Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance by Jessamyn Stanley
"To yoke is to marry breath, thought, and movement, to connect the body, mind, and spirit. To yoke is to explore the meaning of balance."
I didn't know too much about Jessamyn Stanley before picking up this phenomenal book, that was so kindly sent to me by Workman Publishing. As a yoga practitioner and avid Instagram user, I had come across Stanley's posts, and was always in awe by what I read, each picture and caption blowing me away.
I did know that Jessamyn had another book, Every Body Yoga, which I tried to order at one point but found it was sold out at all my local bookstores. I had forgotten about that until recently, when much to my delight, I found that she had another book hitting the shelves.
I'm currently receiving inpatient treatment for anorexia, and Yoke was the exact prescription I needed. Just like any feel good drug though, the only thing I wanted was more of it when I finished this book. Yoke was everything I wanted it to be, and more.
I found Jessamyn's words to really and truly sit well with me and I felt compelled to highlight almost everything in this book, draining my pen of its ink. From the beginning, I found her to be highly relatable, and to carry within her so much beauty and wisdom about the practice of yoga, and the actual living of life, which in itself can be a total bitch at times.
"All wounds need to breathe, no matter how painful or smelly. Even the wounds you’d rather keep hidden."
Jessamyn talks about practicing Bikram yoga in Durham for a year to aid her mental health, and I found Bikram in the same way, and also practised for a year in order to aid my own mental health. I practised Bikram before getting into the hardcore world of Ashtanga yoga. These days, my yoga practice is limited, and my mind is flooded with unhelpful thoughts like "you should be practicing. Why aren't you practicing? You're lazy." But I was reminded through this book that the practice of yoga is not about showing up to a fancy class, it's not about rolling out your mat and holding a headstand for five minutes, and it's not about trying to be something or somebody that you're not.
"Your postural work doesn’t need to be particularly complicated. Honestly, you really only need to know one pose, and it’s called sitting the fuck down. In fact, give it a shot right now. Sit down and be quiet," she says, continuing, "Breathing is what defines a yoga practice because breathing connects you to the life force that’s constantly flowing in and around you."
A couple of years ago, before treatment for my eating disorder, my yoga, at least in my mind, was showing up on my mat every morning before five AM, and sweating profusely while completing the Ashtanga series. When I didn't do it, I would beat myself up, and I would vow to do better the next day. There were days when I couldn't do all the postures, my body so physically broken from pushing myself the day prior, that it was impossible to get them that day. I put so much emphasis on the postures and on how I looked and was perceived by other people, encouraged by their comments like, "wow, you are so disciplined," when really, I had forgotten why I started practicing yoga in the first place.
Yoke by Jessamyn Stanley was a reminder that yoga, for me and my body today, is sitting still.
I took so much away from this book that it's impossible to summarize it here, so I recommend heading out to buy a copy for yourself to inhale some of Jessamyn's wisdom. I felt so absorbed by the content that I almost couldn't wait to get to the end, so I could read my new copy of Every Body Yoga, which I've summarized below.
This book felt like a fantastic yoga class, when everything sails along nicely from beginning to end, and you feel fully engaged in the process, and leave that class feeling like a million bucks. I put down this book, and I truly felt better. I really hope I get an opportunity to practice with Jessamyn someday, because she is a shining light, and exactly what the yoga world needs. I adored Yoke and highly recommend this one to anyone interested in yoga and spirituality, including beginners, and also dedicated practitioners, because this book is a reminder of why we practice yoga.
EVERY BODY YOGA
Every Body Yoga is a book that breaks all the stereotypes. It’s a book of inspiration for beginners of all shapes and sizes: If Jessamyn could transcend these emotional and physical barriers, so can we. It’s a book for readers already doing yoga, looking to refresh their practice or find new ways to stay motivated.
It’s a book that challenges the larger issues of body acceptance and the meaning of beauty.
Most of all, it’s a book that changes the paradigm, showing us that yoga isn’t about how one looks, but how one feels, with yoga sequences like “I Want to Energize My Spirit,” “I Need to Release Fear,” “I Want to Love Myself.”
|Courtesy of Jessamyn's Facebook page|
Jessamyn Stanley, a yogi who breaks all the stereotypes, has built a life as an internationally recognized yoga teacher and award-winning Instagram star by combining a deep understanding for yoga with a willingness to share her personal struggles in a way that touches everyone who comes to know her. Now she brings her body-positive, emotionally uplifting approach to yoga in two books that will help every reader discover the power of yoga and how to weave it seamlessly into his or her life.