Dianne Bondy: Why taking care of yourself will help you nurture others
To say that Bondy does a lot is an understatement. Dianne Bondy is a celebrated yoga teacher, activist, leader, speaker and mother. She started the Yoga for All movement and is a co-founder of the Yoga Body Image Coalition. She speaks at several conferences a year, addressing topics like self-empowerment, yoga as therapy, body image, diversity, race and social justice and activism. She offers trainings that equip teachers with the tools to teach underserved populations. And she is a seriously active woman. We asked her how she takes care of herself while being vibrantly present for others.
Thank you taking taking time to talk with us. It’s such an honor. I’d like to open by referencing thoughts you shared in a past interview. On “Do You Yoga” you were asked, ‘What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?’ You responded saying, ‘drink as you pour’ from Dr. Chelsea Jackson. It is important to give and to receive to stay balanced. If you don’t replenish yourself you can definitely burn out! Will you share more on how you embrace ‘drink as your pour’ through your personal practice?
I do a lot of self care. My very first self care practice starts in the morning. I wake up at about 5:00 or 5:15 a.m., and go for a 90 minute walk. Those 90 minutes are meditative or spent listening to a podcast. But those 90 minutes are mine. I wear a big set of headphones and keep my gaze down or if it’s sunny I wear sunglasses. I want to retreat inwards. I don’t want to interact with anybody during my me time. I interact with everybody all the time — on social media and when I’m teaching. I’m constantly asking questions, [I’m] engaged in different forms of media or email. When I get home around 6:30 or 6:45 am I do half an hour to 45 minutes of asana. Again, that’s my disconnect. The two hours connecting to myself charges my batteries.
I consider myself an extrovert/introvert. I love hearing people’s stories. I love to see people be vulnerable because it makes me feel like the world is shifting and people can see us for who we are. But on the flip side I need to back up, have alone time and charge my batteries.
I also go for Reiki twice a month. I have an amazing Reiki teacher who does a Reiki EFT treatment on me, which is the tapping, release and reflexology. It’s all put together in 90 minutes. When I’m feeling depleted, which is usually at about the ten day mark, I go for the treatment and once a month I do massage. I’m a big fan of taking care of myself because that is very much the philosophy of “drink as your pour.”
I’ve learned through doing this work, through living my life and being on the planet for so long that if I don’t take care of myself, recharge, or step away, I’ll get crabby, resentful, and angry. I don’t like to put that kind of energy out into the world. I think it’s okay to be angry because anger is a really great motivator for me in certain circumstances. I don’t want it to be anger from resentment. I prefer anger from injustice or inaction that makes me spring to action or look for justice.
You exude such positive energy through your classes, trainings, online videos and blog posts. With all of this going on, where do you feel most alive?
In the teaching of teachers. Very recently one of our teachers who just graduated from the Yoga For All online training sent his final and his video. I met him last year in March, when I came to Minneapolis. I met him and when he had sat down in front of me there was something about him that was powerful. His presence was so powerful. He’s a big black man, he’s got tattoos, a beard and piercings. That stuff kinda blows my mind — to know that he doesn’t have this conventional look. When you see him initially, people have a reaction based on our socialization as a culture. Then you look at his eyes and you realize whatever stereotype that you’ve lived through or whatever stereotype you can’t help because of how you’ve been conditioned falls away. He’s out there serving underserved communities. His presence is so important.
When I can work with someone like him and they come back to say, ‘I’m truly grateful for the teachings you’ve offered, for how authentic this was, you’ve really added stuff to my tool box or I feel more empowered as a teacher’ — that is the stuff that moves me forward. Whether it’s the teacher training or a lecture, if there’s an opportunity for ongoing learning, collaborative learnings, or learnings from other people’s lived experiences, that’s the stuff that lights my fire and inspires me. I know as yoga teachers we have these insecurities and vulnerabilities. We’re scared that we’re frauds or not actually doing the work. Or maybe not helping anybody. We think, ‘why are we doing the work in the first place?’ Then we meet someone who has a moment and you were there to share in the moment. That feeds my soul without a doubt.
That’s incredible. When did you feel ready to lead trainings?
I never feel ready [laughing]. I haven’t reached that point yet. I just sit down and say ‘listen, we are both on this path, I may have been on the path for a little bit longer and I’m going to share what I know. This is not the end all be all. This is not the only way things are done. You’re going to learn other things from other teachers. This is an opportunity to learn and we learn from each other.’
I’ve had a few of my students come up to me and say, ‘if you were ever questioning what your dharma is, you shouldn’t because you should do this.’ I thought okay, maybe I’m okay at it. I love hearing that people had a positive experience in training with me. But I take the compliments and the criticisms the same way. I don’t try to get caught up in that because one person’s experience is not everybody’s experience. I’m grateful to have been there if you had a moment of awakening, which you did all on your own. I happened to be in the space and offer you tools — but that work is your own work. I give the credit back to the student because their learning is theirs.
You attend several conferences a year, such as the upcoming Amplify Activate and The Minneapolis Yoga Conference. How do the conversations you have at these conferences affect your perspective on what needs to be addressed in the yoga community?
What I find the largest conversation is — the one most people are interested in and we don’t have enough conversations around — is how we serve all communities. There’s a whole group of underserviced communities that get swept under the rug or don’t ever get thought of in general. I know the culture is shifting. I’ve noticed a huge shift in this beautiful, flexible, young, fair skinned narrative or motif of yoga, to something that is a little bit more accessible and realistic. But we’re not there yet. It’s important to call this stuff up and call it out.
Who are five teachers you recommend the Setu community take class from.
Amber Karnes – I’m a huge fan!
Heather Bailey – She’s a local yoga teacher in Canada.
Christina Sell – She’s an anasura teacher.
Kelley Carboni-Woods – She’s the peace filled mama. She feels like a sister.
Yoga With Nikole – My friend who I did the retreat with last week.
Betsy Downing – I love taking classes with her. She’s out in Florida.