Yoga and tai-chi teacher Janet Keeley-Valencia talks about her life, teaching yoga and tai-chi, and the importance of knowing your body. (JOEL KEMEGUE)
Yoga and tai-chi teacher Janet Keeley-Valencia talks about her life, teaching yoga and tai-chi, and the importance of knowing your body.


Tai-chi, yoga instructor tells her story

Valenza wants to help people learn to "flow"

March 26, 2020

From her house in Pullman, Janet Keeney-Valenza teaches her students yoga, tai-chi and how to appreciate the body.

Valenza teaches both yoga and tai-chi. She said yoga and tai-chi are not “no pain no gain” and stresses the importance of listening to your body on her students.

“I always tell [my students] ‘honor your body.’ They’re like ‘well you know this side isn’t da-da-da-da today’ I’m like ‘it’s a different day.’ We’re human, we flow,” Valenza said. “It’s okay to accept that, to not fight it, to not strain and to relax. I teach them how to relax while putting forth effort.”

Valenza also tries to teach them how yoga and tai-chi apply to everyday life, such as posture and healthy ways to hold your feet.

Pullman City Councilmember Nathan Weller is a weightlifter and has studied martial arts for years. He said he started tai-chi to learn more about the mind-body connection in martial arts and see how it would help.

Weller said he found Valenza on Facebook a year and a half ago, and was drawn to her instruction because of the smaller classes and Valenza’s history in the medical field.

Weller said practicing tai-chi under Valenza has helped improve his lifting, recovery time after powerlifting and concentration.

“We’re human, we flow. It’s OK to accept that.”

Janet Keeney-Valenza

“At first, I wasn’t sure how it would go, but then I started putting what she was saying — how to position the body, how to move … I’ve noticed my weightlifting has gotten better.” Weller said.

Amber Wright, owner of Amber’s Grooming Salon, said she practices both yoga and tai-chi with Valenza. She said a friend told her about Valenza and she’s been practicing with her since.

“[Valenza and I] go through and she takes each step of each series that she teaches and really breaks it down,” Wright said. “She’s very good at communicating that to us, what we need to do to be able to get the best energy flow.”

Valenza said she started running in junior high and continued through college, eventually being ranked seventh fastest in the nation, she said. After leaving college she studied podiatry, still keeping up with her running. Valenza said she was running 60 to 80 miles a week, and also qualified twice for the Olympic trials, running under the 2:50 mark in marathon.

At the age of 34 she sustained a severe hamstring tear which ended up ruining her career. To cope, a friend suggested doing yoga.

“It is a path to peace, we work with our energy …we work with the mind,” Valenza said “There is a whole mind, body, energy, spirit connection.”

Valenza said she started doing yoga three to four times a week and became so interested in yoga and Hindu culture that she took a sabbatical for six months and did yoga training at a Hindu temple outside Bangalore.

She said going to India was likely the highlight of her life, and the six months changed her perception of the world, seeing people with less than she had yet more content, compared to the wealthier Houston she was used to, and she learned to be more grateful for life.

“I realized that I never have anything to complain about,” Valenza said. “I hear people complaining about this or that … and I think ‘Really? You’re not starving to death and you have clothes. And a house and an apartment or a roof over your head. So many people don’t have that.’”

Valenza also does nutritional and hormonal consulting, inspired to start after a specialist helped her have children through a new diet and medication. Valenza said she mainly consults for women and hormonal problems.

“A lot of things that are hormonal related, people don’t even realize it,” Valenza said.

She has people write down everything they’ve eaten, then all exercise, temperatures and pulse rates to see how it correlates with their eating, she said.

She started by teaching yoga in Boerne, Texas. Valenza said that while she was living there, she pulled out the notes from her sabbatical and realized she could teach classes. She started teaching classes she called “Yoga as it is,” meaning yoga as it is taught in India.

Valenza said in these classes she also incorporates Hindu philosophy by teaching a part of the five layers of existence for the first fifteen minutes.

She came to Pullman after a ski injury that left the left side of her body from mid-back to knee torn, Valenza said. After going through multiple doctors and chiropractors, two of her brothers brought her to Pullman to see a chiropractor they knew. Valenza said that after their first session, she could bend her knee again. After four months of therapy two times a day, seven days a week, Valenza was able to start working again and decided to do so in Pullman.

Valenza taught personal training and therapeutic yoga at Anytime Fitness, then at a studio in the Gladish Community & Cultural Center. Now she does all her podiatry work, counseling and yoga and tai-chi classes in her house.

“I love what I do. I wouldn’t change it for the world.” Valenza said.

Tai-Chi Connected sessions can be made through their Facebook account.

About the Writer
JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen mint editor

Joel Kemegue is the current editor of the Mint section and a sophomore creative writing major from Bellevue, Washington. He enjoys reading, writing and...

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