At first, Stanley said she wondered why these people didn't just type this question into Google — she knew there were many resources for them. Then, she typed it into Google herself and realized, for someone who knows nothing about yoga, there is so much differing information on the internet, it ends up being too confusing to understand.
Finally, Stanley decided to write a book answering the question, so she would never need to be asked again.
Called the "yogi who breaks all the stereotypes," Stanley doesn't have what might be called a typical yoga physique. In the book, she talks about how her first yoga class as a teenager was a horrible experience, but when she returned as an adult and stuck with it, it taught her how to embrace her body because, as she said, it's more than just exercise — it's a lifestyle.
Stanley said in an interview with the Deseret News that she has always been involved in blogging and journaling, so writing her book was an extension of that. Because her story is different and shows all kinds of people can practice yoga, she knew it was important to share a lot of personal details about her life.
"I think there are a lot of misconceptions in the yoga world, and one of the biggest ones is that people (who practice it) lead perfect lives," she said. "I think it's really important for teachers who are comfortable to be really frank about who they are because that is really encouraging to people if they see their own dysfunction in your life."
She said she is a private person, but she knew a story like hers needed to be told. Her writing process involved being honest and upfront with herself and digging up things she said she had "actively tried to press down."
"Writing the book was very cathartic in a lot of ways," Stanley said. "So while it was difficult, it was definitely a release."
In the book, Stanley discusses the history, spiritual aspect and different styles of yoga. She gives advice to beginners on what yoga gear to buy and not to buy, then provides a guide with pictures on how to do basic poses. All the models shown in the book have nontraditional yoga bodies to demonstrate how modifications can be made for all body types.
Stanley also shares yoga routines, each accompanied with a life story that demonstrates a principle of yoga that has taught her to live a better life, and how the routine can help a practitioner learn that principle, as well.
This book is both instructional and inspirational. Stanley goes into basics that some yoga instructors ignore, and gives adjustments and options for any level. She is also straightforward and tongue-in-cheek about the dirty and dark aspects of her life, making her relatable to almost anyone who might be seeking to learn how yoga could improve life.
Stanley said the response to her book has been overwhelmingly positive, and people have come up to her weeping because of how much the book has touched them. She knows a lot of people have had the same experience she has and can benefit from hearing her story. But, Stanley said she has made it a rule to not put too much stock in public opinion, whether positive or negative.
"It's really important to me to stay humble and to stay in a space of 'I'm just telling the story of my life,'" she said.
She hopes people who read her book walk away knowing, if she can practice yoga, so can they.
"It's not about this fitness trend that everyone thinks it is," she said. "It is something that is meant for everyone."
"Every Body Yoga" contains multiple profanities and includes discussion of sex, lesbian relationships and alcohol and drug use.
If you go
What: Jessamyn Stanley book signing
When: Thursday, May 11, 7 p.m.
Where: Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E. 400 South