Kt Fanelli is our February Teacher of the Month! You can find her on Monday evenings at our Bronx Pop Up location teaching Vinyasa. See that schedule here.
Q: Hi there, Kt! Tell me a bit about yourself and what you do in the city.
A: I’m originally from Alexandria, VA. From a young age I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry. I would take my dad’s camcorder and film silly skits with my brothers, or talk shows where I was the host. When it came time for college I applied almost exclusively to schools in NYC. Alas, after getting into them and looking at finances, there was no way I could afford to go out of state as well as the cost of living in the city. So I went to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. There I received my BFA in Acting, a 4.5 year program, yet graduated in 4 years flat. Very soon after college I moved to New York. I lived in Spanish Harlem for a bit, but wasn’t really pursuing my career. I decided now wasn’t the time for me and the city to intertwine and moved back to my college town where I worked at an equity theatre company for a year and a half. Once that ended, New York started calling to me again. After saving enough money for the move, I finally made my way back to the city. Over the course of 2 years I moved about 6 times, subletting, living on couches, etc…until finally I found Inwood. I knew the moment I found this amazing little neighborhood, this was meant to be my home.
I do quite a bit here in the city! I teach yoga, work at a bar on the Upper East Side, teacher drama and yoga to children and try to find time for my acting!
Q: Wow, what a journey! How did you come to yoga, and by extension, Bread and Yoga?
A: I first found yoga when I was working at the equity theatre company in Norfolk. A friend introduced me to a hot yoga studio and I was hooked. I had always wanted to explore yoga before, but thought that in order to “work out” I had to break a sweat, so hot yoga was perfect. I would go a few times a week, then I found Instagram yoga challenges. Looking back at the old photos I realize now how crazy my form was! But it kept me practicing daily and I loved creating my own flows. Flash forward a year or so, my back issues began to turn their ugly head and I couldn’t practice for a while. I fell out of yoga, and my back pain grew worse and worse. A few years ago after first moving to the city, I began to babysit Shawna Emerick’s amazing son, Max, when he was just a few months old. We connected through a mutual friend and she entrusted me with caring for Max. After a while, knowing she taught yoga, I asked if she knew any studios that had some sort of work exchange program, and she put me in contact with Meghan Lastra and Bread and Yoga. After a lovely little meet and greet with Meghan at Darling Coffee, she hired me as a Karmi, to work the front desk in exchange for free yoga. It was the perfect situation, worked well with my crazy schedule and got me into yoga once more. I instantly fell in love with B&Y. The community, the teachers, the variety of classes, and the warmth. It felt like I was coming home. A few months later, I heard about yoga teacher training there. I had always wanted to do teacher training and looked into it while living in VA, but all the programs were either too expensive, too time consuming, or just not my vibe. So I waited and the universe provided by bringing me the opportunity to train with B&Y and Hathavidya. I started my teacher training in October, 2018 and it was exactly what I wanted and needed. My class was an amazing source of love and inspiration and we all got along together beautifully. I consider them to be some of my closest friends today. Nearing the end of my 200hr program, I signed up for the 300hr TT through Hathavidya as well. Although they overlapped, I was willing to take that challenge to help me stay consistent in my practice and not loose my momentum. Today I am nearing the end of my 300hr program and after a year and a half of training, will soon be a 500hr yoga teacher.
Q: That is absolutely incredible. Good for you! So, you teach at the Bread and Yoga Bronx Pop-up. How is that going?
A: It’s going beautifully! Although some classes tend to be small, its such an amazing group of people that have been coming to the classes. All the students I’ve had the honor of teaching are so excited about the space and share such an amazing energy when in the room. I have gotten to know some of the regulars that attend and it’s such a blessing seeing them return and put their full heart into their practice. It has been so lovely to witness the emotional, physical, and spiritual breakthroughs that happen during class.
Q: Awesome. How would you describe your teaching style?
A: My main focus with teaching is finding a deeper emotional connection to the physical practice. I like to think back on when I first began attending classes at B&Y. There were many moments in class or during savasana that I would find myself in tears, not sad necessarily, more so from tapping into a deeper part of myself. I want to help my students tap in deeper, as well. I love adding philosophy to my classes, usually starting each class with a quote, an intention, some sort of mental connection or clarity for my students. I really enjoy using mantra during my classes as well. As for the physical aspect of it, I would consider my classes to follow a slower vinyasa style mostly. I like to help students focus on the technique and sink deeper into each posture before moving on.
Q: How has yoga impacted you both physically and mentally?
A: Physically speaking, my back pain is almost nonexistent now. I have found so much more strength and stability in my body. Because of my back issues, I’ve never really been able to forward fold and touch my toes with straight legs. Because of my yoga practice, I can now say that I am able to touch my toes! It sounds silly, but this has been such an issue for me so long and because of yoga, I can finally do it. It’s a small accomplishment in the grand scheme of things, but for me its huge. When it comes to mental changes, yoga has changed me more than I realize. I have become more trusting in myself and what the universe will provide. I have found my dharma, path in life, or at least I’m heading in the direction of it. I am calmer in times of stress and I am more likely to see the beauty and positivity in the world, rather than focus on the negative. I’ve also noticed my anxiety is more under control. I think knowing that the universe has my back and isn’t out to get me has helped with that.
Q: Do you have any stories you can tell about that journey?
A: When I first discovered B&Y, I was on the verge of a huge life change. I had recently gotten out of an 8 year relationship and was extremely lost. I had no idea what I was going to do, or who I was going to be. I spent a lot of energy focusing on my practice. Instead of wallowing in self pity, I brought my issues on the mat. It was on my mat that I discovered what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, or at least a blurry outline of that woman. I have had so many revelations during savasana — it’s crazy! But because I decided to focus on my practice during this rough time in my life, the universe presented me with teacher training, I found my confidence again, I was able to determine what I truly wanted and needed in life and was better able to communicate that with the world. I had so much more self awareness than ever before, and I was happy. This crazy, unknown time in my life turned into a time of self discovery and clarity, and I was simply happy. Everything else began to fall into place after that. Sure, there are things in my life I would change today, but no matter what, I am happy. I am grateful for everything, good and bad, that has happened to me. I’m able to see the world in a new light and find love in all people and things. I’ve learned to not look back in anger, but instead with gratitude. My heart is swelling just thinking of all this right now.
Q: That’s beautiful. Best lesson learned?
A: Best lesson learned? You are amazing! You may not feel like it — trust me, I have days where I feel like a piece of garbage floating down Broadway, but deep deep down I know that I am amazing. I am not an accident. The universe intended to put me here with a purpose in mind. Each and every person I encounter is here for their own purpose and reason. Some people may go their whole lives unaware of that purpose, not fully living, just surviving. But I know that I have a purpose. I try to use each day I can to find and figure that purpose out, to share love with those I come in contact with. Although sometimes it’s hard to share love with the person who stole the seat I was eying on the subway, I try to change my perspective about little things like that. For me personally, if I am living a life of love and openness, I am working towards that purpose.
Q: What’s your favorite pose or posture?
A: This one is easy to answer: sirsasana, or headstand. I’ve always loved headstand since I started practicing. I used to only be able to get up in tripod headstand, but during my 200hr training I figured out classical headstand. It’s funny, I actually posted a video online of me doing headstand about this time last year next to a video of me doing it recently, and wow! Has my headstand changed! Over the course of a year I’ve found better alignment and balance where I’m able to move my legs into different postures when balancing on my head. Inverting really helps put a new perspective on life. I love how strong and steady I feel in it, even on days I don’t feel very balanced. It’s by far my absolute favorite posture!
Q: How do you stay balanced and centered living in a place like NYC?
A: Oh boy, loaded question! Haha! Like I said earlier, it’s tough to stay centered and not get into your head in this crazy city. But I try to keep my perspective focused from a place of love and understanding. This city has so many different people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life — who am I to judge anyone? We’re all here trying to live our best life, pursue our dreams, connect with people on a deeper level. Some days it’s harder than others to remind myself of that. As long as I’m focused on my own path and considering others from a place of love, I find that balance. Some days can be harder than others, which is why I tend to wear crystals quite a bit in order to protect my own heart and emotions. I wear amethyst on days that I’m feeling anxious, rose quartz when I need to find love for myself and others more deeply, and citrin when I want to focus on the abundance of life.