TEACHER FEATURE: Kelley Voegelin
What brought you to yoga?
Fate. I wasn’t even looking for yoga nor did I know much about it when I found it. I had been living down in Argentina & was feeling very far from home, lost, & heavy hearted. One day somewhere in my inner fog I felt a very strong need to look up yoga in Buenos Aires. I didn’t see a flyer or speak to anyone about it; it was an instantaneous inspiration. Later that week I was taking private Iyengar lessons from a dear teacher & never looked back.
In what way has yoga had an effect on your life? and what drew you to teach?
The health benefits of a regular yoga practice are many & obvious & have effected my body, right on down to cellular level. I am so well cared for through my practice. But, the greatest effect yoga has had on me is that it has given me a spiritual practice. I look forward to my own quiet time to meditate, breathe well, study my mind, set intentions, & feel aligned within myself internally.
I was drawn to teach yoga because I reached a point where I craved to be immersed in yoga for the better part of my day & my “day job/ career at the time” was majorly getting in the way of thatI had been a teacher of many other things in the past… preschool, art, English. To then become a teacher of something that I am utterly passionate about & continuously inspired by seemed only necessary & natural.
Pigeon pose. It allows me to literally ground myself way down on my mat, get very quiet, fold in with my forehead supported & eyes closed. When I first started doing yoga, pigeon was so intense for me that it’d make me feel nauseous & I couldn’t wait to come out & now I never skip it; I always end up there.
What has been your biggest challenge or surprise in yoga?
Stilling the mind. It’s easy to be mired in the past & then in a split second begin to worry about the future. Staying fully aware of right now & not being so easily mentally tugged here & there is by far the most challenging aspect of yoga. I continue to study & be humbled by our powerful minds.
what do you love about breathing room?
I love the warmth of the community. The teachers, the students, & the space are welcoming, genuine & down to earth. It immediately felt like the right place to be.
what inspires you?
Creating a practice that brings me (and my students) into a state of overall well being & balance. The shifting of the seasons & the cycle of the moon, as well as meditations, mantras & mudras always provide great inspiration & support.
I have a favorite playlist that begins with gentle piano tracks complimented by uplifting string instruments. It moves into a some tracks by instrumental ambient musicians who provide gentle yet repetitive beats, & it ends with a meandering slow cello track.
What advice would you give yourself if you could time travel back to your first time on the mat?
Keep doing this because it’s going to forever change your life.
how do you fill your time outside of teaching? What is something that we might not know about you?
I make abstract pieces of art on any kind of paper, with any kind of crayon, marker, watercolor, found object collaged in & then I sprinkle into the composition sacred & geometric shapes & patterns, flowers, fractals, fairies. I also really love plants & gardens. Watching my plants form bright green new growth & expand into bigger pots is extremely satisfying… I could spend hours repotting, watering, pruning, tending to a garden of any size or shape.
do you have a personal mantra?
I am happy, I am healthy, I am abundant, I am loved
I was Sleuthed!
Yoga Sleuth was pleased to return to the sweet and homey Usha Veda yoga studio on the quiet Northern tip of her beloved Greenpoint, Brooklyn one cloudy Thursday morning. I have attended Kelley Voegelin’s class many times in the past, and am a huge fan. Without fail, she conveys a sense of calm and peace throughout the class that makes me feel as if I’ve been on a retreat rather than just steps away from the noisy, dirty New York City street.
This was my first time taking Kelley’s “Community Flow” class at Usha Veda. It is $10 cash only, which is really a bargain as long as you have cash (I, of course had to run home and grab some as I only had $5 and a piece of lint). It is an open level class, but the day I went, there were clearly some new students as well as a pretty pregnant one in attendance, so the flow was slow and full of choices and variations. With the changes and excitement of spring swirling around in my head as I arrived to class, this focused, measured, and less fiery practice was exactly what I needed.
Kelley began class with a reading from BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Life” (which I just added to my Barnes and Noble wish list) discussing how asana can help us connect the body and breath to the mind. This seems like a simple idea, but it was certainly a good reminder to begin class with; it can be easy to simply go through motions in one’s practice, forgetting that the asana is just one part of a whole practice.
We began to move, starting in Uttanasana before stepping back into a flow that consisted of Downward Dog, Plank, Cat/Cow, and other basic mat poses. When one of the newer students seemed confused about Knees/Chest/Chin, Kelley broke it down in a way that was a seamless part of the flow. She really has a gift for clearly instructing basic poses in a way that isn’t halting or boring to a more advanced student. I would guess that this also makes new students feel more comfortable, and it undoubtedly makes them better informed.
Transitioning into standing poses, we took Warrior II, Extended Side Angle, and Triangle, passing through a wide leg stretch in the center of the mat to move fluidly to the other side. Kelley offered the option of Knees/Chest/Chin, lowering all the way to the belly, or Chaturanga as vinyasas in between.
Standing poses peaked with Tree into Warrior III (we were given the option of using blocks to help with balance here), although Lizard was the most challenging pose for me. I always lower the knee in that pose whether or not the choice is given, but Kelley was sure to give several options here.
Beginning to slow down, we took Pigeon Pose, which really felt wonderful. Coming onto our backs, we took three Bridge Poses, slipping a block under the sacrum for the final one. From here, we lifted our legs into a restorative Shoulderstand variation. Finally, we used the straps that Kelley had brought around for Paschimottanasana. We were given the option to take any last poses we felt our bodies needed before resting in Savasana, so I took a brief twist.
After a short Savasana, we found a tall grounded seat on the mat. Kelley closed with a gentle reminder about using asana to find wholeness and balance in our bodies and in our lives. As I went back out into my crazy spring day, I certainly did feel more balanced and more peaceful. Who knew $10 cash could buy such a lovely little retreat?
-Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth