Jessamyn Stanley is kicking asana in the yoga world. Here, she walks us through five poses for a rejuvenating spring practice
If you had told 28-year-old Jessamyn Stanley after her first horrible yoga class experience—the breathing! The sweating!—that she would one day be teaching the ancient practice full-time, not only in her hometown of Durham, NC, but also in places like Dubai and London, she would’ve called you crazy. But during a particularly dark time in her life, Stanley tried yoga again and fell in love, both with its mentally therapeutic benefits and with the way it boosted her body-positivity. “[It’s] been unbelievably transformational in the way that I see myself and in the way I’m able to hold myself, not just on the yoga mat, but in every other part of my life,” Stanley says. Now she shares her practice with more than 154,000 Instagram followers. And though she doesn’t feel like she’s on a mission, she is actively shutting down fat shamers and raising the visibility of plus-size yogis. While it’s easy to think of yoga as a rich girl’s realm, it doesn’t have to be. “I was practicing on my dad’s old pilates mat in my house for so long,” Stanley says. “I made [yoga] blocks out of VHS tapes, and wore busted shorts from Walmart.” So what are you waiting for? This sequence, that she put together especially for BUST, will shake you out of the winter doldrums and help open up your body.
Pose 1: Downward-Facing Dog Come to your hands and knees, keeping your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide on the mat and curl your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Pose 2: Low Lunge Exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands, knee over heel. Lower your left knee to the floor and, keeping the right knee fixed in place, slide the left leg back until you feel a comfortable stretch. Inhale and lift your torso upright. Keep the hands on blocks or sweep your arms up, lifting your chest. Hold for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side. Return to downward-facing dog.
Pose 3: Lizard Lunge Step your right foot between your hands. Bring both forearms to the floor inside the right leg. Keep your left leg and inner left thigh lifting and resisting. As your left heel reaches back, your heart pumps forward to create length. Modify by bringing your back knee down or placing your forearms on a block. Stay for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Pose 4: Runner’s Lunge From lizard lunge, release your back knee to the mat, place hands on either side of the front foot, and shift your hips back until your front leg is straight. Engage the leg muscles to protect the hamstring, and fold forward. Press the top of the back foot and the back toes down to help keep the tailbone long. Stay for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Pose 5: Crescent Pigeon Pose Come to hands and knees; draw your right knee to the floor near your right hand. Bring your flexed right foot to the floor by your left knee. Slide your left leg back and lower it. Sit upright with your hands on the ground, or fold forward. To deepen the pose, bend your left knee, reach toward your foot with your right hand and bend your left elbow, sliding your left foot into the crook of that arm. Clasp your left hand with your right and lift your arms so the right elbow points straight up. Draw your heart up; root down through your hips. Hold for 5-10 breaths and switch sides.
By Lisa Butterworth
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2016 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
More from BUST