1. Hi Anna thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with Strong, Sexy & Stylish. The first thing that we are dying to know is who you are, what is your background and what do you do?
Wow – thank you! I have to say that I am so excited to be here. I learned about Strong, Sexy & Stylish just as y’all were launching, and I’ve been thrilled about it ever since.
One of the reasons I was so excited about what you’re doing is because I think that those three messages – strong, sexy and stylish – aren’t often portrayed in positive ways. I think they too often get taken up in a striving way, like “why aren’t you strong, sexy and stylish enough?”
But what I think you’re doing, and where our work overlaps in many ways, is really exploding that idea that there is one set way to be any of those things – much less all of them.
So to give you some more background on me, I’m the Founder of Curvy Yoga, which is a place for body positive yoga for people of all shapes and sizes. I really came to this work via an interesting intersection of yoga and feminism.
I spent much of my 20s doing work around reproductive rights, sexual health, intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Doing this kind of work really raised my awareness about the importance of inclusive community and the power we have when a diversity of voices comes together.
What it did not teach me, though, was how to love my body in a personal way. Sure, I had the political argument down pat. I could get just as outraged (and probably more) as the next person about the media’s portrayal of women. But I never even considered the possibility that there was something I could do to change the way I felt about my own body.
That is, until I started my yoga practice. And actually, yoga came before my activism, but I came to yoga originally because I wanted to lose weight and maybe reduce some pain from my migraines, so I was hardly seeing it as a body positive tool at the time (because, again, I didn’t really think such things existed – especially for someone with a body like mine, whatever that meant to me at the time).
As my yoga practice unfolded, though, it became this great, concrete way to begin to love my body. Because, trust me, I had no clue what that meant when I got started.
When I first started practicing, I really liked yoga. But I figured I’d love it once I lost x amount of weight. I assumed it was only for thin people because I didn’t see anyone with a body similar to mine in class. Also, my teachers never gave me any pose modifications so that I could be comfortable. So I just figured it was a matter of time until I got there.
Over time, though, I realized that the problem wasn’t my body after all. The problem was that my teachers didn’t know how to teach me. So I set about to learn that information for myself – how to accommodate what I call the 3 Bs: boobs, belly and butt in poses.
As I gathered that info, I wanted to share it with others. And thus, Curvy Yoga was born.
2. I have taken your class via YogaVibes and loved it! I feel like your classes reach a broad demographic and release a positive image and mindset for women. Please tell us a little more about your company Curvy Yoga.
Thank you! I’m always thrilled to hear that people are using – and enjoying – those videos!
I started Curvy Yoga as a space to teach a few local yoga classes for my curvy friends and ramble a bit on my personal blog (which I was pretty sure would be read only by my husband, parents and sister – on a good day).
What I wasn’t expecting, but what completely thrills me, is that people were hungry for a space like this. It’s not just about the pose modifications so that curvy people can practice yoga comfortably – although that’s certainly an integral part of it.
I think the key has been, and continues to be, that Curvy Yoga provides concrete tools for people of all shapes and sizes to enter into a warmer relationship with their body.
One of my big ah-ha moments in the past year or so has been that loving your body really exists upon a spectrum, and that you can’t get anywhere without awareness. That was a missing link for me in my own experience (I bounced between binging and dieting – 65 diets, in fact – for most of my life).
For so long, I knew that diets weren’t right for me anymore – and that they were actually making things significantly worse for me. But as much as I learned about intuitive eating or loving your body, I just couldn’t find a way into it.
That is, until I realized that I already had one – yoga. Yoga gave me the skills to really feel my body, to be aware of what my breath was doing and to do both with some level of subtlety (at least on most days!). From there, I wasn’t far off from being able to start feeling my feelings, too.
And once that key turned in the lock, things really started to shift for the positive for me on my own body image journey.
That’s when I knew that I wanted Curvy Yoga to be the place I’d always wanted to find – one where other people who are in the process of figuring out what on earth loving their body means to them can come together in solidarity and support, sharing tools and connecting.
I’ve recently begun certifying yoga teachers to teach Curvy Yoga in their area, and that work is such a joy. I love knowing that welcoming, body positive yoga is going to be popping up all over the world.
3. Do you have any advice for our readers that are interested in starting a yoga practice?
Definitely! My advice is to find a resource that works for you and get started. Yoga can be practiced by nearly everyone; you just have to find a way to practice that works for you and your uniquely fabulous needs.
If people are looking for curvy friendly resources, here are some they may enjoy:
If anyone has a specific question, I’m always happy to connect! Folks can reach me via my website.
4. Could you please tell us some of the benefits of yoga?
Oh, there are so many! Interestingly, the scientific community has become more and more interested in yoga, so there are studies being done all the time to examine yoga’s effects. There are positive benefits for stress reduction, pain management, blood pressure issues, cancer survivors, depression, pregnant women and the list goes on and on. In addition, there are the somewhat more obvious benefits of increased range of motion, strength and flexibility.
That being said, I think one of the greatest benefits is that yoga is a concrete way to get in touch with your body. So many of us never learned how to do this, and yoga provides a way to hear and respond to the messages your body shares. In my opinion, this tool greatly contributes to all the other health benefits of yoga. Because regardless of what’s going on with you, yoga can help you find a way through it.
5. I believe that you embody the message of a Strong, Sexy & Stylish women. In your own words, why are you Strong, Sexy & Stylish?
First of all, I’m glad this interview is online vs. in person. I’m totally blushing! Thank you for such a sweet compliment.
I think any woman is strong, sexy and stylish when she fully owns who she is – her strengths, weaknesses, quirks and vulnerability. This is certainly not an easy task. For me, it very much feels like a process – and one at which I often fail. But I do strive to work towards that place every day.
6. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Just that getting to know and love yourself is a journey – an often frustrating but equally (or more) often rewarding one. Yoga is a tool that you can use in this work, but if it’s not for you for whatever reason, keep looking. It’s worth the search.
Also, if your readers would like to connect with Curvy Yoga, there are lots of ways to do that. They can check out my free podcasts, look for a teacher in their area and, if they’re teachers themselves, learn more about getting certified. And for a little inspiration (or a lot!), don’t miss this beautiful gallery of curvy yogis getting their yoga on.
Interested readers should also keep their eye on the site around April 16. I’m going to be releasing a free eBook called Curvy Voices on that date; this book is a labor of love and includes the stories of 37 incredible people telling their personal story about yoga and body image. I can’t wait for
Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga, which is all about lovin’ the body you have today. Through Curvy Yoga, she offers yoga designed to fit the bodies of people of all shapes, sizes and abilities as well as messages of body positivity and meeting yourself where you are – both on and off the mat.