Photo by Lydia Hudgens. Cover image of Jessamyn Stanley by Justin Cook.

Photo by Lydia Hudgens. Cover image of Jessamyn Stanley by Justin Cook.

Nama-Stay Happy

Body positive activist Jessamyn Stanley shows us her approach to remain body positive while exploring the world of yoga.

By Hayley Meisel

What comes to mind when you think of yoga? A bunch of middle aged women in skin tight leggings and tank tops on multi- colored yoga mats? Maybe a lavish studio filled with the most toned and fit people you’ve ever seen? Think again. Jessamyn Stanley is a body positivity activist and yoga instructor who is seeking to change the reputation surrounding skinny women doing yoga. As a self described “fat femme,” Stanley has immersed herself in a world stigmatized by the slim and the slender and has done so with a bang.

After taking a yoga class when she was sixteen and swearing it off, Stanley let herself give it another shot when she was twenty four and feeling the stresses of her newfound adulthood.

“The combination of heat, repetitive sequencing, and long holds was a complete release from the stress of my daily life. I began to look forward to class in a way that I didn’t really look forward to anything else–it made me feel powerful and self-assured at a time when I couldn’t summon those emotions on my own,” Stanley said. And from there, Stanley took these feelings that she felt after posing through the yoga class and fully embraced them. She threw herself into yoga and it has indefinitely changed her life. 

 Photo by Zoe Litaker.

Photo by Zoe Litaker.

Through her practice, Jessamyn Stanley has learned a thing or two about how to promote body image. When asked what advice she has for other yogis, she had much to provide.

“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,” recited Jessamyn. She went on to detail how curvy people have been brought up to think that there is something wrong with their body and that change must be implemented when, in reality, “curves give us strength and power.” It is clear the benefits that Stanley has experienced through yoga, as her positive life outlook is nothing to be dismissed. 

As far as the future goes, Jessamyn Stanley is far from finished with her yoga journey. After recently publishing a book on yoga, Every Body Yoga, Stanley is looking forward to seeing where yoga takes her in the future. Stanley also teaches classes, both online and private, as well as travels the country to give workshops and instruct classes to groups. Living now in Durham, North Carolina, Stanley’s favorite yoga studio is the one she has made for herself in her living room and continues to practice on a daily basis, improving her yoga skills and maintaining body positivity.

 Photo by Zoe Litaker. 

Photo by Zoe Litaker.