For Molly Kelleher-Cuff, play is paramount.
The now New York City-based actress, fitness and movement teacher was raised on a steady diet of yoga and dance. So, it was almost inevitable that those practices would become the bedrock of her career and lifestyle. She studied acting and dance at Emerson College before getting certified in yoga, Pilates and barre. Ultimately, she applied all her knowledge, and her personal ties to creativity and humor, and created Bumble+Flow, an ever-evolving movement practice that leaves clients feeling empowered and happy.
Here, Kelleher-Cuff explains why she appreciates life even when its messy:
Live The Process: How did your upbringing shape your approach to wellness and creativity?
Molly Kelleher-Cuff: I’m the child of hippies from upstate New York. They may disagree with me on that, but what else do you call a childhood full of rice ice cream, co-ops (pre cool Brooklynite versions), rock deodorant, vegetarianism and craft fairs? I mean, I was named for a Beatles song! And with all of that came yoga. My mom always practiced, thus I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to do a downward-facing dog.
I also moved a lot (five different elementary schools, two middle schools). I think that helped me figure out who I really am. I learned quickly that I had better just be myself and like myself because I was often not going to know anyone else (except my sister, who is awesome, but younger). I focused on the things that I enjoyed: dancing, reading, acting, singing and playing. I wrote a million books and poems that no one has ever seen. I made up songs. I choreographed a dance to every song on the radio. I was a masterful artist, in my own mind, and that started to make its way out into the world as I grew older. Thus, I now live a life of art and movement.
LTP: How did you grow your interest in dance into, ultimately, the creation of Bumble+Flow?
MKC: My grandparents instilled a love of movement in me and my cousins; they were ballroom dancers. I began taking dance classes at the age of five. Ballet and jazz were my main interests, but I’ve also studied a little swing and salsa. For college, I looked for a school with a strong dance department to coincide with my acting major: I ended up at Emerson College.
Pilates was an obvious progression from my dance background, as so many dancers use it to build strength and alignment. Fairly soon after I graduated from college, I began my certification process. I studied under Balanced Body Pilates and then finally fully certified through STOTT Pilates. I’ve been teaching some form since 2006.
At the same time, I also decided to finally certify as a yoga instructor. Yoga was already such an important part of my life to help me find space, reflect, center, breathe and be. I was getting married and beginning the process of moving to New York City, so it seemed like the perfect moment to solidify my practice.
Part of me always knew I’d go into yoga and Pilates to support my life and acting career, but I didn’t know the extent to which that would be true. I’ve now been teaching in some form for a decade! As an actress, it’s very important to keep our tools polished and, of course, the body is primary. I don’t mean that in a purely aesthetic way either. The journey of an artist is littered with disappointment, rejection and self-doubt. Without yoga to guide my mind, I’d be at a loss. The demands of an artist put strain on one’s body too: running from auditions, throwing yourself around at dance and fight combat calls, burning the candle at both ends. Without Pilates, my alignment and physical life would be completely off balance.
It was in 2011 that I decided to delve into another modality: barre. It was the obvious progression for me. I certified through Boston Body Pilates’ program which eventually became Balanced Body Pilates. At the time, I worked under CC Martin and Carolyn Stuart of STOTT. I was a party to their creation of the program. Ultimately, I decided to create my own brand based on the work I was already doing and had trained in for years. Bumble+Flow is the culmination of my many years of movement training. I teach barre classes that are unlike the programs taught at traditional studios (based largely on the Lotte Burke method), as my work comes from my experiences and play. Instead, I infuse yoga, dance, Pilates, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training. My yoga classes are Hatha-based and often change based on the needs of my clients. Some days, I feel a more restorative practice is necessary; sometimes a more power flow. My Pilates work takes the contemporary approach infusing fascial release, props and strength-building be it a mat or equipment class.
I teach privately in homes and at a variety of studios around New York City, including Pratt University.
LTP: What is the philosophy behind Bumble+Flow?
MKC: Bumble+Flow; Movement Company is committed to providing the most intelligent, innovative and enjoyable Pilates, barre, yoga and functional training classes you’ll ever take! Anatomical alignment, flow, strength and joy are the cornerstones of my system.
I take a contemporary approach to Joseph Pilates’ great work and believe that we are always learning new ways to move, challenge and strengthen the body. People today are relegated to desks, bent over computers and devices, more than ever in our history. We run on concrete, bike with traffic, are living longer and sitting more. Bumble+Flow is committed to teaching our bodies to withstand the rigors of modern life.
With my private clients, individualized sessions are created depending on the type of workout they desire or need. Some days, my students want a crazy, sweat-inducing cardio session filled with calisthenics and insane core work; some days they are searching for mindfulness and a program that will make them feel mentally and physically whole. A lot of them travel frequently, so I create sessions via video or written workouts that they can use in their hotel rooms.
For my studio classes, I throw a party. I try to help my clients leave feeling physically and mentally stronger and lighter. I bring strength-training, cardio, flexibility, dance, and alignment principals into every workout. And I always offer modifications to help include everyone regardless of fitness level, energy level, age or body limitation (even pregnancy!).
LTP: Beyond your own classes, what wellness rituals, regimens or practices keep you feeling healthy and balanced?
MKC: Self-care is necessary to my life. I give a lot throughout my day, whether it be working one-on-one with a client, auditioning for a TV show, in rehearsal, teaching a class or just dealing with the energy of the MTA. It’s necessary to keep as much coming in as is going out.
I mentioned that I was raised as a vegetarian. Did I also mention that I’m married to an amazing cook? Thankfully, veggies and fruits are a huge part of my diet and keep me feeling able to tackle the world. I’m a big fan of a homemade morning smoothie and delicious foods from all across the globe like Moroccan, Ethiopian, Indian, Mexican that “my cook” makes for me!
I also sleep with a humidifier that blows essential oils and moistens the air. And I have an app called “Chill” on my phone that gives me daily reminders to take a moment to be grounded and present. I’m a deep lover of acupuncture, Thai massage, rolfing and other fascial release methods. And, in my downtime, I love music; I listen every second I get. I’m a huge reader and find learning to be one of the greatest ways to feed my soul and get back to my creative spirit.
Finally, I am recharged by my amazing friendships. I have some incredible people with whom I get to share this world with and I connect with them every chance I get.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
MKC: Sunshine, travel, new discoveries, family, friends, performing, being a student, the ocean, snuggling my french bulldog Buzzy. If I could do all of that at once, I’d pretty much explode with joy.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
MKC: Life is messy. Living isn’t meant to be perfect. Life is meant to be discovered, to be enjoyed, to learn from. “Live the Process,” to me, means to experience all that life has to offer, even the tough parts. Be grateful for the moments of good and bad. Be grateful to be given this gift of experience, investigation, discovery and improvisation. Be grateful for the knowledge that it’s fleeting, this life, and take every moment you can to experience every single thing you can!
I believe we can do more of this by not resisting, by believing in our own awesomeness and by taking the time to put energy into what recharges our souls. Remembering that we only get to do this life one time and understanding that most limitations are self-imposed helps me to choose when to take on an obligation that helps me grow and when to let it go.