As a full-time researcher, wife, mom and yoga instructor, it was hard to find time, but we made it work with coffee for the win! The incredible Kelli White gave us some of her precious time to chat with us for our next Teacher Talk Tuesday.
1. What is your favorite asana & why?
It’s so hard to choose. It depends on my mood and what my body needs. I love the challenge of arm balances, so almost any of those are high on my list. I also really like a variation of Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) that I’ve always known as “Candlestick Pose” in which you bend your knees and let them rest on your forehead at the level of the “third eye.” I find it so soothing. I also love Swastikasana. It’s a twist that has so many options and allows for so much control. Oh! And one more, “Cat Tail Pose”, it feels so good. Again, so many options and that twisting backbending just feels great to my body.
2. Least favorite/why?
Tittibhasana (“Firefly”) immediately comes to mind. I’ve injured my hamstrings a few too many times and they really don’t appreciate it when I try this pose. I also find Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) doesn’t feel so hot for me either.
3. Funniest/most embarrassing yoga moment?
Hmm. I’ll have to think about this, I know there has to be a funny story that’s safe to share. I think humor is so important. My classes tend to be fairly challenging, so being able to laugh or to make the students laugh helps to take the edge off so we stop taking ourselves so damn seriously. What’s the point, if we’re not enjoying ourselves? I think most of the students that attend my classes quickly learn it’s a safe space and like to give me a hard time (and I not-so-secretly love them for it).
4. Best/most rewarding yoga moment?
I can’t say it’s a singular moment, but the most rewarding thing for me as a teacher, is the moment when I notice a student become aware of the fact that they are stronger than they thought they were; not only physically, but mentally as well. We should acknowledge that it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and show up to a class (especially that first one!) with people you don’t know, doing something you’re unfamiliar with. Yoga creates opportunities to be challenged to do things we didn’t think we were capable of and creates resiliency in other parts of our lives.
5. Who knew? (interesting tidbits you might like to share)
My house is a zoo. We have 3 cats and 2 dogs and 1 toddler. It total chaos. If I seem super happy to be teaching…well…yeah.
6. Outside of yoga what is your passion/Where can you be found?
Usually with my son, Julian. I also work full time at Washington University doing research in a Biomedical Engineering lab. I love to be active. I lift heavy things, jog, hike, and camp.
7. What inspired you to be a student of yoga? To teach?
I just happened to go to a class with a friend and was hooked from the very beginning…21 years ago!! Around 2005, I found my teacher, Pam Schulte, and grew even more in love with this practice. It was then that my practice finally started to evolve into something that was more than just physical. I was interested in teaching, but thought I still had way too much to learn, and who did I think I was anyway? (Confession: I still feel this way). Finally around 2011 I decided that my practice needed more and I signed up for teacher training. The rest is history, I guess.
8. One piece of advice you like to give your students?
I just encourage them to take the long view. Yoga is a way of being. It is constantly changing as our needs change. You don’t get a sticker if you get your nose to your knees (but you could get injured!), and I like to explain the real differences between a beginner student and a more advanced student. For the sake of brevity here, I just remind students that it doesn’t matter what “shape” you can get your body in, it’s where your head is. An advanced student will listen to their body and not force something, (and will OMG, use a prop!!) will take rest when they need it, and will maintain awareness of their breath. An advanced student will approach their steady practice with humility, curiosity, and without judgement. I think this is an important reminder with the increased popularity of yoga and our culture that wants to push everything to extremes. I’m all for trying challenging poses, if it’s appropriate. I personally think that they are fun and the journey to get there is even better.
9. Favorite yoga quote or mantra?
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
Watch your words; they become actions;
Watch your actions; they become habits;
Watch your habits; they become character;
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
The above quote has been attributed to several people. After much research, the answer is still not definitive, so for that reason, we are going to leave out the attribution.
10. Favorite yoga tunes?
Eh. I don’t usually get down with any traditional yoga music…I definitely don’t like anything too familiar either. I’ve played all sorts of music in my classes, Black Metal, The Beatles, a ton of rock, some jazz, some blues…my preference is more atmospheric, shoe-gazey kinds of sounds…I personally find it very distracting to practice to music that is too poppy or just something that I don’t like. ;) It may surprise some of my students, but I didn't play music in my classes for years. When I started though, there were many students that commented that it helped them quiet the chatter in their heads. Since then I *try* to play music that isn't too distracting, but I know that's certainly subjective. I still appreciate a quiet class. It's so rare that we are anywhere without constant noise.
Want to take a class with Kelli?
Tuesdays @ 4:30 Vinyasa Flow; every other Thursday @ 6:30 Basics & Beyond. Check out our weekly schedule.
Kelli is also hosting an Advanced Vinysasa Flow on Saturday, April 6th from 2:30-4:30.