Taking the Reins: Kelli Russell on the Magic of Yoga and Powerful Transformations

February 15 | The Lifestyle |


Photo Compliments of @erinblairstudio

Kelli Russell’S Journey from Therapist Intern to Yoga Teacher

Kelli Russell is one of YogaSix San Diego’s lead instructors – students love her mindful approach to sequencing and her thoughtful class intentions. Her style of teaching evolved from her appreciation of the practice – Kelli believes in a mind-body approach to wellness. In honor of our February Challenge – Kelli offered to share her experience navigating challenges off of her yoga mat.

Before she became a yoga teacher in 2009, Kelli was actively working to become a licensed therapist. 1500 hours into her 3000 hour internship, Kelli decided to step away from therapy to participate in yoga teacher training.

As an intern therapist, Kelli was challenged – she said she felt as if she was hitting her head against a wall. Her experience was “very disheartening”, her patients “did not want to change.” Kelli worked as an in-home therapist for children facing domestic abuse, she worked in gang aversion, and with parents raising difficult teenagers. She wanted to help, but she did not feel as if she was making any changes in the lives of her patients.

During her therapy internship, Kelli spent a lot of time on her yoga mat. In class, she started to “notice”. In her own words:

 “I noticed that there was something magical happening. I would watch people walk into the room with shoulders down – then, after class, they were a different person – their eyes shined. Yoga was able to shift a person in one hour”

In short, Kelli felt as if yoga was making a more of an impact on people’s well-being than the outcomes she saw with her patients participating in talk therapy. She started to realize that she could be more effective as a yoga teacher than a therapist.


Photo Compliments of Micaela Malmi

The Magic of Yoga

With that realization, Kelli confidently stepped away from her internship and signed up for her first yoga teacher training program. It was an easy choice for her – she had the support of her family and she truly believed in the magic of yoga.

Kelli began teaching yoga shortly after she completed teacher training, she shared the following about her trajectory as a yoga teacher:

My challenge as a new teacher was beating myself up if I made a mistake – if I stumbled over my words, forgot something in my sequence, or messed up right/left. My desire to be a perfect teacher got in the way of me seeing and being there for my students and connecting with them in an authentic way.

It took me so many years to be able to put my self-reflection on the back burner so that I could fully be present and connect in a deep way with the amazing students right there in front of me and really focus on THEIR experience.

I love what I do and I love connecting to students. That’s when I feel like the best teacher….. I do well going deep and making one-on-one connections.”

The Path of Inquiry

Kelli flourished as an instructor as soon as she learned to focus her energy on her connection with her students and their experiences. She credits her continued success and evolution to her curiosity – she is always seeking new information and knowledge. A friend’s injury led her down her most recent path of inquiry:

“My best friend injured her back and I watched her heal herself for two years. After her surgery, she started seeing an emotional kinesiologist and that’s what healed her. That made me curious, the mind body connection was deeper than what I knew – my friend’s back injury stemmed from emotions.”

Kelli’s friend healed from a modality called Psychological Kinesiology. After she healed, her friend became Psych-K® facilitator and practiced on Kelli. Through Kelli’s experience with the healing modality, she uncovered a new way to overcome the challenge she faced:

“With the help of Psych-K®, I was able to uncover a lot of the limiting beliefs that were holding me back (like feeling unlovable, comparing myself to others, and thinking that If I were perfect everyone would like me), I exposed the stories I was telling myself and guided myself into new territory–taking control of how I WANTED TO BE instead of just running on autopilot with old patterns and beliefs. I learned to take the reins of my own life and got myself out of my own way so that I could connect with others and my students in a real way that was honest and loving. It really took loving myself more so that I could love others more.”


Photo Compliments of @erinblairstudio

Kelli’S Growing Passion

Through her personal experience with psychological kinesiology, Kelli quickly realized that it was a tool she could use to further assist her yoga students. Kelli often heard students say, “I’ve been using this affirmation for 10 years and I’m not seeing a change”. Kelli became a Psych-K® facilitator to help others overcome the blocks that were prohibiting them from living a fulfilling life – a life steeped in growth and self-love.

Kelli’s growing passion for Psych-K® created another challenge for her:

“Today, I am challenged with blending two careers that I’m equally passionate about and balancing that with being a great wife and mom. It was also challenging for me to complete my facilitation hours and continue to an impactful teacher as I’m learned something new…”

Kelli said she is grateful for her most recent challenge though – it has reminded her what it is like to start something new and be a beginner.

This April, Kelli is facilitating Yoga Teacher Training at our Carlsbad studio and she is excited to be surrounded by the energy of new learning and self-discovery because she is currently in that same space, too. She said:

“I’m excited to be co-leading the YogaSix Teacher training so that I can help new teachers leapfrog some of the challenges that held me back for so long, helping them stand in their authentic strength and confidence from the beginning.”

Interested in joining Kelli in being a beginner yourself? Click here to learn more about the Yoga Teacher Training program she is co-facilitating in April.