Women in Wellness: Self-observation through yoga with Stacy Dockins from Yoga Project Studio
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy Dockins from Yoga Project Studio
I believe that people are here in order to make a bigger impact in the world — and with my book, ‘Make an Impact’, I had the chance to prove that hundreds of people are using their influence to improve other people’s lives.
As the founder of the Health Bloggers Community, my mission is to support people with growing their passion into a business — and so many women are building businesses empires all over the world.
This series is a chance to spotlight some of these women
“A business isn’t built on a brand or social media presence alone; it thrives on experience and meaningful interactions.”
Stacy Dockins, is a Texas-based Yoga Teacher (500 Hour E-RYT), Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM-CES), Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), and Author of Embodied Posture. Stacy and her husband Dave own three leading yoga studios in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, called Yoga Project studios where she creates and directs yoga teacher training courses. Stacy recently developed her first book, Embodied Posture, which empowers readers to align yoga postures to best suit one’s bio-individuality.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico as the youngest of 5 siblings. My family was transplanted there to follow my father’s work with the CDC. When I was born, my oldest brother asked my mother, “But how will we talk to her, since all she will know is Spanish?!”
We eventually landed in a small rural town in Texas, where I spent my adolescent and teen years. I was that girl who never learned to do cartwheels and who dreaded the yearly physical fitness test in gym class. The thought of attempting to do pull-ups in front of my classmates literally made me ill.
I spent years watching my older brothers excel in sports and my sister cheer on the varsity squad. I longed to play sports, but I didn’t have the courage to do so. Fast forward a couple of decades and I was a young mother with three children under the age of 4. My self-perception hadn’t changed much when it came to my physicality, yet I secretly longed to feel strong in my body. I remember feeling resentful as I watched my husband Dave leave the house for an early morning workout. I was very out of shape and had been pregnant and or nursing babies for 5 years! It was a cathartic moment that propelled me into taking a stand for myself and my wellbeing.
I loaded my three babes up and drove to the gym. I dropped them off at the gym daycare and walked away as they all began to cry. It’s rather funny now as I tell the story, but it was a HUGE deal for me back then — it was a personal revolution. Once the kids and I settled into the new routine, there was no stopping me. I loved every minute of working out. I was beginning to experience feelings in my mind and body that I never had before.
The next step in my wellness journey took me outside to road cycling and this was a newly found love that I still hold today. During this time, I became an indoor cycling instructor and began practicing yoga more and more. One day after I taught my cycling class, the gym owner told me that the yoga teacher did not show up and that they needed me to teach class. I jumped off the bike, still in my cycling shorts and ran in to the packed yoga room to lead class — and that’s how it all began. My own personal journey of coming home into the experience of my body fueled me immensely to share and lead others toward living their best lives.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
1. Listen more closely to your body. Our sensations are full of helpful information — they are always telling us something. It is important that we learn to listen to the feedback our body is giving us. Whether it is a shift in overall energy, sleep quality, or food cravings — every single message from the body has something important to tell us. There are so many ideas out there about the right and wrong ways to be healthy, yet it is only when we tune in to our own experience that we can know what’s truly effective. Whether it is nutrition or working out — what works for one — may not be the best route for another. Our genetic blueprints, lifestyle, and history will all determine our unique needs — and this will ebb and flow as we transition through different periods of our lives. When we commit to increased interoceptive awareness — feeling what’s happening on the inside — we begin down the path of sustainable wellness. This is also an incredible tool for increasing our ability to be mindful, which is a key component for living a happier, healthier life.
2. Do more things that make you happy. Sometimes I think we’ve got it all backwards when it comes to wellbeing. We voluntarily live these crazy hectic lives that make us feel bad and then we try to squeeze in these movement and nutrition protocols to feel better! It’s sort of like using the worst ingredients possible to make a casserole and then sprinkling healthy ingredients on top. And we become overly obsessed with the healthy ingredients on top, rather than taking the time to reconsider the main ingredients of the casserole. It can be so valuable to pause and evaluate how the things you are doing from day to day are making you feel. Whether it is a relationship, your job, or your home space — is it bringing you joy? If not, what could shift? What are the things that make you happy? Are you committed to doing them on a regular basis? Science reveals that happiness has in inverse relationship with cortisol — the hormone linked to stress, hormone imbalance, blood sugar dysregulation, increased abdominal fat, and more. As a Nutritional Therapist, I often get asked advice on many different conditions. Whether it is cholesterol, triglycerides, or hormonal disruption — I always tell them to do these three things first: 1) drink more water, 2) practice longer, slower breaths, 3) do more things that make you happy.
3. Practice gratitude. I was chatting with a friend recently and she was telling me about a new endeavor that she was incredibly excited about. She explained that when she initially learned about the opportunity, her heart exploded, and fireworks of possibility were going off within her. She had confidence around the possibilities that existed with the project — then everything began to change after a few days. She said her mind began to come up with every possible scenario of what could go wrong. She said that as the days went by, the initial excitement and passion had begun to dwindle. She had become stuck in the vortex of fear and lack and she couldn’t make her way out. As she shared with me, I couldn’t help but think of how familiar this sounded. I’m sure that there isn’t a person out there who hasn’t experienced something similar. It is often said that our mind is like Velcro for negative thoughts and Teflon for the positive. Being armed with the practice of gratitude has been the most powerful tool for me in those moments of feeling stuck in the negative. Whether I simply pause, close my eyes, and think of 3 things I am grateful for — or I take the time to pull out a journal — I use gratitude to flip the switch. In my experience — while amidst gratitude — it is challenging to hold any other thoughts or emotions. It’s like giving my mind an alternate assignment for a few minutes, so that it can refocus and begin again. Research shows that gratitude not only offers us momentary relief, but might also have a strong effect on our overall health. Studies have shown more frequent experiences of wellbeing result in lower levels of inflammation in the bloodstream.
Can you share the interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In 2010 I had the privilege of being invited to teach at the Yoga Garden on the White House Lawn during the annual Easter Egg Roll. The best part was that I got to bring my daughter with me, who was 12 years old at the time. I worked with a group of yoga teachers as we taught yoga to everyone from kids, parents, white house officials, along with family and friends of the Obamas. My daughter got to be on the demonstration stage, showing poses to those who didn’t know them. We had a blast. The day was incredibly long, and by the end, we were exhausted. After we got everything packed and cleaned, we went to grab our things and my daughter’s shoes were missing. We couldn’t find them anywhere.
This wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but we still had 4 miles to walk back to our hotel! And there certainly wasn’t anywhere nearby to grab an extra pair of shoes. So, I did what all good moms would do, I lent her my shoes and proceeded to walk back to the hotel barefoot. It was a busy evening in D.C. with lots of traffic and people out — and I was BAREFOOT! As I arrived back at the hotel, my phone rang as I was standing in the hallway outside of the room. It was a radio station from my hometown, wanting to interview me about the experience.
As I stood in the hallway and proceeded with the brief interview, I gazed at the soles of my black, hot feet and giggled as I thought, “if you only knew the whole story.” This was a great day that I will never forget.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the early days of owning our yoga studios, I definitely took things way too personally. As our staff grew by the month, I found myself hitting a brick wall. I was exhausted, but it took a bit to realize and admit that it was emotional exhaustion. I had no handle on my reactivity to every little situation that occurred. Whether it was a teacher not showing up for a class, or a customer cancelling their membership, I took it all personally.
My reactive emotions had been taking my physiology for a ride for several years. Although I was practicing yoga and meditation, I became very aware of my need for increased self-observation. Learning how to pause and take time to respond — rather than automatically react — has been huge for me.
I used my own journey with this practice to create a teaching model to be used in the cultivation of mindful relationships. I often share it in my programs and trainings. It’s basically a method that involves pausing, self-monitoring, and journaling. It involves what I refer to as “sifting,” in which a writing process is used to help you differentiate between facts, fears, and emotions correlated with a troubling situation.
Clearing away false ideas and fearful reactions helps to approach others with clarity and honesty. I love when I can use my own struggles to help others. We are all so alike!
When it comes to health and wellness, how are you helping people making a bigger impact in the world?
In this era of free and plentiful information at everyone’s fingertips 24–7, it is sometimes difficult to decipher between fact and falsity. Marketing is often full of false claims and partial truths. The yoga world is no exception. As a matter of fact — because it is an ancient practice — it is particularly notorious for making false claims and selling them to its customers. I find that my students are incredibly intelligent and hungry for science and evidence-based practices. If they are going to invest into something for themselves, they want to know why. I embrace ancient wisdom but claim it as such. In my teacher training programs, I am an advocate for practising integrity with words. I tell my teachers, “don’t just say something because everyone else is saying it — do the work to know how and why.” And this pertains to everything — whether we are discussing the history of yoga, biomechanics, or any aspect of wellness.
In today’s social environment, this is vital. It is easy to simply agree or disagree with what others say, but it takes courage and ultimately respect to evaluate our own unexamined platforms and beliefs.
As leaders in the wellness world, the more we can commit to using our voices for truth, the more helpful we can be to those that need it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Without a doubt — I am forever grateful for the unconditional support of my husband, Dave. Not only does he compliment me energetically, but he has also always been my biggest cheerleader. An example of his selfless support was with the recent release of my new book, Embodied Posture. I began writing very enthusiastically — and somewhat naively. I had decided to go the self-publishing route since it had become so advanced in recent years.
I did a little research along the way, considering the various companies to work with, but that was about it. Once finishing edits were underway and the designer was on the final layout — I decided to go a little farther — and ordered print samples from several publishing houses. I asked for the highest quality in the paper since my book has many coloured, anatomical illustrations. After receiving all the samples and making lots of phone calls, I realized that no self-publishing avenues offered high quality, heavy-weight, bright colour print.
Although this was great for novels, and books without high-quality illustrations, there was no way this could work for my book. I was devastated!
At that point, I was so far invested in the process but didn’t know what to do. Not surprisingly, Dave came to the rescue and proceeded to create a publishing company from scratch. He worked late nights pulling all the details together, working with overseas printers, and distribution centers.
He worked a miracle and had my book published beautifully. So, although I am officially the author — I typically refer to it as “our” book — because he did so much work to make it come to fruition. I am incredibly grateful to have him as a partner in this life.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’m incredibly passionate about the practice of self-compassion. I think this is because I didn’t discover it until later in life and it has changed me tremendously. I struggled as a teen with mental health and eating disorders. I was so caught up in how I appeared to others. I didn’t have the confidence to do the things that I wanted to do, and it’s all because of the negative image I had of myself. I didn’t know anything about how to deal with my thoughts or emotions. My inability to even consider self-kindness led to many self-destructive behaviors.
At the root of understanding self-compassion are two main components: 1) self-observation, and 2) common humanity. Self-observation goes hand and hand with mindful awareness in that it is observing one’s self in the moment without judgement. From this perspective, we give ourselves space to become more aware of the thoughts and emotions that naturally arise within. This, along with an understanding of foundational neurological and psychological principles, helps us to realize that we are normal human beings and that as we observe ourselves with compassion, we can access the space needed to reevaluate and make new choices.
The more we observe ourselves as perfectly imperfect humans, the more clearly we begin to realize that others are just like us. Our capacity for forgiveness and togetherness expands.
I teach yoga as a tool for self-observation. Being able to still your mind long enough to feel your toes, knees, and shoulders — within a yoga pose — is exercise for strengthening the mind for self-observation in all moments of life. If I could start a massive movement helping others sharpen the skill of self-compassion through movement practices, this is exactly what I’d do. I like to think that I’ve already begun.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have been training yoga teachers since 2007. We have offered many scholarships along the way for people to attend our programs, but this year we felt compelled to take this to another level. I have three college-aged children, so teen mental health has always been an important topic for me. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in kids and teens ages 10 to 19 in the United States after accidents and unintentional injuries, per the CDC.
As adults, mentors, and parents, I feel it is time for all of us to have bigger conversations about the mental health of our children. As I wondered what I could do to help, I thought of my own personal journey with stress and self-acceptance, along with the skills that I was sharing every day in my yoga classes — and the answer came to me. I created the Embodied Posture Scholarship program, in which we are inviting a group of 20 young women to join us for a 10-day yoga teacher training program for free.
We are in the application process now. The program will place special emphasis on using yoga as a tool for cultivating self-compassion and stress-resilience. Upon graduation, the girls will be certified to teach yoga in their communities and schools.
What is your “I Thing I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
Focus more on building your skill set than building your social brand.
Social media is incredibly prevalent in many of our lives. As a business owner, I don’t think it’s possible to get by without having some sort of social media presence, and it can be difficult not to get caught up in the comparison madness with all the likes, hashtags, and follows. I also don’t believe that a big social media presence always translates into big business.
In my experience, the biggest following comes from word of mouth and real, in-the-flesh interactions with others. In my earlier days, I definitely sustained some stress around building my brand, and in conversation with other business owners — many have experienced the same thing. It doesn’t help that everywhere you look, there are “experts” in brand-building, trying to sell you their services. Yes, branding is important, but building your skill set is more so.
A business isn’t built on a brand or social media presence alone; it thrives on experience and meaningful interactions.
Be a forever student, and never ever stop building your skill set. This is what will help you be the most helpful in the lives of others — and at the same time — be the most powerful force for your brand.
Do you have any “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would they be?
I would love to take Dr. Chelsea Roberts Jackson to brunch! She is a well-known yoga teacher and advocate for marginalized youth empowerment and positive body image. Dr. Jackson created a Yoga, Literature, and Art camp for teen girls in 2013. She also provides trainings for yoga practitioners, educators, community leaders, activists, and students interested in expanding their awareness on issues concerning marginalized youth, individuals, and communities. As a Hispanic woman, I am proud to see another woman of color taking a leadership role in the yoga industry. She also represents such beautiful strength in her normal sized body and encourages me to be more accepting and proud of who I am. I’m certain that she has this influence on many.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is a topic that I hold very close to my heart, specifically teen mental health. Statistics show that teen suicide occurrences, along with rates of anxiety and depression have been on a steady, drastic rise. It is important to remember that it doesn’t take a diagnosis to experience anxiety or depression, and statistics show that only 1/3 of people suffering from mental illness seek treatment.
To be human in today’s fast-paced, demanding environment — means to experience some degree of mental health challenge.
It is something that all of us should be more aware of and is most definitely at the root of all wellness. Mindful movement practices have been shown to be effective complementary therapies for treating anxiety and depression.
Therefore, I am passionate about sharing the practice of yoga — as it can address musculoskeletal and mental wellness in the same session.
About the author:
Fab Giovanetti is a business mentor, published author, influencer-specialist, best known as the founder of the Health Bloggers Community and co-founder of the Register of Health and Wellness Influencers.
Serial start-up founder and professional troublemaker, she is obsessed with avocados and helping people making an impact in health and wellness. Sounds like you? Get daily tips on how to grow your influence via the HBC magazine.