From the unforgettable teacher Jessamyn Stanley comes Every Body Yoga, a book that breaks all the stereotypes.
It’s a book of inspiration for beginners of all shapes and sizes: If Jessamyn could transcend these emotional and physical barriers, so can we.
It’s a book for readers already doing yoga, looking to refresh their practice or find new ways to stay motivated.
It’s a how-to book: Here are easy-to-follow directions to 50 basic yoga poses and 10 sequences to practice at home, all photographed in full colour.
It’s a book that challenges the larger issues of body acceptance and the meaning of beauty.
Most of all, it’s a book that changes the paradigm, showing us that yoga isn’t about how one looks, but how one feels, with yoga sequences like “I Want to Energize My Spirit,” “I Need to Release Fear,” “I Want to Love Myself.”
Jessamyn Stanley, a yogi who breaks all the stereotypes, has built a life as an internationally recognized yoga teacher and award-winning Instagram star by combining a deep understanding for yoga with a willingness to share her personal struggles in a way that touches everyone who comes to know her. Now she brings her body-positive, emotionally uplifting approach to yoga in a book that will help every reader discover the power of yoga and how to weave it seamlessly into his or her life. – Goodreads.com
Honestly, the fact that visible fat people are becoming famous athletes is something that will make me smile until the day I die. I love solo sports. I love swimming and walking, cycling, dancing, and any sport where I can participate and compete against myself with little stress. (I’m not joking when I say I’m not a competitive person.) Yoga was a sport I always thought was interesting, but in addition to it being so much harder than I thought it would be, the absence of fat people in the world of yoga often made me feel kind of uncomfortable. For a long time, there was no one to show me that fat bodies could move that way, and no appropriate clothing either. Then there was Jessamyn Stanley – fat, loud, woke, gorgeous, and absolutely OTHERWORLDY in her yoga skills. No lie, after seeing her, and the other fat yogis I start seeing after her, I decided to start yoga. Now I’m still a super beginner and only do it at home, but it’s really made a difference for me in how I feel all the time. My body feels so much different, and I can see muscles I never even thought I had before haha. That and I feel like I finally earned the yoga pants I love so much! That’s why I decided to review the book here.
Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga teacher based in North Carolina and is famous for being one of the first prominent yogis without the common “yoga body”, as well as encouraging her students to question how they feel during yoga, rather than how they look. Every Body Yoga is part memoir, and part yoga instruction manual. In it, Jessamyn explains how she started yoga, how it makes her feel, how it’s affected her life, and all the life lessons she learned along the way. There are also yoga sequences and asanas throughout the book with models of all different shapes, sizes, genders, and looks showing you how to do them and personal tips from Jessamyn.
I was so excited to read that Ms. Stanley was not immediately a yoga prodigy and that her first class was “hell on earth” (her words!). As she tells you the story of her yoga practice she regularly says “I hate this, I hated it, I wasn’t even getting what I expected out of it” but she kept doing it. Something inside of her was obviously pushing her forward.
This brings me to my favourite thing about the book which is the spiritual side of yoga. On page 35 you come to a section titled “What the fuck is the eight-limbed path?”, which explains the oft-ignored spiritual practice that accompanies the yoga asanas (the poses). Contrary to the belief of many North American yoga practitioners, yoga is an extremely spiritual WAY OF LIFE. The poses you’re all familiar are merely one branch on this 8 limbed tree of life. (it’s limb number 3 btw) I’ve never heard anything about the spiritual side of yoga from the white practitioners I’ve seen outside of some general stuff like meditation, or even working with chakras. I’m glad Jessamyn included it, and to know that some people out there are trying to bring spirituality back into the modern practice of yoga. As a spiritual person, this actually made yoga much more relatable for me.
She also had an entire chapter dedicated to having a home practice, versus practicing in a class. When she decided to start practicing at home, everything changed for her and she found new freedom within yoga. She also mentions the overall cost of yoga and yoga STUFF and stresses that you do not need to spend a lot of money to practice yoga and get something very real out of it! Again, the whole book is extremely relatable and written in a way that it has ideas and advice for everyone.
The tone throughout the book is just… if you’ve ever watched a video of Ms. Stanley or heard her speak you WILL hear her voice all the way through. She swears and tells jokes and is so beautifully honest. I could read a million books in her voice.
Even if you’re not considering practicing yoga, or if you can’t practice the usual whole-body asanas, I would recommend this book to anyone. It’s the story of a black femme growing up in our modern world, a fat person fighting for her own right to just exist and be herself, and someone who used to feel at odds with her body and how she was able to heal that. If you’ve been thinking about yoga but couldn’t see the ways yoga might change your life, or how you fit into it, this book is an excellent motivator and is full of inspiration.