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Jessamyn Stanley has spent her career breaking down barriers in the wellness industry and showing that all bodies are worthy. She has written two books (Every Body Yoga and Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance) and is the founder of The Underbelly, a yoga platform where everyone can feel accepted. Here, she talks about conquering fat phobia and prioritizing self-care—no matter how busy she gets.
What role does yoga play in your life?
There’s so much in life that keeps coming up. There’s no end to the wave and the madness. What yoga has made space for is the reality that the waves are supposed to be there, the chaos is supposed to happen—that all of that is what we learn from. Ultimately, if you can ride the waves, you’re living life right.
You speak out about anti-fat bias and have suggested that we look at our own biases. Talk more about that.
I think that is the most important work—the work we do within ourselves. It’s easy to point the finger at others. Frankly, it is important for us to look at our collective experience of fat phobia and all the different ways we discriminate. We can’t really look at it on a collective scale if we’re not looking at it on an individual scale. I’ve been fat my whole life. I’ve had so many different negative experiences. I’ve experienced microaggressions every single day. It’s easy for me to be like, “That person said something harmful,” or “That place didn’t feel accepting.” It’s how I show up for myself that makes the difference. No matter where I am, if I’m doing the work on an individual level, I can find home within myself—even in a fat-phobic environment.
Your career is so busy—how do you make time for yourself?
The biggest thing for me is that my practices must be the centerpiece of my work. We can’t scale the business, we can’t add any team members, and we can’t add projects if I am not showing up to my practice—whether that is a yoga practice, going for a hike, going to the gym, meditating, journaling, reading my tarot cards, or whatever. Grounding and rooting are so crucial for me. It even means drinking water and sleeping. I schedule that stuff the same way I schedule meetings or prioritize business goals. I also try to live as close to the ground as possible. In the middle of 2021, my partner and I decided to live on the road full-time in our RV. The decision was motivated by a desire to live closer to the earth and to be outside. Running digital businesses, you can forget you’re not a robot. Being able to get outside and put my feet in the grass—that’s crucial.
Do you vision-board or write down goals?
I don’t have a physical vision board. In my 20s, I did a vision-board exercise where I was asked to [write] everything I wanted to see happen within the next five years. One of the things I said I wanted to do was publish my first book by the time I was 30. I had no idea how I was going to make that happen. My first book, Every Body Yoga, came out two months before my 30th birthday. There is a powerful connection between writing something down and speaking that truth into existence.
Interview by Bethany Heitman; Photography by Kennedi Carter