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Dr. Suzie Carmack

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Dr. Suzie Carmack

Author and Executive Well-Being Coach

Dr. Suzie Carmack is a best-selling author, scholar and executive yoga coach, known globally as a thought leader in the promotion of work/life well-being. In her private coaching and consulting practice, she has helped 100's of senior leaders, teams, organizations and government agencies to thrive. Through her company YogaMedCo, she has built a global training platform that certifies healthpreneurs in evidence-informed practices and then supports them in the growth of their business and brand.

Interview with Dr. Suzie Carmack

Can you tell us more about how you started working with senior leaders and government agencies as a coach and consultant?

For many years I was working in the Northern Virginia area (near Washington, DC) as a part-time yoga teacher and full time mom. Over time, students started asking to work with me one-on-one, and my private practice grew. I later studied the practices of coaching and yoga therapy, so that I could become more qualified to do this type of tailored and customized work. I also pursued a PhD in health communication, to learn more about how I could engage more compassionately with my clients and promote yoga and lifestyle medicine more effectively.

In 2012, a big moment happened when a woman came up to me after a keynote talk I had delivered. She told me she was with the Washington Post and that she wanted to write a feature on my work bringing yoga into office settings. That article ended up going viral, and I started getting calls from organizations and leaders globally who wanted to learn more about my methodology. Since then, it has been an honor and privilege to work with so many government agencies and organizations in the public and private sectors Ð especially during the pandemic and since then. Even after all of these years of developing well-being solutions, I am still honored to do this work. Over time I have started calling it co-creation, instead of customization, because for me it's really about partnering with the client.

What makes you so passionate about sharing the benefits of yoga, lifestyle medicine and coaching?

In my own life, yoga has helped me to know myself well, and empowered me to show up more authentically and unapologetically as the real me Ð not the me that others expect me to be. Lifestyle medicine has equipped me with the energy and stamina I need to handle the stresses I feel every day Ð in my struggles and in my successes. Coaching has empowered me to show up more fully for myself; for my family; and for the people I lead. Each of these disciplines have changed my life, and the trajectory of my life story Ð and I have seen them do the same for the leaders I coach and the organizations I consult.

You call your YogaMedCo method of coaching evidence-informed, not evidence-based. Can you explain what you mean by this?

Evidence-based practices are those that we know from research actually work; some kind of scientific inquiry has validated their performance and/or their potential. Evidence-informed practices are those that integrate evidence-based practices, with real-world professional expertise and the real life lived experience of the client or group. Through evidence-informed practice, we get to see how research, real life, and lessons from the real world of practice do and don't line up. At that intersection is a solution for a client that is informed by the best of all three of them Ð one that is both data-driven and doable.

Can you tell us more about your commitment commitment to social impact?

I think it is important for each of us to do what we can, and to support the causes we believe in. A few years ago, when our company was smaller than it is today, the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching put out a request for donations to support their campaign to promote the profession to the "payers" (insurance companies). I believe that health coaching can make a big impact on the healthcare ecosystem, by helping patients to process the challenges of their healthcare journey and to engage in healthier behaviors Ð thereby reducing burdens across the system. So I decided to make a leading gift (as the highest donation they head received to date) to support the cause and to encourage other programs to join me. My hope was that this lead gift would pave the way for others to follow Ð and it did. Sometimes you have to dare to be first.

We also believe in tithing a portion of our tuitions and coaching services to those who are less fortunate. We currently offer scholarships to our coach and yoga teacher training programs for underserved populations, and we offer reduced-fee training programs for healthpreneurs in my Prosper with Purpose business course and community program. Through these efforts we are not only equipping future professionals with the tools and training they need to succeed, we are also doing what we can to promote a more diverse health workforce. The more perspectives we have in healthcare, the more the healthcare system will benefit.

Can you tell us more about your YogaMedCo certification pathway?

We make our online yoga and coaching training programs accessible and affordable by delivering them through a membership model, that offers continuing education credits as well as certifications. Members are able to then take the courses at a pace that works for them and to also feel supported by our online community. We also support organizations and agencies with customized (co-created) training programs delivered through a combination of face-to-face (in person), online synchronous, and online asynchronous formats. We bake evaluation into all of these efforts from the beginning, so that we can track the impact of each practice or program over time. And, we offer one-on-one coaching and consulting to senior leaders and enterprise-level agencies.

What are the biggest challenges you face being a coach?

I am at my very best when I am able to support each client as a thought partner. But that work can take a lot out of me, because I show up so fully in my mind, body, heart, and spirit for each conversation. About 10 years ago, I wasn't honoring the importance of taking care of myself, even as I was encouraging my clients to do the same. That's why I wrote my book Well-Being Ultimatum in 2015 Ð to share my story as well as the intervention I designed for myself to break through my own burnout. Today I maintain a daily commitment to my self-care, and I continue to encourage the coaches I train to do the same.

You are a best-selling Author can you share your writing experience with us and the books you have written?

I wrote Well-Being Ultimatum in 2015 to share the framework I had developed for my own burnout, that worked for me. At the time of writing it, I wanted to simply share my story to break through the shame I had about being a burned out yoga teacher. The process of self-publishing Well-Being Ultimatum was so easy that I decided to also self-publish my second book Genius Breaks (2017). That book teaches people how to take what I call a genius break Ð a break combining mindfulness, movement and meaning (intentio setting) to reboot their mind, body, heart and spirit for the day. I started giving talks to share the key themes in each book, and over time I was invited to speak at larger venues and events. The books eventually became #1 best-sellers in 2020, and I have also built programs based on them for organizations and government agencies. I did not intend for all of that to happen when I wrote them; I just wanted to share my work in a way that was more accessible than working with me one-on-one. But I am so glad it did happen Ð because through the books and our YogaMedCo platform I get to serve the greater good in a way that feels aligned with what yogi's call my sense of dharma (my personal calling and call to Serve the Greater Good).

Do you have plans for any more writing to share your knowledge further?

Yes, my next book is called Yoga for One: How to Co-Create an Inclusive and Evidence-Informed Practice On and Off the Mat, and it is in the preorder phase, set for full release in August 2024. In that book I share my YogaMedCo method of bringing yoga, lifestyle medicine and coaching together with professionals who wish to bring yoga to clients in one-on-one settings. Although the book is written for professionals, I do think that the public will like it too, because it shares a simple and strategic system for creating a customized practice Ð one that is relevant and realistic. I am excited to share this method with the world, with hopes that it will be helpful to fellow coaches, yoga teachers, yoga therapists and other health professionals.

What is next for you?

Personally, I will continue to live out the very principles and practices that I share with my clients. As a survivor of both burnout and cancer (12 years clear and counting) I know from my research and my lived experience that self-leadership and self-care need to come first - even when we're busy. So my commitment to my own health, wellness and well-being, and my family will continue to come first.

And professionally, I will continue to do what I love to do for as long as I can Ð working with clients, hosting retreats, consulting organizations, conducting intervention research, and training the change agents of tomorrow Ð through YogaMedCo and through my university affiliations with the Maryland University of Integrative Health (as Department Chair of Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda) and the George Mason University Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (as Senior Scholar).

Although my days are full and sometimes challenging because I get to wear so many hats, I do wake up every day feeling extremely Blessed to be able to do work that I love in Service to the Greater Good. As I hear conversations in which people complain that the healthcare ecosystem is broken, I want to start a new conversation on how we can heal it. I think we really can do it - through the power of yoga, lifestyle medicine and coaching. And that is why I will continue to show up every day, for myself, for my family, for my clients and for our YogaMedCo community of change agents. Together we can co-create a more healthy and happy world - one breath at a time.

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