Spell Fit Club: The Hot Yoga Society
To help celebrate their launch in London, The Hot Yoga Society enlisted the help of Body Positive Activist and Instagram hero Jessamyn Stanley. We caught up with her to chat about mindfulness, meditation and striking a pose in front of the Queen
You are described as a Body Positive Advocate, what does that involve exactly?
I advocate for body positivity through every aspect of my lifestyle, from the way that I present myself to what I teach and present to others. It means I work to educate others about the importance of body positivity in all walks of life.
How did you get into yoga?
Like (seemingly) most people, I began practising yoga during a very difficult point in my life. I was 24, and thus completely consumed in the elementary dramatics of being that age. I was studying in a graduate programme that didn’t quite fit with my ever-evolving goals, as well as coping with the end of a long-term relationship. In the autumn of 2011, one of my classmates encouraged me to purchase a Groupon unlimited pass to our local Bikram yoga studio. I had actually tried Bikram once before, when I was in my teens but my experience was so overwhelmingly negative that I almost didn’t heed my friend’s advice. However, I found a great comfort in the Bikram yoga practice when I gave it a second chance. The combination of heat, repetitive sequencing, and long holds was a complete release from the stress of my daily life. I began to look forward to class in a way that I didn’t really look forward to anything else. It made me feel powerful and self-assured at a time when I couldn’t summon those emotions on my own.
Did you find yoga challenging at the beginning?
Like many people, I found asana practice to be extremely difficult in the beginning. All of the poses seemed essentially impossible, even seemingly “basic” poses like child’s pose.
Why did you decided to become a yoga teacher?
I became a teacher in response to the insane wave of people from all over the globe who desperately asked me to come and teach them. If left to my own devices, I may have never become a teacher. It wasn’t until after I underwent training, however, that I began to understand just how important it is to have a wide variety of yoga teachers in order to respond to the endlessly varied lifestyles that exist on the planet. There is no singular yoga teacher who is perfect for everyone, and therefore it’s important to have a large group to draw from.
If you could do only one pose from now on, what would it be?
I mean, I love practising inversions and other more “challenging” poses, but I really think the hip opening of deep low lunges is extremely relevant in every part of my life. They remind me to ignore mental limitations and think of my body/soul as an offering to the universe.
What is your least favourite pose and why?
My least favorite pose is usually actually my favorite pose – right now, it’s chaturanga dandasana . I mean, the immature part of me hates it because it’s so challenging. But the more mature part of me loves it for that exact reason. It’s important to be challenged and thrust out of your comfort zone whenever possible.
The typical yoga stereotype can be quiet daunting, what is your advice for those unsure they want to start because they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin?
First of all, your body is normal and perfect. Stop thinking that it should or could look any different or better than it does right now. Second, instead of placing emphasis on losing weight or “getting healthy”, just focus on feeling good. This should be your only goal when practicing yoga – getting to a place where you feel good. As curvy people, we are taught from a young age that there is something inherently wrong with our bodies. This is a mentality we need to change. Our curves give us strength and power, don’t diminish that power by believing in society endorsed negativity.
What is your view on “yoga as spiritual practice” vs. “yoga as body shaper”?
I believe that “yoga as a body shaper” is a misunderstood concept, regardless of whether or not physical benefits are perceived, actual yoga is always a spiritual practice. Actual yoga requires internal guidance and thought at every turn, a process which essentially requires a spiritual journey.
In a class full of people with wildly different aims, how do you strive to keep everyone engaged and motivated?
I strive to keep everyone engaged and motivated by reminding them of their inherent perfection and strength, regardless of what their practice physically looks like.
Where is the most unusual place that you've practised yoga?
Probably in a waiting room or bathroom, I’m always striking a warrior pose when I need a boost of strength!
What are your yoga beauty essentials?
I value basic beauty regimens: daily facial cleansing, consumption of water, regular sleep, etc. To that end, I swear by Dr. Bronner’s soap and my spin brush for facial cleansing, plentiful lemons and raw honey for daily internal cleansing, Epsom salts for soaking my sore muscles, and essential oils for balancing my energy.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Watching Netflix in my underwear while eating Chinese takeout. I particularly love binge watching soapy dramas like Revenge.
If you could have any celebrity in your class who would it be?
Plus sized models Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham. Once they start practising yoga openly, a whole new legion of curvy femmes will jump on board.
If you could pick anywhere in London to strike a yoga pose where would it be?
Outside Buckingham Palace, of course! Total cliché, but I fully intend to do it.
The Hot Yoga Society regularly offers all newcomers an introductory offer of 20 days for £35. A free Mindfulness Meditation session is also offered every Monday from 6.10pm to 6.25pm; to set yourself up for the week ahead as well as giving a taste of the benefits that mindfulness can bring.