KERRI KELLY, FOUNDER
Well-being is a human right, but our politics and institutions don’t always treat it as one. CTZNWELL is determined to change that. The nonprofit operates according to the idea that “change begins with people.” It uses a threepronged approach to bring that change into reality: personal practice, community building, and collective action. Rich with resources for inspiring civic engagement—including a podcast on the politics of wellbeing, a weekly toolkit of curated reading, and numerous campaigns to promote social justice—CTZNWELL is a digitally fluent, community-based organization that integrates yoga and other grounding practices into all of its activist work. All CTZNWELL’s methods are rooted in presence and meditation to help make the world a healthier and more equitable place.
Q & A
YOGA JOURNAL: What is CTZNWELL’s primary mission?
KERRI KELLY: CTZNWELL is working to democratize well-being. Currently there’s a gap between who gets to be well and who doesn’t. That’s not by accident; it’s fully systemic. At CTZNWELL, we’re all about tackling the big systemic barriers, such as the legacies of racism, misogyny, and inequality in this country that need to be acknowledged and healed. It’s an everyday practice of civic engagement that should be synonymous with yoga practice: You wake up, meditate, call your representatives; you go to yoga class and then hit the streets; you buy organic and vote your values. It’s not enough to just show up when there’s a crisis or an election. We can engage every day in civic practice and help bring forth the conditions where everyone can be well.
YJ: How did you get involved in this work?
KK: My big political wake-up call was 9/11, when I lost my stepdad, a fireman. That moment dismantled everything I had learned about what it meant to be safe and well. And yoga was there to help me navigate the grief and chaos and get on a path of purpose. I started gravitating toward yoga service, community organizing, and eventually social and political change.
YJ: How does seva inform CTZNWELL’s work?
KK: If we truly want to embody the practice of yoga, we have to learn how to take better care of ourselves and one another. With CTZNWELL, we saw an opportunity to practice beyond ourselves and serve the bigger whole.