Jessamyn Stanley, yoga teacher, body positivity advocate, and author of Every Body Yoga, didn’t find her transformational yoga practice until she was in graduate school. But once she did, it was a major life pivot point.
Before she started doing yoga, Stanley says she wasn’t challenging herself or pushing past her boundaries. “I was not trying to see within myself. [Once I started doing yoga,] being able to see that truth and know that there is something beneath the skin, something that pure and bright, was really profound for me.”
This discovery is what drives Stanley to teach yoga — she believes that everyone deserves to have that same awakening.
Stanley works to make her practice inclusive for people with different body types, ages, and backgrounds, with the goal of welcoming everyone into the space. During her workshop at the Quaker Rise & Thrive Wellness Festival, held on November 3 in Malibu, Calif., she encouraged her students to use yoga as a tool to help focus on what’s important. “We live in a world that puts a very high premium on the way we look as opposed to how we feel,” Stanley says. “There’s so much emphasis on photos and marketing and putting yourself out there. Ultimately, yoga asks us to do the exact opposite.”
Stanley points out that when we do yoga, we engage in mindful thinking about how we feel right now, rather than how we look right now. And while we’re going to be in a different place emotionally, physically, and spiritually every time we step onto the mat, it’s always helpful to reconnect with where we are in the moment, and how we feel.
Life is full of big changes. But yoga is meant to help ease us into those transitions. One of Stanley’s favorite tools for staying calm and grounded is returning to a focus on your breath.
“You can always retreat to a deep inhale through the nose, and a deep exhale through the nose,” Stanley says. “Regardless of what kind of background you come from or what you do for work, or anything else, if you can breathe, you can do this practice.”
This article was produced by Thrive Global and sponsored by Quaker.