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Daily Inspiration: Meet Erika Kristo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erika Kristo. 

Hi Erika, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I began my yoga practice in Los Angeles in 2001 after a work colleague insisted that I try yoga to help alleviate the stress and anxiety of a demanding career. I was deeply resistant, but as soon as I took that first class something changed. The collective energy of the room, the self-generated heat, and the continuous flow of breath and movement had an immediate positive impact on both my physical and mental health. I was hooked, intrigued, and determined to practice and learn more. 

I continued a regular Ashtanga Yoga practice and studies in both Hawaii and then in Washington, DC. after moving to Maryland in 2012. Once my children reached an age where they were considerably more independent, I began teaching at Ashtanga Yoga Studio DC and shadowing Keith Moore. In 2019, I met Romy Phillips, a Los Angeles yoga teacher with over 20 years of experience, after she returned to live in Maryland where she originally grew up. Together, Romy and I decided that it was time to cultivate an Ashtanga Yoga community in Maryland because we could see that there was a need. Ashtanga Yoga studios are specialized studios and students often have to travel far distances for supported practice. We were excited to grow this kind of a community closer to home. 

At each step of my personal yoga journey, I have been met with overwhelming generosity and support from the yoga community, and specifically from the Ashtanga community and its teachers. Each Ashtanga mentor I’ve encountered along the way has been and continues to be selfless in terms of sharing their time, their energy, their resources, and their knowledge. My physical, mental and spiritual health is enriched as a direct result of their efforts, and those benefits extend to everyone in my life, including my family, my friends, and my community. Ashtanga Yoga Howard County is just one small way of saying “thank you” to them and to try my best to continue to pay it forward. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
We were fortunate to find such a supportive business environment at the Historic Savage Mill. Historic Savage Mill is comprised entirely of small businesses, the majority of which are women-owned. Given how helpful the management and staff have been to us at each stage of this endeavor, we understand why. 

However, opening any business in the middle of a pandemic presents unexpected and unavoidable challenges. We have experienced the same struggles as all businesses this summer, trying to cut costs and be patient as members of our community safely navigate reentering public spaces and to what extent. 

Pre-Covid, traditional Mysore-style Ashtanga rooms like ours had also been struggling for a while. Students new to yoga began gravitating toward large corporate hot yoga chains with packed heated rooms and music. Traditional Mysore-style Ashtanga rooms were unable to compete with large business competitors’ heavy marketing or pricing options. The situation has only become increasingly worse since then with news of Mysore rooms closing their doors far too frequently. 

It has always been a struggle translating the benefits of a breath-focused Ashtanga Yoga practice and the “magic” of a Mysore-style class to the general public. Our Mysore-style classes are the heart of our Ashtanga program, and it’s in these spaces that real transformation occurs through a long-term and deepening connection to the breath. In Mysore-style classes, students can enter and exit the class at any time they choose within the Mysore window of time. Students are taught the Ashtanga Yoga sequence and method, one to one, pose by pose at a pace and level which suits each student. A Mysore practice is an experiential and progressive learning process. Students are offered tools and suggestions to refine their practice and alignment over an extended period of time and in a quiet and contemplative learning environment. 

The combination of Mysore-style and Led Class instruction is part of what makes Ashtanga Yoga so unique and special. In Mysore class, we practice deepening our own breath and generating our own intense heat which in turn purifies the nervous system, and increases our strength, flexibility, and stamina. In Led Class, we do our yoga practice together and at the same pace as the group. This dual learning process is extraordinarily energizing and uplifting. However, this concept is difficult to articulate because it is vastly different from all other yoga styles. It is best appreciated by experiencing a class first-hand. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Our teachers are very good at teaching Ashtanga Yoga in a way that works for each individual student. All students are following the Ashtanga Yoga method and sequences, but how each student approaches each pose or transition within the sequences may vary. Students are encouraged to challenge themselves, but they are also encouraged to self-assess how they’ve arrived to their mats, and subsequently self-assess what they may need from their practice that morning so that they can leave feeling energized for the rest of the day rather than depleted. 

We are fond of saying “This practice is intended to be done over a lifetime. Practice in a way today that encourages you to come back to your mat tomorrow.” Teaching this way empowers students to take ownership of their own practice, while still finding support in Ashtanga Yoga’s community and intelligent sequencing and methodology. 

Our teachers also offer hands-on assists, as well as practical instruction on breath and bandhas (energy locks). 

Any big plans?
We hold Ashtanga for Beginners Series a few times a year, and we will do another one in January 2022. These Series offer a solid overview of the Ashtanga Yoga method and are a great way to welcome new students to our community. 

As our community continues to grow, we would love to host visiting teachers to lead workshops and other classes to enrich our students’ experiences with the practice. 

We are also partnered with the Trini Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to serve the recovery community by offering scholarships to practice Ashtanga Yoga. We are currently working to extend our outreach to the recovery community so that they can take advantage of these resources and the benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga practice. 

Pricing:

  • New Student ($75; 1-month unlimited)
  • New Student ($200; 3-months unlimited)
  • Drop-In ($20); 5-class ($90); 10-class ($160)
  • 1-Month Unlimited ($140)
  • 3-Months Unlimited ($375)

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Ruzica Puskas Photography
Lee Wolfort

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