Kelli Joyce Strikes a Balance through Yoga Instruction
by Jenny Patton
“Hang in there, you guys. You’re almost done,” says yoga instructor Kelli Joyce, as we groan while holding the hip-opening pigeon pose for longer than expected. “Only two more breaths,” she says with bright eyes and a broad smile.
The groans get louder. “Seriously, Kel?” quips client Lynn Ginsburg. Kelli’s infectious laugh carries through the high-ceilinged room.
This is what it is like to take a yoga class with Joyce. It is Saturday morning at All Life Center for Integrative Well Being, located at 123 Hyatts Road in Delaware. We turn off our cell phones, spread our yoga mats on the wood floor, and listen to birds chirping outside the bay windows of this estate in the woods. Then, Kelli teases us—yet we keep coming back.
Here is the thing: We get a sense of peace, too. Joyce transitions beautifully from wisecracking goofball to serious yogi, and we follow. Her classes mimic the best of life—providing a balance of fun, peace and a sense of belonging.
“You all look gorgeous,” she says later. We transition to triangle pose, in which one arm touches an ankle, and the other arm extends overhead. She continues to guide us through poses proven to increase flexibility, strength, concentration, and cardio and circulatory health.
“Yoga has been a game changer for my body,” says Ginsburg. “I am not naturally athletic, so I work very hard to keep my weight and strength intact. Yoga has made me stronger and allowed me to have confidence in what my body is capable of accomplishing if pushed just a bit.”
It is simply not possible to be “bad” at yoga, says student Jackie Davis. “Every muscle you engage and stretch is for you, and only you, and it feels great. For me, I feel a release that is so much more than just a physical release of a muscle.”
Participant Kate Brunswick says yoga gives her life a sense of balance and calm that she does not get from other physical activities. Brunswick appreciates that Joyce offers more than one level of each pose to accommodate beginners and advanced yogis alike.
Joyce’s clients come to classes for the camaraderie as much as to practice yoga. “As students, we’re constantly rooting for each other to progress in our practice,” Brunswick adds. “When a student achieves a pose for the first time, the rest of the class claps and cheers. It’s a true community of support.”
Fellow classmate Jon Hammer agrees, referring to her classes as a sanctuary from the stressors of work and home. Participants often gather before or after class to discuss family issues—the good and the bad. “I feel acceptance here that’s unlike any other group I’ve been a part of. There is genuine affection between all of us. I feel a love for this group that lifts my spirits because I feel that love back.”
Joyce started practicing yoga in her living room in the mid-90s with an Erich Shiffmann/Ali McGraw VHS tape. When she moved to New York City in 1999, she took a “yoga tour” of the city to experience different styles. She worked with Alan Finger, the founder of ISHTA Yoga, a method that combines physical Hatha practice, Tantra and Ayurveda.
“ISHTA Yoga changed my entire reason for practicing,” Joyce says. “It opened doors for me to heal from not-so-positive life experiences in my own time and in my own way. I came to know myself for what seemed like the first time. It only took 30 years!” she said with a smile. “I decided to teach so that I could share similar experiences with others.”
Joyce’s classes foster a come-as-you-are atmosphere. “I don’t feel any pressure to be someone who I’m not,” said attendee Judy Rinehart-Turner. “I am allowed to be myself.”
Ginsburg credits Joyce for keeping her both grounded and humored. “She is so warm and spends time getting to know each of us, creating an environment of caring and trust. She is not an instructor who just teaches, but more an instructor who seeks to learn and grow from student feedback.”
Many students discover a sense of spirituality, vitality and peace during her classes. Michelle Buyer says she appreciates the no-judgment, no-competition spirit and draws energy from the people in the room.
Davis says she is often overcome with gratitude for her classmates. During life’s challenges—times during which others sometimes turn away—Kelli’s students often dedicate their practice to one another as a way to send positive energy to people in need. “No matter what life brings, I know I will leave my yoga practice feeling more peaceful and empowered,” Davis says.
“My Saturday morning class with Kelli is a highlight of my week,” Ginsburg adds. “When I miss it, I feel a small emptiness in my heart until the next time I see everyone.”
Although she refuses to take credit for it, Joyce says she is filled with pride when she sees the friendships that have formed among clients. “It is truly heartwarming and exactly what I wished for when I became a yoga instructor.”
For more information about Joyce’s classes at All Life Center, and other Columbus locations, email KelliJoyceYoga@gmail.com. For more information about All Life Center for Integrative Well Being, visit AllLifeCenter.org.
Jenny Patton teaches writing at The Ohio State University, and lives in Dublin with her husband and two sons. Connect at Patton.firstname.lastname@example.org.