No matter how motivated we are to hit the gym, we all have days when something gets in the way of our workout. Sometimes it’s a literal thing — a work deadline, family emergency, a cold. Sometimes it’s more mental — we think we’re not “fit enough” for the class, or that 10 minutes isn’t “enough,” or we fear being the new person.
Jessamyn Stanley understands. We recently sat down with the 29-year-old, body-positive advocate and yoga instructor, who is helping launch U by Kotex FITNESS. Stanley discussed self-confidence, putting yourself in challenging situations, social media and more.
Q: How do you not let anything get in the way of your fitness?
Jessamyn Stanley: I adapt to where I am today, at this moment — I figure out what I can do. Maybe you’re into hiking and normally do 3–4 miles. So maybe you just do 1 mile today. Your body knows you’re giving it what you need. Always come from place of love, not stress or anxiety. That perspective is the most important thing. You can change everything else, but if you have the wrong perspective, you will never feel good about yourself. Give yourself love.
Q: What is your number 1 tip to never miss a workout?
Stanley: Be confident in yourself. Try to bring as much love as possible to what you are doing so you don’t start from a point of hate. If you do that, you won’t move forward. You may see changes in your body, but you’re not happier or nicer, all you are is smaller — and what does that matter? Who is that helping? If you start from a compassionate and loving place toward yourself, you’re always starting from the right place.
Q: What’s your advice to people who fear being judged because of their physique?
Stanley: Everybody has a thing they are self-conscious about. “I’m the fattest, the tallest, the oldest, I have the most freckles.” You have to understand that the opinions of others are not as important as your own. If you are ever in a situation with a person who makes you feel you are too tall, too freckled, whatever, they are thinking those things about themselves. They are thinking something hateful about themselves and reflecting that on others. We are way too reliant on the opinions of others, when truly, we are all looking for love.
Q: What about if someone fears being judged because of their fitness level?
Stanley: If you go to HIIT or Zumba or CrossFit, nobody just walks in the first day and knows what they are doing. Not even in the first couple weeks. In yoga, every single time you get on your mat should be like that first time. Always pursue it like you’ve never encountered it before because the moment you think you know everything is the moment you’ll be flat on your face, sweating. The practice is meant to be difficult. So many people walk through life overconfident. You need to be in situations where you are not number 1.
Q: What attracted you to this partnership?
Stanley: I’m all about trying to normalize the human experience. There are so many things we are taught to feel embarrassed about, and so many women feel uncomfortable about their periods and talking about feminine care. The further we can get from that mentality, the better we can be. To change that conversation is at the root of what I’m doing. We all have to take a role in changing this.
Q: How do you change your yoga practice when you’re on your period?
Stanley: So many people don’t even show up when they have their cycle because they’re worried. But when you’re on your period, it’s an awesome time to go to yoga — your body needs that love. When I’m on my period, the first thing I have is cramps. And cramps are why I don’t want to go anywhere. I think, “I’m going to be rolling around on my mat wishing I was in bed.” But to allow the body to be still allows the muscle to get tight and fascia to build up. Yoga is about massaging the body — you literally twist the uterus around. Deep hip openers are another way to release sensation. You can even invert. Maybe not headstand or handstand, but legs up the wall is therapeutic. Adapt to where you are.
Q: How do you feel about social media’s influence on yoga?
Stanley: It’s a double-edged sword. It often gives people access to practice, but it makes it seem like you have to be able to do a handstand to do yoga. If you sit at a desk all day, if you are not doing these movements regularly, if you have an injury, if you’ve had child, if you never do yoga — why would you be able to magically do these things? I was nowhere near as flexible or as strong as I am now when I first started. That’s why you do yoga, so you can encounter those changes, not to show off.