By Emily Hudson
Anna Guest-Jelley, founder of Curvy Yoga, empowers women to practice self-love
The general yoga community is incredibly beautiful, but like many other communities, it has its faults. In fact, working in a yoga studio, I witness its contradictions first-hand everyday. Many yogis talk about the good things – acceptance, detachment, and non-judgment. But when it comes down to it, far too many practitioners don’t really believe that anyone can come to class. There may not be words of judgment spoken in a yoga studio, but my-oh-my can you feel the critical energy when a curvy student is in the room. When an Olympic-status muscular person is in the room. When an 80 year old is in the room. When a disabled person is in the room. But wait, I thought yoga was for everyone?
Although it doesn’t reside everywhere, that sharp, judgmental energy can cut people deeply. Its existence is the main reason people who don’t fit the “media-yogi” model shy away from ever stepping foot into the studio. Well, thank goodness for progressives. Anna Guest-Jelly, a gem of the yogasphere, is on a mission to abolish this superficial energy and change the community’s mindset. She’s on a mission to ensure everyone knows that yoga is for anyone who wants to practice.
Anna is the founder of Curvy Yoga, a right-up-my-alley community that encourages yoga for all. Anna is a writer, teacher and lifelong champion for women’s empowerment and body acceptance. She is one of those bright lights who bravely created a community based on her inspiring, enlightened values. Her Curvy Yoga space is based on collaboration, body-acceptance, self-love, inspiration, motivation, laughter, and friendship.
The only restriction in joining this community? No judgment allowed.
Anna’s refreshing take on community ideals reminds us of the importance of surrounding yourself with people who lift you up… and oh yeah, finding freedom in doing what you love. They stand for simple love of the self and have a refreshing orientation: anyone can do anything. What I love about this attitude is that it challenges others, even other yogis, to look beyond the physical form – to be beyond the physical form and to simply embrace what matters.
“You become less conscious of your body the more that you become embodied.”
After a superficial Monday morning mirror battle with myself, how wonderful it was to come to work and be instantly lifted up by someone who believes that we all have the capacity to eradicate negative self-talk. We are beyond mistreating ourselves (and others, for that matter). And if we’re not yet, we should join a new community of people who believe we can be.
Feeling inspired by Anna’s “Note to Self”, I sat down with her to discuss her take on loving your self, making your dreams a reality, and the freedom to practice yoga – no matter your form.
Note to Self
By Anna Guest-Jelley
“Love your body” isn’t just a catch-phrase.
It’s a daily practice.
Really, a moment-by-moment practice.
And you’ve SO got this.
Feel your feet on the ground.
Take a deep breath.
Connect with yourself and remember –
just the fact that you’re on this earth is incredible.
The world doesn’t want to wait for you to lose 5 more pounds;
it wants you to rush out now,
arms open wide,
ready to embrace
whatever comes next.
It’s a brave thing to settle into your passions and turn them into your career. At what point in your own yoga journey did you know it was time to share your light and passion for yoga with others?
Anna: About a decade into my yoga practice, I realized that I couldn’t be the only bigger bodied person who wanted to practice yoga. I decided to become a yoga teacher but I had no idea where it would go. If I’d had a really big vision then I might have been too scared to get started! Instead, I’ve grown along with the community, person by person and step by step.
There is so much talk in the yoga community about detachment. Detachment says that your true self is beyond your body, yoga poses, careers, and the roles you play in life. As someone who empowers women to embrace their physical form, what is your take on detachment verses body-acceptance?
Anna: I think detachment quickly becomes conflated with indifference, but I see it a bit differently. I see detachment as a lack of attachment, when attachment becomes obsessive. Poses are a great example. It’s easy to become overly attached to an outcome in a pose. But it would also be possible to become completely indifferent and not be able to access the power of embodiment that comes through yoga. What I think is most powerful is finding the middle way through connecting with your body and its needs.
Being a successful business owner, innovator, and creative must have its up days and down days (and those bliss-sucking-type challenges you mention). What mantra or quote keeps you going when you need to feel empowered?
“Every growth in your business requires a growth in yourself.” ~Hiro Boga
It’s easy on the down days to feel like things are worse than they are. This quote reminds me that the ups and downs are a natural part of the process.
If you could give one piece of advice to a someone who has never tried yoga because they are too shy, intimidated, or working to overcome an insecurity, what would that be?
Anna: Similar to the process of trying anything new in business, starting yoga has its ups and downs. Sometimes it takes a bit to find the right, teacher class or style, but keep going. There is something out there that can work for you.
What was the most rewarding moment of your Curvy Yoga journey so far?
Anna: Oh, there are so many! Every person who reaches out to share their story keeps me going. Recently, I hosted an event called Curve Camp that was life-changing for me. I had the opportunity to look out over a room of almost 60 women of all shapes and sizes practicing together, and I just felt like my heart would burst from happiness!
I saw an image on your website that says, “Go to your happy place… even if only in your mind.” What is your happy place? What advice do you have for people looking to discover their own?
Anna: My happy place is the ocean! But if I can’t get there (a bit tricky from Nashville), it’s my mat or the lake. I like having a few so I can get grounded quickly, by just feeling my feet on the floor, or with varying degrees of getting away (either to my mat or the lake). For anyone who’s looking for their own, I recommend the same process: having a few options for various needs. It’s good to know you can have your own back whenever you need
About Anna Guest-Jelley
Anna Guest-Jelley is founder and CEO (Curvy Executive Officer) at Curvy Yoga, a training and inspiration portal offering classes, workshops, teacher trainings, retreats, a virtual studio and lots of love and support to women of every size, age and ability — in six different countries, on three different continents, as well as in over 30 of the United States.
Author of, “Permission to Curve: Inspiring Poses for Curvy Yogis & Their Teachers,” and co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body (Llewellyn, Fall 2014), Anna has been featured online and in print at The Washington Post, xoJane, US News & World Report, Southern Living, Vogue Italia, Yoga International, Yoga Journal, CrazySexyLife, The Daily Love and more. Visit Curvy Yoga online at CurvyYoga.com.