In today’s upside-down world, authentic connections with people who can help us cultivate self-care are more important than ever. This is the second of three interviews with amazing women in wellness, all of whom will all be joining us on our September Restore & Reboot Big Sky Yoga Retreat in Montana. (Read our first interview with Ayurveda practitioner and author Claire Ragozzino here.)
Prepare to be inspired by their teaching gifts!
Caitlin Kelly has been called the “Cozy Queen” of Bozeman yoga, a well-deserved title after making yin and restorative classes as popular as power flows. How? By convincing even the most hardcore chaturanga addicts that a slower, softer practice is the yin you need for all that yang.
It’s all about balance, remember? Her soothing voice and melt-into-your-mat adjustments are icing on the cake.
1. Share the story of how you landed (lucky for me) at Big Sky Yoga Retreats.
My mom and I had been following Big Sky Yoga Retreats online for a while, and 2 spots opened up for a summer retreat. We booked it, had a mother-daughter adventure, and came home walking on air from the most amazing experience.
I completely fell in love with Montana, and I knew I needed to return.
I offered to be Margaret’s assistant, make jewelry, teach yoga, and anything else I could think of to justify five summer trips from my home in Philadelphia. Eventually, I made a permanent move to the Treasure State. I am so lucky to be here!
2. What’s your yoga philosophy? Specifically, why is your teaching focused on yin and restorative, why are those practices so beneficial, and why should all yogis embrace them to counter strong vinyasa practices?
My yoga philosophy is based on the philosophy of yin and yang. Yang is upward moving, heat building and energetic (power yoga, vinyasa, running), while Yin is downward moving, slow, deep and flowing (yin, restorative, meditation).
I spent years beating my body up as an athlete and power yogi. I discovered Yin yoga, and my life changed for the better.
My anxiety improved, my mind quieted down, and I was able to give myself a little bit of calm when I was practicing. In a world where humans are constantly doing, moving, and working, we can slow that energy down and target the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest) with a slow and soothing practice.
3. Tell us more about malas. In the mala making workshops that you’ve led for years, what have you seen people experience that encourages positive change and supports well-being?
In sanskrit, “mala” means “garland”. Mala beads are used as meditation, mantra and breathing tools. A traditional mala is a necklace made of 108 beads. The practitioner can keep track of mantras or breaths by moving their fingers along the necklace.
For example, take a breath, then move your fingers to the next bead, take another one, move to the next bead.
This gives the user something tangible to assist in their meditation. What I love about malas is that they can be beautiful, unique and personal. On retreat, I lead a mala making workshop in which ladies choose their beads, charms and accents, and make them their own.
As we string, we tell stories, laugh, and have appetizers (and wine!). At the end, we cleanse the malas with sage and set our individual intentions. Mala making is one of my favorite parts of our retreats. So many meaningful connections have been made during those times, and it’s beautiful to witness.
4. Define health and well-being, according to the Cozy Queen.
To me, health and wellness means balance. I believe many of us have “all-or-nothing” mindsets. This can be with exercise, food, drinking, relationships, etc. I believe that creating balance creates harmony in the body.
For example, adding and yin or restorative practice to your week after practicing power yoga for most of the week to give the body a chance to rest.
Balance could look like having a glass of wine with dinner, instead of drinking to excess or not at all. It could also look like allowing yourself dessert. No need to eat an entire pie, but there’s also no need to avoid dessert altogether. Maybe you ski one day, and give yourself a day to rest by taking a walk.
I believe balance in life creates a healthy mind and body!
5. What’s your favorite Big Sky Yoga Retreat?
Without hesitation, my favorite BSYR retreat is Tuscany. I have fallen in love with Italy, and each time we go, I feel completely renewed. We practice yoga outside on a beautiful terrace overlooking the Tuscan mountains, drink the best coffee & wine I’ve ever had, and have the most amazing meals.
Everything Italians do is done with love.
There is no grab-and-go breakfast. People sit, eat and feel their food. Italians take time to rest, and prioritize their wellbeing over business. Whenever we go, I’m reminded that it’s ok to take what I need, and give myself the opportunity to say no.
The day trips we take are breathtaking, the families we interact with treat us like family, and the yoga just FEELS different in the Tuscan air.
*Note: our 2022 Italian retreat is Yoga & Vineyard in Sicily this October. We still have a few spots open if you want to fall in love with eating, drinking and yoga-ing in Italy too!
All photos by Larry Stanley Photography