An Interview with Jessamyn Stanley, Yogi and Author
How has yoga impacted your life?
It has altered the way I see the world, the way I see myself in the world and the way I see myself of service to others. It’s made me understand that at the root of all human beings compassion. If we live that compassion fully all the time, we can change and alter the world itself.
How did you first get into it?
I came to a place in my life where I was really unhappy. I can tell you all different things, but essentially I needed to look within myself desperately. A friend suggested I try Bikram yoga. And it was an eye-opening experience. It allowed me to see all the boundaries I had created within myself, and all these sources of unhappiness that were holding me back. I was basically sleepwalking through life, not emotionally engaged at all. And in yoga, you can’t do that. You have to be 100% in it so that you can gaze at the present moment.
Has yoga changed for you throughout your life?
When I first started practicing, every physical posture seemed completely impossible to me. But I didn’t realize how many boundaries that I had within myself. When I hit those boundaries is when I was actually able to practice yoga in truth. When I transitioned to practicing at home I found Vinyasa yoga. But I’ve been influenced by a lot of different styles: Yin, Forrest, Anusara yoga, and a little Ashtanga-ish. Though the real aspect of a yoga practice is done off of the mat and transcends teacher or lineage.
How does yoga impact body positivity?
I don’t tend to link yoga and body positivity. Body positivity is an antidote to the disease of body negativity that is currently plaguing our society. Yoga is about something much bigger. Even if body negativity was not a thing, people would still need to practice yoga. Because if you’re not comfortable with your physical body, how are you going to do any of the emotional or spiritual work yoga is asking of you? If you’re still trying to find a way to say: “I deserve to exist as I am, right now”?
I really don’t tend to link yoga and body positivity… Yoga is about something much bigger.
How do you feel about practicing alone versus with others?
Both experiences are necessary. As a yoga teacher, I am empowered by the group experience, where energy pulses within and outside of us. When you link breath with other people, it becomes a moving organism outside of the individuals in the room. It’s such a profound experience, but it’s key to remember you’re having your own experience. You are here for you and not for anyone else.
Are you excited to get on ClassPass?
I’m the target ClassPasser. I do my thing, I love my yoga, I’ll try all kinds of yoga studios, but I wanna go to all different kinds of athletic classes too. ClassPass is coming into my life at an important point because I definitely put cardio on the backburner since practicing yoga.
Since we’re at a shoot for the new year, how has this past year been for you?
2018 was a year of immense change. I learned a lot about myself and my relationships. I felt my age starting to creep up on me. I’m grateful for the lessons, even if they’re painful or difficult. Ultimately, this year is taught me the grace to pick back up, regardless of what happens. The wind will blow. Just have the grace to stand in the wind.
Do you have any resolutions for next year?
My resolution for 2019 is to move my body in different kinds of ways. A part of that is trying new classes that I wouldn’t typically go to. I’ve been getting into weightlifting, which will strengthen my yoga practice, yeah, but also just make me more well-rounded.
Any advice for someone just starting out in yoga?
Don’t think about the other people in the room. No one knows what they’re doing. Don’t let your inexperience be the reason that you don’t try. Just start.
Don’t let your inexperience be the reason you don’t try.
What about advice for someone struggling with body positivity?
Remember that you are enough, exactly as you are. If you could do one thing today, start to think about how you feel as opposed to how you look to other people. Do you feel good? Does it make you feel happy? If you can answer yes to those questions, you’re doing it right