Jul 23, 2011

Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga

Anna Guest-Jelley is a yogini who likes to share her experiences not only in her teaching, but also on her blog Curvy Yoga. With lots of empathy and great intuition, she focuses on issues like self-esteem, weight, and body image. Anna had to force herself through more than 65 (!) diets before she could accept that living a joyful life is not down to body size.

To find out more about Anna, her blog, and her work, just follow the jump below.

What's your name, how old are you, and what do you do for a living (or all day, for that matter)?

Hi there! I’m Anna Guest-Jelley. I’m 30 years old, and I teach English at a couple local community colleges. Before that, I worked with survivors of dating violence and sexual assault. I also run my own business (which is where the blogging comes in) called Curvy Yoga.

How long have you been blogging? How did you get around to blogging?

I’ve been blogging for a little over a year. It started out as something small; I really just thought it would be for me and maybe my students. I wanted to start because I love writing and I love yoga, so I figured combining them would be double the fun.

What's your blog called and why?

My blog is called Curvy Yoga. I decided to keep the name synonymous with the classes I teach to keep everything streamlined. As my blogging and business have grown, I’ve seen the benefit of being abundantly (and even repetitively, but not in a boring way) clear about what I’m doing. The more I put a clear message out there, the more people understand it, connect to it and spread the word to others.

What are you blogging about? Why?

I blog about yoga for people of all shapes and sizes, body image and living healthily at every size. I started off focusing only on yoga. For some reason, I had a rule in my head that I couldn’t stray from a very strict interpretation of my blog title. I quickly realized though, that writing about the related issues was not only more interesting but necessary. The idea of making yoga accessible to many different people regardless of their size is caught up in a variety of different issues, including body image, media representations of bodies, eating disorders, dieting and more, and I felt I’d really be limiting the potential of the blog to not address those issues.

Who's your target audience?

My target audience is anyone who is interested in practicing yoga in an accessible way and/or learning to love themselves and their bodies. Most often this is women who have either felt alienated from yoga because of their size or who have experienced any range of body image issues, regardless of their size, and really want to feel more at home in their bodies. Of course, other people read the blog, too, including men, but I’d say this is
my primary audience.

Who designed your blog? How much was that? In case you designed your own layout: Where did you learn how to?

My blog was originally designed by my husband and my sister-in-law. I’ve found that you can usually find people in your circle of friends or family who have these skills and are willing to offer them up to be included in their portfolio or for a small fee. As my blog grew, I wanted a more polished look and more functionality, so I turned to
Proof branding to do that.

Which software and which host do you use? Can you recommend them?

My blog is run through Wordpress (the
Thesis theme), and my hosting is through DreamHost. I’ve been pleased with both of them.

What role play photos, MP3-files or video clips on your blog? If you use them, would you mind showing us one?

I usually use Creative Commons images from Flickr. I rarely use my own photos because photography is not my talent. I have made a few
videos and podcasts; I’m just getting into that, but my readers are responding well to it. I shoot the videos on my iPad and make my podcasts in Garage Band.

How many readers do you have? How many would you like to have? Does their number matter to you at all?

I average about 5,000-6,000 readers a month. I don’t have a target number that I’d like to read; the numbers keep increasing, and that is good by me. I like to see that more people are reading, but I don’t check my stats on a regular basis because I feel like that could get counterproductive for me pretty quickly. I really just use it as a check-in every few months to see what people are responding to and if there is anything I should tweak.

Can you learn how to blog? Do you need to know a lot about computers? Do you have any advice for beginners?

Oh, of course! I certainly did! I’d been writing for quite a while before I began blogging, but essay and article writing don’t immediately translate to a blogging format. Thanks to things like Blogspot and the other blog hosting sites, you only need a very basic grasp of computers and the Internet to get started. There are many great resources out there to tell you everything else you need to know. For beginners, I recommend finding blogs you love and reading them on a regular basis. Check out what you connect with and what you don’t, what their readers respond to, etc. You don’t want to copy them outright, of course, but studying what other successful people do can teach you quite a bit. There are also plenty of sites with advice about blogging that can be useful, such as
Copy Blogger, Problogger and A-List Blogging.

Have you made negative experiences with blogging, too? What kind?

I often use my own experience as the basis for my posts, so sometimes people are critical of that, which can be really hurtful. I try not to take it personally, but that’s easier said than done! I now have a policy that, if I guest post somewhere, I never read the comments. I only read the comments on my own blog, where I am responsible for fostering the community and creating a safe space for everyone.

And have you ever made money through your blog? If yes, how so?

I haven’t made money through the blog, but I did recently start co-teaching an online course that I made money on. The blog was certainly a help for that because I got the word out there.

Do you use twitter, too? Why (not)? What pros and cons do you see when it comes to twitter?

I love Twitter! I can’t even tell you how many people I have connected with there -- too many to count! I’ve gotten requests to guest post, collaborate on projects and even be interviewed through Twitter.

Which other female bloggers can you recommend? Why?

Oh my goodness; there are so many incredible female bloggers out there. These fierce women are sharing about really important issues. Some of my favs are
Joy Tanksley, Margarita Tartakovsky, Lesley Kinzel and Jessica Valenti. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though; what I found is that once I connected with a few, I found even more through their blogrolls and commentators. And then when I went to those sites, I found even more, and so on. There is definitely not a lack of kick-ass female bloggers writing about all kinds of different issues. I find it endlessly fun to find new ones--let me know if you have some I should add to my Google Reader (which is absurdly long, but I love it that way)!

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