If asked to describe a person who does yoga, someone who is thin, flexible and almost always white might come to mind. But Jessamyn Stanley is here to change that image and turn the idea of what a yogi should look like on its head.
With over 467,000 Instagram followers and over 57,000 YouTube subscribers, wellness influencer, social justice and LGBTQIA+ advocate and all-around badass Jessamyn Stanley has built a loyal following of fans who tune in for her body-positive yoga practice. She’s shined in ad campaigns for both Gatorade and Adidas. And she created The Underbelly Yoga as an inclusive space for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. Her welcoming community doesn’t turn anyone away and instead lets members define wellness on their own terms. But just in case you were thinking she can’t bend and stretch like the skinny girls, think again. This girl’s got moves!
When she’s not practicing yoga, she’s writing about it. Jessamyn Stanley is a regular contributor to SELF magazine and the author of two books, “Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear. Get On the Mat. Love Your Body,” and “Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance.” She’s also the founder of the cannabis justice organization, We Go High NC which was founded on the premise that “No One Should Be In Jail For Weed.”
But once you get too high, there’s always someone waiting to knock you down. You know you’re blowing up when the haters start coming after you. Stanley’s brand of body positivity has ruffled the feathers of the usual suspects. Donald Trump Jr. to Instagram to express his disapproval. Stanley also caught the attention of Piers Morgan, who took issue with Cosmopolitan for placing her on the cover, accusing them of celebrating obesity and using her image for clicks.
For her part, Stanley takes it all in stride and uses her practice to heal. “American yoga is the perfect container for us to deal with so many systemic problems. When you accept your faults and the faults of others, that’s yoga,” Stanley said in an interview with CNN. “I don’t know that there is any other way for us to heal systemic racism without developing a practice of having compassion for ourselves and then reflecting that compassion to others. First, we need to accept that we sometimes say or do the wrong thing. Once you accept that about yourself, it’s easier to accept that about other people.”