It’s always an interesting question for me to answer when people ask, “How did you decide to create Kai?” There are so many threads that go way back. I have to choose where to begin. I’d say I was about 8 years old when I first began dancing. My mom signed my sister and me up at a ballet school and what I really liked was the outfits. One that I remember wearing year after year for Halloween was a lime green satin bodysuit with sequins and a tutu. Plus it came with a matching headband that sparkled. I added little antennas and told everyone I was an alien dancer. Quite possibly this was a premonition!
Besides this short stint in official dance class, I danced with my sisters at home in front of our disco light stereo to “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John and “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas. Every weekend I’d roller skate ( dancing on wheels really) to these and more songs and dissolve into the rhythmic movement and the music, letting my worries melt away.
When I turned 18 I went to Cosmetology school, like my mother. Upon graduation I opened a hair salon, which I named after my father. While I cut hair and mastered the art of making people look good on the outside I also began to take fitness classes at a local gym. I found that same place of release in the aerobic classes and also discovered that I really wanted more movement that flowed better with the music and what felt like my body needed. I went on to become certified and from there I dove headfirst into the fitness world. I competed in weight lifting, ran a minimum of 15 miles a week, taught every kind of fitness class that was currently popular ( 4-6 classes a week). I became known in my hometown as a fitness expert and was offered a weekly spot on the radio and another one on television sharing fitness tips.
Thru those 13 years from 1987-2000 I also learned that in order to help others change their bodies and become more healthy I had to come clean. I went to college for physical therapy and at the same time I chose to help myself and that meant addressing bulimia (binge eating, purging, taking diet pills, exercising excessively), and distorted body image. I had experienced some deep emotional wounding that had haunted me most of my life. When I was in my early teens I used “cutting” as a coping mechanism. I would cut my arms or thighs till they bled to find relief from intense emotions. The internet allowed me to learn I was not alone in this. In fact Princess Diana had admitted to doing the same thing. This was both comforting and shocking. I felt so much shame and confusion around it. It was a whole new scary world of uncovering layers of self-hate, fear of abandonment, and loneliness. Both counseling and medication were my first steps away from the pain. Then I walked into a dance class…..and this….this really opened up the freedom to be, sense, feel and listen within that nothing else had touched. I chose to dance more and get off the anti depressants. I didn’t want to be numbed. I felt ready to face the waves of emotions that came. This is where I began to heal.
Flash forward to 1998 and I received the call that my dad had a brain tumor. I consulted with a friend as I struggled with what to do. I was in my senior year of college and I knew my father wanted me to finish my degree. I made a powerful decision to quit. I knew in my heart that the education was in being with him and helping him however I could. As I look back it was this decision that planted the seed to keep listening deeply within and following my soul when she whispers, no matter what…..even if my father would say no. I held my dad’s head as he took his last breath, and I told him it was okay to go. During those last weeks of my father’s life I learned more about the brain and how it degenerates from a brain tumor, about how to put my emotions aside and hold space for someone, and how to discern what is most important in a moment. For example, my dad fell on the bathroom floor and, luckily, didn’t knock himself out. His arms and legs were beginning to not work. I lifted him up, zipped up his pants, and helped to hold him up and walk to his recliner. His dignity and pride were still there and he, we all, believed we’d find a cure…..So I pretended everything was normal and straightened his shirt, caught my breath and centered as people arrived immediately after to visit him.
My dad continually asked me “What makes you happy Kelly??” He’d say “do that…it’s got to make you happy”. Dancing made me happy. Feeling my strengths of intuition, sensitivity, and believing so much in the power of love made me happy. After my dad died I chose to dance. I finished my degree thru a long distance program and married a man I met 6 weeks earlier in what seemed a practical choice to move on in my life and moved to Sarasota to begin to teach dance. I also explored pilates and yoga, getting certified in both and taking on a manager’s job of a local well known resort on Longboat Key called “The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort”. Flash forward 13 more years…..
I was feeling that itchy uncomfortable feeling as I taught a method of fitness/dance that was starting to not feel like a good fit. The further I moved through the trainings, spending over $15,000 in education, and after building up classes and trainings for this type of fitness I realized I was making this company and the trainers a lot of money and the company was changing significantly in its work. I noticed student numbers decreasing as I stopped teaching in a way that I loved and believed in and followed more of the protocol and principles of this company. I also became very disillusioned in how the company treated its trainers ( which I had invested in to become…) and that soul whisper was getting louder and louder in my ear. For me to live my life with impeccability, with integrity, I needed to step out into what I am fully here for and be seen, heard, and be able to create my vision. I knew I was at the pivotal point of either choosing it and going through all the growth or my life and health would decrease….I’d not be choosing from love.
Flash forward 4 years to today. Kai is a trademarked movement program. I’ve trained over 73 people from 6 different states and 4 different countries. There are 15 hour long dances videoed and a new teachers program in development as well as an amazing online program that is thriving called the Kai Earth Immersion. Kai trainings are accredited through the American Council on Exercise for 34 hours and people are still coming to me through the website asking to participate in this training that I am so proud of. It’s all about loving your body more, learning about its wisdom and developing the ability to listen within more. The trainings epitomize what it’s taken me to create Kai. I’ve seen many take it for personal exploration and many have started different businesses that they attribute the training inspired them to do. This makes my heart smile!
I feel that Kai “came to me”….I simply had to listen, feel, sense,… trust and believe in myself. The skills I knew I had after my father’s death -intuition, listening, courage, and, most importantly, being in a place of love at all costs which included deep truth even when it’s uncomfortable and brings about change, are what ushered Kai in. Leaving the other company and starting on my own has been a journey in letting go and feeling my inner power. When I left I feared not having a community!!! I ended up opening my life to more dancers, artists, musicians and love than I could have ever guessed. It was a leap of faith and it paid off.
The truth is, I also leaned in to what I had learned and the thread of my strengths through the years. This took deep reflection and inner listening to truth. I took what I learned about the brain when it shuts down and studied what it takes to build a stronger brain (neuro plasticity). I added in what I’ve learned about emotions and healing (authentic movement) and blended it with my love of seasons and nature growing up in upstate New York in a small farming town (the elements). I blended this with what I’ve learned as a mother twice divorced. The first husband is deceased after suffering years of alcoholism. The second is my children’s father whom I am good friends with even after the divorce and who suffers with severe mental illness (archetypes and the “hero” journey versus the “victim” and the power of the shadow). Life is challenging, we all have our things to figure out. I don’t judge and I use positive psychology on a daily basis and ……dance helps, especially Kai. I believe that creating a LIFE that unifies purpose and includes your passions and joy through every waking hour, every choice, every moment is a way to feel some level of understanding of the crazy times and the not so crazy and beautiful moments. (“Life as a dance” is a philosophy of mindfulness we study in Kai)
I know now that every choice I make either adds to or takes away from the bigger picture and that it’s vital I value myself and what I bring. I bring the capacity to love deeply, compassionately and unconditionally….and as I approach 50 this is what I am bringing to myself now. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been worth every struggle. I’ve leaned back on my fitness skills, my education, and my resolve to work through obstacles and own my power fully. I’ve learned to trust myself and foremost to trust the whispers of my soul. I’ve also learned to trust God and what I can’t do I surrender and wait….and it works out in its own time. The answers come.
Kai is a creative movement and fitness class that integrates body and mind while delivering a sweaty cardio workout that feels good to the joints.