By Natalia YUREVICH
J essamyn Stanley is a certified yoga instructor who doesn’t completely fit the widespread Social Media stereotype of a slender, young, female, and white yoga teacher. She is a self-described fat, black, and “not the person you would typically imagine teaching or practicing yoga”.
How Is That “Fat Bitch” Doing It
The first time, Jessamyn went for a Bikram yoga class, she felt extremely self-conscious, had strong doubts about her abilities to survive the class and was convinced that yoga wasn’t for her.
How did this larger-bodied black girl posting the shots of her yoga asana practice in tight clothes become a worldwide phenomenon? Jessamyn has nearly 300K followers on her Instagram account @mynameisjessamyn, a great number signing up for her classes, and some major media featuring articles about her.
Many people kept asking her the “how can that fat bitch” question, even in the middle of the grocery store, so Jessamyn decided to give a detailed answer in her book “Every Body Yoga”.
The title of the book is very clear:
This book is about yoga for everybody and every body.
If you ever felt that you look different, that you may not fit some official or imaginary beauty standards, this book is for you.
“every fat person, every old person, every exceptionally short person.”
It is for anyone “who struggles find happiness on a daily basis.”
The prominent yogi believes that the best way to get inspired to practice yoga is “by hearing true life stories”.
Through stories from her life, stories of yogis, and the story of yoga, she inspires her readers to do the impossible.
Each story unfolds an honest account of her experiences, her painful emotions, her long journey to accepting herself and her body. Some of her stories are very personal, and the others, like the story of her “becoming fat” may sound familiar to many of us.
Along with her personal stories, Jessamyn offers a crash course in yoga.
“Yoga has given me a method for accepting
the madness of life.”
She breaks down the basics of modern yogic history and outlines the major differences between ancient and modern yoga.
She explains the core elements of the eight-limbed path and why it can become a guided path for life.
She also talks about various modern yoga styles, what they are about, and why you should or shouldn’t go for each of them.
Don’t be put off, this book is not a stern guide to yoga that aims to convert your inner shopaholic into an anti-consumerism activist unless that’s what you are seeking to do.
Jessamyn is real and she is fun. She admits that she owns two drawers of cute yoga outfits, mats are cool, and buying stuff can be really fun.
But she also emphasizes that we don’t need to buy everything before we start practicing. She’d rather advocate starting doing yoga with whatever you feel comfortable. She also mentions that an occasional nude or semi-nude yoga practice can be the path to establishing a better relationship with your own body.
The certified yoga instructor answers all possible beginner’s questions about practicing yoga, from how to start to what part of the day to practice, where, and for how long.
Along with beautiful asana photos, she explains what poses are good to wake up your spine, joints, and muscles, what warm-up is a key, how to move with purpose, how to correctly place your body on the mat, how to make weight and energy pull evenly.
Jessamyn doesn’t glorify yoga. She gracefully guides through each asana explaining which can be a good help in a particular life situation, or what to pay attention to if you have injuries.
Some yoga sequences of “Every Body Yoga” are tailored to specific moods and emotional needs. Feeling frustrated, low or drowning in self-doubt? The gorgeous photos of Jessamyn and other yogis – Laura, Chrissie, Charlie, and Jaclyn, show what you can do and are inviting.
“Hey Jessamyn, how do I start practicing yoga?”
Some of the asanas look so doable that you may be tempted to try them out. And that’s what happened to me.
I spotted the Dolphin pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana) that seemed just rightfully challenging.
The practitioner showing it looks like a normal person, not a yogi God. The posture seemed a tiny bit more complicated than the “Downward Dog” that I feel I have mastered a while ago.
I followed the instructions.
I dropped my forearms to the mat, stacked my shoulders over my elbows, and then on an inhale, I tried to lift my hips, trying to straighten my legs as much as I could.
That was hard. In fact, I could straighten my legs just a bit and started being in pain, my muscles felt so tight! It was nearly unbearable. I forced myself to hold the pose for 3 breaths and crashed down to my knees, extremely grateful that it was permitted in the instruction.
My first try of a “Dolphin pose” was clearly a failure. Did it discourage me? Nope.
I was prepared for it. I remembered Jessamyn’s experiences and immediately knew that it was normal. I felt like I had the permission from her to do so. Permission to accept to fail and to try again. I looked at the man on the Dolphin position image and thought: “If he can do it, I can too!”
I’ll surely give it a new try.