Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelsey Brennan, a unique health and wellness advocate and Yoga instructor based in Denver, Colorado. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.-----------------------------------------------------------
Describe yourself and what you do:
Well, I normally describe myself as a fitness and wellness professional. That means that I work in all the facets of the fitness world like personal training, yoga instruction, spin, TRX etc. On top of that I’m working as a therapeutic massage therapist. I’ve recently created a niche in prenatal massage and training, as well as completing my training through Volo Yoga as an aerial yoga and barre instructor.
What is Volo Yoga?
Volo Yoga was created by Harmony Hoefner in collaboration with Pura Vida Fitness and Spa. It’s essentially taking your mat practice to the sky, into an aerial hammock or aerial silk. Originally it was intended as a cross training method for athletes, but has shifted to being applicable for any person. Volo Yoga helps to take you to a new flexibility level, as well as decrease pain from scoliosis, lower back pain, or hip pain. There are now 3 studios in Denver that offer it. I personally work at Atherial, which is in LoHi. For those who want to try it but are tentative, privates are available so anyone can begin to feel comfortable in the hammock before stepping into a class. Volo Barre is also available for those looking for a more toning option than the Volo Flow or Float classes.
For the total beginners out there, where would you recommend they start?
Most yoga studios will have a fundamentals or beginners class. Or, they could try a lower level alignment class or Vinyasa class. Always talk with the instructor before class to let them know that you’re a newer student to yoga and warn them if you have any injuries. That way they can make sure that the class you’re in is the right one for you.
There are plenty of beginners in these classes so you won’t be alone. If you want something a bit more casual, they could always start with Yoga in the Park, Fitness on the Rocks, etc. These are usually very “user-friendly” for beginners of all levels. For example, I teach at several local breweries through local Denver company, Après Yoga. These settings are much less intimidating for your first class. It takes away the feeling of “everyone but me knows what they’re doing”. Instead, everyone’s there to socialize, grow their community, and possibly even grab a beer afterwards.
What inspired you to pursue this line of work:
Well, my mom was always doing yoga when I was a little kid, and I grew up in a very active environment doing ballet, soccer, fitness, etc. Then in college I got my Dance and Kinesiology degrees. Once I stopped dancing due to a back injury, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to stay active, so I started personal training as I was going through massage therapy school. When I was living in New York, I started realizing that people were going to doctors when they were already hurt and thought to myself what could have prevented this? Well, nine times out of ten if you’re eating healthy and exercising you’re less likely to injure yourself. I started seeing that need, and so that’s what I focused my training on, overall wellness and injury prevention. I started with personal training, which lead to group classes, a much more affordable option for most people. I started with TRX, then indoor cycling, and then mat and aerial yoga. It’s been a pretty natural progression to add these on. It creates an overall wellness program that I can provide people; from cardio, to strength training, all the way to flexibility and pain relief. Even though it’s not where I saw myself being even 5 years ago, I absolutely love it. I feel so blessed to get to go to work every day and be active.
My passion is pointing more and more to yoga, just because that’s what I love to do and what provides me the most mental and physical health benefits. But, it’s equally as important as everything else I do, including massage, for your full body wellness.
What personal benefits have you noticed from your yoga practice?
Obviously, the physical benefits are incredible, being flexible, healthy, and feeling mentally sound has been great in all aspects of my life. For me though, the mental benefits are the most important. I used to be an incredibly anxious and tense person, but that’s the polar opposite of how I would describe myself now. Even if I have a valid reason to be stressed out, it’s pretty rare.. Now, instead of stressing out about things that I have no control over I can now take a step back and readjust my perspective. I have learned to control my thoughts, control my breath, and ideally control my emotions. It boils down to being able to choose your thoughts and feelings, and what you give your energy towards. And I’m pretty flexible now too which is cool!
Do you have any “healthy lifestyle” tips that have been very beneficial to you that you recommend to your clients?
There are a lot of different people out there telling you to “do this” or “do that” but the most important thing in my opinion is to do something you actually enjoy. Some people swear by one yoga style or lineage but it doesn’t excite someone else. It’s all about what you enjoy and what keeps you active every day. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each person should go on their individual journey to find what makes them happy and excited to move every day.
Another great thing is to try to find somewhere you can find a community. You don’t necessarily need to become their best friends, but it’s great to find somewhere you feel comfortable, and happy. I went to a great yoga class right when I moved to Denver and that’s how it was for me. I thought: “this is amazing, these people are so wonderful” and now I’ve been with that company for two years and it’s still my happy place.
Find your happy place and your community and everything else will follow.
Do you still go to classes? Or do you have a home practice?
Well, I’m lucky, I have a yoga studio in my house, so I practice at home mostly. I also teach about 16 classes a week, most of which I participate in, satisfying my exercise needs. On top of that I try to attend 1-2 yoga classes a week. These classes are essential to allowing myself to turn my brain off for an hour and develop some mental clarity. It’s also interesting to see what other teachers are doing since many of them have become friends of mine. That way I’m constantly learning and growing my own practice and class style.
Do you have a favorite pose? Or even poses you’ve been working towards getting that you’re excited about?
I’ve recently been getting past a bit of a threshold that I had and exploring some poses that weren’t available to me before. I think the fact that I’m much calmer and less antsy about getting the pose on the first few tries has really helped. I’m also nursing a torn hamstring right now, which has become the ultimate lesson in empathy. I have plenty of people who come to my class injured and it was always a bit hard to understand what that meant since I’d never had an inhibiting injury like that, but I think this injury has really made me a much better, more understanding instructor.
That’s really great. I have friends who have had bad experiences in yoga classes due to injury or being overweight where the teacher was less than understanding.
Yeah, that happens unfortunately. That’s not what yoga’s about. It about exploring your own personal practice. It’s not about looking in the mirror and looking exactly like the person next to you. That’s not the point.
Why do you teach yoga?
I know there are a lot of teachers that, unfortunately, no longer really want to be there. There’s no longer any passion or excitement about it for them. For me, yoga has done so much for my lifestyle and me. I’ve completely transitioned as a human being in the last 5 years of my life. So much so that my college self wouldn’t even recognize me. I love that. For me, I teach yoga because I want everyone to experience that! Maybe not in the exact same way as I have, becoming a calmer more levelheaded person like I’ve become, but perhaps they can experience something that creates fulfillment in their life in some way. While this may be broad, it is also unique to each person. Each person is looking for a different type of fulfillment in his or her life. For me, it was mental clarity, but for someone else, maybe it’s that exercise that makes them feel better at the end of the day. Everyone’s experience will be totally different, and every day yoga will provide something different for you. That’s what’s so special about this practice, its ever changing, just like we are.
That’s so interesting because I think we’ve seen each other 3 times in the last few years, and each time you’re just a little different.
Yeah, when I moved out to Denver I was just starting to figure this all out, but since then I’ve done some studies in yoga philosophy, past the physical practice of yoga. Yoga can be much more than its physical benefits, and I try to incorporate some of that into my classes. It’s a practice of mindfulness, breath, and helping yourself as well as others rather than just poses. It can be a hard thing to teach, but it’s so valuable and powerful for the students in the long run.
I would really love for everyone to experience that through yoga, because it’s so powerful.
Thank you so much Kelsey for sharing your journey, thoughts and passion!
If you're in the Denver area and hoping to start or continue your own wellness journey, check out one of Kelsey's classes? A normal week for her looks like this:
6am TRX/XBIKE at Matrix Fitness and Spa
2pm Vinyasa 1-2 at Kindness Yoga - Capital Hill (through November)
12pm Volo Flow at Atherial
6pm XBIKE at Matrix Fitness and Spa
12pm Yoga at Matrix Fitness and Spa
7am Volo Barre at Atherial
12pm Cardio Blast at Matrix Fitness and Spa
6pm TRX at Matrix Fitness and Spa
7pm Yoga at Matrix Fitness and Spa
6am Yoga at Matrix Fitness and Spa
12:30 XBIKE at Matrix Fitness and Spa
4:30 Vinyasa 1-2 at Kindness Yoga - Hilltop
8:30am Vinyasa Yoga at Cherry Creek Athletic Club
10:15am Yoga at Avenue 8 at Mayfair
12pm Vinyasa 2 at Kindness Yoga - Stanley Marketplace
Kayla Morrissey @Plantiva