Jessamyn Stanley is on a mission. A few, in fact.
First, the North Carolina-based yogi would like to make yoga accessible for everyone. Then, she aims to diversify the perception of body types that practice yoga. “[People believe] it’s just an exercise and that you can omit the spirituality from it,” the body-positive enthusiast tells her sweat. “You cannot omit spirituality from yoga. That’s how you are able to actually engage every piece of your being, not just your physical body but your mind and your spirit.”
Five years in the game, Stanley’s journey from novice to yogi has been far from easy. The first time she attempted yoga, she hated it and quickly threw in the towel but she gave yoga another try in 2011 after almost slipping into a dark hole of depression after her aunt, grandmother and girlfriend’s brother passed away within a span of months. As she found solace in yoga, it helped her see her experiences in a different perspective. “It’s the medicine that cures everything,” she says of the practice.
Now, as a certified yogi, she knows what it’s like being the only black, plus-size and gay woman in a yoga class so she’s taking matters into her own hands to dispel misconceptions about the spiritual discipline. In addition to teaching yoga classes across the country, Stanley leveraged her large social media following and created a yoga plan called Everybody Yoga, where people who don’t have the funds or access to classes can practice the art of yoga in the privacy of their own home at affordable rates. “There’s so many people who ask if I know of a studio that they can go to for a larger body person and I don’t have recommendations for everybody,” she says. “I can’t recommend places [in every city] so my main goal is to teach online to reach everybody that asks me to teach them yoga.”
Stanley’s online yoga classes are just a part of her global yoga takeover. In 2017, she’s releasing a memoir––a mélange of a cookbook, food memoir and yoga book––where she will offer tidbits about her life and yoga beginnings. Below, she shared five yoga poses that help her release stress, stay present in the moment and conquer fear.