My name is Kia Monét Keller and I am an only child that was raised in Alexandria Virginia. I have a 9 year old boy and a 5 year old girl and I love being their mother. When I was pregnant with both of my children, I did yoga at home and even delivered my youngest child at home unexpectedly, yet calmly in 1 hour thanks to yoga. In my spare time I love hanging out with my children, fiancé, mother and friends, cooking, trying new things, making jewelry, traveling, dancing, journaling, trying new things and doing yoga. I am very, caring, helpful, open, honest, sincere and for the most part I'm pretty quiet and like to stay low key and observe, not be the center of attention.
Yogini On the Mat
Preferred Yoga Style: Ashtanga, Aerial, and Restorative Yoga
Birthday: 3/2/86 I am 31!
Random fact/favorite movie or book or word, food, etc.
Random fact: I worked in dentistry for 14 yrs. I Started in high school at 16 yrs old. Then went to cosmetology school at 18.
Favorite movie(s): White Chicks and Kill Bill 1&2 (total opposites I know)
One of my favorite movies but I can't even talk about it without crying, so I never bring it up, is “My Sister's Keeper” (brings back hard memories in my life)
Favorite book: Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater
Favorite word: “Shenaniganizer"
from the movie Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs lol
Favorite food: There's no way I could ever pick one, I LOVE food and cooking!
cheesy food: Mac x cheese, sweet food: brownie hot fudge sundae w/ tons of whip cream, healthy food: Brussel Sprouts and All fruits, exotic food: Ethiopian and Korean food
Your City: Always changing but home is forever Northern Virginia
What made you start practicing yoga? What brought you to it?
I always came to yoga to relieve physical ailments over the years whether it was for Pregnancy, Endometriosis and in my recent years, to cope with Chron's Disease.
Did something that happened in life?
At 28 I almost ended up in an emergency surgery to remove parts of my large and small intestines due to ulcers, and a disease I didn't know I have called Chron's Disease. I trashed my body for years with foods and drinks and thought it's terrible that I had to face death to start to love myself from the inside out. I began to take health and fitness seriously after losing my ability to walk, my privilege to eat ANYTHING, not even ice for a month in a hospital bed while being pumped with morphine and having to wear diapers. That was beyond humbling and life-changing experience for me, and I took my blessing of a second chance very seriously.
Felt the need for a change?
After several breakups and heartbreaks from the same people in my life, I realized that I needed to do something different. I needed to figure out what made me so "ok" with making the wrong decisions, knowingly, over and over not just in my love life, but in general, whether it be the foods I ate or the choices I made. I drew closer to myself and distanced myself from people that were hurting me and supporting me hurting myself. I got into yoga and during my teacher training in 2015 is when I learned a different way of living and thinking.
What anchors your practice? Do you set an intention for yourself before you practice?
I Have two different types of practices, one that's very intense, focused and with an intention such as when I'm practicing Ashtanga or meditation. Before practicing Ashtanga, I always tell myself "just do your best and don't worry about attaching to any of the poses or transitions, but to do the best I can with the way I feel at that moment on my mat." After that little pep talk, I dedicate my practice to something or someone, then I start and close my practice with the opening and closing Ashtanga Mantra.
As far as with meditation, people think that it's peacefully sitting in Lotus pose having no thoughts for minutes to hours at a time when really, it's nothing like that. I always detach from that false perception of what meditation is “supposed to be” and accept whatever thoughts and feelings come up in my meditations.
I set a time intention while meditating for 5 to sometimes 30 minutes. I love to chant or listen to chanting, burn sage and reiki candles, and meditate with crystals. On the lighter side, the other way I practice is while cooking in the kitchen holding a few standing asanas. While mid-conversation with family, I'll practice a handstand or Pincha Mayurasana.
I also love doing yoga with my fiancé, two children, and friends. If I see something beautiful while walking down the street at 2 in the morning or 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I must stop and do yoga right then and there! My life is a living game of stop drop and yoga with or without the cameras, so I always listen to my heart and have a very free-spirited yoga practice as well.
Tell me about your practice? Any aspects you'd like to share
The most beneficial thing I can share about my yoga practice is to pick something to work on and stick to it. If you want to get better at a headstand, then practice every pose that will help you with mastering a headstand. Don't just focus on being upside down, but learn the different planks, Crow pose, Boat pose, doing forward folds and putting in all the work to get to you to the overall goal, not skipping all the baby steps and fundamentals to get to the final goal.
On the mental side of yoga, I would say make sure you keep a daily journal every day to see how you are growing not only physically, but mentally as well and to hold yourself accountable for your lifestyle and choices.
How does yoga impact your life? On and off the mat?
I'd always been very hot-headed and quick to react! My reactions have also landed me in some big sh*t in life. Instead of playing the victim, I had to learn and grow from my mistakes. I had to learn what my weaknesses were as a person in the biggest one that I had was reacting out of reckless emotion before thinking.
As I learned the principles of yoga, I learned to be patient with myself and others. I feel that leaning and becoming patient was the most significant gift that I received from my practice, simultaneously sharing this gift with the people in my life. Yoga impacts my life on the mat because it keeps me alive. The reason I choose to do Ashtanga is that it detoxifies your organs and has a lot to do with your intestinal and internal health. To keep out of the hospital and to have an active, healthy, balanced, peaceful life, I stay on my mat.
What challenges have you faced while practicing Yoga?
My biggest challenge with yoga has been struggling with feeling accepted or respected. At times I felt like I wasn't black enough to fit in with black Yogi's because of my choice of long platinum blonde yoga hair, people whose workshops I'd taken and associated with, or specific “woke" topics I didn't post about all day. It was hurtful because it didn't mean I was: less black, less aware, ashamed of my looks, unsure of who I am, or that my hair wasn't just as thick and coarse underneath that platinum wig. I am not white enough to fit in comfortably with white yogis, so I just felt out of place and confused about how I was not fitting into something that's all about community and with people I thought would be more accepting of me.
Additionally, I couldn't get jobs in yoga studios because I didn't go to yoga studios often, I couldn't afford the $180 a month memberships, so nobody respected my resume. It was more so a game of who you know and how much money can you make us.
I wasn’t naked enough to be one of the artistic yogis, and I wasn’t vegan or flashy enough to be 1 of the nicely dressed reposted yogis. I fell out of place and still do in that whole cliché yoga world.
Once I realized that I didn't want a place to fit in, but I would instead stand out, is when I accepted, the lack of room there was for me to fit the mold. That meant I needed to create my path and create my community of open-minded, loving people that don't care about differences.
Most changing aspect of your journey?
I think for just about any yoga teacher asked the most changing aspect of their yoga journey would say their yoga teacher trainings. The personal growth that you experience and the things that you can share with others mentally and physically are truly a gift. You're learning from and taking these lessons with you, into your everyday life changes your journey on and off of your mat.
How your practice impacts other’s lives?
When I started this journey, I just wanted to help other women who experienced physical, verbal, and sexual abuse or felt ugly inside or out. I sought out to help the hothead single mom with the spiteful baby daddy that felt she had no hope for tomorrow. I wanted to be a friend to that senior citizen who nobody pays attention to anymore who just wishes they had someone to talk or help them build strength in their weak muscles.
I wanted to be that adult I wish I knew as a child that would ensure me that everything is going to be OK when you grow up and that people are just mean sometimes, but don't ever take it personally.
I want to help our men be OK with their feelings, to tell their children they love them, to connect with the women in their lives and not to look at yoga as “gay.”
Everybody I love the most has died a gruesome death of cancer and I just want to make somebody else feel at peace or comfortable in their last moments on this Earth. I never thought that me doing yoga would ever get me posted online or inspire people. I believe people feel connected to me or are inspired by me because of my honesty, my struggles, and the things that I'm not ashamed of admitting I've experienced. I have had so many people tell me I have inspired them or helped them in some way, and even had other friends decide to pursue becoming yoga teachers.
As for these people that I sought out to give healing tools of yoga to, I've met them and helped several of these people as well. I've taught kids yoga, free yoga at the mall to the elderly mall walkers at 7:00 a.m., I've hosted yoga challenges that support and raise money for domestic violence victims and share my journey with other victims. I do not charge for a student with any terminal illnesses, especially cancer, and I make it my business to talk to young black males about anger, safe sex and marriage (self-love), communication, and choosing a peaceful path of expressing themselves when today's society is using Black men as target practice. I hope to keep helping others in whatever ways that I can.
What are some things that yoga has taught you about yourself/others?
I learned that hurt people, hurt people, so you have to heal yourself to make a change. I learned that not everybody knows how to live a happy life or make better decisions, so sometimes you just have to be patient with their journey and love and respect them no matter how frustrating it can be at times, as long as they are trying to do better. I learned that you must be protective of your energy and creativity because there's always someone just waiting to suck and use it all up for themselves to benefit from, so be open and loving, but mindfully guarded to stay hip.
How does Yoga make you feel?
The feeling of mental strength, focus, clarity, and determination that I noticed I've gained from my physical and mental yoga practice, made me realize that I could be focused and diligent at something. I just hadn’t found that passion before until I started to practice yoga. I began to fall in love with the physical and mental benefits that yoga brought into my life.
-While practicing, after, in general
I can wake up achy, feeling sick, and not want to do yoga at all but after I get over the mental nagging and excuses. I always feel refreshed and that it was worth practicing! I have never regretted a practice, just the ones I didn't take the time to commit to.
Favorite/ most challenging pose?
The most difficult pose for me to learn in my yoga practice is called a Fallen Angel. I practiced that pose so much my whole family knows it by name. I also feel like Lotus pose is the damn devil and my favorite pose is any forearm balance.
A quote or phrase resonates with you and your practice
”BeYOUtiful" Very simple and to the point, I even have it tattooed on my finger. It's a phrase I picked up from one of my inspirations Cuchira. It means always be you; you're beautiful the way you are.
Advice you have for new yogis/long time practitioners (can be two different pieces of advice)
Physical and mental advancements and setbacks happen for all yoga practitioners. If you are an advanced yoga practitioner, do not fool yourself with ego into thinking that you are invincible and cannot one day have to start all over from the beginning with your yoga practice due to an injury, or just lack of practicing so always stay on your mat. If you don't use it, you lose it.
As far as new Yogi's, don't be caught up by the pictures some people post on Instagram of those hard poses, the person in the class that seems to slay every pose, the beautiful always happy yogi on the beach, or the perception of perfection that you see online. Just remember to stay focused and only worry about what's going on, on your mat.
We all started somewhere in yoga, so no matter where you are in your practice now, we all have different strengths and weaknesses in our bodies no matter what so chill, respect your body and trust YOUR journey.
How can someone alleviate hesitation to yoga
The only way someone can alleviate hesitation is to stop with the excuses and just do it. You are the only thing stopping you from whatever it is you want to do, so get out of your way and go for it.
How does yoga influence your specific mental health? Overall wellness?
Yoga influences my mental health and wellness by bringing me a positive, balanced, and realistic mindset. I feel more at peace, calm, and more positive about life from having been such a very pessimistic person before yoga.
What benefits have you found in yoga?
I have met so many beautiful people, traveled to many unique and breathtaking places, and have ingrained memories from many out of this world experiences as a result of me participating in this yogi lifestyle. Yoga has afforded me with many opportunities, that wouldn’t have been open to me if I worked a regular job like my former Dental career. I had a lot of money, but no time to ever spend with my children, family, taking care of myself, or even experiencing life. Now the gag is, most yoga teachers are FAR from rich, famous, selling out classes, or living luxurious stable lives. Yoga will make you humble and live life out of love, passion, purpose, selfless sacrifice to others and the universe. Yoga helps you to be present and experience precious moments, not just living life as a slave to attaining money, fame, wealth or material possessions.
Back Yogi Stigmas
I don't like to go there, about black yogi stigmas because I am often too blunt and misunderstood through text. There are just somethings better left said in face-to-face conversations. I just prefer to express my feelings on this topic in person. However, I will say is I am happy to see more black yoga teachers and more people in the black community taking an interest in yoga! I hope that people of all races can start to connect better and become more open-minded and accepting, to one day eliminate all stigmas in the yoga community.
Yoga, Black mental health, & Wellness
I think yoga is incredible for everyone's health and wellness period no matter what your age, race, or gender is. I wish more Black people took all aspects of mental and physical health, and wellness more seriously as a whole. I come from a background of dentistry and that was also a problem in that career field as well. I should not feel excited or proud to see black people come to the dentist, the doctor, or a yoga class because it should be a standard occurrence. I wish that black people would talk more openly about mental and physical health and acknowledge that your “crazy cousin” you avoid may be depressed, or bipolar. I wish that my relatives who were diabetic or had cancer frequented the doctor before they had their legs cut off or died. I personally, after seeing all of this neglect of all health and wellness in my own family and encounters, I refused to be another black person that said, “I'm not doing yoga that's for white women" or “I'm not flexible I can't do it!”
I do not keep up my body or appearance to compete with women, society's body charts, or to keep a man in my life. I understand what it means to love myself from the inside out, with tools of self-care and self-love. Not everybody loves their body, and I know that too. I've been there before, an excellent place to start loving your body is: to show gratitude for your health the parts of your body that you do like until you get there. I call it practicing daily body gratitude ♡ I don't think you need to be any particular size or shape to be beautiful because true beauty always lies within. If you don't find beauty, love of self, and for others within yourself first, then no matter what your body looks like, you will never feel or display true beauty in your thoughts, actions, and spirit.
How do you feel about the representation of black yogis?
Outside of Koya Webb on Alo ads and Jessamyn Stanley on commercials, what representation of black yogis? Those 2 are the only mainstream yogis of color that are being accepted on a commercial scale, so where is everyone else's black yogi representation in-between their polar differences? On the flip side as a positive, I guess that's a plus for the world of black yogis and being commercially accepted into the whitewashed commercial market of yoga we see online and on TV today.
I don't like that in the community of yoga I am always the only black yogi when I go to many studios, workshops, teacher trainings, or retreats. I don't like the division between black-and-white Yogi's since the definition of yoga is to unite. I feel like on both sides we need to do better at bridging the gap between white and black yogis because it didn't even start in this country, so how can we claim, own, or define it? I continuously try, although I hate being the only black yogi out of tons of people all the time. I work to break the boundaries. It has been awkward, uncomfortable, and even downright annoying at times being the only one like me in particular yoga situations. I use being the token black girl in a lot of yoga settings to inspire change since no one else around me was trying to. I was getting tired of people looking at me like why are you here in a yoga class, so I used it as inspiration to keep going back.
How does/has your hair affect your practice?
My hair is always an eternal mystery to all people, and I see them thinking “what is her real hair like?” “why doesn't she wear her real hair out all the time? Why does she wear braids? why does she wear wigs?” My Question is “ Why does anyone care about MY hair?”
A Caucasian woman messaged me saying that I would look better if I did not wear weaves and that I should look like her mixed daughter who she tagged. I was offended, but instead of cursing her out like the old me, the yogi me just redirected her to another thought process and educated her on protective hair styling and that not all people are as fortunate to wear a wig by choice due to cancer or alopecia.
I wear what I call my yoga hair which is a wig or braids to keep my real hair down or protected while I'm practicing doing yoga on a beach in Costa Rica for a month or in a hot yoga studio. I love locs and tried to loc my hair for two years straight, but it just wouldn't hold, so I'm not against natural hairstyles that I see other black Yogi's wear, those methods don't work for my hair texture. I do what works for me, by keeping my hair short and manageable while out, and always at a length to be braided or easily slicked down under a wig.
Tell a story/experience about something that’s happened kind, bad, awkward, etc. while you have been practicing yoga?
I went to teach a class one day and had an older white woman who was all ready and set up realized I was going to be teaching and walked out. She said to her friends who stayed "I'm not doing yoga with her I can do yoga at home." I wished her safe travels and a happy home practice while her friends stayed and returned to every class for months to follow.
I've also had less rude people just stare like huh why is she in the front of the room? I'M YOUR YOGA TEACHER, and yes, we come in other races! I cannot stand when my peers would call me a white girl for doing yoga after having to go through all of that. I just stayed diligent, never gave up and always remembered who I came into yoga for, myself and the people who wanted to accept my energy.
I recommend them being AFFORDABLE! I'm not breaking the bank for people to like my yoga pictures just over the clothes I have on, so I purposely do not to feed into that whole yoga brand cliché. I have two kids, so I shop at TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshall's, or Forever 21 for yoga clothes because I'm not buying $100+ leggings to roll around on the floor in ever.
I use a Yoga Prowheel Plus, Infinity Strap, foam yoga blocks for flexibility and wooden ones to build strength or practice arm balances.
My Custom Crystals is where I get my handmade custom crystal gemstone jewelry, mala beads, sage, Reiki charged candles and real crystals gemstones.
The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele
ANY yoga anatomy book
Reach out to Kia ask questions about her practice, teaching availability, and my custom crystals!