Written by Sofie Hagen

Health

How to Start Doing Yoga (for people who are never going to start doing yoga)

Sofie Hagen has more reasons not to do yoga than she has books on the subject. And that’s a lot. But if anyone can get her to crescent lunge from behind her perfectly balanced library, it’s Jessamyn Stanley.

Just bought another book about yoga. I already had four books about it, which I have not yet read. The stress about not having read them made me buy another one to learn how to deal with the stress. It makes perfect sense.

I swear, if buying books about yoga made you flexible and free of stress, I would have both legs wrapped around my neck while baking my own homemade, gluten-free bread; or whatever it is that stress-free people do.

I decided to get help. And who better than the incredible online yoga phenomenon, Jessamyn Stanley?

yoga4Jessamyn, 27, has over 80,000 followers on Instagram, where she uploads photos daily of her doing yoga in her home. We are best friends. Okay, we’re not, but I have definitely liked most of her photos and I have a major crush on her awesomeness.

Talking to her seemed like the perfect plan. Not only would I get to procrastinate even more instead of actually going to yoga, I would also have the perfect excuse to talk to someone who is an inspiration.

“I am scared of going to a yoga class.” I tell Jessamyn when we Skype from London (me) to Durham in North Carolina, USA.

“What scares you?” she asks.

“Well,” I sigh, “I haven’t moved my body in 10 years.”

“Listen, first time I did yoga it was horrible. It was Bikram yoga and it was so hot that when I left the class, I got nauseous and I thought: I am never doing that again,” she says.

“Later on, my ex-girlfriend and I had split up and I was kind of a mess. A former classmate of mine had a Groupon for a yoga class and it totally changed my life.

“I was never athletic before. I don’t like to exercise. But it was just a way to not be stressed out. To refocus my energy.

headstand“It’s such a huge part of my life,” Jessamyn continues. “It’s the way I’m able to cope with everything. It really transcends being healthy and exercising. I always wanted to lose weight. But I like cheeseburgers. I like French fries. It will not change.

“I just wanted to be able to feel better about myself, about things that didn’t have to do with my weight and once I stopped thinking about losing weight, I actually started to lose weight. I really don’t care anymore.

“Now I just feel so good about everything. Does being smaller make you better? Funnier? Or smarter or more interesting? Yoga is therapy on a level I can’t explain.”

Jessamyn makes good points, but my inner screaming anti-yoga-voice has other ideas. I tell her: “I have found 10 excuses to not do it already.”

“Alright, what’s number one?” she asks.

“Well,” (I know I’m going to sound like a stupid teenager) “what if I’m the fattest one in the class?”

“It’s the way I’m able to cope with everything. It really transcends being healthy and exercising. I always wanted to lose weight. But I like cheeseburgers. I like French fries. It will not change.”

“You probably will be. I’m usually one of the largest people and the instructor will usually look at me and think I’m the person they need to help. At first I get defensive but then I think: if someone has decided to become a yoga instructor, I have to believe that they actually know the true purpose of this.

“It does not have to do with size. But other students don’t and won’t feel that way and they will contribute to an environment that is not comfortable.

doing the splits“All we can do, as larger-bodied people, is to just be present and go to classes and wear your real clothes and make sure that people know that we’re out here, because that’s the only way that they’re going to learn.”

“What if you fart?” I say as the voice in my head gets more and more panicky.

Jessamyn is quiet for a second. I’m not sure if she is going to laugh or yell at me.

“Oh my god,” she laughs, “I have peed on myself. I have farted. Oh god, so much pee! If you fart – no one is going to say anything. Farting, peeing, it’s fine… shitting? That’s more complicated to explain. Especially if you do it quite early. I wouldn’t recommend it.”

There goes another excuse. I am running out. “Are they going to ask me to be upside down in the first class?”

Jessamyn smiles: “You don’t know what your body is capable of. Your body is so incredible.”

I sigh and realise I have to get down to basics. “What do I wear?”

“If you’re going to a regular non-hot class, I recommend leggings and a form-fitting top,” she says. “Don’t wear baggy clothes. It’s so important that you can feel and see your body and be intimate with it, so don’t wear baggy clothes.”

“All we can do, as larger-bodied people, is to just be present and go to classes and wear your real clothes and make sure that people know that we’re out here, because that’s the only way that they’re going to learn.”

“But…” I pout, “why even bother? Why do it?”

“There are a lot of different ways to move your body, but it’s rare that you get a physical exercise that’s also therapy and that is also spiritual,” Jessamyn answers. “I’m not a religious person but I do believe in the universe and it puts you in connection with that. It’ll open a part of yourself that you probably don’t even recognise has always been in you, and it will provide more comfort than anything else in the world. So if you want that… I think that’s a reason to do it.”

“Good point.” I say out loud while mouthing “I love you” into my hand, so she cannot see it.

crab-style poseThe voice in my head has gone quiet, which can only mean one thing. I start searching for yoga classes in my area.

I thank Jessamyn, who laughs and offers: “If you ever need motivation to practise, let me know and I will give you motivation to practise!” I thank her again, even though it sounds more like a threat than a friendly offering.

And then I book a yoga appointment.

Follow Jessamyn on Instagram: @mynameisjessamyn; Twitter @JessNotJazz; and her hashtag #SizeDoesntMatter

@SofieHagen

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Written by Sofie Hagen

Sofie Hagen is a Danish stand-up comedian based in London. She is also a body positivity activist and a comedy writer.