I never was a gymnast, cheerleader, or dancer. In fact, movement wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed once I hit adolescence. I moved only to burn calories, and exercise was something I endured when I was on a diet. Coming from the mindset of “no pain, no gain,” I pushed my body, ignored signals of pain, and wound up injuring myself repeatedly with very little to show for it. But I wasn’t any different from most of the people I knew. As an attorney first, and then as a pastry chef, my peers took pride in working brutal hours and pushing themselves toward the never-ending goal of perfection. Whether it was a legal brief or a croissant, good wasn’t enough. If it wasn’t perfect, it was wrong.
Looking back, it’s no surprise that I hated my first yoga experience. I remember lying on the floor, breathing, and being upset that I had to pay for a babysitter when I could have been feeling the burn on the treadmill instead. I stuck with it but was the one who left before savasana, the one who upleveled her poses, the one who stacked classes back to back because I wanted to get better at what I thought yoga was. Even as a teacher, it took at least five years and two injured shoulders and hamstrings before I really believed that yoga was something more than asana, that my search for perfection was not only pointless but contrary to what I was teaching. Yoga doesn’t allow for perfection. There is no finish line or report card. There is just the moment, the practice, and yourself. It calls for a complete paradigm shift, and that’s a scary thought if you’ve been using external validation to get through life. But it’s so worth it.
My practice, both yoga and life, colors my teaching. I encourage students to explore the edges of their comfort zones, whether that means pushing a little harder, backing off a little bit, or just breathing more deeply. Classes with me are sweaty with longer holds and a strong focus on the core and proper alignment. Nothing is mandatory except for a sense of humor and a modicum of curiosity. But in each class, regardless of its focus, size, or level, there is one recurring theme: yoga is an organic process rather than a series of poses. Although the asana connects us more deeply to our yoga, it’s not an end in and of itself. It’s what happens before, during, and after the asana that brings us closer to our true selves.
I’ve been lucky enough to study with teachers who’ve taught me so much. Ana Forrest, Leanne Carey, and Leslie Riley have influenced me most deeply, but there are others who have left their mark—Rich Logan, Gabriel Halpern, Annie Carpenter, Jasmine Lieb, Jason Crandell, Rusty Wells, Seane Corn, and many more. I also draw from other modalities, like strength training and somatic movement, in my classes. Most importantly, Daren Friesen taught me how to teach yoga, saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and gave me a gentle push out the door with an offer I couldn’t refuse—a teaching slot at Moksha Yoga in Chicago. He made this reluctant teacher spread her wings, and I will be forever grateful to him.
Kelly Sites’s Teaching Schedule