If you’re still struggling through warrior IIs and chaturanga and haven’t read yoga instructor Jessamyn Stanley’s 2021 book, Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Stanley is as gifted a writer as she is a yoga practitioner, and she manages to make the act of doing yoga sound less like an exercise in picture-perfect Instagram fodder (which Stanley calls “yoga-flavored bullshit”) and more like an accessible and quietly revolutionary act of self-care for those who are consistently told they are too much—too fat, too Black, too queer, or too anything else—for the world around them.
On October 25, Stanley launched a brand-new yoga class with a bit of a twist; hosted on the social platform OnlyFans. The class is taught naked, with Stanley also offering shibari (Japanese rope bondage) tutorials and other tantalizingly NSFW tidbits. Recently, Vogue spoke to Stanley about the online censorship that drew her to OnlyFans, how the practice of naked yoga has improved her day-to-day life, what solo yoga can offer that studio classes don’t, and more.
Vogue: First of all, how have you been since we last spoke?
Jessamyn Stanley: I’m good! I’m very creatively fertile. I don’t know if it’s just post-quarantine or what, but I’ve really been standing in the joy of the present moment, and that has been a really powerful meditation in the chaos of it all.
How did the idea for this OnlyFans project come about?
Well, for years, I’ve had content blocked and banned on all the different social networks, and at a certain point, you kind of start to think, like, what is the point of these platforms? I’ve definitely noticed over time that fat, Black, queer bodies are marginalized on social media a little bit more than others, and I thought that I should have a place where all this yoga of everyday life—that perhaps is not fit for Instagram, or for TikTok—can live. I wanted to really show what the fat body looks like in a way that is not exploitative or hurtful and to really offer an opportunity for other people to accept themselves. I’m able to do postural breakdowns and tutorials, and live classes that are taught in a way that I have never seen, and certainly not on the internet. Naked yoga has become way more common, but I’m hopeful that this will make it something that is very natural.
What do you gain from practicing yoga naked that you might not get from your clothed practice?
So many things! Whenever you’re naked, you’re able to engage with your physical body in a way that is really difficult to do when you’re fighting with a pair of leggings or trying to understand how your bra fits into the equation. It deepens the practice in a way that is really hard to match. And I think there’s an opportunity for anatomical accuracy in the postures that can be difficult when you’re wearing clothing; you’re able to literally, visually see the postures in a way that with clothes on, it’s a little bit of a mystery. In a group yoga class, especially one that’s in a studio with many people, it’s very easy to feel self-conscious about your body to the point where you might spend the entire yoga class obsessing over what you look like, what clothes you’re wearing, whether or not other people like you, all that stuff. When you practice naked—especially if you’re in the comfort of your own home—you’re able to have an engagement with your body in a way that is just so deep and rich and very different.
Do you feel like doing naked yoga has changed anything about the way you move through the world?
Absolutely, 100%. For me, practicing naked and really, truly being forced to accept my body—like, being able to touch it in ways that I was told not to touch because I was taught to be very ashamed in my body, and I started […] feeling deep shame about it—has been transformational in how I show up in my day-to-day life.
What about OnlyFans in particular felt like the right platform for this project?
I think that many parts of the social-media-content-creation-scape are very much about control and not necessarily about people being open and free. And so I feel like as a creator, there’s an opportunity to expand the kind of content that is even offered to me, because that’s something that I feel really excited by. I hope to see more content creators look at OnlyFans—and also just look at content creation in general—with a wider lens.
What would you say to people who might be curious or excited about taking one of your OnlyFans classes, but just aren’t comfortable being naked?
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Well, what I would say is that you don’t have to be naked. It’s more like, Jessamyn’s naked, just so that you know that it’s cool to be naked. I’m giving very specific anatomical cues that are X-rated—like, they’re things that you would not typically hear in a class—but they are so detailed that they bring you into a deeper posture, whether or not you’re naked. So if you feel uncomfortable being naked, please lean into your truth. The point is that you’re open to baring your soul.