Things haven’t always been easy for animal-loving yogini Kelly Bedford. A graduate of North Pocono High School and Marywood University, where she studied history, she discovered a love for yoga following her time in drug rehabilitation. Bedford is an avid world traveler who owns and is an instructor at Mission Yoga, which has locations in Scranton and South Abington Twp. She and her husband, Brian, live in Clarks Summit.

Meet Kelly Bedford…

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga? What is your
yoga background?

A: I started practicing yoga 12 or 13 years ago. It’s been one of the most consistent things in my life. I tried vinyasa yoga first, and it’s the linking together of breath and postures. It focuses a lot on breathing, and when you’re consciously breathing, you’re able to quiet your mind. At the time, I really needed that because there was a lot going on.

Q: How did you first become interested in yoga?
A: In my 20s, I got into a lot of trouble with drugs, and when I got out of rehab, one of my friends brought me to a yoga class. It really changed my recovery at the time and really helped to shape who I was. I wanted to be able to bring that to other people.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being part of the local yoga
It’s just nice to feel more connected to people. I’m starting to see people between the two locations, people who were primarily coming to Scranton and are now coming here (to Clarks Summit) and really stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying different things. I also like being part of some sort of change and seeing more people being helped by it and their internal shift.

Q: After studying history in college, how did you end up as a yoga instructor?
When I went to college, I was young and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew that history interested me. It always did. I’ve traveled a lot throughout my life. I’ve been very fortunate to travel to different countries, and the history in the places always fascinated me. When I was told to pick a major, I picked that thinking I’d be a history teacher or something. Then I got into trouble with drugs but still was going to school. Throughout that time I needed a job, so I started working for my family; they have a steel fabrication company. It took me a while to finish my degree because of my 20s being kind of crazy. It took me about eight years to finish, and throughout that time a lot of stuff happened — working for my family, moving to New York and working in a yoga studio. I knew that I needed to finish the degree, but I knew I wasn’t going to do much with it. I had been doing yoga for about a year when I decided I wanted to get trained (to) teach it. I moved to New York City and got trained to teach. I came back here and was working for my family, and it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I knew I needed a change, so I called the woman in New York who trained me and asked if she had any position open. She said yes and asked if I wanted to be a manager. I said absolutely, so I just picked up and moved there. I lived there, but I came home. My family and friends were here; the people I knew who could really benefit from yoga were here. When we opened Mission Yoga, I had a business partner, and he kind of had the same vision as me, so we opened downtown first and just grew from there. It was part of our vision to bring it here and make it more accessible to people here.

Q: How have you benefitted personally by doing yoga?
When I first started practicing yoga, I was extremely fearful, insecure, had a lot of anxiety and all kinds of things going on. Yoga helped to move me past that. The whole point of it, in the ancient philosophies, the word “yoga” means “to unite.” It’s the unification of yourself with a higher version of yourself, so you have truer potential. It just made me believe in myself more, be less anxious and fearful. It helped to clear my mind enough to know that I have something to offer and I could be helpful to other people. The girl who took me to my first yoga class, I just ended up training her to teach last year, so it was really cool how it came full circle. The physical part is definitely a benefit, but moreso it’s a mental shift.

Q: What is the most challenging part of yoga, either as an instructor or student?
Making sure that I’m taking care of myself enough so that I have something to offer. I even tell that to people in training. When you get trained to teach, sometimes you’re teaching so much that you forget that you have to take care of yourself too or you’re not able to bring that to other people.

Q: Are there any other organizations you are a part of or things you
I’ve been vegetarian since I was 14, so I’m going on 21 years. My friend has a sanctuary called the Farmhouse Sanctuary in Sterling Twp. We just had a bunch of fundraisers for her. I also do a lot of stuff with the Lackawanna County drug and alcohol programs to try to bring yoga to people in recovery. I developed a program a few years ago. People who are in recovery can come have use of the yoga studio. I get funding for that through the county.

Q: What is something about you that might surprise a lot of people?
People probably don’t know that I worked for a steel fabrication company and (that) I know how to build houses and buildings. If you ask me what size a piece of steel is, I can tell you. Even for the rigging here and in Scranton, when we rigged it for aerial yoga, I designed it.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: I try to stay physically active. I go to CrossFit pretty often. When it gets warm out, I’ll walk and hike more and go on runs. I like to try new things. We have aerial silks; they’re pieces of fabric that hang from the ceiling but aren’t joined at the bottom. You can climb them and do tricks. We also have lyra hoops, the hoop apparatus that you can do tricks in. It hangs from the ceiling. I like to try stuff like that. I’m not very good at it, but it’s fun. Also, my animals; I’m a big animal person.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
There is a period of time that I reflect back on often to remind me where I was. I remember being in a room with a bunch of strangers having to read a very basic thing and being so scared to read it, I couldn’t even get the words out. It was such a difficult moment in my life, and sometimes I’ll think about it and see how yoga has helped me change. It taught me I have to get out of my own way in order to help other people.