Oh my goodness, I am so excited to introduce you to Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga today. She’s just amazing and should totally be on your radar. Anna is a positive body image activist and the fairy godmother of body positive and curvy yoga. She’s all heart, light, and brains. I dig her and I think you will, too.
Anna’s just released a new book called Permission to CURVE: Inspiring Poses for Curvy Yogis & Their Teachers. It’s an eBook with over 60 curvy pose options and 15 videos for those must-see poses. It is a great resource for yogis who are seeking modifications for their own practice, beginners who want an illustrated guide to poses, and yoga teachers who want to have a range of accommodations for their students. I interviewed Anna bout Permission to CURVE, her work, and her beliefs. Enjoy and go check out Anna’s site and book!
I love the concept behind Permission to CURVE and all of your work at Curvy Yoga. Can you tell us some of the creation story behind Curvy Yoga and what your vision is?
Thank you! I love thinking about this as a creation story; it really has that feel to me sometimes. The reason it feels this way is that Curvy Yoga very much grew out of my own experience and yoga practice. It was out of feelings of marginalization, that I was often the only bigger-bodied person in my yoga class (by far), that I wanted to learn more about how to make myself more comfortable and empowered.
This intersection of personal experience and a larger injustice, or imbalance, is often the nexus of social change. And that’s an interesting connection for me because I’ve considered myself an activist for a long time. So when I started to see this story unfold in my own life, my community organizing lens quickly took hold and I began to think about how there must be other people out there who were feeling the same way – a take on the personal is the political.
My vision is to invite people of all shapes and sizes into yoga. It can be such a transformative experience, helping people to connect their often-disconnected mind, body and spirit, and it’s been kept from curvy people for far too long. Curvy Yoga is my attempt to open that gate a bit wider, giving people a chance to try it and see if it’s for them, not just assuming it’s not because the only images they see are of young, thin, fit, able-bodied people.
At its heart, Curvy Yoga is really yoga for the majority of us – it’s just not the majority of media representations of yoga. There’s a difference, and I’m interested in reclaiming that.
This is what’s at the heart of my new book, Permission to CURVE: it’s designed to encourage people to practice yoga on their own terms and with radical self-kindness.
What is your body positive inspiration?
My students are my primary inspiration. Nothing will make my day faster than talking with a student or hearing from a blog reader who is feeling for the first time that she has a place in yoga, that she has a place in her own life. The two are more connected than they may seem on the surface.
Many of us who live in curvy bodies have been taught or told, directly and indirectly, that our bodies aren’t acceptable, that we’re not acceptable. As a result, we may distance ourselves from our bodies—creating an internal us vs. them, where we’re both us and them.
What yoga can do is bring us back together. And when we approach the world as our whole, full and filled-up selves, that’s when the magic can happen. Seeing that process unfold for people is endlessly inspiring, and it reminds that it happens for me, too, on days when it can be hard to remember.
Your professional life is so interesting. Can you talk a bit about what all you do and offer and what a day in your life is like?
What a fun question! I’ve been working with Curvy Yoga full-time for close to a year now. The past year has really been a process of figuring out what my days could look like. I have a major tendency to fill up all my time with work, so I’ve been doing my best (through plenty of trial and error) to strike a good balance for me.
Most mornings start with an email check (still trying to break myself of that habit!). After that, I’ve carved out a couple hours to keep my creative wells full. For me, that usually means doing morning pages (from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way), meditation (at least 10 minutes) and yoga (at least 30 minutes). Most days I also do some other writing during this time.
Sometimes I’m writing something on a deadline, and other times I just sit down and see what comes up. I’ve been practicing writing from my intuition, and that’s been a really interesting process. I meditate, do some yoga then sit down, ask myself what feels like it needs to be said, that might help someone, and then let the writing flow. I’m addicted to Omm Writer; it makes writing such a beautiful and focused experience for me, so I usually use it for this more freeform writing. Of course, none of that is ever polished. I just pop it in a Word doc and then come back to it sometime in the future – or not. Sometimes the process is all I need to keep myself plugged in to my writing flow.
From there, the day could go in a number of different directions. I usually have at least one phone call with one of the students I’m certifying in Curvy Yoga. I also teach private yoga sessions both in-person and via Skype. And I teach a group yoga class here in Nashville. The rest of my time is spent creating content for the various projects I have going on at any given time.
What is something you most appreciate about yourself?
I really appreciate my curiosity. I’m always eager to learn new things, to try out different approaches, to go back to the drawing board when needed and to take a risk with new projects. I think this has served me well in so many aspects of my life, especially with Curvy Yoga. When I first started it, I never thought it would be what it has become, but I think it’s blossomed because I’ve followed where its led. I hope that stays true and that the Curvy Yoga of five years from now will hold plenty of delights and surprises.
What is a community issue you care about and why?
I care about body image deeply. That probably seems obvious, but let me say a bit more about why I chose that because I do have many community issues that I care about.
I consider myself a feminist – no question. When I was a very active feminist organizer, body image was not a priority for me. I thought we had way bigger fish to fry.
What I’ve realized over time, though, is that body image is really about feeling very grounded in yourself – feeling confident that you can trust your internal wisdom. And I think it’s only from that place of rootedness that we can really come together and create the change we hope to effect on any number of issues.
So for me body image has become a core issue that informs my work around other issues, such as reproductive rights; intimate partner violence and sexual assault prevention; and universal health care.
What do you wish all women knew?
I wish all women knew that they could be trusted – that they themselves, just as they are, are inherently worthy of their own trust. I wish they knew that while external validation can sometimes be helpful or nice, what’s most important is internal validation. It’s from that internal validation that the rest of the world unfolds with a bit more ease – not easy necessarily, but easeful. I think that’s something we could all use more of.
Anna Guest-Jelley, E-RYT200, RYT500, is the founder of Curvy Yoga – a training & inspiration portal for full-figured yogis & their whole-hearted teachers.
As a writer, teacher & lifelong champion of women’s empowerment & body acceptance, Anna encourages women of every size, age & ability to grab life by the curves. And never let go.