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Jessamyn Stanley shatters stereotypes in the yoga world one pose at a time

Jessamyn Stanley spent more than half of her life trying to become a stereotype. As a child growing up in North Carolina, she wanted to be like the bubbly cheerleaders or polished pageant girls she saw in her favorite pre-teen movies.

But it wasn't until Stanley -- a black, self-proclaimed "fat femme," plagued by years of self-doubt -- stripped down and hit the yoga mat that she found widespread acceptance and managed to break every stereotype anyone has ever had about who can and who should practice yoga.

The 29-year-old yoga instructor has become an international sensation whose Instagram posts of herself in various poses have resonated with anyone who has ever felt too marginalized or too intimidated to study yoga.

RELATED: Yoga in Cobb County schools causes debate about religion

Her new book "Every Body Yoga," (Workman,  $17), details her rise from social pariah to social media superstar and more importantly, to a yogi on a journey to stay true to herself and maybe inspire a few others along the way.

Though she was afraid, Stanley began practicing yoga at home, and was surprised to find that alone, she had the confidence to push herself beyond her comfort zone. It was her first step in becoming her own teacher -- the goal drilled into yoga practitioners -- and an important step on her journey to self-acceptance.

While she has touched many people -- online and in real life -- Stanley makes it very clear that the mission she is on, is her own.

She has a few issues with the modern yoga world, but the ones that really bother her is that the people who really need yoga the most -- the marginalized -- are the ones who get it the least.

Stanley hopes to translate her desire to make yoga more accessible into a series of pay as you can or flexible payment classes in underserved areas around the country and she is working on a podcast that will offer a space to talk about all the things that don’t get talked about in the modern yoga world.

"I have no interest in changing the modern yoga world. Yoga has existed around the world for thousands of years," Stanley said. "I am just gonna live my yoga practice and if (people) are inspired to live their yoga practice by listening to me, that is dope."

Event Preview:

Books signing and talk with Jessamyn Stanley

6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 23

Avid Bookshop, 493 Prince Ave, Athens

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.