I’ve never met Dorsey in real life, but after reading her writings, I feel like I know her. Dorsey is an engineer and a yoga teacher (who is now focused on engineering a mindful life and bridging the gap between the “hippie dippie” world and the “science/tech” world) who isn’t shying away from sharing herself with the world. Dorsey is the only person to ever suggest themselves in my Everyday Goddesses suggestion box, and she knows she has something valuable to share and she isn’t afraid to do it. Without further ado, Dorsey Standish in her own words:
Who are you? What is “your story?”
I am Dorsey Elizabeth Standish: a yoga teacher, a mechanical engineer, and a personal growth junkie. I love going to yoga workshops, learning random facts, and cooking vegetarian dinners for my closest friends. For a long time, though, I didn’t know that I could choose this life. As a teenager, I enrolled at a competitive Ivy League university because mentor figures suggested I study engineering at the best school I got into. I played water polo and swam competitively because that is what I had always done. But behind the scenes of this picture-perfect life, I was acting out with self-destructive behaviors like bulimia and binge drinking. Yoga was the first healthy activity I found that hooked me and made me feel like I could proactively take care of myself. I used to believe that you had to do only the activities that you were good at. When I found yoga at age 21 (and then meditation at age 25), I was naturally terrible at both. But, I loved the idea of constant practice and steady improvement! The focus on the yogic journey (rather than a desired destination) freed me from my competitive tendencies and allowed me to just be myself.
After college, I took yoga with me to Dallas, Texas for Mechanical Design and Program Manager roles at Texas Instruments. While working at TI, I enrolled in a yoga teacher training program at Uptown Yoga. The teacher training program was way more emotionally demanding than I had expected, but I loved it. I saw teaching as an incredible physical, mental, and spiritual challenge, and I knew I had to continue on this journey. After teaching three years of free yoga classes to TI women, I was ready to teach at local studios. I now teach at Yoga Chikitsa, a yoga school and Ayurvedic healing center, where I offer Deep Stretch and Beginners Yoga classes. I even teach Yoga of 12-Step Recovery classes and workshops to share my journey of addiction recovery through yoga.
“My yoga mat was the safe space I needed to feel, love, and acknowledge my body.”
How has yoga impacted your journey?
Yoga is my healthy addiction, a symbol of my commitment to constant self-improvement. Stepping onto my mat feels like a big hug from my mom. Yoga practice welcomes me in any state of mind, body, and spirit. I just have to show up and accept what comes up! The most beautiful thing is that, through all the addictions that yoga has helped me end, I never felt like I was quitting anything — I felt like I was letting go of crutches I no longer needed.
Yoga first reconnected me with my physical body. A regular yoga practice helped end a nearly decade-long battle with bulimia that started at age 15. Thanks to the support of my beloved yoga mat, future weight gain and loss did not lead to eating disorder behaviors. Instead, my yoga mat was the safe space I needed to feel, love, and acknowledge my body. Inspired by yoga, I practice unconditional body acceptance.
Yoga also reconnected me with my heart, and with my spirituality. I was blessed to meet my teacher and mentor, Stefanie Tovar, right after I got sober in January 2014. She was this beautiful, grounded, joyful light and I knew that I had to practice with her and know her. Stefanie
specializes in Bhakti yoga, a path of devotion meant to open and cleanse the heart. She ends each Vinyasa flow class by singing Sanskrit mantras with her harmonium. From group classes to private lessons, Stefanie nurtured me like a daughter.
She taught me that yoga is not just about shaping the body and quieting the mind, but also about stretching and strengthening the heart. Her deep belief in divinity has inspired my own spiritual practice. Not just the yoga practice itself, but also the Dallas yoga community, has changed my life.
“Your health is a tripod with legs for mental health, physical health, and spiritual health.”
Tell me the lowest or darkest point in your life. Tell me the happiest point in your life. Now tell me the connection between the two: how did “rock bottom” become a foundation for success?
I love this question because I wrote a blog post called, “Rock Bottom is a Great Foundation
.” At my lowest point, I was self-medicating undiagnosed Bipolar II by using alcohol and drugs.
In Fall 2013 I got kicked out of my then-partner’s house, and I had to learn how to stand on my own two feet again. Flash forward three and a half years later to the happiest point in my life:
celebrating New Years 2016 with my dad’s extended family on a cruise ship in the Pacific ocean. After quitting my corporate job this past year, I have been able to take extended trips to visit both my maternal and paternalextended families: a road trip from Texas to the Delaware shore, and a 15-day cruise through the Panama Canal. My strengthened bonds with family are powerful reminders of the unconditional love we all have and deserve.
During the last three and a half years, I have learned to lean more on my yoga practice and less on codependent relationships. With that commitment to yoga as a “healthy addiction,” I have been able to let go of dependence on alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. The three most important things I learned from building on that rock bottom foundation:
1) You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. The easiest way to change yourself is to change the people you hang out with—start with healthy meetup groups, professional mentors, and virtual communities. I also recommend reconnecting with old friends whom you really admire.
2) How you spend the first hour of your day sets you up for success or failure.Even though I taught yoga and practiced daily, I always resisted meditation. But now I meditate, journal, and move mindfully every morning! No matter how depressed or lethargic I feel upon waking, those simple self-care exercises (can be done in less than 20 minutes) set the stage for a positive, productive, and mindful day.
3) Your health is a tripod with legs for mental health, physical health, and spiritual health. No matter how strong you are in one area, the tripod easily tilts and gets out of whack unless you are also growing in the other two areas. Most of us tend to be strong in one area and therefore deprioritize the other two areas. For example, I love mental stimulation, so I tend to choose listening to podcasts and reading books instead of chanting Sanskrit mantras or practicing forearm stand. To find balance I have learned to schedule in the less natural activities like Bhakti kirtan and yoga asana. Even though it requires self-awareness and compromise, the key to finding fulfillment is equally nurturing your mind, body, and spirit.
I am proud to have overcome such deep depression and debilitating addiction. I am grateful for the hard times that caused me to truly know and respect my individual strength. I look forward to inspiring others with my journey and sharing more unconditional love with family and friends.
“I am proud to have overcome such deep depression and debilitating addiction.”
What does it mean to you to “be strong?”
When I think of strength, I recall this Oprah Winfrey quote, “Turn your wounds into wisdom.” As we learned in yoga teacher training, we all have wounds. I believe that being strong means working through the pain of your wounds to turn them into the wisdom that shapes your life. The ultimate display of strength is working through your wounds enough to share your wisdom with the world.
(As a survivor of addiction and mental illness, I often feel like I am still licking my wounds, like I am not ready to expose myself yet. While the self-improvement work is never “done,” we can all choose vulnerability over perfectionism. Thank you for this question Maris—I am recommitting to being strong and sharing my wisdom with the world!)
Describe the Fearlessly Authentic you.
She glows without makeup. She spends at least thirty minutes outside every day. She refuses to accept a job where she can’t wear leggings or Lululemon “work pants.” She speaks openly of her personal transformation.She shares her life experiences to communicate the value of yoga and mindfulness in managing mental illness. She commits to writing daily to improve her communication skills. She lives in a place where she feels supported by nature and her community. (I am getting closer to my vision every day :).)
You can read more of Dorsey’s work on her blog, DorseyStandish.com.