Observing Peace

Ryan Kelly, a yoga instructor at the Asheville Community Donation Studio, observes on a microscopic level — literally.

As a scientist for Botanipharm, a grower-owned botanical product company at AB-Tech’s Enka campus, Kelly researches the effects of Goldenseal to determine the antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties of the plant. Her lab is full of beakers, dark green liquids and tiny vials.

“Life intercorrelates between science and yoga,” the instructor says. “At the lab, I am extremely observant by researching how Golden Seal affects bacteria and cancer cells. At yoga class, we observe our bodies and minds.”

With a background in Kung Fu and Transcendental Meditation, these two influences affect her teaching style. She reminds her students to observe without judgment or action, to find the breath and detach from the outside world. “I like to teach the more internal stuff. I love the repetition in yoga, but I also love the simple, gentle practice of Qi Gong,” Kelly says about the gentle martial art form, which she incorporates into her yoga class. She says America needs to slow down in many aspects of life, including yoga practice.

Her observation skills as a scientist translate to the yoga world, too.

“You could have a sore back, but really the issue is that your hamstrings are so tight, and that is what is putting strain on the lower back.” A minute part of yoga has streamlined into Western culture in order to refine the body, she says, but Kelly arrived to the sticky mat from a different approach and to help others find internal awareness.

Also a trained cellist, the mother of two offers a unique choice of music in class. Classical music and opera singers fill the speakers for her Thursday evening Tao flow yoga class. “I think it’s common to make yoga complicated. It seems inaccessible to a lot of people. It is too difficult and it is only about body,” she says. “I teach from the Taoist perspective. The premise is to find the breath and detach, to observe without judgment and action. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, but just to be aware of what you are doing when you are doing it. You work to clear the fog, quiet down and be still.”

The patience she has cultivated as a scientist is key to not losing focus in a slower paced yoga sequence. It is wonderful to study about anatomy and the history and all the rest of yoga, the instructor says, but it is really about the practice. It is important to know that everyone can do it.

Kelly teaches beginner yoga on Tuesdays from 4 p.m.-5 p.m., and Tao flow on Thursdays from 4 p.m.-5:15 p.m. at the Asheville Community Donation Studio.


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