WORDS: Katrin Campbell
FEATURE IMAGE: Justin Cook
Using yoga practice to surpass mental and physical barriers, Jessamyn Stanley’s strength is formidable. With a fanbase of 370k, the world is embracing her positive devotion. We sat down with the North Carolina-based Insta-Yogi to discuss body empowerment.
How does yoga allow you to both explore and celebrate your own body?
Thanks to the lethal cocktail of parental endorsed body obsession, endless taunting by grade school bullies and self-deprecation/mutilation, I started my twenties with a horrifying self-image. I didn’t even realize how bad things were until I’d been practicing yoga for a number of years and saw the change over time. Yoga helped me realize that all of my body hang-ups were based fears that other people have about their OWN bodies, and it has completely transformed the way I see myself. However, this isn’t the case for all yoga practitioners- many people come to yoga with body image issues which are merely compounded by the media’s perception of “yoga”. They begin to associate their bodily happiness with how closely they are able to imitate the “yoga body” which is forced down our throats by Western media outlets. Basically, I would say that my experience of changing my self-image with yoga is, for better or worse, the exception and not the rule.
Do you have a significant achievement in terms of body positivity?
Prior to the deepening of my yoga practice, my perception of body image could be immediately correlated to the reflections of beauty I found in the mainstream media. My yoga practice (and, more specifically, my meditation practice) has allowed me to see the innate unhappiness that runs underneath our entire Modern society and that unhappiness fuels the unrealistic beauty standards that haunt many of us. Every day, I make a commitment to stand above the noise of our society in order to see the inherent beauty of each and every being on this planet, myself included.
Inclusivity in the fitness community is something that we always need to be striving for. It's so vital that we take active steps in addressing our biases and asking ourselves difficult questions. At the end of the day, the truth is simple — how do we make fitness and wellness environments more inclusive? By believing that the human experience comes in every flavor, with no experience counted as more worthy than another. When we shift that paradigm, sky's the limit in terms of inclusivity. @Nike #BETRUE #oneofthem #UntilWeAllWin #ad Photo by @alliemullin
In terms of advice, what would you say to a yoga newbie?
First of all, your body is normal and perfect. Stop thinking that it should or could look any different or better than it does right now. Second, instead of placing emphasis on losing weight or “getting healthy”, just focus on feeling good. This should be your only goal when practicing yoga- getting to a place where you feel good. As curvy people, we are taught from a young age that there is something inherently wrong with our bodies- this is a mentality we need to change. Our curves give us strength and power- don’t diminish that power by believing in society endorsed negativity. Let your mental focus completely shift inside- ignore the people around you and get on your mat, both mentally and physically.
What message do you give to someone struggling with body confidence?
You need to stop thinking about what other people think of you. If you’re obsessed with what other people think, you are wasting your life away. People will stare at you because they fear what they can’t understand. They deserve your compassion, not your self-image.
Stop sacrificing yourself for absolutely no reason. So people stare at you? LET THEM. Fuck other people. Stop worrying about what other people think.
And finally, how would you define the term healthy?
In my opinion, health pertains largely to the overall condition of the physical body; conversely, wellness pertains to the overall condition of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies.