In honor of National Yoga month, Exhale Spa is celebrating their second annual namasDAY on Thursday, September 20th, with FREE yoga classes at locations nationwide. Cristi Christensen is the Yoga Director of Exhale in Los Angeles and she unleashes her passion by teaching a variety of classes and workshops there. She has studied with world-renowned fitness gurus and traveled the globe spreading her knowledge and enthusiasm for yoga and all things fitness. I caught up with Cristi after spending time with her at the amazing Exhale Spa retreat in Santa Monica last week. She gave me an insider perspective on practicing yoga and shared some of her health and beauty secrets.
MM: There are many different types of yoga classes available today. How do you differentiate between them and what are the most popular practices? Any tips on how to choose?
CC: There are many many different types of yoga; the key is finding the one that is right for you! Exhale’s yoga program falls under the Vinyasa style of yoga which is certainly amongst the most popular growing yoga in the U.S. Vinyasa is a rhythmic, flowing style of yoga with an emphasis in linking movement with breath. Vinyasa helps to not only build strength and endurance, but also enhances flexibility and brings the body and mind into a more relaxing, meditative state.
MM: What advice do you have for someone who has never taken a yoga class but is eager to try it?
CC: Start with a few beginner classes so that you can learn the basics of each one including the alignment techniques and the language; this way you can find the style that resonates with you. Let the teacher know you are new to class too so they can take extra good care of you!
MM: What yoga class do you suggest for the toughest physical challenge?
CC: Believe it or not, some of the most challenging classes I have taken have been Level 1 (beginner) as you are holding poses for a really long time! Level 2/3 classes usually move at a faster pace which definitely get your heart pumping and energy flowing! Vinyasa yoga is generally a very athletic practice- which will detoxify your body and take you to your edge!
MM: What are some of the benefits of yoga and what has it done for you personally?
CC: There are so many amazing benefits to this practice – physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually.
To name just a few…Strength, flexibility, balance, focus, youthful body and spirit, calm mind, deepen connection with self, inner peace, compassion, and joy.
Personally my yoga practice has become part of my life and lifestyle. The physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of the practice have helped me become more centered, grounded and connected into my self and my personal power. My body is as strong and subtle as it was in my athletic days and through my practice I have become more present and more joyful in each moment. My yoga practice truly feeds my mind, body and soul.
MM: Paddle boarding and surfing have become very popular and I know you enjoy mixing them with your yoga practice. How do they complement each other?
CC: Two of my passions are both yoga and surfing, and more recently I have been enjoying SUPing. There is nothing that makes you feel more alive then being totally engrossed in the present moment, and when you are in the ocean you have no choice but to be present. Yoga, in addition to building strength, body awareness and agility, helps build focus and concentration-all things you need in the water!!
MM: You have the most gorgeous hair. What products do you use to keep it shiny and healthy?
CC: Thank you! I use Pureology shampoo and conditioner. I also eat a lot of avocados and coconut oil!
MM: What are some of your favorite healthy snacks?
CC: I love Keen-wah coconut almond bars, apple slices with raw almond butter, raw kale chips, and dark chocolate!
MM: How did the idea for namasDAY develop and what do you hope people get out of it?
CC: September is National Yoga Month & namasDay is all about celebrating yoga and introducing yoga to as many people as possible around the country!
Celebrate namasDAY on Thursday at your nearest Exhale Spa location. Free classes will be offered throughout the day, capping off with a celebration of live music, healthy cocktails, and giveaways in the evening.
Cristi is the Director of Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, CA, where she is a passionate yoga and Core Fusion teacher. A former elite-level gymnast and platform diver, she earned her degree in Kinesiology while training with the Olympic diving team. After an injury cut her Olympic dreams short, Cristi shifted her focus to helping others improve their level of fitness through personal training, Pilates, Core Fusion + yoga. In 2004 she joined exhale, and has since studied extensively with world-renowned teachers, including Saul David Raye, Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito. Cristi has combined her teachings, practice, and bright energy into a dynamic and unique classroom style that translates into an infectious energy that her students can’t help but feel during each class. Cristi has brought this energy across the globe, leading workshops, retreats, and bringing positivity with her to every corner of the earth. When Cristi isn’t teaching, globe-trotting, or keeping exhale Venice as the number 1 ranked yoga studio, you’ll likely find her surfing, playing in her Venice backyard, or doing back flips on Venice Beach!