Facilitator Interview: Jen Kraft
Saddle River, NJ
Who are you…really?
I teach yoga for positive body image and encourage my students to accept themselves and love their bodies. Many of my students will tell me “Easy for you to say, Jen…look at you!” They feel that because I am thin, it is easy for me to accept myself, and they assume that because I teach yoga, nothing really bothers me. I have always loved to perpetuate that image. But I’m done pretending. The truth is that I can’t remember a day in my life that I didn’t judge my body and my weight.
In college, I struggled with anorexia, where I posed as a bubbly sorority girl but secretly restricted myself and lived in fear of losing control and gaining weight. People were always complimenting me for being skinny and for having so much will power, so I clung to that and worried that my social life would go down the tubes if I put on weight. While I am now “recovered”, I still have the nagging inner voice that tries to tell me that I am not enough.
My yoga practice saves me daily and helps to quiet the voice. Contrary to popular belief, the practice is not about fancy poses and bending in half. You don’t have to be flexible, strong, zen, thin, or wear expensive yoga clothes to practice yoga. Yoga is about making a shift in perspective. It’s about turning negatives into positives. It’s about knowing that you were born enough, you are enough, and always will be enough…no matter how much you weigh, how often you work out, how many Oreos you ate, how many times you lost your temper, or how many messages you forgot to return.
I am a yoga teacher AND I am riddled with self- doubt. I teach body positive yoga AND I still judge myself by the number on that damn scale. I am a good mom AND I yell at my kids sometimes so loudly that my throat hurts. I am writing this article and I will worry for days that no one likes or worse yet, that no one ever reads it!
Yoga is about radically accepting all parts of ourselves, and not being ashamed to talk about it. Yoga is for Every Body.
Tell us your finding ELM story
Three years ago, I was preparing to teach my first Body Positive yoga classes and I found the book Yoga and Body Image by Anna Guest Jelley and Melanie Klein. Once I read Melody Moore’s chapter, I knew I had to meet her and become a part of The Embody Love Movement. My kids were going to overnight camp for the first time that summer which gave me some free time for myself. Without talking to anyone about it, I signed up and booked my ticket to Dallas. I had the unique opportunity to be in a room with other amazing women who were brave enough to be vulnerable and authentic and share their stories. When Melody introduced the concept of “enoughness”, something finally clicked for me. Suddenly it was clear that I didn’t have to lose weight, work out more, get new clothes, new make-up, accomplish everything on my list on order to be enough. Rather, I was enough in the present moment and would always be enough, no matter what.
How do you EMBODY LOVE
Positivity is just as contagious as negativity. My favorite yoga sutra, 2.33 says “When encumbered by negative thoughts, think of positive ones”. Is written on the wall of my yoga studio at The Body Image Boutique. I embody love by trying my best to avoid speaking negatively about myself or my body. I don’t participate in body shaming, and when my students claim they have a “bad” hip, knee, or other body part, I remind them that it’s not “bad”….it just needs a little more TLC! Even though I just turned 46 and the aging process is a little scary, I remind myself, my students and my loved ones regularly that are bodies are beautiful homes for what is truly important…our minds, bodies and souls.
What contribution are you making to the world?
In November, 2016, my business partner Melanie Struble and I opened The Body Image Boutique (BIB), in Bergen County, New Jersey (right outside of NYC), a place dedicated to helping women, men and children of all ages connect with and CELEBRATE their true selves. BIB is a one-stop shop offering integrated services, programs, and classes to “Empower Every Body” on their journey to recovery, long-term growth, and overall health and wellness. We have a full yoga & meditation studio, an Integrative nutritionist, reiki, psychotherapy, a functional medicine doctor and Ayurveda. BIB is the first brick and mortar affiliate of Embody Love Movement and I have already conducted several workshops there! Please come and visit when you are on the East Coast!
About Jen Kraft: With a BA in English from the University of Michigan, and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Jen launched a successful career as a marketing professional in Manhattan. She began her yoga practice after her third knee surgery at the age of 39. Originally there for the physical benefits, she soon realized that the philosophy behind the practice was helping her make peace with the negative body image issues she had struggled with since her teen years.
Eager to share yoga’s benefits, Jen received her 200-hour teacher certification from Ben Wisch at Flow Yoga in Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., and opened her own studio, Defiant Yoga, with the mission of helping individuals of all ages learn to love and accept themselves exactly as they are. She is proud to expand this mission as co-founder of The Body Image Boutique.
Jen has trained with Dr. Melody Moore of the Embody Love Movement, Leslie Kaminoff of Yoga Anatomy, Charlotte Stone of the Stone Center for Yoga and Health, and Christine Loyacano of the Bergen County Transcendental Meditation Center. She was also instrumental in launching Kula for Karma’s Body Positive Yoga program, which she continues to teach weekly.