When you picture a yoga teacher, what do you see? A svelte woman in Lulus, right? Let's be honest, someone like Jessamyn Stanley isn't the first image that pops into your mind. Which is precisely why the 27 year-old North Carolina instructor wants to take our silly Western preconceptions and shatter them.
Stanley claims the typical yoga body - you know, the tight little package - can be intimidating.
“It creates more of an aspirational experience as opposed to an inspirational one," she said. "It doesn’t actually elicit what yoga should give people. 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.”
Though Stanley came upon yoga by accident (through a Groupon deal), she has since amassed 55,000 Instagram followers, and now plans to travel from state to state sharing her "yoga for all bodies" philosophy.
“We live in a society where we are trained to think that being overweight is wrong so people are going to stare at you," she said. "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.”
Stanley claims the "negative energy" women feel about their bodies is holding women back in yoga practice and in life.
“Your body is not standing in your way. Only your mind is standing in your way.”
Beyond being a role model for those wanting to practice yoga (but are too self-conscious), Stanley schools women with larger builds on practical concerns, such as "what to do with your stomach, what to do with your breasts.”
So here is someone who doesn't adhere to a socially prescribed body type confidently doing what she loves.