Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga teacher and body positive advocate working to redefine yoga. As someone who couldn’t initially afford yoga classes or doesn’t look like the typical yogi, Jessamyn is changing the conversation and making yoga more accessible to everybody. FLURT’s Sorcha Connor-Boyle spoke with Jessamyn over the phone to ask her a few questions about how far yoga is progressing and what she’d like to see in the future.
Sorcha: You say your first yoga experience was hell on earth, and I’m sure a lot of people have also had this experience. What made you stay with it?
Jessamyn: When I first tried [yoga], I was 16. I’ve always been overweight, at least as long as I can remember. My aunt at the time was really into Bikram Yoga. She was like, “Yeah, you’ll love it! It’s going to change your life. It’s so purifying.” And you know, I’m fat and I’m 16, so I’m like, “Yeah this will be great! I’ve always wanted to lose weight! I’ll do it!” I went and it was just so terrible. Everything about it was difficult for me: The breathing, the heat of the room, the postures. I remember at one point leaving the room [because I was nauseas]. When I re-entered the room I was like, “Oh my god this is terrible. I’m never doing this again. I’m done with it. It’s not for me.”
Seven years later, one of my friends had joined Bikram. She was like, “This class is going to change your life.” I was going through a very difficult time in my life. She just kept pushing me to do it and I was like, “Okay, whatever – I’ll give it a try.” And I loved it. It wasn’t that I was able to practice all the poses to the most difficult variation, and it wasn’t easy for me. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. And it just seemed so out of reach and felt so good to try – to step out on a limb and say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here but I’m just going to give it a try.” The feeling was a medicine that I didn’t even know I needed, and it gave me so much clarification. It’s something I needed to come back to as an adult.
Read the rest of our interview with Jessamyn in the new issue!