching out to her from all over the world asking her to teach them. She would recommend other teachers to them, but they would still ask for her. She finally relented and started teaching.
"Yoga is the medicine that I use to manage my life. I feel about my spirit the same way that I feel about the other parts of my physical body. So in the way that I take care of my teeth daily, I take care of my spirit as well," she said.