This 'Fat, Femme Queer' Woman Proves Yoga Is for EveryBODY

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Too often, images of people working out are associated with one kind of body type only: thin and muscular. While these kinds of images portray healthy bodies, they also reinforce negative stereotypes that larger body types, or different bodies, are somehow wrong or unhealthy. Many people, particularly young women, grow up thinking they must look a certain way, and do what it takes to achieve the so-called perfect body. 

Jessamyn Stanley is here to challenge stringent ideas of what it means to be fit and beautiful. Since 2012, she's blown away the stereotypical “yoga body” by representing more diverse yogis around the world. According to Stanley’s website, she is a “fat, femme queer” woman of color, whose images and yoga classes “provide a body positive approach to yoga which celebrates students’ bodies and encourages them to ask ‘How do I feel?’ rather than ‘How do I look?’ ”

She looks at yoga from an analytical perspective, finding poses she thinks are interesting, researching their methodology and modifications using resources from her favorite website, Yoga Journal. She works her way into each pose with preparatory positions, to get her body used to the movements before moving into more advanced bodywork. In this way, she is able to concentrate on allowing yoga to help her feel better, without getting bogged down about the physical results.

Stanley wasn’t always a yoga fan. She describes her first experience with Bikram yoga as “hell on earth” but that she came around to the practice while in graduate school. That’s when she began doing yoga more regularly, and posting her progress on Instagram. 

It was social media that allowed her methodologies to reach a wider audience, one that related to her in more ways than just a shared interest in yoga. She admits on her website that she has probably lost weight from doing yoga, but that was never her ultimate goal. In fact, she says she doesn’t even weigh herself very much these days. 

“The real changes I’ve noticed in my body are not weight-related,” she says. I have much better muscle definition, stamina, endurance, and my breathing has improved dramatically... These wellness improvements are MUCH more important to me than my weight loss because they have more of an effect on my daily life.”

‘‘It’s so idealized, like, your life must be perfect if you can hold a balance posture on the beach,’’ she said, in an interview for The New York Times. ‘‘But the actual practice of yoga isn’t about that at all. The image isn’t important. The practice is.’’

Stanley has paved the way for an entire world of yogis, from all different backgrounds and abilities. By using the power of social media, she has been able to connect with communities around the world and help every body feel represented, healthy, and nurtured. 

CircleAround is spotlighting some of our favorite Wellness Warriors for National Wellness Month, running all through the month of August.

Tags: Fitness, Body Image, Body Positivity, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

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