A pioneer of women’s empowerment and body acceptance in yoga, and in life, this week’s Salted Spotlight is an inspiring entrepreneur who saw a problem and set her sights on fixing it. Founder of Curvy Yoga, Anna Guest-Jelley is a force, a bright-spirited leader forging a path of positivity for all. Here’s some insight on how she’s making it happen.
SALTED SPOTLIGHT: Anna Guest-Jelley
So, what do you do for a living?
I teach what I call Curvy Yoga, which is body positive yoga for people of all shapes and sizes. So much fun!
When did you start Curvy Yoga and why?
I started Curvy Yoga in 2009 because I’d always wanted to find something like it. Having spent about a decade at that point practicing yoga as almost always the biggest person in the room, and not getting (m)any tips from my teachers, I knew something had to give. I just knew I couldn’t be the only person out there who wanted to practice yoga comfortably in a non-stereotypical yoga body. Turns out, I was right!
For something like yoga, which appears to come from a place of acceptance and tolerance for all, why was it important for you to be an advocate for women’s empowerment & body acceptance?
It’s just that – the appearance vs. the reality. At its core, the practice of yoga is about acceptance and tolerance, but the culture of yoga in the west today doesn’t always foreground that, particularly when it comes to the ability to actually put those ideals into action by not only creating a welcoming environment for all types of people, but also knowing how to offer them pose options that actually work.
What’s been your biggest challenge in starting your business? What’s been your greatest reward?
The biggest challenge has been learning to trust myself in a new way. Someone once said to me that one of the biggest spiritual journeys you’ll ever go on is becoming an entrepreneur, and that has been incredibly true for me. On the flip side, that has been a wonderful reward because through this process I have learned, and am learning, to know and accept myself in new and deeper ways. My greatest reward, though, is any time someone says they’d never thought yoga was for them, but then something from Curvy Yoga encouraged them to try it, and now they love it. That is just the absolute best!
What are two essential tips you would give to a budding yogi?…And to a budding entrepreneur?
1. It can take time to find the teacher and style of yoga that work best for you. So if you go to class once and don’t like it, try something else. That’s the beauty of all the different options these days.
2. At its best, yoga is about getting to know your body and self. Be wary of anyone who tells you differently or implies that your body or practice are not okay as they are today.
1. Get the support you need, whether in a skillset that you don’t currently have (that’s graphic design for me, for sure!) or the emotional encouragement you need to keep going when you doubt yourself (because you will, but that’s not necessarily a sign to quit, as it can be so easy to assume. It’s just part of the process!).
2. Tell your story. Connect with people. Build relationships. When you know your community and want to serve them based on their needs, it makes everything so much more rewarding and successful.
What does work/life balance mean to you?
I see work/life balance as more like work/life ebb and flow. It’s very rarely 50/50, so I do my best to have it mostly balance out over time. Some times are more work focused, others are more life focused. As an entrepreneur, though, I find that the two areas blend together as often as not.
How do you make it happen? As in, what’s your key to getting things done?
Systems are this gal’s best friend. I never do something twice that I could have done just once. So anytime I teach a new class, or find myself getting the same question by email over and over, I document, document, document. That doesn’t mean things go stale, as I’d feared – quite the opposite. Instead, when I’m ready to revisit, I get to spend my time refining rather than redoing. It seriously shocks me how much time this saves. It’s incredible!
What’s your go-to yoga pose to help you get you centered and motivated?
Tadasana. Any time I need to come back to myself, I pause, come to standing in alignment (or put my feet on the floor from my chair if that’s not possible), close my eyes and take three deep breaths. I always feel a profound shift when I do this, and I love that I can do it anywhere, any time.
Which woman — past, present or future — would you most like to invite to tea, maybe a yoga class?
Oh, there are so many incredible women I would love to spend time with and learn from! I’m going to limit myself to the yoga realm because otherwise I could never choose just one. So I’m going to go with Vanda Scaravelli. Her book “Awakening the Spine” is so inspiring, and I love how she listened to her body, and her students’ bodies, and crafted her approach from there. I feel like we would have such a delightful, lingering conversation.
Lavender or patchouli?
Lavender! Hands down.