Dr. Betsy Rippentrop earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology and is the owner of Heartland Yoga in Iowa City, where she also maintains a private psychology practice. Find more at www.dryogamomma.com or www.heartlandyoga.com.
Q: You’ve had a busy career as a psychologist, yoga teacher, author and more, along with being a mother of three. Are you still pursuing all of these endeavors?
A: I am still trying to juggle all my roles – psychologist, teacher, author and mom of three grade-school kids. Life is busy. However, I’m passionate about the work I do, and definitely feel like it is one of the reasons I’m here on earth. I’m currently writing my second book. I took six weeks off over the summer to write and made huge headway, and then returned to seeing clients and teaching, so the writing came to a halting stop. My most important role, mothering, is a privilege, a huge challenge and something I love doing.
Q: You describe several months of your life as your “Universal Smackdown.” What happened at that point and how did it change the course of your life?
A: My universal smackdown, which hit hard about four years ago and lasted almost a full year, woke me up and changed my life. My smackdown was a confluence of many things – undiagnosed food sensitivities, a tendency toward autoimmune inflammation, overwork, birthing three kids and repetitive patterns of perfectionism and people-pleasing. I was burning myself out doing too much without sufficient self-care and self-love and I got really ill. My body basically revolted. My smackdown forced me to overhaul my diet (goodbye, gluten and dairy), start meditating every single morning and put myself and my needs first.
Q: What can yoga and meditation do for people who lead stress-filled lives? Are there other coping mechanisms you recommend?
A: I’m in a unique position in my work in that I have one foot in the field of psychology and empirically supported treatments and have my other foot in the world of yoga and meditation. I actually enjoy this tension of opposites because I love science and data and also love esoteric concepts from yoga that you can’t measure, like energy, spirituality and transformation. I’ve been in clinical practice for almost 15 years, and can honestly say that I’ve not found a system of healing that is more comprehensive or effective than yoga. Plus, there is now about a decade worth of research showing its efficacy for chronic pain, stress management, depression, anxiety, trauma and heart disease.
Q: How can busy parents find a balance between home and work?
A: I think the key is to remember that we move in and out of balance all the time. It’s not as if you magically arrive at a place of perfect balance and then stay there because you do yoga or meditate. I’m not sure I’ve found the “right balance” between home and work, but I know my yoga and meditation practice has allowed me to be more forgiving and nonjudgmental of myself when I flub up as a parent or fall short at work.
Q: From the people you meet through your workshops and practice, what are most seeking, in regard to living up to their full potential?
A: All the people I come in contact with have several things in common. We want to feel more connected (to others and to ourselves), we want to feel as if we are making a contribution to the world, we want to suffer less, and we want to feel more regular experiences of happiness and contentment. The yoga tradition seems to address all of these things. Relationships definitely start to improve. Yoga also teaches much about finding our dharma, or purpose in life.
– Cindy Hadish