The voice is welcoming and deep then at times it becomes livelier, pushing towards dynamism. It is a music that gives rhythm to the dance. The touch is delicate, reassuring. Well-being grows and all the senses are involved. When I practiced Yoga for the first time with Krista Cahill in Paris in the Shala of Naya Studio, I was struck by her energy full of strength and love. This is why I chose her as my Ashtanga teacher. Although I have had the honor of practicing with her just few times, she has left an indelible mark inside me. I have discovered that even in Ashtanga Yoga, which has always been considered more intense and rigid than other styles, there is a correspondence in the hearts of other people of what Yoga has been always for me: love and inclusion. Two words that Krista often repeats in this interview to convey with wisdom and kindness the teachings of her legendary teacher Maty Eratzy and share her path with Yoga. In the interview you will find interesting knowledge and insights of great depth. The path is infinite as is the joy of walking it. Namaste to Krista and to all who dedicate their lives to Yoga every day to make this world brighter.
When did you start practicing yoga?
I dabbled as a teenager taking some classes of very gentle and relaxing yoga. Then I found Ashtanga when I was 19. I was so attracted to the dynamic exploration of the different positions without staying in a linear movement. The spirals, the turning… I loved the sequence and I still love it. In that period, I took classes of primary series with Tim Miller, my first ashtanga class was with him in California and 24 years later I still practice Ashtanga every day.
Why Ashtanga and not other style?
I did ballet before Yoga, and I found something familiar in Ashtanga. I like intense things and I though this discipline was perfect for me. You move your body deliberately and all the movements are precise. You must do exactly this way, or that way and then do the repetition for the exact alignment to manifest over much time and dedicated practice.
When did you live a turning point in your yoga path?
Three years after my first Ashtanga class I met my mentor, Maty Eratzy during a training at Yoga Place in Costa Mesa CA. She had studied directly with Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois for many years, and also with the amazing Dona Holleman with whom she did her first teacher training. Maty was a force, very knowledgeable and she taught me a lot about the physical and energetic alignments. At the end of her life, she was very involved in the vipassana meditation, in fact she had a very deep connection with the spiritual side of yoga. It was clear to Maty, this practice it’s not just an exercise but it’s about living your life mindfully, to be very thoughtful about how you think, how do you dress yourself, everything is part of this mindful practice. I took a lot of inspiration from Maty, especially when I became her assistant, and we started travel together. We went all over USA, Canada, and Mexico… For ten years I supported her during conferences, and trainings. I attended over 10 trainings with her in her studio in Santa Monica CA. It was such a great and fortunate time I have studied a lot with her, but it still was not enough. Maty was a great teacher and a great mentor. She never stopped to take care of me and nourishing the students. Even during Savasana she was moving around, adjusting the body of the students with deep kindness and love. She was unique. There is nothing like her in the world now.
What is the main lesson you learned from Maty?
You need to love the people. It’s not enough to teach them the postures, but it’s about loving them and modeling to them how to love themselves. For Maty yoga was all about loving yourself. Her message was so unique. The self-love part is super necessary. If you don’t love yourself, what are you doing when you are on the mat? Are you hiding? Are you denying yourself? Are you torturing yourself? Are you dissociated with your true self? For Maty it was all about how you treat yourself and why. Why do you punish yourself? You should ask to yourself if you’re in connection with your body and what you’re doing every day to investing in yourself. It’s all about caring yourself thinking always about the spiritual part of the life, of the yoga. Maty was really generous with teaching me to see me. After some years I also studied with Dona Holleman. Dona taught me a lot of things. How the body is affected by gravity and how we can use this gravity as a tool. We can learn about resistance and then create a new stability. She gave me beautiful teachings, She is very well grounded and she knows a lot of philosophy and anatomy. She was the first European to study and teach the method of Iyengar.
Why are you teaching yoga?
I’m teaching as a service to my community. I decided to do this, and am very aware that It’s not a good job and it will not make a lot of money. Because of this I live in a very simple way, very modestly: I don’t travel for pleasure very often, my beautiful child is the most expensive thing that I am responsible for. I don’t need fancy things. I cook at home and I practice by myself… in my 20’s I was selling yoga to corporations. Basically, classes to do at the lunch time. It was very good and quite lucrative, but at some point I didn’t want to be a selling person anymore. My calling was to just take care of my community and teach yoga. I just learned how to be creative and to save money and free myself from the “selling yoga ” lifestyle.
What was the best experience that you did during your travels?
I think it was great when I was with Maty in Whistler Canada. The landscape is super beautiful. In that specific training, I took a lot of her wisdom. I had also the opportunity to practice a lot of meditation. I went along the river, near the mountains … It really changes how do you feel when you are in the nature. It’s so relaxing. I took a lot from that. I did a lot of journaling also. In that atmosphere my mind was more ready to watch her teaching and take her juice.
Did you live bad and suffering moments in your path with yoga?
Yes. Some people, especially some senior and other teachers, they think have more power, tried to deny me, to pushed me down. Nothing that they said about me was founded. I think they did it because they have scared of my ideas, maybe because I tried to spread a different vision of yoga, more inclusive. A lot of people in yoga want to have more power than their students and colleagues. For me I think you should be equal with your students. I’m learning so much when I teach a class. We are equals. I don’t believe in other vision. I don’t believe in touch the teacher’s feet. It’s not for me. Occasionally teachers start to have more students and they receive appreciation for the teachings, and they become like a dictator. And sometimes also violent. We don’t need this kind of energy in the world. We have to protect ourselves and the community from the toxic power hungry people.
How should be a good teacher? Of course, you think about Maty or Dona but for Krista how he or she should be?
I think that a good teacher should teach Ashtanga or any practice in an inclusive way. I don’t think it should be overly physical and just demanding. If you do that you miss the point of Ashtanga Yoga. If you look to others great teachers for example Chuck Miller, and Richard Freeman, Mary Taylor and others, they teach in an totally inclusive way. You can adapt the practice without rigid rules but preserving the foundation. You can make less Vinyasa, you can use blocks, you can use wall… and I think it’s necessary do some research and further study to know where they are going so to improve always. I think also that Radha Carlisi and her husband Prem are wonderful teachers if someone wants to study about how to adapt the practice to everyone. They are super knowledgeable, and Radha studied with Chuck and Maty. They have a wonderful place: Yoga Ashtanga Bali Center.
In which part do you think yoga should be become more inclusive?
I think a small example. Usually, Mysore is in the morning. So many times, I hear how much people would love to have a Mysore practice, but they have responsibilities like dropping off their kids at school. Some people are not available in that part of the day. We need to make it more inclusive not just in terms of physically capacity but all aspects also in the mental way, in the schedule that we proposed… I think inclusive means to embrace different life, different people, envision the varieties we can accommodate. And, to allow people to practice in the community, supported and not alone. It’s important be a part of a group, receive supporting from your yoga brothers and sisters.
How did you change your practice when you become a mother?
I feel softer and more feminine, this was a great evolution for me. My previous practice, before my pregnancy, was more about the physicality and now I feel my body and mind connecting to the energetic movement. The pregnancy, birth, and experience of motherhood are all practices in and of themselves. Now I realize the Yoga I was practicing before was just a preparation for the difficult challenges which lay ahead of me.
Do you have some advice for young women who would like to start practicing yoga?
Yoga is a wonderful pastime, and practice, but the essence of it is really to find a deeper self-love, I took that from Maty. It’s a celebration of self-care and an investment in yourself, little by little and day by day. As women we care for others, and we care so much what others think. Perhaps yoga is a way we can care also for ourselves and develop a sense of self, which is not easily influenced by the opinions of other people. Yoga can also reduce our tendency to please people while pleasing ourselves more.