AM: If you were to lead a workshop on any topic of your choice, what would you choose and why?
KW: That is a tough question as it really would depend on my audience and what they want. In general, I think I would focus on self-care practice. I would lead a workshop on the things you can do on a daily basis to build a foundation and better take care of yourself. As you better take care of yourself, that frequency radiates outward and helps others as well. You can’t truly take care of others unless you take care of yourself first.
AM: Are there any former teachers or mentors that have heavily influenced your teaching style and/or professional life?
KW: My cranial sacral teacher, Gary Strauss, at the Southwest Institute of the Healing Arts is amazing and he had a big impact on my teaching and practice. My original yoga teacher, Laura McKinzie, at the Spirit of Yoga in Arizona has been inspirational as well. I would say my best teacher has been all of the students in my classes over the years. One of the things I love most about being a teacher is constantly learning from all of my students! I am as much as a student as I am a teacher.
AM: Do you have any advice you would give to someone looking to deepen their practice?
KW: If I had to give advice to someone looking to do this, it would be: show up. Just keep doing it. Be persistent. Trust that small voice inside of you, because the more you listen to it, the stronger it becomes. It is like a muscle and you have to constantly exercise that intuition. Exercise the heart, really silence yourself, and open that space inside of you.
AM: Is there a book you have most given as a gift to others, or any other learning resources that have had an especially large impact on your life?
KW: I really like the book A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle which talks a lot about the ego and letting go. Lousie Hay (Hay House Productions) has probably been one of my greatest inspirations and I love her book, You Can Heal Your Life—positive affirmations for different things you are going through and the importance of authenticity in your life and practice.
As far as yoga goes, The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar is a classic as it thoroughly covers the eight limbs of yoga, including the Yamas (limb #1 of moral discipline) and Niyamas (limb #2 of observance). I feel like yoga in the Western world has kind of lost the principle behind the practice. Yoga is so much more than just a physical pose—it is being in the pose, letting the subtle movements that are inside happen, and really settling in through each posture. This is one of the reasons why I believe Hatha (where you are very focused on holding poses, breathing, and intentionally moving through each posture), is so important to incorporate into your daily yoga practice.
AM: What is the most worthwhile investment you have ever made? This could be time, energy, money, etc.
KW: What I am doing right now, right here in this moment. Deciding to take the leap and spend six months living in Nicaragua and teaching here at Aqua Wellness Resort. Finding comfort in the uncomfortable. Overcoming fear and doubt in my life and uncovering any negative self-talk. As I allow my ego to open and dissolve, and use that as a platform for growth in my life, my hope is for the light to ripple out and positively impact others’ lives as well.
AM: What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your life so far and what has helped you overcome it?
KW: I think I would have to say death. Especially the death of my brother which caused a tremendous amount of sadness in my life. I had to learn to be O.K. with being broken and to challenge myself to really open up again. To find the silver lining and to find the peace amidst the chaos. One of the people that really helped me find my center again during this time was another former teacher, Jeff Primack, my Qigong teacher. Breath work and especially the nine breath empowerment method that Jeff teaches through the Qigong Supreme Science Foundation became one the things that most helped me stay present and find healing during this difficult period of my life.
The nine breath method and hyper oxygenating the body is a fascinating and incredibly helpful technique. You can learn more about this method here. (Oh, and also be sure to check out the story of the “Ice Man” Wim Hof who uses similar breathing techniques to maintain his composure and body temperature, even when submerged in ice or freezing temperatures for extended periods of time.)
So, I would say breathing techniques, positive affirmations, and yoga were the tools that really helped me overcome this difficult period of my life.
AM: What belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life over the last five years?
KW: This positive affirmation that I say daily: All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. And I am safe. Whether or not I mean it at the time, I make sure to stand in front of the mirror each day and recite this affirmation. Over time I have come to really, truly believe it.
AM: Any upcoming projects you are working on that you are excited about and would like to share?
KW: I have a retreat coming up here at Aqua March 19-23 2018 that I am very excited about. A longer-term project/goal that I have is to purchase property in the Western Carolina foothills where I can build a community and have a location to host groups like yoga retreats, weddings, and small festivals. My mom is also starting a non-profit for veterans with PTSD called the Emerald City Sanctuary—it is a horticultural therapy program where the veterans can come in and work in the garden in exchange for points toward bodywork. It is small scale right now, but I am really excited to help build this unique program alongside my mom. My brother had the idea for this and had actually sketched out the full plans before he passed away.
AM: Wow. The horticulture therapy program for disabled veterans sounds like such an incredible idea!
KW: Thanks. This project is actually a big reason why I moved from Hawaii back to the East Coast. On a separate but related note, I’d also like to mention that nature has been one of my biggest teachers over the years. I want to highly encourage anyone and everyone to get out and spend more time immersed and fully present in nature.
AM: Anything else you would like to add?
KW: I think a good way to end would be for me to share one of my favorite Apache prayers: May the sun fuel you by day, may the moon restore you by night, may the wind blow new strength into your being, may the rain wash away all of your worries, and may you walk gently upon the earth and know it’s beauty all the days of your life.
AM: Kelly, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. Thank you so much for your willingness to sit down and chat. What is the best way for people to get in touch with you if they would like to learn more?
KW: Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story. We all have a unique life story and if mine can help someone else or give insight, I would love to connect and chat further. People can feel free to get in touch with me at any time using the below contact information:
Note: I am also in process of creating a website, stay tuned!
AM: Best of luck with your upcoming retreat and all of your future endeavors. I look forward to staying in touch!
A little more about Kelly’s classes and teaching style: Kelly likes to begin her classes with a 10-15 minute flexibility opening. Stretch work is followed by a segment of intentionally held poses in the hatha tradition before moving into a vinyasa flow (with a strong focus on linking breath with movement) for the final component of class. Her unique sessions are heavily influenced by her cranial sacral training and background in energy balancing/Reiki, sound healing, and massage therapy.
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