Jessamyn Stanley is a plus-sized African-American yoga instructor, writer, social media influencer, and podcast host. A self-described “fat femme”, she is working towards breaking the stereotypes about beauty within the yoga community. As a yoga teacher, she is involved with the Durham Yoga Company in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, offers online yoga classes via the CodyApp.com platform, and also travels around the world to teach yoga. She published the book 'Every Body Yoga: Let Go Of Fear, Get On The Mat, Love Your Body' in 2017 and is currently writing its sequel. She also delivers lectures about body politics at national conferences, brand market research discussions, and university speaking engagements. She recently hosted a Stitcher Premium advice podcast about the realities of living the 'yoga lifestyle' in the 21st century. She has served as the brand ambassador for Kotex, Lane Bryant, and Motrin on their national campaigns. She also aims to fill in the "gaping style holes in the plus size apparel industry" by developing her own eponymous plus size athletic wear line. In 2016, she received the 'Healthy Living' award at the '8th Annual Shorty Awards'. She has gathered over 365k followers on her Instagram profile.
Rise to Stardom
There have been a few incidents in her life that pushed Jessamyn Stanley towards yoga. For example, when her high school sweetheart broke up with her, it led her into a deep depression which inspired her to turn to yoga to feel good about her body. In 2011, she received a Groupon pass to her local Bikram yoga studio, which she loved as size discrimination was minimal. Her father was furious when she dropped out of school without completing her graduation, but did pay for her yoga classes despite not caring about her passion for yoga or her interest in social media.
In 2012, following a relocation, she found it difficult to fund her yoga classes and decided to do yoga at home and upload pictures of her progress on Instagram to get feedback on her form and technique from the online yoga community. While she never thought that her oversized figure would be a hindrance for doing yoga, comments from surprised people on her photographs of doing difficult poses shocked her at first, but encouraged her to set a new trend by more aggressively showing people what she was able to do despite being 'fat'. According to her, she felt strong despite her figure and gradually inspired more and more people from around the world with her body-positive approach to yoga. She gained recognition from the online community for the first time after she was awarded the 'Shorty Award for Healthy Living' in 2016. Since then, her unique and inspiring story has been covered by most leading news outlets and TV shows including 'Good Morning America', 'The Daily Mail', 'New York Magazine', 'The Sunday Times', 'New York Times' Women In The World', and 'People'. She is now widely celebrated for her refreshing teaching method and has become a spokesperson for body positivity. She often expresses her thoughts in her articles for various publications including 'Mind Body Green', 'Wanderlust', and 'Elephant Journal'.
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What Makes Jessamyn Special
Jessamyn Stanley makes sure to emphasize that body positivity doesn't actually come from simply doing yoga. While it has been found by researchers that people who do yoga are more aware and acceptant of their bodies, the feeling of being confident in one's own skin should come from within. She encourages her students to ask questions about their bodies that they were not asking before, and shift from "How do I look?" to "How do I feel?" She teaches her students to use high energy vinyasa flow as a way to move past mental and emotional barriers. Based on her own experiences, she also mentions that yoga instructors often think that overweight people need help with training, and in their attempt to provide assistance, make the students uncomfortable. Now a trained instructor herself, she makes sure to provide guidance after determining the specific student's need for it. Commenting on the trend of creating separate "fat" yoga studios, she mentioned that while it can be comforting for some to go to classes specifically for oversized people, such discrimination might encourage people to categorize themselves within one group or the other.
Jessamyn Stanley was born on June 27, 1987 in Dunham, North Carolina. While she dropped out of school before completing graduation, she attended yoga class by Kimberley Puryear of Asheville Yoga Center’s 230-hour Teacher Training Program and later trained as an instructor. She maintains a membership at Manhattan co-working space The Wing, but contrary to what people think, she actually refuses to move to New York City due to lack of fresh air and high cost of living.