#25 Casie Danenhauer: Tackling Pelvic Health and Doing What She Loves Her Own Way

Sitting by a barely lit fire at the creek behind our cottages at the Saatva Center, we found ourselves in the spiritual version of the "get to know you” game. Instead of the "where are you from" formalities, we had taken a plunge right into the big WHY. 

It was the first night of Santa Monica's Bhakti Yoga Shala’s 2015 Rishikesh India Retreat. Although we were part of the same yoga community, many of us were just meeting for the first time. Casie sat behind the short row of chairs facing the fire, her small frame curled up on a rock and underneath a double layer of sweatshirts. It was the first time I had heard her speak when she shared that she’d quit her job to come to India. 

She described what I remember hearing as a stuck feeling, misalignment with what she needed to succeed as a Therapist at her Physical Therapy office, mainly her own health had been suffering there. Leaving her job was so fresh that when sharing that she just didn’t know what would come quickly called tears for Casie. 

My stomach swirled. Though I didn’t say anything to her that night, I felt her 180 intensely. She had done what I wished I had the guts to do. The uneasy feelings she described, the fear of uncertainty and the workaholic-without-work syndrome described were like taking the words out of mind and lighting them in the fire pit that night. 

Over time and mostly after our India trip Casie and I connected often. 180 in full effect, I took opportunities to meet Casie at yoga or share a hike together in the Pacific Palisades to hear more about the evolution of her 180. From studying to putting on her first pelvic health retreat to opening her own practice: within a year Casie went from steady job and boyfriend to refreshing her career, opening herself to new relationships and not one, but two trips to India.

At what point did you know that you needed to leave your job to start your own practice?

Like a few of your other featured 180’ers my 180 was a bit of a gradual process with a few moments of accelerated shifting and growing.  In hindsight my body had been giving me cues for years that it needed a break and I hadn’t been listening.  I’d always been the girl who needed to be perfect and I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve that.  When I was a gymnast my routines needed to be flawless, if I got B’s in school they might as well have been D’s, I took pride in making my parents proud and I had a bad habit of holding onto relationships past their due dates because I didn’t want to fail at love.

This desire for perfection had served me well at least from an outside perspective.  I had great grades, great boyfriends, graduated with my Doctorate of Physical Therapy, and worked in jobs where I was valued. I was also constantly exhausted, sleeping like shit, dealing with chronic back pain, drifting in and out of anxiety and depression, and was having my own pelvic floor issues (I was literally peeing my pants which you can read more about in my BLOG if you’re interested).  These were the warning signs, but I was keeping shit together, building my career, and making everyone else happy… I didn’t pause to think that maybe the way I was living wasn’t in alignment with what my body (or my soul) needed.  

The pressure-cooker perfectionism in some ways makes me a great physical therapist.   The desire to get things just right, to meet all my goals, and to cover all my bases serves me in showing up completely for my patients and feeds the desire to get them 100% better.  (Un)fortunately this mindset, however well intentioned, is what ultimately led to my burn out.  

Treating patients in any physical therapy setting can be stressful, however I have chosen a speciality where the stakes are even higher- dealing with life’s most basic functions: bladder/bowel/sexual health. Many of the patients in pelvic floor physical therapy (PT) show up after years of pain or dysfunction, feel great amounts of shame about what’s going on in their bodies “down there,” have experienced physical/emotional/psychological traumas, and have felt completely isolated. They often show up to PT as a last resort, surrendering out of desperation. I wanted to “fix” them all both for their benefit, but also so I could be that “perfect” PT.  I became emotionally invested in getting each one of my patients better to the point where my body started to take on their symptoms at times.  In the Spring of 2015 I was starting to wake up to these physical warning signs, but still didn’t know what to do with the information.

I started feeling like I needed more tools than just traditional PT approaches with my patients.  I dove into studying functional nutrition and health coaching with my mentor, Jessica Drummond at the Integrative Pelvic Health Institute.  My work with Jessica was a huge catalyst for my 180.  It helped build my confidence to start getting clear about my own needs, desires, and ultimately what was making me feel good in my life.  My favorite piece of advice from her is to find what feels good in your life and then do that more!”  I knew practicing and teaching yoga felt good so I started using yoga more often in my treatment sessions- to the benefit of my patients and my burnt out self.  I developed my Yoga for Pelvic Health program, but didn’t have the freedom to implement it as fully as I would have liked working for someone else as I was still functioning in a very Western medical model approach.

Jessica’s program also gave me permission to start cutting myself some slack in life.  I began to realize that in order to help others and be a clear assistant in healing, I needed to do the self work too. I started realizing that I’m not ultimately responsible for “fixing” people, I can only offer healing and advice and education and meet someone where they are on their healing journey.  I also began to realize that I needed a break.  I needed to get quiet for awhile, do less and be more.

This realization coincided with the talks of my yoga/spiritual teacher’s yearly retreat to India.  Inner work and spiritual practice had grown more important to me over the last two years and I felt a deep inner calling to join my teacher in India.  I asked for time off from work in order to restore and heal and I (un)fortunately came up against resistance for my request.  I knew I was leaving my job the moment I felt that resistance so I put in my notice and booked the flight.  I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I allowed myself 3 months off to relax and 3 more months to start building an action plan on how I could so what I love without burning myself out.

Is there a difference between wanting to leave a job and needing to leave? Did you feel different phases of this before departing?

I think there is a difference.  For me it was ultimately about my health.  There was definitely a process of wondering if it was the right thing to do, but this past year has been about listening to my gut instinct and my instinct was that it was time to move on.

How much did you plan for your transition to working for yourself? How did you set yourself up for success?

The summation of my experiences until this point have set me up for success in my business.  I’ve invested in hours and hours of scholarly and spiritual education, I have great family and friends as resources, and I’m committed to doing my own inner work.

Logistically, I’d been saving for years so I knew I had more than enough money to get me through a year without a job.  Realistically I didn’t want to blast through my savings completely so I gave myself 6 months to actively start making money again.  

It was around the 2 month mark that I realized I didn’t want to go back to working for someone else. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to offer and the how of how I could offer it was becoming clearer.  My month in India followed by a graceful ending to a 6 year relationship allowed me the space to dive into creating something for myself.  I started with planning my first Yoga for Pelvic Health retreat for May of 2016 and before I knew it people were calling me to ask where my private practice was.  The private practice part of things happened without effort and quite swiftly.  I didn’t want to turn people away so I scrambled to find an office space and I was in up in business two weeks later.  

What was your biggest fear in taking the leap? Is the fear justifiable to you now?

My biggest fears are usually failure and what other people think of me.  Letting go of these things is a continual process and each phase of growth (professionally and personally) sheds new light on how this letting go might look.  

 What do you love most about what you're up to now? And what has been the hardest thing for you during your 180?

I love so many things!  I love that I get to offer healing services 100% aligned with who I am for a group of people who can greatly benefit from this type of connection.  I’m also in love with the work-life balance I’ve created for myself! The hardest part: the pains and heartbreak of professional, personal, spiritual, and emotional growth.  The lows have been low and the highs have been high.

How did the 180 impact other areas of your life - relationships, family, health and financial?

My health was the first thing to improve when I quit my job.  After 3 years of having irregular (or no) menstrual cycles, I literally got my period back the week after I quit.  This was a clear affirmation to me that my body was happy I was headed in a new direction. 

The termination of my 6 year long relationship allowed for the birth of my business.  This freedom has allowed for a year full of amazing moments romantically and while my heart has been broken I feel like it’s been broken open vs. into shattered pieces.  My 180 has allowed me to step more confidently into what I want and deserve from all my relationships and to request changes if those needs are not being met.

What practices, habits or routines support you in being the Casie we know today?

My Bhakti yoga practice is my most consistent practice in my life.  Monday Night Kirtan at the Bhakti Yoga Shala has been a staple in my week for the last 2.5 years, I have a daily meditation practice, and I’m on my yoga mat most days of the week.  I’ve also been playing my harmonium and singing mantra a lot more which really fills me up.  FaceTiming with my 3.5 year old niece, Junah, is also a really important part of my life right now.

If you could go back and visit a younger Casie, how old would she be and what would you tell her?

I’d go back to my 9 and 16 year old selves.  I’d tell these little Casie-s, “You’re good enough as you are and without effort.  There’s no need to put all this pressure on yourself.  Play more and embrace being a little girl!  Allow yourself to let go of fear about what people think of you and step into yourself fully.  Don’t be afraid to let others see your light, because you are light.  I see you in your moments of shame and discomfort and I embrace you and love you fully because of these moments, not in spite of them.  You are loved and Love, unconditionally.”

Any books you recommend we read? Tell us about them!

Wild Feminine and Wild Creative by Tami Lynn Kent.   

These books have changed my life personally and professionally in so many ways.  Wild Feminine is geared towards female readers and focuses on the pelvis as the source of our sacred creativity.  Wild Creative is applicable with anyone interested in deepening their connection to the earth and to creative spirit.  Tami Lynn Kent is now a teacher of mine and I incorporate a lot of her work into my private practice as Holistic Pelvic Care ™.  

The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle.  

Most of us in the conscious community are familiar with Eckart Tolle, but Power of Now was the first spiritual book I ever read.  I found it in the midst of a break up and I see his words and my experience with that book as a major pivot point in my 180.