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Jessamyn Stanley Works to Promote Body Positivity Through Yoga

Photos: Courtesy of Christine Hewitt

The 30-year-old, who lives in North Carolina, didn’t always love yoga. She tried it in high school and hated it. Then eight years ago, she tried it again and loved it. But it wasn’t easy.

“The postures seemed impossible, l was always the largest person in the room, frequently one of the only people of color,” she says. “It was a very alienating experience but it made me push myself in ways I was not doing.”

Stanley defies yoga stereotypes. She knows it’s for people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ethnicities. She’s adopted the nickname Fat Femme, a term that for her, is not a derogatory but rather a truthful description of herself — a curvy, queer femme.

“If you show up exactly as you are, you will get everything that you need,” says Stanley, who explains yoga is therapeutic. “If you have any struggle, if you feel any sense of doubt, that is the reason to try yoga.” 

Yes to Yoga

The body positive Stanley uses her high energy vinyasa flow to help her move past mental and emotional barriers. Bullied as a kid, she’s spent most of her life body shaming herself. Yoga is helping her reshape her thinking.

TAKING BACK: Stanley gave herself the nickname “fat femme” to take back the negative connotations and accurately describe herself and continue to thrive in the yoga studio.

“I can be fat and beautiful, I can be fat and athletic, fat and smart, fat and strong,” she says.


Stanley’s book, “Every Body Yoga,” a beginner’s guide to yoga, is a success. She’s already working on the follow-up, to be published next year. In it, she shares her yoga journey with her 366,000 Instagram fans. 

FINDING LOVE: Stanley’s relatonship to her body has improved through doing yoga. No longer does she dwell on fatshaming herself. “I can be fat and beautiful… and strong,” she says.

Stanley recalls that while it was initially hard to share photos of herself, she gradually became more comfortable with inviting fans into her life. 

“This is a therapy for myself,” she says. “A part of me trying to feel better about looking at myself is to actually look at myself.”

Kristen Castillo, [email protected]

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