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.