Dani Dunckley, MA, RYT, is a True Fulfillment Self Care Coach. She helps women in service based professions who put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own commitment to their self care so that they can make a significant and sustainable difference in the world without sacrificing themselves and while living a life they love. SYB caught up with Dani to find out more about her career to date and plans for the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you discovered yoga and self-care?
I was in college when I discovered yoga. I’ve always been active, so at first yoga was just another physical exercise for me; while in graduate school on the west coast, I visited my mom in NY and she took me to Kriplalu Yoga & Health Center in Massachusetts, and I immediately fell in love. While in graduate school, I felt disconnected from myself, focusing on my intellect while in school, exercising for my physical well-being at the gym and going hiking to feel connected to something bigger than myself and a sense of spirituality. At Kripalu, everything came together with a yoga practice that integrated mind, body, and spirit, and I finally felt connected to myself and to something bigger than myself. This also felt like true self-care, whole mind-body-spirit self-care (something I was really missing while in graduate school). I quit graduate school and became certified as a yoga instructor through Kripalu, and to this day, that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
Why did you decide to move on to coaching as your main focus?
Two reasons. One, as much as I love teaching yoga I can only teach so many classes a day, and it can be challenging to make a good living going from gym to studio to teach yoga. Two, my students consistently came up to me after class to tell me what a difference my teaching made for them, and not in terms of the physical yoga postures or asana, but in terms of the message I shared. It didn’t take long for that to turn into one-on-one coaching.
What do you aim to teach clients through your coaching?
Primarily, I will teach them how to commit to their self-care consistently, which begins with shifting their relationship with themselves from self-judgment and criticism to compassion and love. My clients often come to me wanting to get rid of aspects of themselves they don’t like, such as shame, anxiety, and depression, but that just increases their suffering. Self-care occurs when we care for all of ourselves, not just the parts we like or consider valuable. In fact, the more we try to get rid of a part of ourselves, the stronger it gets.
Does yoga still have a significant part to play in what you do? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely. Yoga informs everything I do. The philosophy of yoga is an integral part of my coaching. For example, the first ethical precept of the yoga sutras is ahimsa, often translated as compassion. And compassion is key to what I teach my clients, compassion for themselves first and foremost, again often especially the parts of themselves they don’t like — these are the areas that need compassion the most! Another yama, or ethical precept, is aparigraha or non attachment, so letting go of expectations (whether our own or others) around how things “should” be — these are the same expectations and attachments that label uncomfortable feelings or states like anxiety and shame as negative or bad, and that label is toxic to us because it’s internalized as, “if I feel anxious then there’s something wrong with me.” I also believe that healing takes place in the body, and yoga is very much an embodied practice. Many of the postures are about releasing and healing unresolved trauma or experiences from our past.
You emphasise the importance of self-care, but not in the way it is normally advertised. What do you think real self-care is and why is it important?
I think that real self-care is loving and caring for all of yourself, especially the parts you think are bad or negative. Real self-care requires living with integrity, living a life that is authentic to you, and that often means setting boundaries, saying no, and making difficult decisions. So, self-care is not self-improvement; there’s nothing to improve or fix and there’s nothing that’s wrong with you — this mindset increases rather than diminishes our suffering and our disconnection from ourselves. And self-care is not self-indulgent; it’s not pedicures and bubble baths. Self-care is caring for your whole self, mind, body, soul. This is important because too often we’re told to just be positive or to get rid of negative emotions, or we’re told to just do what feels good (bubble baths and pedicures) rather than care for ourselves in a deep, sustainable, and authentic way — which means meeting all of ourselves with love and showing up for ourselves in a way that can be challenging such as setting boundaries and saying no.
Who is the target audience for your coaching, and why?
My target audience is professional women who struggle with burnout because statistically women have a much harder time with self-care and tend to put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own, and this is often compounded in the work environment. Also, as a yoga teacher and True Fulfillment Self-Care Coach, professional women who struggle with burnout make up the majority of people who come to me looking for help.
To date, what has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
Before COVID-19 restrictions, I met most of my students and clients in person while teaching yoga, so the biggest challenge for me during the lockdowns was shifting from in-person to online. I overcame this challenge by creating a Sacred Self-Care Sanctuary Membership for my students and clients and teaching a live yoga class each week via zoom. It was so special seeing my students practicing with me in their living rooms and bedrooms, all of them coming together virtually to be a part of a community of self-care.
On the other hand, can you tell us about a time you felt truly fulfilled or that your job was a success?
I feel truly fulfilled coaching my clients and love witnessing the transformational shifts that occur for them as a result of our work together. For example, when I first met one of my clients, a social worker, she said to me, “I wake up in the morning feeling anxious and go to bed feeling anxious. I take my work home with me and never feel as if I have enough time to take care of myself, do my work, and be there for my husband and friends.” After working with me, she shared, “I don’t feel overwhelmed by anxiety any more. My energy and outlook throughout the day have completely changed. I feel present and focused, have more energy, and don’t take my work home with me anymore. I asked a friend to have lunch with me recently and she said she didn’t recognize me! She said, ‘you look happy and relaxed, and you reached out to me. That’s not the woman I know. Before you were always stressed and anxious and didn’t have time to reach out. Now you’re spending time with friends, taking time to relax, and you even stand taller. You’re glowing!’” For me, that is an example of my job being a resounding success!
What three tips would you give someone who thinks they might be experiencing burnout?
- Have clear, empowered boundaries. Practice saying no as much as possible to what isn’t essential or drains your energy, professionally and personally, and make self-care such as sleep, exercise, nutritious food non-negotiable. Schedule self-care into your calendar the way you do work.
- Take time to feel the feels. Allow yourself to feel what’s coming up for you, and let it move through you. This might be through twenty minutes of exercise, taking deep, slow breaths, petting an animal like your dog or cat, receiving a hug from a loved one, crying, or creative expression, like painting, music, or writing
- Rest and Sleep. Get at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night, and take breaks during the day to rest.
What are your plans for the future?
Launching my Replenish & Recover (R&R) Group Coaching Program to help service based professional women eliminate and proactively prevent burnout and anxiety by transforming their lifestyle and mindset through getting their self-care routines in place to clear any stress build-up so that they experience a drastic shift in vitality and deep restfulness, which leads to far more effective performance. I’m really excited about this new program and plan on inviting people to join in the Fall of 2021!
For more info visit https://danidunckley.coach/