The yoga of everyday life: Jessamyn Stanley on nourishing the spiritual and physical body

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Jessica DuLong

Published July 10, 2021

Jessamyn Stanley’s new book, “Yoke,” begins with a spiritual awakening prompted by a typo.

A late-night email alerted Stanley to a misspelling printed in her first book, “Every Body Yoga.” She’d mistakenly defined the Sanskrit word for yoga as meaning to “yolk” instead of “yoke.” Instead of summoning images of joining together the dark and light of life, she’d invoked an egg.

This discovery kicked off rage, then embarrassment and self-doubt. But Stanley derailed the shame spiral by simply rolling out her yoga mat and trying to breathe. Nothing fancy. Just “steady, in and out through the nose.”

As her “breath whistled around the branches of (her) anxiety,” she felt herself softening. She began unbandaging the imposter syndrome “wounds” she’d been carrying for decades. By this point in her yoga practice, she’d grasped that “wounds need to breathe,” even those “you’d rather keep hidden.” Meditation offered her that space.

Stanley said she didn’t find her meditation practice until she stopped looking for it. Since then, it’s become her automatic response to stress and anxiety.

“Meditation isn’t something that’s only for certain people or certain situations,” she insisted. “It can and should be utilized by anyone who breathes.”

With chapters on loving yourself, yoga poses, cultural appropriation, “white guilt” and more, “Yoke” explores the “yoga of the everyday,” as she calls it, applying lessons learned on the mat to the challenges of living. “Ultimately,” Stanley explained, “all of my work is about mindfulness.”