Kerri Kelly, Executive Director of Off the Mat, Into the World, as interviewed by her friend, local writer and yoga teacher Marianne Elliot
A regular teacher at Wanderlust and many other yoga festivals and conferences, Kerri Kelly is known for classes, workshops and retreats that are challenging but playful, as she strives to help her students develop a strong body, content mind, and healthy spirit.
Kerri will be leading a yoga retreat over New Years 2014 in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Marianne: Who are you? Tell me three things that people who really know you would know.
Kerri: First, I like to play big in the world and find myself attracted to obstacles, risks and anything ripe for change.
Second, I’m a starter and have been all my life – give me something to do and I’ll get it done. Give me an idea and I’ll make it happen.
Finally, I believe in second chances; the chance to go from breakdown to breakthrough and discover the freedom to be who you were meant to be.
Marianne: What has been the big theme of 2013? What are you learning right now?
Kerri: Without a doubt, I’m learning to let go. This has been a big year of transition both personally and professionally. Everything in this moment is teaching me to let go of the control and the need to know everything.
Pema Chodron said:
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us everything we need to know.
So, I am practicing living into the questions and being open to the uncertainty of all that is in front of me. Despite the discomfort, I am learning to trust in where I am and be gentle along the way.
Marianne: What role has yoga played in that theme?
Kerri: Yoga contradicted everything I had learned in my life – push your edge, go hard, plow through, make it happen. That served me as an athlete and executive in the corporate world, but never on the mat.
Yoga taught me a new way of operating and being in relationship to myself. The more I practiced, the better I felt. It wasn’t a product of my effort, but rather an outcome of my surrender.
Marianne: What brings you to New Zealand?
Kerri: When I dream up and design retreats, I always look for destinations that provide a powerful and diverse space for movement, play and transformation.
My retreats tend to be a journey on every level, personal transformation, interpersonal collaboration and environmental interaction. So I look for places that have diverse eco-systems, that encourage adventure, and that can hold space for a powerful experience of the body, mind and soul.
New Zealand feels like the perfect combination of these things. And I happen to know some totally fabulous Kiwis. Including you!
Marianne: Why would someone go on yoga retreat over New Years?
Kerri: New Years marks a significant transition on the calendar and a ripe moment for individuals to assess where they are, vision where they want to be and commit to a practice and pathway to get there.
It is also a great time for gratitude – to celebrate all that is at our back and all that got us to this moment. That practices helps us cultivate the clarity and courage to move forward and manifest whatever is next.
Marianne: What can people expect from the retreat with you?
Kerri: It’s a healthy dose of practice, self-inquiry, fun and adventure and, most importantly, in the context of community. People make these retreats really powerful.
How we connect and share and discover together can be a great teacher. Expect to practice well, play hard and open up to the possibility of who you are.
Marianne: Tell me about your work with Off the Mat, Into the World. What is it?
Kerri: Off the Mat, Into the World™ is a training institute that invests in leaders who are committed to conscious activism.
It uses the power of yoga and mindfulness to support leaders in becoming more effective and sustainable in their work and confront symptoms of burn-out and frustration, and to be more effective in bringing about long-term change.
Approaching service through this lens allows us to show up on purpose and in-powered.
Marianne: Why do you believe in it?
Kerri: Because it changed my life. When I found yoga, I was a type-A corporate executive type on a mission to create the perfect life. That was until 9-11 when I lost my stepfather, a fireman, in Tower 2.
After that yoga became my refuge and taught me how to heal. But Off the Mat, Into the World, taught me how to live and inspired me to pivot my life in the direction of purpose and service.
Through OTM, I found my purpose and voice as a catalyst for change and began investing in leaders, ideas and organizations that were committed to social impact. Since then, I have had the privilege of witnessing countless leaders step up and take action in new and powerful ways.
Marianne: Why does the work of Off the Mat, Into the World matter?
Kerri: Because the world needs us to show up. And yoga is just that: how to show up fully in every aspect of your life!
In the same way it asks you to confront was is uncomfortable on the mat, yoga also calls us to address all that is broken and discouraging in our world.
Also, activism is challenging work and without a spiritual practice can be unconscious and short-lived. The practice of yoga helps us to stay grounded in the moment, compassionate in interaction and sustained by our purpose.
Marianne: What’s next for Off the Mat, Into the World in New Zealand? That’s probably a question for me…
Marianne: At the moment my energy is going into getting Off the Mat, Into the World Australia up and running as the first official international affiliate of Off the Mat, Into the World. We’ve been working behind the scenes for a couple of years now to get the structure in place, and now we are ready to launch.