Book Review // Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance
Jessamyn Stanley's second book explores the realness in wellness
It's hard not to gravitate towards the beautiful packaging of Yoke. The book is small, with textured paper, gorgeous illustrations throughout, and muted colors. But Jessamyn Stanley's voice is neither small nor muted, and her collection of incredibly honest, unapologetic, funny, autobiographical essays invite the reader to embrace the deeper, authentic spirit of yoga and their own self-acceptance.
The Sanskrit word yoga, means "to yoke," as in, "to join together," to marry breath, thought, and movement, to connect body, mind, and spirit, and to explore the meaning of balance, linking the good and bad, light and dark, on and off the mat. Stanley encourages the exploration of these ideas as she takes the reader along on her personal journey to discovering and teaching yoga, from growing up Bahai, reading Tarot, loving astrology, learning to meditate, practicing at home, and eventually landing a Yoga Journal magazine cover.
Far from the typical self-help and wellness books that tend to be either deeply intellectual or overly flowery, Stanley strikes a balance and tells it like it is, as if you were having a conversation with a friend. In the first chapter, she lets you know right away that "the fine print of being a fat, Black, queer yoga teacher in a predominately thin, White, and very straight yoga industry is that there are just as many people who are inspired by you as there are with a strong desire for you to shut the f*ck up." She doesn't shy away from talking about raw feelings and real topics such as impostor syndrome, wealth inequality, cultural appropriation, sacred music, plant medicine, and white guilt. She does it all with a fresh voice, charm, and sharp wit.
Yoke unpacks the deeper meaning of yoga and reminds readers that "the yoga of everyday is not about perfecting your downward dog, but about applying the hard lessons learned on the mat to the even harder daily project of living."
208 pages // Workman Publishing // Autobiography, Mind and body therapies