Your new must-follow Instagrammer is Jessamyn Stanley. A self-professed “yoga enthusiast and fat femme,” the 27-year-old yoga teacher has posted over 500 Instagram photos of herself in every yoga pose you can imagine. But what’s even more impressive than her mastery of yoga is her inspiring body positivity.
Stanley doesn’t have the body type that you typically think of when you think of Lululemon yoga pants, but she rocks every pose she strikes and wants to make sure her students and followers know they can too. She bares her stomach proudly, and always includes inspirational captions, reminding followers to “celebrate the small victories” as they start learning.
“In this life, I’m usually not learning anything unless my tits are hanging out and I’m one errant exhale from falling flat on my ass,” reads one of my favorite of her captions from a month ago. “#effyourbeautystandards #honoryourcurves”
Stanley’s not just tackling yoga poses in her photos and classes, she’s redefining beauty standards and challenging the often skinny-centric world of yoga to broaden horizons.
“I love showing up to teach a class where my students are obviously expecting a more svelte teacher and they are surprised by a curvaceous black femme with the mouth of a drunken sailor,” Stanley captioned another photo. “My classes are pro-everything — swearing, laughing, farting & everything in between. I like to create an environment where it’s cool to be yourself, even if being yourself means sweating and farting your way through vinyasas and exhaling in expletives.”
As someone who has always been personally intimidated by yoga, Stanley’s images strike a chord with me. Yoga often seems unapproachable to me, perhaps a result of the seemingly effortless yoga-pants-chic that some women pull off (or the fact that I can barely touch my toes). But Stanley makes yoga seem approachable, regardless of your skill level or your shape.
I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so. Four years after she started practicing, Stanley now has over 56,000 Instagram followers. She’s a yoga teacher, but she’s working just as hard to teach her students and followers self-love.
“Our society throws crazy shade at anyone whose body differs from the models featured in Western media,” Stanley told the Huffington Post in an interview. “I always tell people (especially women) to stop sending negative energy into their bodies and thoughts. That negative energy is responsible for all body unhappiness.”
As if her motivating body positivity wasn’t inspirational enough, get this: Stanley taught herself most of the yoga she knows.
While she first discovered her passion in Bikram classes in 2011, taking official classes eventually became too expensive to continue. But Stanley didn’t let that stop her. Instead, she used online videos and sites like the Yoga Journal’s Pose Index to teach herself Vinyasa yoga.
“The only person in control of your life experience is you.” Stanley continued, “Find the space and love to believe in yourself if only for your overall well-being.”
Gigglers based near Durham, North Carolina — you’re in luck, because that’s where Stanley’s teaching. To make sure yoga is accessible to everyone, of all shapes and with any budget, she teaches two Pay What You Can classes each week. (Note to self: Add generosity to her list of inspiringly awesome attributes).
For now at least, the rest of us will just have to wait until Stanley achieves her goal of teaching classes all over the world (she’s starting with a tour of the eastern United States coming soon!). In the meantime, we can satisfy ourselves by learning the poses on her Instagram. Here are a few more of my favorite pics: