Kelly VanLeeuwen has worn quite a few hats. Raised in Greenville, SC, she’s experienced everything from runner, soccer player, referee, college newspaper editor and manager at an Illinois' Barnes and Noble.
Now back home, Kelly put her writing degree to work as a beat reporter for the Greenville News and Tribune Times. She started taking yoga in Illinois. When she returned to Greenville she earned her yoga certification and started teaching at night while reporting during the day. Kelly explains that it “…started to become two roads traveling in different directions. Wider and wider apart; covering a bank robbery and then teaching a yoga class. I was just drawn more and more to bodies.”
Growing up in a conservative world she tells us “…there was no hugging or touching of the opposite sex.” Yoga was a world she wasn’t really familiar with. “As soon as I realized that I can help people and their bodies feel more comfortable, feel more at home, be less stressed and have less pain it became addictive. It was crazy cool for me.” Kelly is continuously learning and a perpetual student in the field.
Kelly created MAYA Movement Arts as a safe, encouraging studio for anyone interested in Aerial, Acro, Dance and Yoga. Offerings include: aerial yoga, aerial fitness, aerial dance, acroyoga, TRX, Pilates, barre fusion, hoop dance, hip hop, belly dance, poi, ballet, contemporary and modern dance, Latin styles, Qoya, flow yoga and massage.
Basically, if you like yoga, you're going to love Aerial Yoga classes. It’s a more relaxing experience with stretching and breathing, plus it’s a little closer to the ground. It's better suited for the general public, with more practice with the same groups of poses each time.
Aerial Fitness is a conditioning class focusing on toning and strengthening. The class begins and ends with stretches but it’s geared for active pull-ups and a core workout. Aerial Dance is a challenging class where aerial fitness classes help you gain the strength for this advanced workout.
Kelly really wants Maya Movement to be a place "...for anyone who is interested in any of this. It's a spot where you can start.” Age does not matter. “My mom (60) has been coming to aerial yoga twice a week for the past month. She hasn’t let her age, eyesite or anything stand in her way.”
Kelly is planning to expand the schedule to include aerial apparatuses such as lyra, dance trapeze and silks. She’s also considering offering kids classes. Currently, kids 9 and up can take classes by a case-by-case basis, depending on their level of discipline and experience.
The aerial yoga hammock is a tool that allows you to do simple stretches as well as helps you create a fuller range of motion with specific poses. The hammocks are suspended from a high ceiling by carabiners, support chains and webbing straps and can support over 1,000 pounds. Don’t worry you’re not going to tear the high-density nylon, plus Kelly keeps her eye on you while playing it extra safe with crash mats below each student.
Kelly beautifully demonstrates the back arrow pose.
It’s time for the noon Aerial Fitness Class.
Kelly starts the group off with a warm-up consisting of lunges and the fish pose.
Here comes GUS, the studio dog! Everyone drops down from their red hammock for a well deserved puppy break.
Aerial yoga is a vital practice for Ema Knott, one of Kelly’s teachers-in-training. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Ema explains “…this type of activity is easy on my joints in terms of impact and compression. There’s actually traction in inversion poses and it fights against everything we do all day. Think about it. We spend all day being compressed with looking down. It counteracts all of the crunching and straining.”
Kelly and her incredible team of instructors are always available to assist at any level. Check out this bent leg version of the scorpion pose.
Kelly is also a certified massage therapist specializing in therapeutic deep tissue for athletes and Thai massage, which she studied in Thailand. Part of Thai massage is cupping (remember Michael Phelps during the Olympics?) to improve circulation. Scraping tools aids to bring circulation to the tissue. Also pictured are “TOK SEN” tools, which is the use of a special wooden hammer to relax muscles in a rhythmically tapping motion. It produces penetrating vibrations that resonate through the deep layers of tissues and bones. These vibrations relax stiff bodies and provide pain relief. It’s highly recommend for folks who suffer from headaches.
Wise words from Kelly:
"People get in their own way a lot and talk themselves out of new experiences. And as adults, I think we forget that we had to start someplace and we were beginners once. We do our careers well. We put ourselves less and less in positions in which we’re uncomfortable or awkward. It’s so healthy to jump out of those comfort zones and experience new things. We forget that we’re not going to be necessarily good at it right away. Just do it. Try it. Don’t make a judgment about it or about yourself. We talk ourselves out of things all the time. We’re so used to hearing ourselves talk that we don’t even question if we’re right or wrong, we just believe it."
Don't you think it's time to try something new? If I can, you can.
For only $15 a class, I would definitely put aerial yoga or fitness on the MUST TRY list. Reserve your hammock in advance by calling or filling out the on-line form. Info above.