Kelly Williams

antmandela Yoga



Kelly is an E-RYT certified yoga instructor, sound healer, Reiki practitioner, and massage therapist from the Asheville, North Carolina area. She is currently guest teaching and coordinating wellness programs at Aqua Nicaragua Wellness Resort. I joined Kelly for a guest class on Aqua’s Pacific view yoga deck and then sat down with her for an informal breakfast conversation.

Also in this interview:

  • Cranial sacral unwinding
  • Human tuning forks
  • Shamanic journeying
  • “Ice Man” Wim Hoff
  • Breath empowerment
  • Aqua Nicaragua Wellness Resort

Instructor Background

AM: Do you mind sharing a bit about your background?

KW: I was born and raised in North Carolina and am the youngest of four siblings. My mom is a massage therapist and a Reiki master, so I was very fortunate growing up to be exposed to the unique perspective of her career as an energy worker. When I was 18, I started experimenting with Reiki and feeling the energy flowing through my hands. Rei means universal and Ki means life force energy. At a young age, I had my first experience being a funnel of that energy and pressing it through the body. Around this time I was working in the service/restaurant industry and doing a lot of photo shoots as I built my photography business. I also began to dabble in yoga, although I didn’t have much of a consistent practice at that point.

I would like to share a very personal story here with regard to my background because it had a huge impact on my life: My brother served in the military and, when I was 21, he passed away from pulmonary edema in his sleep. He had PTSD and when he came back from Iraq he suffered from frequent flashbacks. Right after he passed, I remember placing my hands over his head—and I know this next part may sound crazy—but I felt his spirit leave his body and felt his energy in my hands. After that experience, everything changed for me. I started having these vivid dreams where he (my brother) described to me the energy world and how things worked on the “other side.” I won’t get too deep into describing the various dreams, but I later spoke with a shamanic healer who said that I was not having dreams, but was actually experiencing shamanic journeying. This triggered me to begin reading and studying more about shamanism and how to heal the body through shamanic healing.

AM: I am so sorry to hear about your brother. I can tell from how you are sharing your story that you were very close with him. I am wondering how this experience helped lead you to where you are today. Where did your searching (that you’ve just begun to describe) end up taking you?

KW: At the start of this journey, my mother gave me a book called Courageous Dreaming by Alberto Villoldo, a medical anthropologist who runs a school called the Four Winds Society where he leads trainings on the Medicine Wheel and how Shamans view the light body. I was so impacted by Alberto’s trainings that I wrote him a letter and then later attended one of his workshops when he visited North Carolina. I also began dedicating much more time to yoga after my brother’s passing. Yoga made such a physical, mental, and spiritual difference in my life that I began to seek out more avenues for growth in this area.

I also stumbled across the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA) while doing some online research and decided to travel to Tempe, Arizona for their nine month mind/body/wellness training program. Not five minutes after walking through the front door, the girl at the front desk approached me and asked if I wanted to try out a cranial sacral session. I had no idea what this was, but I jumped at the chance to try something new and was blown away by how much the different holds (that they do on the head and spine) mirrored much of what I had learned about Shamanic healing.

As part of the mind/body/wellness program at SWIHA, you get to pick areas to focus on and I chose yoga since I was really looking to deepen my practice. The cranial sacral session was very interesting to me, so I selected that focus area as well.

Cranial Sacral & Tuning Forks

AM: How would you explain cranial sacral therapy or cranial sacral unwinding to someone who has never heard of this technique?

KW: Cranial sacral unwinding utilizes holds on the head, vertebrae of the spine, and tailbone that help to increase the flow of cerebral spinal fluid in the body, putting you in a deep state of restoration so that your body’s natural mechanisms can take over. Although great for everyone, this technique is incredibly useful for those with autism, nervous system disorders, schizophrenia, depression, or any spinal cord injuries.

AM: You seem to be incredibly knowledgeable in this area—would you mind doing a deeper dive and speaking to why you believe cranial sacral therapy is so effective?

KW: When we were born, the plates of our head were movable. As we start to age, the plates suture together and sometimes, depending on how the plates come together (or even how we were birthed out of the birth canal), things can become compressed causing impingement on the flow of the spinal fluid. In the center of the brain you have four ventricles that create the spinal fluid. The fluid flows out, lubricating the brain and then it pulses down through the spinal cord and through all of the nerve endings of the spine. Some of the fluid circulates and comes back to the brain and some of the fluid (although this part isn’t scientifically proven) excretes out of your pores to create your “aura.” The shamans call the cerebral spinal fluid the “rivers of life” as this fluid is the lubrication for the entire nervous system.

Cranial sacral unwinding eases you into a deep state of relaxation (similar to what you feel right before you fall asleep). This is when your body starts to change as the cells go into their regenerative state. I have lots of interesting stories from my therapy sessions: some people flow into different realms, others have visions or colors come to them, and some people just feel very relaxed or even fall asleep. In the end you get this overall feeling of peace.

AM: Speaking of a sense of peace…at the end of your class this morning you went around with a tuning fork during savasana and played a musical note next to the ear of all class participants. It is hard to describe the sensation I felt, but I definitely experienced a very subtle and calming vibration flow through my body. I would love to learn more about the work you do with tuning forks.

KW: I also completed a sound healing course while I was at SWIHA. I was probably drawn to this area of study because of my music background and the decade plus of experience I have teaching piano. Tuning forks have a long history and originated way back in the Egyptian era. Although you can use these tools to tune a variety of musical instruments, the instruments I use are called “human tuners,” because they tune to the frequency of the human body. When your parasympathetic nervous system is in the state of rest and restore, your body vibrates at a frequency of 128. C and G—the two tones you heard in your ear—create a perfect fifth and tune to the frequency of 128, which in turn creates the Fibonacci sequence. This is what our bodies resonate with in a state of total relaxation. We all vibrate at different frequencies at different times of the day; the frequency of the tuning fork clears out the energetic pathways of the body, it clears out the meridians.

The frequency of the tuning fork clears out the energetic pathways of the body, it clears out the meridians.

I use the tuning forks in savasana to help my students move more quickly into a deeper state of restoration. I also use them in my massage and cranial sacral business (In Tune therapies) to help my clients work through the different layers of the body’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual states. The work I do with the tuning forks simply helps tune our body to the highest frequency that resonates with us.

AM: If someone is interested in learning more about tuning forks, is there a resource you would recommend to check out?

KW: The tuning forks I use are made by Dr. John Beaulieu and his website is He also has a great book called Human Tuning which I highly recommend. You can purchase the book and a set of tuning forks for around $100. If you want to take it a step further, there is also a technique called raindrop therapy where you use a variety essential oils in tandem with different tuning forks up and down the spine. The oils and the tuning forks resonate at different frequencies and actually decompress the different vertebrae in the spine.

Deepening your practice

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.

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.

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!

Share this Post

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.

Related Posts you may be interested in:

Retreat Conexions: