Getting To Know: Mandy Millican of Modern Whimsy Events & Yoga With Mandy
I'm trying to remember exactly how Mandy and I met. It must have been when I stepped in to help work SxSW with the High Beam Events team in 2014, but it's possible that we knew each other through mutual friends before that. I distinctly remember getting to know her over those few days in 2014 though, and I was immediately drawn to her. Talk about a high-pressure, high-stress environment, and Mandy was utterly cool and inherently chill throughout it all.
Outside of working together, she planned and coordinated the wedding for my sister-in-law where I took class from her the first time through her Wedding Day Yoga offering. (Talk about the best way to start your wedding day!)
From there, our circles really started to grow together around this time last year as I started taking yoga class from the studio where she was teaching. That studio has since closed, but we've remained close. It all came to a head earlier this year when we got together and both shared an idea that we hadn't quite said out loud before. We wanted to share our love for yoga with a crowd who maybe hasn't explored it before because they felt intimidated to walk into a studio with perceived "yogis", and we wanted to have a safe space to share about our own self-care journeys, hear what others are working towards, and support one another as we all work towards a life filled with more self-love and self-awareness.
And with that - Mindful Moments ATX was born. Our lives are now so perfectly intertwined in the best, most meaningful way, through a mutually respected passion project. If you're in Austin, please follow along! We'd love to see you at a future event. If you're anywhere else in the world, stay tuned! We have big ideas for how we can expand this community in a meaningful way to reach souls far and wide.
Without further ado, please meet Mandy. She's a gem of a human being, and the brightest of lights.
Tell us more about your overall journey for how Yoga with Mandy came to be and your philosophy for how you approach your yoga practice.
I’ve practiced yoga now for almost a decade, and it started out as simply something to do that made my body and mind feel good. Over time, it became something that felt intrinsic in my life, and in 2013 I decided to partake in a 200 hour teacher-training course here in Austin. I went head-first into teaching and practicing every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and almost 2 years into it all, I just kind of sputtered to a stop. One day, I rolled out my mat for a home practice, and felt totally stuck. I couldn’t get out of my head and into my body. So I took a break. I began to re-integrate meditation as my main practice, and then slowly the asana practice felt like home again (asana = the physical yoga poses).
These days, I consider my overall yoga practice to be multi-faceted: I sit in meditation every day, ranging from 5 minutes to sometimes 30. I practice yoga asana a few times a week. I take mini-breaks throughout every day where I just sit, close my eyes, and take a few deep breaths. I think that, if we approach the practice with intention and openness, yoga meets us where we are.
What aspect of your work is the most life-giving for you?
Connection. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and supporting them. I really feel like I was put on this earth to help people, in whatever way I’m able, and I strive to make that the central purpose for the work I do.
Was there ever a time when you happily ignored external validation or outside advice about your business so that you could follow the True North that you created for yourself? If so, how did making that choice to follow Your Why impact not only you, but your business?
Truthfully, external validation has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I wish I could say that I’ve thrown caution to the wind and just stepped forward in confidence, but it’s hard for me to think of a time in which that was truly the case. I’m forever over-analyzing things, and oftentimes will spend so much energy and time in the ‘planning’ phase of a decision, which is fraught with fear and self-doubt. I feel like I’ve just recently tapped into my Why and have also started to shed that external ‘pressure’ so that I can follow my heart. I’m finding that encouragement from close friends and business colleagues, as well as a team of personal cheerleaders (you’re one of them, Maggie!) have been invaluable as I step into my true potential.
As I mentioned in the intro, I was lucky enough to be in a wedding party where you came in that morning to teach us a class and brought us a delicious breakfast. It really was such a calm and relaxing way to start what is typically a pretty hectic day. Can you tell us more about your Wedding Day Yoga offering?
Oh that was such a lovely morning! I love love love Wedding Day Yoga. A wedding is such a big and important day, full of lots of details, and it goes by in a flash. The moment you wake up, there are things to do, usually starting with hair and makeup, then leading into photos, then the wedding itself, and before you know it, it’s over! I think that starting this very important day with a yoga session helps you to focus on WHY you’re there. It helps to center you and bring some calmness and intention to your life, first thing.
I make it as easy as possible: you walk in, and everything is set up for you. Mats and yoga blankets are ready to go, music is playing, and I lead the group in a nice flow with gentle stretches and lots of deep cleansing breaths (or, if you’re into it, a really challenging practice!). Then, everyone gets to enjoy some refreshments and bask in the good yoga vibes before starting The Day. It’s a great way to connect with your closest friends, as well as your own mind and body. I love that I’ve been able to bring my love of yoga into the wedding sphere.
In addition to Yoga with Mandy, you also own Modern Whimsy Events and freelance as an event producer quite frequently. On those really long days when you’re running around like crazy, what are your favorite tips for staying energized throughout the day?
Water. Lots of water. Also, a big and nutritious breakfast to fuel you up before the craziness begins. I used to be really bad about not eating well during my event days, and now, I’m diligent about my breakfast as well as bringing snacks with me onsite. A protein bar, banana, clementines, trail mix: all favorites of mine. And then there’s that deep breathing thing. That’s always a good idea.
Taking time out every day for yourself is a crucial component to a self-care routine. What does that look like for you? Do you have a morning routine?
My morning is the most routine thing about my day. I wake up, feed the animals (I have a dog and 2 cats), brush my teeth, and drink a glass of water. I turn on the stove and start some water boiling for tea or coffee, and do a “quick clean” while that heats up (straighten the pillows in the living room, put away any random things on tables and countertops, make my bed, straighten up my desk, and sweep the floor in the house). I make breakfast, and then sit in meditation. I’ll sometimes add in an asana practice session, too. Then, I start my work day.
My self-care practice takes many forms throughout the day. Some days, I get a lot of work done in the morning so that I can take a trip out to the greenbelt with my pup in the afternoon. Other days, I work for many hours straight and reward myself with a hot bath in the evening. I use essential oils all day long, from diffusing them in the air, to using them in my skin care routine, to just smelling them because it’s so nice (my favs are tea tree, peppermint, ylang ylang, and a few blends that I keep around the house).
I try to do a face mask on Sunday evenings. I take time to sit in my living room with a good record. I lay outside on my porch for 5 minutes and soak up the sun. I take a work break to watch one of those sweet videos about rescued animals (you know the ones). I buy myself flowers. I take a nap. I try to practice self-care as often as possible.
If someone has never taken a yoga class before how do you describe it to them? Similarly, if someone is just starting out, do you have any advice or information to help them learn more?
I think that second question will help to answer the first. If you’re just starting out on your yoga journey, the best advice I can give is to be open to learning, and move slowly & with intention. Meaning, don’t worry about “not being flexible” or “not being able to do the pose well.” Everyone starts somewhere, and even seasoned practitioners have things that they’re working on or can’t do yet. That’s part of the lifelong adventure of yoga.
There are many different lineages of yoga, so you can expect different technical and stylistic elements to be presented, depending on what type of yoga you’re practicing (Ashtanga, hatha, vinyasa, restorative, nidra, etc) as well as who is leading the class. If it’s your first time, tell your instructor (they won’t think less of you, promise!). If you have an injury or something is going on in your body, tell your instructor. If you’re confused about something or interested in learning why you did something specific in a class, tell your instructor. We’re here to help lead and guide you on your specific path, and communication (another life skill that is strengthened by openness and intention) is key to learning what it is that you like/don’t like/really vibe with early on in your yoga journey.
Which brings me to… we recently joined forces to start a passion project together called Mindful Moments ATX. It’s a monthly event series that incorporates yoga, and is centered around the premise that it’s an opportunity for women to discover their own self-care practice in a safe environment. What else can you tell us about your hopes for this event series?
I am so excited for this! I feel like most of us want self-care in our lives, in whatever way that means (sleeping in, pedicures, buying the fancy cheese this time). However, we can be faced with a lot of obstacles on the road to that self-care. To name a few: a lack of time, a lack of money, not having a clue what to do or where to start, not giving ourselves permission because we feel like we don’t deserve it (that’s a real one, and it’s more common than you might think). When we’re in the midst of our day, faced with these obstacles, it’s hard to imagine finding the motivation to start. But, if there are other people in our world who are practicing self-care, living similarly busy & confusing lives, we think, “well, maybe I could do that.”
I’m hoping we can build a community through Mindful Moments, so that we can all learn from each other, as well as be encouraged and inspired by each other. Within safe community, we can grow our own self-care practice so that we have more loving, intentional, and genuine energy to put out into the world.
What is currently inspiring you? Are there any great books, podcasts, blogs that we should be keeping an eye on?
I’m re-reading “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a collection of advice columns that the author once answered anonymously online, always with a brutal honesty that is so refreshing to read. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, and always moving.
I’ve also been inspired lately by my good friends that have just become, or are about to become, mothers. I’m not sure if I want to be a mother (that’s a whooole separate conversation!), but seeing people close to me stepping into that role is a really powerful force in my life right now. It’s helping me to put things into perspective in terms of what’s really important in life, and it’s encouraging me to focus more on connecting with people and experiences that are fulfilling to my heart and soul. I think it’s an awareness of the beauty and precious nature of our one life. My friends and their new babies represent life and growth and change, and I want to make sure I’m ever evolving intentionally along with all of that.
You are one of the most positive and kind-hearted people I know. Where do you find your inner strength?
Thank you for those sweet words. :) I think it comes from many places over time. I’ve had some life experiences that have brought about a trait of resilience in me, and I think I naturally have compassion and empathy at the core of my being. The combination of those things sort of molds together to create what I feel is my inner strength.
Want to know more? Eager to connect with Mandy? Here's how:
Work with Mandy:
For yoga inquiries, you can email me at the above address, or contact me through Instagram to see when I’m teaching.