When you think of the perfect yoga body, what comes to mind? If you pay attention to advertisements, you might think you need ultra-flat abs and size two yoga pants before you can even start.
When Jessamyn Stanley first started practicing yoga in 2011, she felt that way too. At first, she hid at the back of the class, intimidated by the women with "perfect" yoga bodies who were always up front.
But quickly she realized yoga isn’t about how you look. “The whole point of this practice is to burn away the parts of our lives that are built up over the years that don’t matter, and to burn that away to who you truly are,” she proclaims.
Jessamyn is a proud “fat femme” who never shies away from talking about body issues. On Instagram, she makes sure to tag her posts with #CurvyYoga to keep the conversation going.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to see so many people engaging in dialogue about body issues in the #yoga community,” Jessamyn writes on her blog. “This is the dialogue that fosters a diverse and widespread yoga community, not pictures and inspirational quotes.”
“I always tell people (especially women) to stop sending negative energy into their bodies and thoughts,” she says. “That negative energy is responsible for all body unhappiness.”
Of course, different bodies sometimes need different pose modifications, and that’s true whether you’re a curvy yogi, a yoga newbie, or at various points of flexibility.
“There are a lot of things you learn as a larger-bodied person practicing yoga: what to do with your stomach, what to do with your breasts.”
But Jessamyn knows that modifications aren’t the same as limitations. “Your body is not standing in your way. Only your mind is standing in your way.”
She leaves her students and Instagram followers with a seriously inspiring message: “Our society throws crazy shade at anyone whose body differs from the models featured in Western media. The only thing that you can control is your reaction to that.”
“If I can encourage you to do anything, ask yourself ‘how do I feel?’ rather than ‘how do I look?’”
Image Credit: JessamynStanley.com