A few months ago Mara Glatzel and I debuted our interview series on self-love. Mara is a self-love coach and blogger who helps women close the gap between the lives they deserve and the lives they’re currently living. (She also regularly inspires me with her stunning and powerful writing.)

Our goal with this interview series is to make the concept and practice of self-love as accessible and feasible as possible. That’s why we’re sharing stories and insights from women who embody self-love.

Today, I’m thrilled to present my interview with Anna Guest-Jelley, who I’m honored to call my colleague and close friend. Anna is the founder of Curvy Yoga, a beautiful, safe and empowering space for practicing yoga at all shapes and sizes and accepting and celebrating ourselves.

Anna continues to teach me so much about being kind and gentle with my body — and about having a sense of humor when it comes to self-love. She’s incredibly honest and humble about the process. And she has tons of valuable, totally doable ideas about practicing body acceptance and self-love. Here’s a snippet of her wisdom.

Q: How do you practice self-love?

A: For me, the answer is in the question – practice. I’m well familiar with this concept because of my yoga background.

In yoga, the idea is that you’re in for a lifelong practice – there’s always something new to learn, a way to go deeper (and by that I mean more internal, more aware – not doing progressively more physical poses).

When you talk with people who have been practicing yoga for at least 3 decades, what you invariably hear is that their practice is less physical and more subtle – in other words, they continue learning more and more about themselves, the world around them, the nature of yoga, etc.

“Achieving” difficult poses, which is often a goal of beginning practitioners, becomes way less important (if important at all) than the deeper inner knowing.

This is what I want from my self-love practice – curiosity, openness to change, evolution, deepening, lifelong learning. As much as I wanted it to be an end goal when I first embarked on this journey, I now see the beauty in knowing it’s not.

Q: What book is a must-read for self-love, body image or a related topic?

A: Asking me to choose a favorite book is like asking me to choose which one of my dogs is my favorite!

But I will say that I think everyone who is even remotely interested in any of these topics needs to read anything by Brené Brown (such as The Gifts of Imperfection or Daring Greatly). I think her work around shame is fundamental to transforming your relationship to your body.

Q: What are your favorite ways to move your body?

A: I’ll give you three guesses, but you probably only need one – yoga!

Yoga is the first form of movement I ever did that I actually enjoyed, that I could see myself doing more than once. While everyone might not love it as much as I do, I do encourage people who are looking for a pleasurable form of movement to give it a try.

You can find teachers and classes you like, no matter your shape or size – sometimes it just takes a little shopping around.

Q: What’s one or two things you wish women knew about appreciating and loving themselves?

A: I wish women knew that pretty much all of us feel this way. When you dislike your own body, it feels so isolating. While you may be quick to put your body down in the presence of other women, there may also be a secret part of you that is utterly convinced that they were just being nice when they put down their body because they, and you, know that yours is really the worst.

I believe the more we talk about our shared experiences, the freer we can become. This harkens back to the idea that “the personal is political.”

This is often mistakenly taken to mean that any little thing that happens to me is a political issue. But that’s not it – what it really means is that things that we think are personal often have much bigger issues (like cultural imperatives, media portrayals/perceptions & oppression) at play.

And if body image doesn’t fit this bill, I don’t know what does.

Q: Who are your heroes?

A: I have more sheroes than heroes! I’m incredibly grateful to the women who came before me to lay the groundwork for what I do and who I am today. On that list are definitely Angela Farmer (a pioneer in women and yoga) and Kathie Sarachild (a pioneer in the women’s liberation movement).

Q: What do you think is your greatest obstacle in loving yourself?

A: My greatest obstacle is feeling like it’s worth my time. I always feel I have more “important” things to do. But in my clearer-headed moments, I know that I can’t do much else in the way that I want to if I don’t make time for myself.

Q: How do you work to overcome it?

A: Oh, it’s a constant check-in process for me. I’ve identified some red flags that help me know if I need to redirect course. For example, if I’ve gone several days without practicing yoga because I thought I “needed” to check my email first, that’s a big one.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

A: Self-love is something you have to find your own way into. There is so much inspiration to be found in books, blogs and learning from others’ experiences. But at the end of the day, you have to go with what works for you. So take what’s helpful from others’ advice and leave the rest.

More about Anna:

 Anna Guest-Jelley, E-RYT200, RYT500, is the founder of Curvy Yoga – a training & inspiration portal for curvy yogis & their teachers.

As a writer, teacher & lifelong champion for women’s empowerment & body acceptance, Anna encourages women of every size, age & ability to grab life by the curves. And never let go.

Explore Curvy Yoga programs, classes & certification courses online at CurvyYoga.com. And connect with Anna on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out our other interviews with amazing ladies Tara Sophia Mohr, Kate Swoboda and Marianne Elliott, who actually teaches a yoga class with Anna!

Book Giveaway

Thank you so much to everyone who commented on last week’s post to win a copy of Living Life As A Thank You: My Journal. Your comments were absolutely beautiful. And the winner is… Renee. I’ll be emailing you shortly. 🙂

Update: We were really blown away by the heartfelt comments on the gratitude post. So I contacted Brenda Knight, associate publisher at Viva Editions, and she generously offered to give away 3 more copies of Living Life As A Thank You. So I chose three more winners using random.org: Amy, LA and Blaine. I’ll be contacting everyone today.