I have such a heart-on for Anna Guest-Jelley, founder of Curvy Yoga. She's a straight-up, no messing, gentle yoga warrioress. After my very first yoga class, (which I totally loved) I googled 'curvy girls doing yoga' because I was desperate to find pictures of women in me-shaped bodies pulling those shapes. I needed to know it was do-able, y'know? Anna's was the first image in my feed and it led me to her training and inspiration portal for full-figured yogis. I've been a total fan girl ever since. It's because of her I signed up to yoga teacher training here in Southampton, and it's because of her, through the joys o' modern technology, I'm now studying to become a certified Curvy Yoga instructor under her expert tutelage too. Anna's just released a DVD, Open Your Heart To Yourself - which includes three practices, 20, 40 and 60 minutes in length. Each practice is designed for people of varying abilities and experiences – and, of course, shapes and sizes. Come meet her, because basically, she puts the 'ass' in asana.
Describe yourself in a tweet... I'm a curvy yoga teacher & practitioner who adores all things curvy & body lovin'. I'm also a puppies’ mama & sassy wife to a fab man.
How did you discover yoga and what was your first experience o' yoga like? I discovered yoga because I was desperate to try any ole thing that came my way to help my then chronic migraines. Yoga sounded kinda out there to me at the time, but I was willing to give it a try. My first experience with yoga was a Rodney Yee VHS tape that I popped into the VCR in my dorm room Freshman year when my roommate wasn’t around. I kept having a feeling that I didn’t want anyone to “catch” me in my curvy bod doing it, but I also remember finishing that first practice feeling both surprised and relaxed. I’d actually enjoyed moving my body – which was really surprising for me, who no one could ever have considered sporty, outdoorsy, or anything else that I’d associated with various forms of movement and exercise. Even though my body shape is just a little different from Rodney’s, I knew there was something for me in yoga.
What made you start curvy yoga and become a teacher - inspiring other girls, like me, to get their bendy wendy on, no matter what their shape or size? I looked for years for a space to connect with other curvy people who liked yoga. I’d spent so long secretly thinking that the yoga police were going to come for me and carry me off for practicing in a curvy body, that I really wanted to know more people like me. I knew they had to be out there. So I became a teacher and started my blog to share what I’d always wanted to find. Finding that community has definitely been a healing of epic proportions for me. And delightfully, I think it has been for other people, too.
How has yoga helped you shift from being a girl who's been on 65 diets - I hear you g-friend - to someone who now has an acceptance for this body you're currently in? Haha – yeah, sometimes when I hear that number, I can’t believe it’s part of my life. But it definitely is (and if anything, it’s an underestimate). When I first began to shift out of the external rules of diets and into my internal wisdom, I read a lot of books and went to therapy. It was awesome, but very heady. I’d never had a problem being in my head, though, but I had quite a bit of struggle being in my body. What yoga gave me was the concrete, body-based tools to bring what I’d been learning in my head into my body. I’m honestly not sure if/how I would have made the transition without something like it.
What asana makes you feel totally fucking awesome? This pose is so straightforward, but nothing makes me feel better than a long-held standing forward bend. I love changing my perspective, making space for my belly to hang comfortably and feeling my back let go after a long day at the computer. I also love how internally focused this pose is; it always brings me back to myself. In fact, I just got up and did one because writing about it made me crave it. It was awesome!
What 5 tracks would be on curvy yoga soundtrack? Ohh…fun! It was hard to choose, but these songs never fail to put a smile on my face, and they each contain a little thread of Curvy Yoga.
- “Video”, India.Arie
- “Closer to Fine”, The Indigo Girls
- “Vogue,” Madonna
- “Graceland,” Paul Simon
- “Friday I’m in Love,” The Cure
Do you have any you-nique to you rituals or connection processes? I don’t think this is unique to me, but my favorite way to reconnect is to roll out my yoga mat, hop on and just do whatever feels good – no plans, no goals, no expectations.
What inspires you, gives you pleasure? Ohh…nothing gets me more inspired than seeing another woman owning her power & loving her body, regardless of its shape or size. So thrilling!
What do you do for yourself to make sure you shine like the superstar beacon that you are in the world? I do my best to create my day around what feels good – ignoring the voice that says I “need” to check my email or keep working rather than do some yoga, drink some tea, and proceed gently. I also do regular gut checks, respect my boundaries, and limit negativity. If something or someone is needling me, I remove them from my life (love that Facebook unsubscribe option!).
What's your mantra? May I greet my body with gentleness May I soften when life invites me to harden May I listen to my intuition with wisdom and trust it with ease May I appreciate my body a little more in this moment, just as it is
Quick fire round - what's your favourite: Place to hang out? My house! I’m a homebody... Food: Right now: these fruit jelly candies. Yum! Swear word: Shit! Movie: School of Rock – it’s the first movie I saw with my hubby (then not-quite-yet-boyfriend) Book: Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I’ve read it at least a dozen times. Website: Besides Sassyology? Hmm…probably Tara Brach’s site. Her words are medicine for me.
What do you wish all women knew? That there’s nothing more incredible and powerful than a woman who knows herself and is connected with both her body and inner wisdom – both for you and the people around you.
As a writer, teacher & lifelong champion for women’s empowerment & body acceptance, Anna encourages women of every size, age & ability to grab life by the curves. And never let go.