We’ve teamed up with bloom to bring you Moonshots: 10 women shooting for the moon, 10 questions on how they’re doing it. Next, Jessamyn Stanley, Yoga Teacher & Author. Check out Moonshot #1 & come back next week for Moonshot #3.
How did you know this was the right path for you?
How does anyone know they’re on the ‘right’ path? Doesn’t that imply the path has a clear and logical end? Frankly, the honest answer is that I didn’t/don’t know this is the ‘right’ path for me. But my teaching work empowers, fortifies, and inspires me, and it offers constant opportunities to help others release tension and fear. So even if it’s not the ‘right’ path, it’s certainly not a ‘bad’ path. And that’s enough for me.
Do you believe we’re ever really ‘ready’ to do something? How do we start when we’re stuck?
I think it’s very hard to know when we’re ‘ready’ to do something—usually, if given the opportunity, most of us will continue to stay within our self-imposed limitations for fear of hurting ourselves—maybe physically, emotionally, or spiritually. However, the part of ourselves that we genuinely fear hurting is our ego—and our egos need to be hurt. Shattered, even. Even if we don’t feel ‘ready’, we must jump off life’s diving board eventually. It’s especially hard to start when we’re stuck. In those moments, I think it’s the little things that count. Small goals lead toward giant payoffs. Don’t scold yourself for being stuck—it will only make your wheels spin faster. Focus on looking forward and accomplishing small goals that lead you towards the positive light of life.
Doing courageous things requires losing our excuses. What excuses did you have to get rid of to get to where you are now?
Since I never aspired to be a yoga teacher, I had a lot of excuses to release. I shied away from the path for ages, largely because I didn’t understand why I needed to be a yoga teacher. There were so many yoga teachers already—why did I need to join their ranks? But that was before I understood what yoga is, and that it’s not just one thing for one person. Every yogic path is different, and I had to accept that my yogic path is not the same as every other teacher. And that’s EXACTLY the point. Because there will be other people who hear my story, see my path and find glimpses into their own stories—leading them to eventually develop their own path. Plus, the excuse of ‘why do I need to be a yoga teacher?’ had to be in my rearview window so that I could become the teacher I am today.
What have been your biggest challenges so far, and how have you overcome them?
One of my biggest challenges has been remembering that my yoga teaching philosophy does not need to be representative of ALL people, especially all fat people. Many of my fellow fat people have different opinions about how fat people should exist within the yoga world. And that’s OK. We don’t all have to agree with one another.
From the outside it looks like you’ve made it—but what are some of the things that you still feel insecure about? That you haven’t quite nailed yet?
I feel insecure about the actual effect I have on the yoga community. Sometimes I think that the reason I’ve garnered traction is because people just want to look at me like I’m in a circus side show, not because the body positive yoga world is gaining momentum. But at the end of the day, I remind myself that I can’t control anything but myself, and there’s no reason to give unnecessary attention to a factor that doesn’t actually matter in the long run.
What are the things you’re super proud of?
I’m extremely proud of the fact that I manage to make ends meet solely as a yoga teacher, only doing the work I love, when I used to work two day jobs that made my heart sing much less joyous tunes.
How do you motivate yourself on the tough days? What keeps you moving forward?
I know it probably sounds cheesy, but I motivate myself by getting on my yoga mat. When I’m having a tough day and I can’t seem to move forward, I get on my mat. Even if it’s not an actual yoga mat and even if it’s only for one pose or a few deep breaths in meditation, I can always find the answers to my questions on my mat. God, I’m such a sap.
Regardless of how busy you get, what are your non-negotiables?
I usually try and find a way to move my body regardless of my schedule. I have a lot of pent up energy which leads to obsessive thought and anxiety, so physical exercise usually helps relieve that pressure. I also look for opportunities to laugh and smile—I usually find humor even in sad experiences, even when other people might call my humor inappropriate. Levity helps me remember that things are never as bad as they may seem.
What advice would you have given yourself at the beginning of your journey?
In my upcoming book Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On The Mat, Love Your Body (to be released April 2017, available wherever books are sold), I talk very explicitly about the good, bad, and ugly events in my life which led up to my yoga teaching journey. But if I could go back to the very beginning, I would tell myself to shut up, quit whining, and keep looking forward. And don’t sweat the small stuff—it’ll all shake down in the wash.
What advice do you have for other women who are shooting for the moon?
Don’t let haters get you down. You will always have haters. In a lot of ways, haters are proof that you’re doing something right. Don’t be afraid to offend people or piss someone off—sometimes we need to be shocked and frightened by things we’ve never seen or respected. And most importantly, don’t ask for respect. Embody it, for yourself and others.