Navigate Your Life: Anna Guest-Jelley

Nov 9, 2014

I first met Anna when she did a coaching session with me and I told her “You can have an empire, if you want.” (She liked that.) Then Anna came to my Taos writing retreat two years ago. Over the week, I fell for her hard – she’s wicked smart, deeply observant, totally humble, and really honest. Such a great combo!  When it was time to choose my yoga teacher for week one (I invite someone new each year), I asked her if she might consider coming back to teach yoga and one session on writing… and she said yes!
So this is a chance to get to know Anna!
Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga, a training and inspiration portal for people of all shapes and sizes. She is also the author of Permission to Curve: Inspiring Poses for Curvy Yogis and Their Teachers and the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery and Loving Your Body.


What’s the one thing that helps you remember this is your life to steer and shape?

It’s never been easy for me to remember. I have quite literally lost many years, including the vast majority of my childhood, to this. For me in many ways, forgetting is a coping mechanism. Rather than dwell in the past, or even the present, I prefer to project into the future and drop what’s behind me.

Well, I don’t necessarily prefer it, but I do it.

One of the consequences of this is it’s very challenging for me to hold on to what I know best serves me, which includes knowing I’m the only one who can create the life I want.

What has been helping me lately, though, is getting grounded. If I don’t feel my feet on the ground every day, or know home as Jen so beautifully puts it, my day will be gone. And it doesn’t at all feel like an exaggeration to say that, by extension, so will my life in terms of not holding onto the sweet, challenging and everything-in-between moments.

Do you have a morning ritual to help you remember what’s most important to you? Or an evening ritual? If so, is that easy or a struggle for you?

I need, truly need, presencing throughout the day in order to create meaningful rituals to support myself in the work and life I want.

I’m still working towards a morning routine that doesn’t include checking my email from bed and then heading to work before I’ve barely put my feet on the floor.

But I do have a stronger evening wind-down process.

More nights than not, I leave myself enough time before sleep to journal and read. What I journal about varies pretty widely, but for the past 8+ years it has included a nightly gratitude list. This grounds me in remembering my day, and it has truly changed my perspective on life over the years. For reading, I go for something uplifting, fun or both!

This process works for me because it fits my needs. I need a pretty long wind-down period in order to fall asleep, so it helps with that so that I don’t just lay in bed (or at least not as long), waiting to sleep.

What’s your most potent “reset” tool for when your head is about to pop off due to demands for your time and attention?

Oh boy, I have really been feeling that lately! And what I’ve found, though it somehow continues to surprise me, is that slowing down is the only way to move forward.

I know in my bones what it means to burn out. I have been there several times in my life, and I have wound up with a year of chronic migraines three different times as a result.

Because of my experience with burn out, I know what it feels like when I’m on my way there. And the weird thing is I like everything about it until the flame goes out. I get loads done and think I’m doing fine. In fact, I think I’m doing way better than fine. I say yes to everything – except down time with friends and family. I triumphantly mark many, many items off my to-do list with pride.

The thing is, this can go along for quite awhile for me – many months even. But if I’m not consciously slowing down in the midst, my body will do it for me, via giving me an illness that takes me to my knees (because I usually ignore the messages until then). And if I’m not getting the message, it will give me one for a year or more.

It’s still very tempting for me to get into this go, go, go mode, but after three times at the year-long pain party induced by my inability to slow down and listen, I’ve gotten (at least slightly) better at turning that ship before I run into the iceberg.

When you want something – whether to write a new book, to have more intimacy in your partnership, launch a new offer – how do you get into action? Specifically, there seems to be a way powerful women honor their desires that I’m trying to illustrate. How do you think about it, talk about it, let it become real to you?

I recently spent five days teaching a group of yoga teacher trainees, and they pointed out to me how often I say the word “percolate.” It was one of those things where I know I say it fairly often, but I didn’t realize just how often until they brought it to my attention in a loving way.

The reason I use it is it perfectly describes my incubation to creation process. What happens for me is an idea starts to present itself – usually in the form of something I can’t stop thinking and/or that multiple people in my community have asked for.

From there, I put it on the back burner. I go about the rest of my days (and usually weeks and months) and it just percolates back there. Then at some point, I know it’s time to move forward. This is much less about strategic plans for me and much more about tuning in to my body.

In the past, I’ve tried to move forward with ideas before I get that bodily feeling that the time is ripe, and it never works out. So I’ve gotten better at feeling it. For me, it feels like ease in my body when I reflect on the idea – not a tight jaw and hardening behind my eyes. I can breathe deeply without holding my breath (one of my stress “tells”). I feel excited to work on it even when I know there will be challenges.

The whole key for me is that I do not feel desperate or frantic. Those feelings never hold positive outcomes for me, no matter how much effort I put into a project.

Once I’m able to come from that place, I have the momentum to take action in a sane way and can bring in whatever systems and strategies from there. Many people tell me I’m organized, but the root is what’s underneath it, because without that foundation, organization alone can’t get much done, in my experience.

What’s your preferred “shadow comfort” and when you don’t choose shadow comforts, what helps you choose something more nourishing?

When I’m not meeting my needs, I get pissed! It’s usually not because I mindfully recognize that I’m not meeting my needs. No, that would be useful. Instead, I’m furious because NOTHING IS GOING MY WAY, LIFE IS THE WORST and WHY ARE MY PANTS SO F’ING TIGHT. That’s the place I get to. And the more I get to that place, the more shame, anger and frustration I feel, which fuels more of those I HATE EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY ME feelings. It’s the very definition of a self-perpetuating cycle.

So what do I turn to before I can remember there’s another choice? My shadow comforts of eat, eat, eat or work, work, work. Better yet, a combo of both!

Of course, because neither is what I need, it adds fuel to the terrible cycle above, and everything continues to come out sideways.

The main thing for me in terms of making a shift is remembering that going back to the place of disconnection isn’t failure. It’s life. I truly believe our time here on earth is about a journey towards connection, so when I can see the back-and-forth as part of the path and practice, I feel liberated.

Thanks, Anna, for your insights, all of which I can totally relate to. I so look forward to sharing you with my writers in Taos!



P.S. Registration opens November 13th at 10 am MT for the Writer’s Retreat. Week two may be sold out by that time (returning students get first dibs), but there will be space in week one!

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