Tagged: fitness

Badass Bodies: Jessamyn Stanley’s Love for Yoga

Google images of “yoga teacher” and you’ll see society’s narrow interpretation of the term: lots of fit looking white women wearing tight yoga pants smiling tranquilly as they bend into boat pose. Never mind that the practice itself developed in India during the fifth and sixth centuries BCE or that Western versions typically dilute the original blend of physical, mental, and spiritual practice down to a slim-centric fitness routine. With the history and goals of the practice stripped away, people frequently associate yoga with what Lululemon’s CEO preaches: a means for white, thin women to maintain their figures.

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Image courtesy of Jessamyn Stanley

As a curvy, black yogi, Jessamyn Stanley defies the yoga teacher stereotype. But don’t get it twisted: if you take a class with her, she will wear you out on the mat. The Durham, North Carolina-based teacher admits that when she tried Bikram yoga at age 16, she utterly hated it. But as a graduate student, she returned to the practice and decided to give it a second try. Without the pressures of teen angst distracting her, Stanley was able to throw herself into the sequence and left feeling exhausted and content. Since then, she’s incorporated Bikram-style poses with other forms of yoga to develop her own style.  In her classes, Stanley encourages students to be themselves, experiment with the poses, and try new modifications without fear of failure or criticism.

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Image courtesy of Jessamyn Stanley

In spite of her body-accepting style, people constantly ask her, “Will I lose weight through yoga?” In Stanley’s opinion, losing weight does not naturally equate good health. She explains that, while weight loss may occur, she chooses to focus on how students feel rather than the number on the scale. Stanley adds, ” used to suffer from near constant mild lower back pain- this pain is essentially nonexistent now. Also, I have much better muscle definition, stamina, endurance, and my breathing has improved dramatically. Not to mention that my mental clarity has improved greatly, and my mood shifts (which used to be a little unpredictable) are much more stable.”

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Image courtesy of Jessamyn Stanley

Want to take a class with Jessamyn? You don’t have to trek down to Durham this summer; she and her friend Dana are gearing up for a fall tour. If you’re on the Eastern Seaboard, check the photo above for upcoming tour dates and be sure to follow her on social media for future updates.