I first knew Vanessa as one of my dear personal training clients in Brooklyn. During that time I became fascinated with her psychology profession and on how deeply she infused mindfulness into her work with her own clients. A woman after my own heart!
Vanessa is a Doctorate in Psychology. She utilizes several approaches in her work including Attachment theory, Humanistic, Interpersonal, and Psycho-dynamic theories as well as incorporating mindfulness into her work with her clients.
She now has a private practice in Baltimore, and we've stayed in touch through my online programs and our shared interest in helping people lived fulfilled lives with joy, kindness, and compassion. I can say Vanessa truly walks her talk. She poured her heart into this interview and has offered up so many gems of knowledge and experience for us.
Meet Vanessa Pikler:
How do you help people stay healthy?
First I provide a safe, trusting, and compassionate therapeutic relationship with me. After that groundwork has been laid I help clients to build a safe, trusting, and compassionate relationship with themselves!
I do this in a few over-arching ways: by developing deeper insights through talking about their experience(s) and learning how not to judge these experiences, by tuning into their bodies to feel inside and sensation-wise what it means when they feel distress, and by learning the skill of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is paying attention to one’s experiences (s) with non-judgment and/or with compassion. When my clients learn how to be just as kind toward themselves as they usually are toward others, their lives change dramatically!
What is the #1 thing someone could do TODAY to feel better in their body?
Ask yourself if you are having any self-judging or self-critical thoughts. Listen hard, tune in, and notice if you hear any thoughts like these (sometimes they are so common you stopped noticing them!). Are these thoughts telling you something about your body that you would most likely never say to someone else? If so, notice them first and then, without judgment, try to relate to them (to you) with kindness-- like you are speaking to a dear friend or how someone else who loves you would speak to you—notice how you feel in your body when you change your tone and what you are saying. Here’s an example, "I know you are feeling yucky and sad, and maybe that's why you ate the bag of chips—and now you are feeling bad about your body. I'm so sorry you are feeling this sad and bad about yourself! Why don't you take a nice walk outside to feel a bit better?" Important here is the tone of voice you use to speak to yourself. If you soften and very gently speak to yourself (it helps to even place a hand on your heart or cheek) notice if the softening actually changes the way you feel emotionally and physically in your body.
What's your advice to someone who's having trouble getting started with that?
Try to imagine what your tone of voice is like and what you would say if a treasured person, maybe even a child, were hurting. What would that tone of voice be like? What would you say to that hurting child/person? Try turning that tone and those compassionate words toward yourself. If even that is hard, try these traditional loving-kindness phrases, "May I be happy" or "May I be at peace." You might even say, “I’m sorry for this suffering.” Repeat these over and over until some calm washes over you. Notice that just by repeating these simple (compassionate) phrases how you feel about yourself/your body.
What does a typical day look like for you and how do you fit movement into it?
On a typical day, after dropping off my son at school I will work out (I love Elyse’s Tone + Tune UP Workouts) for approximately 40 minutes followed by 10-30 minutes of meditation, or, I may do stretching and core/stability training instead followed by meditation. After my shower I’m off to work in my practice until it is time to pick up my son and take him to his martial arts class or make dinner followed by our bedtime routines.
What other practices keep you healthy? In body and/or in mind?
Self-care is really important to me. In addition to working out about 3x weekly, and meditating daily, I also go to acupuncture one time a week, physical therapy one day a week (to help with strengthening and keeping me injury-free), massage here and there, and yummy nutritious meal planning and preparing. Spending time with people who make you laugh or who truly care about you is also at the top of my list!
What is your JOYworkout?
*Elyse calls a "JOYworkout" a form of movement that is something more than a workout for workout's sake. It's exercise and it's ALSO something that: a) you just plain LOVE to do, b) builds your community, c) teaches you a new skill, d) enhances your spiritual life, e) helps you give back, f) gets you outdoors + is adventurous.
Dancing, going to music festivals (and dancing), deep belly laughs, being outside in nature. And all of the above that you mentioned!
If you "fall off the wagon" with your health + wellness, how do get back into it?
The mantra "you can always start over" is important here and comes from mindfulness practice. Every moment is new, every moment brings a new opportunity to start again. So I just do that! Often it is by starting slow and with lowest impact possible in my workouts and hanging in there until they feel less difficult and I feel more strong (then turning it ON!). Also, by eating healthfully and maybe by reaching out to others if I need a boost.
Where are you getting your motivation from right now?
I have always received motivation from YOU, Elyse Sparkes! Aside from you, from feeling good in my body, seeing results (like fitting in my clothes) and by being kind to myself when I need to slow down or take a break.
What is a motto or quote that you live by?
You can start over at any moment.
thanks so much for sharing with us vanessa!
Want to connect with Vanessa?
Find our more about her on her website!
Elyse gets people moving with in-person training and her signature 21-day at-home workout program. She helps make movement a joyful part of one's day, and inspires confidence with her kindness and personalized approach. When she's not doing squats + sun salutations, she's dressed up in vintage lindy hop dancing or gathering other Lovely Lady Entrepreneurs to talk about their careers and living their most passionate lives.
Enter your name + email to get this 14 page printable Self-Kindness journal delivered to your inbox!