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A Yoga Guru’S 5 Favorite Wellness Reads

A Yoga Guru’S 5 Favorite Wellness Reads

Jessamyn Stanley Is All About Body Positivity And Making Yoga Accessible To All

Jessamyn Stanley wasn’t always a wellness guru: As a young woman, she saw herself as innately unathletic and felt ill at ease in her body. A Bikram yoga class in 2011 was her first step toward tapping into her own physical potential. That class opened her eyes not only to her own strength, but also to the fact that there weren’t many visible yoga practitioners like her: plus-size queer Black women.

Fueled by the desire to create a body-positive wellness practice, Stanley, 33, underwent training to become a yoga teacher, and took to blogging and Instagram to teach students to get fit while focusing on how they feel, rather than how they look. Her live and online classes were a hit with students around the world delighted to see that strength, flexibility, and fitness were possible at any size. Her popularity led to the 2017 book Every Body Yoga, which combines memoir with yoga history, instruction, and inspiration for getting started on a wellness journey. The multitalented Stanley has since launched a home-practice app, The Underbelly, hosts a biweekly podcast called “Dear Jessamyn,” and is a regular contributor to SELF Magazine.

We caught up with Stanley—whose second book, Yoke, comes out in June—to hear about her favorite wellness-related reads.

Jessamyn Stanley became a yoga instructor and has created a community of body-positive wellness
Jessamyn Stanley became a yoga instructor and has created a community of body-positive wellness.

1. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

“My father told me to read this in high school, but it took 10 years before I got around to it. It is transformative. It’s just four very simple touchpoints to carry you through life. I’m always listening to it on audiobook, and as soon as I finish it, I start it over again.”

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Fifth Agreement by Don Jose Ruiz, Don Miguel Ruiz, and Janet Mills

2. The Fifth Agreement by Don Jose Ruiz, Don Miguel Ruiz, and Janet Mills

“This one is an extension of The Four Agreements, about accepting yourself exactly as you are and being OK with yourself. The way these ideas are expressed is so universal and so applicable to every moment of your life.”

3. Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom by B.K.S. Iyengar

“[This] is my favorite Iyengar book. It’s the last book he wrote and is reflective of his experience. I identify with him a lot: He was practicing and teaching at a young age and came to understand that you’re always a student in this practice. Being OK with that, adopting a beginner mind-set, and letting that be the truth, that’s what yoga is. This is another one I’m always listening to.”

Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom by B.K.S. Iyengar
The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

4. The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

“Gary is a scientist, and he says everything in a logical format...I really appreciate how easy it is to understand. He has refined the principles of the universe in a way that I think anyone can read it and say, ‘I get where you’re coming from.’”

5. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

“Since middle school, I’ve been told I should read this. When I finally really sat with it, I found that Julia synthesized exactly how to practice being an artist—how to show up for the little kid artist inside of you. Trying to understand that everything that you do is art, all the time. If you can adopt the way of an artist, every part of your life will be beautiful and creative.”

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

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