Jessamyn Stanley stands out from the crowd. Picture: Instagram
Jessamyn Stanley stands out from the crowd. Picture: Instagram

International Women's Day: Jessamyn Stanley on the power of accepting yourself and defining your own health

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Mar 8, 2021

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There are many fitness fanatics on social media who offer exercise and health and wellness tips, but Jessamyn Stanley stands out from the crowd.

And if you follow her on her social media you’ll understand why her posts doing headstands, the splits and advanced balancing poses have gone viral.

Body-positivity advocate, adidas ambassador and yoga instructor, Stanley, is changing the narrative that yoga is only practised by “thin, affluent and white people.

Her online yoga studio - The Underbelly, based in Durham, North Carolina - is the base from which she has a global reach. It’s from here that Stanley encourages people of all different colours, shapes and sizes to practice yoga.

She is part of an adidas global campaign called Watch Us Move, an initiative that supports and celebrates female participation in sport. The campaign also has an activewear collection that enables women from all walks of life to move freely.

“It’s important for all humans to see themselves represented in the mainstream, so we can all work towards accepting ourselves. When I saw this campaign, I wish I could have seen this when I was child, hating myself. Being part of this campaign and knowing that I’m part of this narrative makes it feel like it’s so important and necessary,” says Stanley.

“I’ve lived in this body my whole life but mainstream representation has only been a topic in the past few years. Expanding the narrative is important, If you have never seen someone like you in major media outlets, you think you don’t exist and your experience is important. When we increase visibility for everyone, we make space for people to tell their stories and lift up voices to be heard.”

Jessamyn Stanley. Picture: Supplied

Speaking on how people should approach health, Stanley says, “health is so much more than your physical body, your body is always changing, it’s like a constant evolution. There is also something different that is going to happen, car accidents, pregnancy or even ageing- your body is always changing.

“What is important is how your mental and emotional body link together with your physical body all link together to be your spiritual body. If you are linked into your mental or emotional body that will help you take care of your physical body. Being able to understand health as multifaceted issues is important’.

“You should also know that everything about you, is exactly how it should be. You don’t have to change anything. You need to be the way that you are right now. You can do anything you want about your body, but you have to accept that you are the way that you are. I don’t think that I have perfectly accepted my body but everyday I show up to the work of accepting myself.”

Globally, exercising at home has increased with more people creating home workout spaces because of the pandemic. But for some people - particularly those with smaller spaces, this has been a discouragement for their routine. However,Stanley says people should create training places and not stop exercising because of the pandemic. “ When I started practising at home. I was living in a tiny apartment, we didn't have space for my sessions. I used my dad’s old palate mat. I would push things in one direction and have my yoga session then push them back into place after that”

If you are looking for unique ways to make your home feel like a yoga studio, Stanley says you can include flowers, candles or crystals while practising. She says you could also use online classes to help you build a community.

Stanley also released a class under the Watch Me Move Campaign, her classes provide a body positive approach to yoga which celebrates students’ bodies and encourages them to ask “How do I feel?” rather than “How do I look?

Exercising at home doesn’t have to be hard work and with the right social media inspiration like Jessamyn Stanley is dishing up you won’t lack any inspiration especially not to get more flexible and move your body.

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