Students gathered in Penn State’s Intramural Building Tuesday for a yoga practice full of body positivity and acceptance – “Love Your Body Yoga” – to celebrate the beginning of Women’s History Month.
Penn State’s Gender and Equity Center hosted the yoga session, which was led by Jessamyn Stanley, co-founder of The Underbelly and We Go High NC, host of the podcast Dear Jessamyn and author of the books “Every Body Yoga” and “Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance. “
Following the yoga session, Stanley participated in a Q&A and book signing for “Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance, ‘” which was released in June 2021.
Becca Geiger, assistant director of the Gender Equity Center at Penn State, said the 2022 theme for Women’s History Month is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.”
“It’s in celebration of frontline workers but also throughout history,” Geiger said. “The ways that women have promoted hope and healing within communities and cultures around the world – so that fits perfectly with Jessamyn’s work.”
Stanley’s work focuses on body inclusivity and yoga “for every body,” Geiger said. Stanley also works to heal “white-washing of the practice.”
Throughout the yoga session, Stanley guided participants into each move while encouraging “messiness” and “organic” movements – based on what felt best for each individual’s body.
Stanley also emphasized emotional and spiritual bodies over physical bodies, reassuring participants they were “exactly where they needed to be.”
“She emphasized that the poses don’t have to be a certain way, it can be whatever you want,” Josie Vidic, a group fitness instructor at Penn State, said.
Stanley said she began practicing yoga in graduate school.
“It was when I was going through a really tough time in my life. It offered me a lot of stability during that time and beyond, ”Stanley said. “It’s really like my medicine in so many different ways – it’s how I take care of myself. It’s really cool to come to Penn State for that reason. ”
Stanley said she doubted the “path” she was on, and she said it’s easy to “doubt yourself” and “think you have no purpose.”
“It’s cool to be in a space with people who are openly feeling those feelings and willing to be honest with themselves and each other,” Stanley said.
Vidic (senior-biobehavioral health) said overall she had a “really positive” experience participating in the yoga session.
“Coming here was like the best experience ever,” Vidic said. “She makes yoga accessible to everyone, and it’s really up to you.”
Geiger said the yoga was “fabulous.”
“It was everything I expected and more in the sense that it was so affirming, positive and uplifting, and I think everyone who came here got something different from it,” Geiger said.
Stanley said she hopes participants had “the experience they were supposed to have.”
The event was the first in-person practice she had led in a studio since the beginning of the pandemic coronavirus, Stanley said.
“I think the pandemic has offered us a lot to reflect on and even just the reason we come together in the community,” Stanley said. “Why we unite and why it’s important to unite through differences and through our complexities and through our intersections. Why now more than ever that’s important and that it’s really important to be taking care of ourselves – so that we can take care of each other as well. ”
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