Body-Positive Yoga Enthusiast Wants To Help You ‘Change Your Life’

By Connie Nelson
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A with Jessamyn Stanley, who calls herself a “yoga enthusiast and fat femme.”

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Jessamyn Stanley isn’t your average yogi, so it makes sense that her new book, “Every Body Yoga,” isn’t your average yoga book. Part comprehensive guide, part reveal-all memoir, the book (Workman, $16.95) is refreshingly frank, laugh-out-loud funny and more than a bit profane (F-bomb alert!). Stanley, who calls herself a “yoga enthusiast and fat femme,” believes that everyone can practice yoga and that yoga can help everyone move past the obstacles in their lives.

Q: Why did you write “Every Body Yoga”?

A: Everywhere I go, I get questions about yoga. And I get why people have questions. Is it a religion? An exercise? A diet? I thought I’d never have the time to answer all the questions I get, so I decided to write a book.
I know there are lots of yoga books. But there are very few books about modern yoga that tell the truth about how most people come to yoga. Typically, a yoga practice is rooted in some kind of life event, a trauma, an injury, an unmet need.

Q: You differentiate between ancient and modern yoga. Why?

A: Ancient yoga is very deeply rooted in Hinduism. Since yoga has come to the West, it’s very different here. It’s a new, modern kind of yoga. It’s still a spiritual practice. The union of breath and movement and looking within yourself is a deeply spiritual practice. But it’s not religious. Yoga is a therapeutic and healing practice that helps you build up from the inside.

Q: Whom did you write your book for?

A: It’s for every single person who ever felt left out in a physical sense, who ever felt left behind. I wanted to write from the perspective not of a teacher, but of a friend. To say, “Yeah, I know what it’s like.”

Q: You bared your soul, and your curvy body, in this book. Why was it important to do so?

A: It was hard, but it was necessary. To explain how and why I started practicing yoga, I needed to go into depth about my life, my problems with alcohol abuse, my problems with dieting. I didn’t do it to say, “Look at me!” These experiences, while personal, are so universal. My story isn’t unique. It’s an every person story.

Q: You’re an evangelist for the body-positive movement. Tell us about it.

A: To me, body positive means a space that allows you to be exactly what you are. Never any judgment. No one is staring at you, the teacher’s not hawking you because she’s afraid you’ll take a wrong step and fall over.
It sounds radical, but it’s what should be happening in every yoga class. It’s what should be happening in the world.

Q: You cover almost everything, from the history of yoga, to how to roll out a mat, to annotating individual poses. Why is your book so thorough?

A: I wanted people to be able to dip their toes into the practice immediately after reading the book.

Q: So, that’s your message in a nutshell?

A: Yes. Start practicing yoga today. Right now. As soon as you finish reading this, and my book. You think you can’t, but you can. And it’s going to change your life.

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