fitness · yoga

I have a yoga crush on Jessamyn Stanley

If you haven’t heard of Jessamyn Stanley, today’s your lucky day. Let me introduce you…

Content warning: some of her quotes include copious profanity, which I will coyly edit with **s. Not sure why, but I figured I would. So know those words will be there, and you’ll know what they are, but there will be a little editing.

Now on to the post proper.

The world is complicated.

A very cute cartoon ghost saying "duh".
A very cute cartoon ghost saying “duh”.

Likewise the world of yoga. Especially the world of commercialized western yoga. As some bloggers have pointed out (definitely read this article if you’re interested), it tends to look like this:

A group of white women, dressed all in white, seated on yoga mats.
A group of white women, dressed all in white, seated on yoga mats.

There are a few worries that this picture provokes for me:

  • the extreme whiteness of yoga here in North America
  • the extreme thinness of yoga here in North America
  • the Westernization/appropriation of yoga here in North America

Jessamyn Stanley takes aim at all three of these things, and she obliterates them in one fell swoop. Or rather, one swell soliloquy, found on her FB page:

Short story- yoga is not about practicing yoga postures perfectly it’s about peeling back the layers of bullsh*t that envelop all of us.

That means I DONT GIVE A F**KKKK if you follow along perfectly with the sequences… Literally couldn’t care less.

You can legit spend the whole class in #corpsepose and I will be so happy for your *ss because we’re not in a dance troupe and this isn’t synchronized swimming or any sh*t where we need to move in tandem. You just do what you need to do and we gon be alright.

Yoga is not exercise.
Yoga is not fitness.

Don’t bring fitness bullsh*t to my yoga class and we’ll be square.

YES. I am living for this.

We’re not in a dance troupe.

Modern dance troupe at work.
Modern dance troupe at work.

This isn’t synchronized swimming.

Synchronized swimmers, looking up with arms raised out of the water.
Synchronized swimmers, looking up with arms raised out of the water.

So if yoga isn’t fitness and it isn’t exercise, then what should we look for? Jessamyn says it’s not anyone’s job to serve as our inspiration.

What authority do I have to intentionally inspire? I’m just like anyone else. I wake up, I fall down, I make mistakes. I’ve got wildly contradictory and problematic opinions. I’m vengeful and I can be quite spiteful. I’m jealous, and I allow my jealousy to cloud my judgments.

And yes, I practice yoga. I practice yoking the light and the dark in life. And yes, I’m shamelessly fat.

But my goal is not to inspire other people. I don’t think desiring followership is in the best interest of any yoga practice, let alone mine.

(Honestly, I think the best way to inspire people is to mind your f*cking business, drink water, get some sleep, and keep your spirit moisturized.)

Most excellent advice, in my view.

Jessmyn’s book Every Body Yoga, is great, with lots of honest stories and good tips about how to put together a yoga practice that works for you.

The cover of Jessamyn's book, with her doing a hard yoga pose.
The cover of Jessamyn’s book, with her doing a hard yoga pose.

But her FB page and Instagram feeds are presenting, confronting and sharing ideas about self, size, love, acceptance, acceptability, breaking with conventions, and instigating new conventions. Here’s an example:

Jessamyn, in a bra and panties standing beside a stereo. Her quote: Is being fat and black only chill when it makes other people feel good about themselves? #fat
Her quote: Is being fat and black only chill when it makes other people feel good about themselves? #fat

And this:

Jessamyn Stanley, covered in green and yellow paint, on her yoga mat.
Jessamyn Stanley, covered in green and yellow paint, on her yoga mat.

The quote with this picture is long, and worth reading:

I tend to revel in anger. Especially when it’s justifiable. My anger manifests as a fiery weapon & I gleefully burn away everything in my path. But maybe yoga is supposed to help manage my weapons before I accidentally hurt myself. Digging into Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider” for @spirithouse_inc’s Harm Free Book Zone has got me ready to amp on everyone in my life who refuses to admit that they’re complicit in upholding white supremacy. Although, if I’m being completely honest, I’m mostly just angry at myself. Angry that I am complicit in white supremacy. Angry that I officially spent my entire adolescence and young adulthood trying to buy into a system that will never let me in. Angry because, much as I loathe it, I CONTINUE to actively buy into this sh*t every day. And I think it would be quite easy to never do any analysis of this emotional circuit.

But yoga is a hand at the nape of my neck and it’s literally pushing my face into the mirror of truth. And I’m really f*cking grateful for that. Because while I’m actually quite happy with my anger (frankly, it arouses me), if I keep lighting everything on fire a b*tch will be burned alive. And why you use a perfectly good blaze to burn down your own ship, Jessamyn. #yoga

Yes. I’m listening, Jessamyn. Keep talking.

Hey readers, do you have any online activity crushes right now? Who am I missing out on? Let us know.

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