Why I became a Yoga Sculpt Teacher
I used to be the girl that would hide in the back of gym class. I was always a little peanut, and the spunk I had in regards to paving my own way in life most definitely did not translate to my physical education class. In fact, the only thing I ever got in trouble for in high school school was forging a note from parents that said I couldn’t participate in gym class because I had “really bad PMS.” It probably would have worked if I had been wise enough to not do it for an entire month straight.
The first time I ever took a yoga class was about five years ago when I was in-between seasons and desperately wanting to be back in Africa to help my kiddos with special needs. When you join a new fitness club, there’s an inevitable question they always ask: “What are your goals or reasons for becoming a member of the XYZ community?!” The vivid image of the perky, blonde yoga instructor’s stunned face when I hit her with my standard response of: “I’m trying to be a straight split between Mother Teresa and a Victoria’s secret model, and I really don’t want to be here right now -- and yoga is cheaper than therapy,” will forever and always be one that I cherish. Nobody ever knows what to say to that.
The fluid movements of yoga reminded my little ballerina heart of dance. When combined with the athleticism Yoga Sculpt required, I fell in love with this ingenious, effective workout instantaneously. When I eventually moved back to the USA full time, my path from the airport went directly to Chipotle and then a pitstop at Corepower before crashing into my bed and sobbing, wondering WTF I had just done -- surely leaving my perfect African life was a mistake.
Fast forward a few months and I’m slowly acclimating back to being ‘murican and building Uphold Global with my new main squeeze. Apparently the fact that jumping into a relationship after a major life change maybe wasn’t a good idea never crossed my mind. The whole reason we connected again after being polar opposites in our massive high school was Uphold Global, so we convinced ourselves that it was destiny and God’s plan that we would reconnect, fall desperately in love with one another and build an organization that would help millions of children together. Logical.
I also ignored the fact that his family hated me, the time he told me after three months of dating that initially he was nervous about dating me because he couldn’t have imagined that his partner would be missing half her arm (and when he told his family this, they totally understood), angry outbursts and the time when I was told I would have the perfect body if I just had more chiseled obliques. Clearly I was in a healthy place, so we started planning our entire future together. Wedding plans, future family plans, the works.
Eventually the levels of toxicity got so apparent even Stevie Wonder couldn’t turn a blind eye to them anymore. So, in the middle of a massive blow out which turned physical and I was literally pressed with my back against a wall, I called it all off in hopes we’d work out our shit individually and eventually get to a healthy place.
That didn’t happen. He left, literally fled the country, and the broken pieces of our organization and future in my hand and a half and the only communication we’ve had since was a two line e-mail. Breakups are always tough -- but this wasn’t just a breakup. Somehow we’d convinced ourselves the only plan that God could have was uniting us to help my kids, and when that dream disappeared the sparkly, upbeat Kelsey did too. I didn’t want to live and plummeted into a huge pit of depression.
For the first few weeks, I literally couldn’t be alone. I had a beautiful, supportive community of friends in South Africa, but my ex and I became one another’s worlds so I had none of that. I was this broken, gross, fragile, mess of toxic emotions and the response from the church I was in was appalling. Nobody reached out, and if I even mentioned that I wasn’t over the relationship a couple of weeks after it ended, I was scolded for not “letting The Lord heal my heart.”
Side rant: John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” Shortest most profound verse in the Bible. His best friend had just died, He was about to raise him from the dead. He could have been like “Yo guys chill the F out I’ve got this.” But He didn’t. We need to create space for it to be okay to not be okay in the church, without assuming a quick prayer will create an overnight fix.
I was bordering on suicidal because for months I’d been bullied by a couple of 51 year olds in his family telling me my dream of helping African children was pointless, I was going nowhere in life and I was taking their son with me. I stayed at my parent’s house and the only time I could get myself to stop crying and leave the house was to exercise. There was one teacher in particular that I really loved: Jessie.
I genuinely try with everything in me to try to love everyone. Some people make that easy, others are Trump supporters which is why I said “try.” While there are tons of people I love, there are only three I'd say I'm obsessed with. They are my best friend Fran, John Stamos and Jessie Syfko-Ruof.
What got me in the studio was one of the most unhealthy, horrible frames of mind a person could be in. The first remarks my ex had made about my physical appearance was “Babe, you have like the perfect body. You just need some chiseled obliques.” Followed by a comment about my arm being an initial deterrent for dating me, due to the opinions of what others might think. I really knew how to pick 'em. To think that your physical appearance could determine your value and the way your life ends up is a lie straight from the pit of hell. It trapped me into thinking that if I could fix my obliques, I could get my old life back. I vividly remember staring at my ceiling, with every square centimeter of my heart and soul aching one Monday evening thinking “Just make it to Tuesday at 12:00 at Jessie’s class, that’s only 14 hours, and you can sleep for some of them.” Then, the same scenario that Wednesday… “Tomorrow at 5:00, Jessie’s class. Just make it to Thursday.”
I’m not against anti-depressants by any means, but there were enough things going on with me physically, hormonally, and emotionally that I didn’t want to add to that lovely cocktail of internal confusion unless I absolutely had to. I knew that as painful as this was, it was temporary and would eventually pass. Jessie created an environment that did for me what no amount of external medicine could do. If you know anything about Jessie, you know that she is loud and lively and does NOT stand for self loathing or deprecation. She stands for love and acceptance of self and others internally which manifests itself outwardly. Jessie trains athletes and millionaires and her life is like something from a story that I can’t even begin to tell you. She’s a fitness goddess, and makes your core work extra because in addition to holding ridiculous poses, you’re trying to hold your pee in from laughing so hard at her slightly inapropriate comments.
The force of endorphins soothed my heart the way that bacon and eggs do a hangover: sure, there’s some healing that only time could provide, but it helped me function in that moment. Sometimes I’d feel tears falling down my face while I was in Shavasana because I was so confused with my life. Jessie never told me to get over it and feel better. The healing properties of her class went even further when I stopped just trying to have the perfect body and realized she spoke life into the broken corners of my soul. Her crazy zeal for life was just the bow on a package that reminds everyone that she comes into contact with that they matter, they’re worth her time and that they are worth loving.
A couple of months later, I was still broken AF but could slowly feel myself becoming more human and less depressed everyday. When they announced they were having sculpt teacher training I knew I needed to sign up. Jessie’s class had literally carried me through the scariest, most confusing, loneliest season of my life. She didn’t do it intentionally -- I still don’t think she understands how profound of an impact she had on me in that season. I don’t know if I would be alive without her class that she built. She didn’t do it for the money -- she and her husband run a huge international business and God himself knows that yoga doesn’t pay that much. She did it because she genuinely believes in people and wants them to believe in themselves, too. I didn’t know much at this point, but I did know that there are millions of hurting people in the world and if I could help one person the way Jessie helped me I’d be happy.
My personal life goal is to bring as much life and love to every situation as Jesus would, so it’s not coincidental that I took the 10:30 AM sculpt class time. Nobody there is at church, and I’m a firm believer in unconventional spiritual experiences. I don’t really care if you believe exactly what I believe or not, I just want you to know you’re loved unconditionally. Jessie’s class was my “church” in so many ways, and now I literally spend 10 minutes before every class I teach praying for whoever comes in my room that they would feel the kind of love and acceptance that Jessie gave me. In that space I was seen, she knew the mess I was going through, and she loved me anyways. If that’s not Jesus I don’t know what is.
I’d also like to take a moment to apologize to my 7th grade confirmation teacher who warned me to never get involved in yoga because it’s derived from other belief systems which are clearly from the devil for the amount of hair she’s probably losing if she is reading this. I’d like to soothe the blow with a free week invitation to Corepower and a box of Rogaine.