Jessamyn Stanley was training to become a food stylist when she started photographing herself practising yoga. “It was just another thing to take pictures of,” says the now-certified yoga teacher and unexpected influencer.
Her journey began in 2012, when she dived headfirst into the practice at home rather than at yoga classes, which she found expensive and discouraging since the majority of participants and teachers were slim and bendy—unlike her. Her Instagram account, @mynameisjessamyn, has since amassed 295 K followers for her mastery of difficult poses (handstand, scorpion and crow) and advocacy of body positivity. She also released her first book, Every Body Yoga, in April. In it, she writes: “I wrote this book for every fat person…. I wrote it for every person who has called themselves ugly and every person who can’t accept their beauty. I wrote it for every person who is self-conscious about their body.” (We raise our collective hands.)
Stanley’s success means she gets to travel to teach classes and speak at conferences to help people find their own beauty. But there is a downside to her Insta fame. “You end up portraying yoga as this kind of lifestyle to seek,” she says. “The whole point of practising yoga is that you are trying to get rid of that—even on the most basic level—through the words you use and in the ways that you tread around on the Earth.” Exposing her flesh in twisty poses inspires followers as much as it incites detractors. “Say what you would like to say,” she says. “This is the realization that I’ve come to after being bullied for my weight my entire life. After a certain point you have to recognize that these people are sad and they want you to be sad, too.” Losing her cool is not her vibe; she lets it be. “I don’t delete, I don’t block, I don’t care.”
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