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Durham yogi challenges stereotypes on journey to self-acceptance

Posted July 5

— Jessamyn Stanley says it was, indeed, a low point in her life that brought her to yoga.

"Ultimately, the journey of self-acceptance is very lonely," she said. "It's sad at points. It's scary. You are putting your body into these situations and putting your mind into these situations that take you further than where you were before."

Originally form Greensboro, 29-year-old Staley, who struggled with depression and with her body image, is now in the spotlight. She is one of the fearless leaders of the body-positive movement.

"Whenever you talk about the people that practice yoga, it is typically people of means," Stanley said. "People who have the extra time and the money. It is people who are typically educated, and it is predominately white people."

Jessamyn Stanley

But Stanley, an African-American yogi, is not your typical slim, white woman. She is working to break the stereotypes.

“The way that we practice yoga in the west is very much an appropriation of something that is deeply rooted in south Asian culture, and the larger truths of yoga, the pursuit of looking within the self, the search for balance, these things don't know a specific culture," she said.

And while she practices in Durham, Stanley is becoming recognized worldwide. She has been featured in commercials, has thousands of followers on social media and was in Essence magazine.

Stanley knows her body can make people uncomfortable, but continues to push through negative forces.

"You can utilize your discomfort and your worries and your hesitations and see that as where you can draw from, then every pose is possible. So much is possible," she said.

Stanley currently travels to teach yoga. She said she hopes to slow down a bit in the fall and teach more classes in Durham.


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