Kelsey is based in Lake Bluff, Illinois, and works as a manager to her mother’s yoga studio, Forever Om. In addition to managing the studio, Kelsey also teaches yoga classes at Equinox and owns her own yoga retreat company. During our interview, Kelsey stressed her interests in nature, healthy living, and cultivating a creative and calm space in one’s life.
Kelsey, Where did you grow up and how did it influence your interest in fitness?
I attended University of Vermont, and then lived in Boston for a little, but eventually returned back to Illinois where I am currently living. In college, I majored in human development and family studies. When I went to school, I knew that I wanted to learn how to give back to the community. I found this by focusing on leading art therapy for children. The last two years of college, I had the privilege of being immersed in the field, where I worked at the Burlington YMCA in an afterschool program. I originally intended on implementing art therapy into their curriculum. However, I noticed there was this huge gap between the kids and the parents who picked them up. Most of the parents were in rehab facilities for drug and alcohol issues, and some had even just gotten out of jail. I could tell that the parent-child relationships were not the most supportive, and after seeing this, I wanted to change my final project from art therapy to yoga therapy so that I could create more of a connection between the children and their parents. Eventually, I started a family yoga program there, where children and parents would do yoga together. I wanted to ultimately create a space for families where parents did not have to deal with disciplining their kids and other distractions of life to foster a closer bond.
When did you get into forever OM and Yoga?
My final project in college [yoga therapy at YMCA] ultimately helped me find my way back to yoga. I actually began teaching yoga around 15 years old, which was when I completed my first teacher training. Right off the bat, I started by teaching at my mom’s studio, and once I went to college I taught yoga as a side job. She [my mom] just opened her second studio, and we are a complete duo working there.
I work full time as a manager at the second location for Forever Om, the yoga studio my mom created. We don’t plan our classes at our studio. Most studios follow a curriculum and are always doing a script, but what I love about Forever Om is that all of our classes are completely authentic. We are, of course, trained with a “skeleton” of a sequence, but every teacher goes into class and develops a practice as yogi’s flow based on what they see, being more in tune to their own intuition. When you’re a teacher, you see so dramatically this connection between mind body and spirit and how they all work together as one. When you take care of body, mentally you’re in a better space and more connected, and vice versa.
I also teach at Equinox, and I am the founder of a yoga retreat program called Compass Hiking and Yoga. I’ve always loved the outdoors, and when I came back to Chicago, I wanted to find a way to continue to be able to do the things I loved while merging yoga into them. I spent a lot of time studying the benefits of being outside and how that can help people get into a good mental state. I studied the goals of mindful eating, how food can trigger different emotional responses and how certain foods can balance out your chakras and help to relieve stress. Our program consists of three different aspects: we practice mindful eating, understanding where food comes from and how it supports our bodies. Our meals are mostly vegan, and all organic and raw. We also study different doshas, which come from Ayurvedic medicine, and we cater our meals to people’s specific doshas. Lastly, we go to different national parks around the country.. Our retreat usually consists of 15 people, and a typical day involves two yoga classes, one hike, three meals from our chef, and a series of different educational workshops. These workshops range from learning how to make essential oil blends for balancing out chakras to understanding crystals and how they can be used for healing. After the program, I want people to walk away with a better understanding of how they can change their life outside of this space.
What does it mean to you to be powerful?
For me, being powerful and confident is finding your purpose and your drive, and being bold enough to go full force into that space, while still being able to balance it out with grace. It’s important to not feel an overwhelming sense to rush the process, but instead let your journey unfold by putting full effort into every single moment. My mantra is “juice the day” – you never know what the day will hold, but make sure you’re able to get absolutely everything out of it.