A North Carolina yogi is causing a sensation on social media by breaking down body stereotypes with her personal photos.
Jessamyn Stanley, 27, who lives in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and posts to Instagram under the handle @mynameisjessamyn, has attracted more than 42,000 followers in the last two years sharing images of challenging forearm stands and intense back bends.
The difference between Stanley and the seemingly myriad talented yogis posting online? She is a self-described “fat femme” with ample curves where others are stick straight.
“People need to see diversity, to feel included,” Stanley told ABC News. “It’s really not that I look different, it’s that I look the same as everyone else.”
A lifelong North Carolinian, Stanley was first introduced to Bikram yoga as a teenager by an enthusiastic aunt. But at the time, she was put off by the high-temperature rooms and studio experience. Years later, in college, when a friend mentioned a Groupon discount for Bikram classes, Stanley decided to give the practice a second try and this time something clicked.
“I was going through a lot of transitions and personal changes at the time, I was depressed,” she said. “And being forced to stare at yourself in the mirror and challenge your body was very useful for self-reflection. It turned out to be the saving grace of my entire life.”
But after committing to a regular practice, Stanley eventually moved and didn’t immediately have the disposable income to attend studio classes in her new neighborhood. It was then that she began doing yoga at home and documenting the experience online.
“When you practice, it’s important to note your alignment and progress,” she said. “And it’s a great way to get positive feedback from people. In the studios, there is a lot of judgment. And where I live, it was predominately white, well-educated, upper class people who attended and it tints the student’s perspective. I would feel like, ‘oh, my body will never look like that.’ So, [sharing on] social media has become a great way of feeling normal about being different.”
The attention she’s since received does at times detract from the original intent of recording her postures. But, Stanley reasoned, it’s not a bad thing.
“Sometimes I do wish I would get more feedback that was along the lines of ‘let’s talk about how we can all strengthen our practices,’” she acknowledged. “But if people are more focused on my physique, and connecting with someone they can look to as a peer in this life struggle… if you feel like there’s someone who really gets where you’re coming from, that’s way more powerful.”
Stanley, who currently also teaches classes in Durham, N.C., will embark on a yoga tour in select cities this fall with a fellow “curvaceous teacher.” There are also plans for a full-figured retreat next year.
“My big thing now is trying to be as accessible as I can to as many people as possible,” said Stanley. “I’ve always felt the yoga community is badly cloistered and it’s really important to me to make it clear that it’s for everyone.”
Today I was fat shamed.
I had been craving cheese fries and Nathan’s hot dog nuggets all day long….ALL DAY LONG. It was a strong craving, so I decided to treat myself to 15 pieces of hot dog nuggets and cheese fries with extra cheese.
First of all I was the only woman on-line for fast food, which made me feel supper weird and uncomfortable. But I pushed through, even though I felt like I was standing out and that people were silently judging me I decided to not let their ignorance get in the way of my meal. So I ordered, in an albeit hushed voice…especially when I asked for the extra cheese.
So I was already feeling fat and uncomfortable after I had placed and picked up my order. When on-line I noticed women eyeing me, you know that up and down look of judgment that says “who does she think she is” or “what’s wrong with her.” These silent looks of judgment reveal that they secretly have deep held insecurities, so again I pushed through.
But the final hit came when I stepped up to the cashier. She asked what I had ordered and I told her “large cheesy fires with 15 pieces of hot dog nuggets.” Her response, a facial expression of shock and judgment followed by the question “15?!”, which was really a statement of judgment rather than a question. Of course being me, I made excuses for my order saying that “it was just one of those days.” What really sucks is that I felt the need to excuse myself, like I had made a mistake. I was craving for cheesy fries and hot dog nuggets, I don’t eat it everyday and I was so damn tired of salad. So what the hell is wrong with a little salty fried cheesy goodness every once in a while?
This is the reason I deal with so much self-hate. Not because I innately hate myself, but because everyone else makes me feel like crap, like something is wrong with me, and like I should hate myself.
Today brought to mind a video I recently watched on “feeling fat.” It speaks to the truth of body shamming, acceptance, and self-love. The struggle for self-love is so real, and Caroline Rothstein speaks to it with grace, confidence, and honesty.
Wishing you self-love and acceptance.
“If you can’t do great things, then do small things in a great way.” ~Napoleon Hill
“Dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not and to believe in your own individuality.” ~Henri-Frederic Amiel
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~Melody Beattie
“Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.” ~ Margaret Walker
“Good manners sometimes means simply putting up with other people’s bad manners.” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” ~ Emily Post
“We have two ears and one tongue so that we could listen more and talk less.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope