Jessamyn Stanley’s yoga expertise and her focus on body positivity has propelled her career.
Stanley, an African-American, queer and larger-than-average yoga teacher who lives in Durham, humbly downplays her accomplishments. But her new partnership with The New York Times is tough to ignore.
“Honestly what means the most to me about The Times is that, yo, they’re actually trying to show representation,” Stanley told The News & Observer. “You don’t even see that on the yoga industry standard. Yoga Journal has yet to put a fat black person on the cover of their magazine — or even a fat person period.”
Smarter Living, a section of The New York Times, features Stanley in a new series in which readers ask questions about health or fitness and get answers from some of the industry’s most most qualified athletes in yoga, running, indoor cycling and personal training.
“We looked for fitness professionals who knew their stuff, first and foremost, but who were also relatable,” Smarter Living’s editorial director, Karron Skog, wrote in an email to The N&O.
“The questions readers have about fitness are quite personal. If they are able to see a bit of themselves in the people they’re asking, it’s more likely they will find the answers useful and actionable.”
Stanley said her first encounter with yoga years ago was “hell on Earth,” but she went on to become a yoga teacher and author of “Every Body Yoga.”
She regularly travels to teach yoga classes across the country and chronicles her ideas and experiences on her podcast and Instagram account. She continues to teach some classes in Durham when she can.
Stanley said that “to be a fat, black, queer, southern yoga teacher ... there’s so few of us. There’s so little representation.”
Stanley kicked off the Smarter Living series last week. She has answered questions from yoga novices, a golfer looking to improve his game and teachers seeking advice on gear. Most are questions she’s received before and is happy to answer again.
“It’s very isolating to feel as though you’re the only person who doesn’t understand something,” Stanley said. “For me it’s really nice to be able to be like, ‘No dude, literally everyone has this question. It’s so common.’”
The opportunity to share her wisdom through The New York Times is special, she said.
“I wouldn’t usually say this, but it just really means a lot to me,” she said. “That’s not to say other things don’t mean a lot; it’s just that I usually can put my blinders on and be very focused on living in the light of my practice.”