Jessamyn Stanley isn’t your average yogi, so it makes sense that her new book, “Every Body Yoga,” isn’t your average yoga book. Part comprehensive guide, part reveal-all memoir, the book (Workman, $16.95) is refreshingly frank, laugh-out-loud funny and more than a bit profane (F-bomb alert!). Stanley, who calls herself a “yoga enthusiast and fat femme,” believes that everyone can practice yoga and that yoga can help everyone move past the obstacles in their lives.
Q: Why did you write “Every Body Yoga”?
A: Everywhere I go, I get questions about yoga. And I get why people have questions. Is it a religion? An exercise? A diet? I thought I’d never have the time to answer all the questions I get, so I decided to write a book.
I know there are lots of yoga books. But there are very few books about modern yoga that tell the truth about how most people come to yoga. Typically, a yoga practice is rooted in some kind of life event, a trauma, an injury, an unmet need.
Q: You differentiate between ancient and modern yoga. Why?
A: Ancient yoga is very deeply rooted in Hinduism. Since yoga has come to the West, it’s very different here. It’s a new, modern kind of yoga. It’s still a spiritual practice. The union of breath and movement and looking within yourself is a deeply spiritual practice. But it’s not religious. Yoga is a therapeutic and healing practice that helps you build up from the inside.
Q: Whom did you write your book for?
A: It’s for every single person who ever felt left out in a physical sense, who ever felt left behind. I wanted to write from the perspective not of a teacher, but of a friend. To say, “Yeah, I know what it’s like.”
Q: You bared your soul — and your curvy body — in this book. Why was it important to do so?
A: It was hard, but it was necessary. To explain how and why I started practicing yoga, I needed to go into depth about my life, my problems with alcohol abuse, my problems with dieting. I didn’t do it to say, “Look at me!” These experiences, while personal, are so universal. My story isn’t unique. It’s an every-person story.
Q: You’re an evangelist for the body-positive movement. Tell us about it.
A: To me, body positive means a space that allows you to be exactly what you are. Never any judgment. No one is staring at you, the teacher’s not hawking you because she’s afraid you’ll take a wrong step and fall over.
It sounds radical, but it’s what should be happening in every yoga class. It’s what should be happening in the world.
Q: You cover almost everything — from the history of yoga, to how to roll out a mat, to annotating individual poses. Why is your book so thorough?
A: I wanted people to be able to dip their toes into the practice immediately after reading the book.
Q: So, that’s your message in a nutshell?
A: Yes. Start practicing yoga today. Right now. As soon as you finish reading this, and my book. You think you can’t, but you can. And it’s going to change your life.