Happy to introduce this month’s yogi in our Curvy Seven feature! To see everyone who has been interviewed, please click here.
1. What’s your yoga origin story?
Like (seemingly) most people, I began practicing yoga during a very difficult point in my life. I was 24, and thus completely consumed in the elementary dramatics of being that age. I was studying in a graduate program that didn’t quite fit with my ever evolving goals, as well as coping with the end of a long-term relationship. In fall 2011, one of my classmates encouraged me to purchase a groupon unlimited pass to our local Bikram yoga studio. I had actually tried Bikram once before, when I was in my teens- my experience was so overwhelmingly negative that I almost didn’t heed my friend’s advice. However, I found a great comfort in the Bikram yoga practice when I gave it a second chance- 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.
However, when I moved to Durham, North Carolina in summer 2012, I almost stopped practicing entirely because I was too financially strapped to afford practicing at Durham’s super chic and trendy (and therefore expensive) Bikram studio. It took nearly another year before I began maintaining what is now a (mostly) daily home practice. I began documenting my home practice on my Instagram account simply so I could track my progress and improve my alignment, but it’s ultimately proved to be a consistent source of invigorating energy to my practice. Through classes on yogaglo.com, I became familiar with vinyasa flow yoga, and my personal practice typically follows this style of sequencing. However, I also incorporate elements of other yoga styles into my practice as a way to work towards a type of physical yoga practice which really exists as a kind of touchstone for the members of my generation who need a spiritual space to call home.
2. What pose do you love? Loathe?
I am a backbend fanatic- I usually complete my home practice with several rounds of deep backbends including urdhva dhanurasana (wheel pose), dhanurasana (bow pose), and especially ustrasana (camel pose). At various points in my life, each of these poses has held significant importance for me because of how they have challenged my notions of my personal capabilities. However, I am not such a fan of balance postures- my sense of balance has never been that great, and I struggle with poses like Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose. However, I believe that means I just need to practice balance postures even more, simply because they clearly have quite a lot to teach me.
3. What advice would you share with other curvy yogis?
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.
4. Who’s your favorite curvy icon?
I am a big fan of Irene Pappas- like me, she is small busted and very heavy bottomed. The persistence and consistency of her practice is awe-inspiring, and she is very open about her life-long struggles with body issues. When your personal yoga practice is on public display, it’s very difficult to remain genuine about the struggles that continue to affect your daily life. Irene’s genuine attitude and spirit never fail to provide inspiration at my most desperate hour.
5. What’s your favorite yoga resource?
I am a big fan of yogaglo.com- the classes, tutorials, and blogs are an excellent stabilizer for my daily home practice. I am also a big fan of Kathryn Budig, and “The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga” is one of my favorite books to use as a quick reference for alignment and pose tips.
6. What quote inspires you?
“I wish I could show you, when you are in light or in darkness, the incredible light of your own being”- Hafiz.
I have this quote posted on a wall in the corner of my living room which doubles as my home studio. It’s a very helpful reminder for me, simply because I need to be reminded that my own light is within reach at all times. I don’t need a lover, friend, or family member to help me actualize my own greatness. This quote tells me that I can find strength within myself to become a happy and joyful being.
7. Wild card: anything else you’d like to share?
If you’re considering practicing yoga but you’re not sure if it’s for you, I’m here to tell you that it will probably change your life and you should begin practicing immediately. You are never too old, too large, or too weak- your body is ready for yoga right now. Never let your body issues stand in the way of feeling better than you ever have in your entire life.
Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga student, blogger, and advocate based in Durham, North Carolina. Her eponymous yoga lifestyle blog and Instagram attract thousands of followers daily, offering tips and advice for other yoga practitioners while documenting her home yoga practice. Jessamyn contributes to Elephant Journal, and has been featured in a variety of print and online publications including Plus Model Magazine, Yoga International, and Buzzfeed.
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