Jessamyn Stanley on Yoga and London

Friday, March 4th 2016 0

For the launch of the Hot Yoga Society Big Weekender

This weekend, to celebrate the launch of the Hot Yoga Society Big Weekender, famous US yoga instructor Jessamyn Stanley is visiting London to host a series of classes.

Jessamyn is known for her hugely positive approach to yoga, emphasising the need to look at how you feel rather than how you look after practising. She believes that yoga has the power to hugely influence a positive state of mind and encourages women of all shapes and sizes to practise and fall in love with yoga. Challenging the assumption that yoga is only for those with a slighter frame, Jessamyn is passionate about her curves and wishes to make every woman feel brilliant about her body.

I caught up with Jessamyn ahead of her London classes to learn more about her practise.

Jessamyn, one of the things about your yoga journey that stands out for me is how focused you are on the spiritual impact it can have. What would you say are the main spiritual benefits you see in yourself through regular yoga practise?
In my eyes, yoga is always spiritual. It always requires looking within yourself for strength. When you look within yourself for strength on your yoga mat, it reminds you to look within yourself for strength when you’re off the mat as well. My yoga practice has restored a sense of internal strength which has been slowly degraded by the stresses of life, and it helps carry me forward in all kinds of life circumstances.
I know you are especially passionate about Bikram yoga. Did you try any other types of yoga, and whether yes or no, what was it about Bikram yoga that appealed to you so much? 
I started practicing Bikram yoga when I was at a very difficult part of my life – I was in a state of emotional and mental turmoil which any self-respecting doctor would have tried to medicate with prescription drugs like Xanax or Prozac. However, Bikram yoga was the exact medicine I needed. It helped restore me when I could not restore myself. The heat, lengthy pose holds, and internal gazing was better than a prescription drug. For that reason it will always hold a special place in my heart. However, I started practicing Vinyasa style yoga about three years ago and that was an additional transformational process which has greatly influenced my teaching practice.
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You’re a big believer that you can achieve great results at home or in a class environment. When practising at home, which YouTube channels do you love watching? 
I am a big fan of Kino Macgregor’s YouTube channel. I’m not an alignment freak, and Kino’s approach always helps me go much deeper in my asana practice. I also always recommend Yoga with Adriene, especially for new yoga students. Adriene Mischler has a very approachable take on yoga which is great for everyone, but especially newbies.
One of the messages I found really powerful from you was that you shouldn’t let any consciousness of your figure or ability stop you from starting a class. What advice would you give to someone watching your story, needing a boost to take that first class? 
First of all, your body is normal and perfect. Stop thinking that it should or could look any different or better than it does right now. Second, instead of placing emphasis on losing weight or “getting healthy”, just focus on feeling good.  This should be your only goal when practicing yoga – getting to a place where you feel good. As curvy people, we are taught from a young age that there is something inherently wrong with our bodies; this is a mentality we need to change. Our curves give us strength and power. Don’t diminish that power by believing in society endorsed negativity.
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You have built such a strong brand using social media but it can be a negative place when faced with unkind comments. How do you handle negative comments and block them from disrupting your positive mindset?
I ignore negative comments. Internet trolls suffer from a lack of happiness and satisfaction in their daily lives and I think they deserve compassion rather than the satisfaction of dragging me with them into a pit of despair. Radiating positivity isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely necessary. If I responded, emotionally or verbally, to all of the unkind comments I receive, I would waste so much of my life for absolutely no reason. Put simply, haters gon’ hate. 
I LOVE your bright work out wardrobe! Do you find your clothing helps to bring out the vibrancy of your message? 
I have always loved vibrant colors and patterns; my non-yoga wardrobe also reflects this love. I think fat girls are expected to hide their bodies when they exercise – we’re expected to be ashamed of our bodies. I think this is actually a way of inhibiting a positive yoga experience, and I like to wear bright colors to keep me feeling upbeat throughout my practice. It’s less about the message, and more about energizing my own life.
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You have travelled to so many places teaching yoga. Do any of the places you’ve visited have a special place in your heart or have they left you any fond memories?
I have fond memories of literally every single place I’ve taught, and I carry all of my students with me from city to city. I wouldn’t value any one city over another, although it was a very humbling and heart-warming
experience to teach in my hometown of Greensboro, NC. Even when you feel love from all over the world, it’s a very special experience to feel cradled by the town that made you into a human being. I am actually tearing up just thinking about it, so yeah, I guess Greensboro really does have a special place in my heart. 
Your home for the weekend is going to be the Hot Yoga Society in London. What are you going to do in your spare time?  
It’s my first time in London and I fully intend to strike a pose outside Buckingham Palace! I have already enjoyed exploring the city, and visiting the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square has already completely blown my mind. Y’all don’t know how lucky you are to live in a city that’s steeped in so much history.
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Jessamyn is hosting her own yoga classes this weekend at the Hot Yoga Society in London. To see the full line up and book your place, see the website below. You can also find Jessamyn on Instagram @MyNameIsJessamyn.
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