in , , , , ,

December Ladyboss Of The Month: Dani Leverington

Dani Leverington

Photo by Hilary Ehlen

Whether she is leading an all-male platoon as an Engineer Officer for the North Dakota National Guard or helping veterans find strength and healing through her yoga studio, Dani Leverington uses her passion for helping people to serve our community—and our country.

In brief summary, what do you do? 

Dani: I work at NDSU teaching military science leadership courses and working with the ROTC cadets there. I do that full-time and I also run my studio, Downtown Yoga. And I’m an Engineer Officer in the North Dakota National Guard as well!

In brief summary, what do you do? 

Dani: I work at NDSU teaching military science leadership courses and working with the ROTC cadets there. I do that full-time and I also run my studio, Downtown Yoga. And I’m an Engineer Officer in the North Dakota National Guard as well!

Why did you decide to join the National Guard?

Dani: WhenI joined about four and a half years ago, it was pretty much a quarter-life crisis. I was 26 and I was an elementary teacher, and I just felt like there was something else that I would be more fulfilled doing. My sister mentioned, ‘Hey. You’ve thought about the National Guard before,’ so I went to a recruiter and signed a contract and joined. I just felt like that was the right place to be at that point in my life.

Because I had a college degree, I could go in as an officer. So now I have an all-male platoon of 24 guys I lead who are enlisted as Combat Engineers. Our job is to clear routes of explosive devices, place obstacles, and basically blow stuff up. It’s fun!

Can you describe your experience leading an all-male platoon?

Dani: It’s an interesting dynamic, because a lot of them had never had a female leader. That hasn’t been part of their environment or their culture, so I think it has been a learning experience for all of us. The culture has had to shift a little. Some of the language that is used in a more male-dominated environment might have to change. 

As a whole, I think the culture of the military is sort of shifting. Roles that used to be open only to men are opening up to women as well. Until the past couple of years, a woman could be an Engineer Officer, but not a Combat Engineer. People have been shifting to see females as more equal. Even our physical fitness test—this year it is rolling out to be a gender-neutral, age-neutral test. As of this next October, everyone is expected to hit their standards based on their role in the military, not their gender.

Tell us about your yoga journey!

Dani: Around the same time I joined the National Guard, I started practicing yoga. I’ve always been a very physically active person. When I started doing yoga, I liked the challenge of pushing my body and getting deeper into poses. When I got back from basic training and Officer Candidate School, I went to my 200-hour teacher training in Bali, Indonesia. That was my treat to myself for going through all the schooling, to give myself something that I could enjoy in a different capacity than the military. As I started doing it more and went through my teacher training, I started to really enjoy a more gentle practice and focusing on the mental benefits. 
I came back and I taught for several months here in town, and then I was approached by someone who had bought the building and asked if I had ever thought about opening a studio. I said no, but it was the perfect location and after a lot of thought and discussion, I realized that my journey was guiding me in that direction. It was the universe’s way of saying, ‘This is your route. This is where you’re supposed to go, and you just have to do it.’ I took a leap of faith and opened the studio in December 2017.

What challenges did you face starting your own business? How did you overcome them?

Dani: It was scary, but it was really exciting too. It’s been a big learning experience because I have no experience or education in business, but it has been fun to learn. I am always growing and evolving.

The most helpful thing for me was reaching out to people who knew what they were doing, who could guide me in the way that I needed, and who I could collaborate with, too. I like to reach out to other local businesses and see how we can work together to bring something unique to downtown. 

How do you combine your passions for Downtown Yoga and the National Guard?

Dani: We do a lot of work with the Veterans Yoga Project, a national nonprofit organization that works with veterans and teaches mindful resilience to people both as an individual and as someone who might be teaching or helping individuals that are living with PTSD, depression, or any sort of trauma in their life. So we did a mindful resilience training in the studio a couple months ago, where we had 20 people come in and learn how to help themselves or others who are dealing with trauma. And on Veterans Day, we do a donations-based class that benefits the Veterans Yoga Project. 

How can yoga be especially beneficial for veterans?

Dani: Because a lot of soldiers go through such high intensity and experience a lot of trauma, yoga can be really beneficial for them specifically to get through that trauma, both mentally and physically. The physical movement, mindfulness, and breath control really work together to help calm the system. We talk about how our bodies are in this fight-or-flight state, and certain types of yoga will shift you to a rest-and-restore state where your mind and body can both start to heal.

What do you wish people knew about yoga? 

Dani: A lot of people think that yoga is intimidating or scary. You think of yoga and you picture this super skinny, female, predominantly white person doing this really intense yoga class, going into all of these crazy moves. That’s the way certain brands portray it. I don’t think it’s as often that you see just a normal, everyday person doing yoga. It’s males, it’s females, it’s every body type, every age. There’s no right or wrong person for yoga.

Why do you love what you do?

Dani: I really enjoy helping people and guiding them. That’s what drew me to teaching in the first place, that’s what I love about my jobs at NDSU and the National Guard, and that’s what I love about yoga. I get to see the effect that it can have on someone’s life both mentally and physically, and know that I can help lead someone to something that’s going to have such a positive impact on their life.

Who is your hero? Why?

Dani: My sister Nicole is my hero. She is the strongest woman I know. She is never afraid to state her opinion and have a conversation about it in a respectful way. She has two master’s degrees, and she graduated Yale Business School while she was nine months pregnant. She’s just a badass. I always looked up to her growing up, and I continue to look up to her.

What top three pieces of content would you recommend to Ladybosses?

  1. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama
Becoming by Michelle Obama

2. “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

3. “The Daily” and “Up First” podcasts to stay informed about what’s happening in the world.

The Daily and Up First podcasts logo.

What advice do you have for Ladybosses looking to start their own business or join the National Guard?

To anyone hoping to start your own business, my biggest advice would be to surround yourself with good people who help build you up and support you when things get tough, but who will also be brutally honest with you and not sugar-coat things.

For women interested in joining the National Guard, you just need to be confident in what you are capable of doing. As females we tend to downplay our strengths, but if that is something that you feel you are being guided to do, just go for it and be confident.

And for anyone, if you’re unhappy with where you’re at in life, you can make a change. Even if it’s scary and you don’t know quite what that change looks like, take a leap of faith. Don’t settle for being unhappy in your job, in your relationships, in anything in life. You just have to go for it.

Written by Katie Beedy

Brittany Schank

Veteran Entrepreneur: Brittany Schank

Karissa Brusseau

The Giving Touch: How Massage Therapist Karissa Brusseau Gives Back