I had the opportunity to sit down with Kyra Anastasia, a long time yoga teacher and ayurvedic health coach. It was so inspiring to hear about this beautiful yogini’s life and passions. I hope that you enjoy reading about Kyra as much as I enjoyed getting to know her!
Tell me about yourself:
I was born in Pennsylvania outside of Philly, and grew up in the countryside on a farm. I also spent some time in Washington DC. Most recently, I moved to LA for 5 years while teaching at Exhale, and one month ago I moved to Portland for the trees and healthier lifestyle. I fell in love with Portland after spending a summer here between college and grad school so I wanted to come back.
Tell me your yoga love story, how did you come to the practice?
Over two decades ago, I was in highschool and skiing in the Poconos. I ended up skiing off a cliff and landed on my back. I didn’t break anything, but I had a lot of internal bruising and was in a lot of pain. I started going to physical therapy, and it was beneficial, but my recovery wasn’t as fast as I wanted. It was then that I started taking yoga classes, and yoga saved my life. It put me on this path that I’ve been on for 22 years. It absolutely is a love affair because I really am in love with it, and I know that this is something I’ll do for the rest of my life.
What made you want to become a teacher?
Seeing the benefits that I was receiving from the practice made me want to become a teacher. It wasn’t really my plan, I had gone to school for Chinese and business for import/export. At one point I wanted to do human rights issues and work for the UN. I was a student for many many years before I considered teaching. However, once I started teaching and saw people benefiting from it, I kept going. I ended up opening 3 yoga studios in DC and leading retreats. Yoga has been amazing because not only has it helped me to heal my own body, but I also moved more into the spiritual aspects of yoga. I’ve seen my students and my friends and people in my life change because of this practice. It’s like I was drawn to it, and even to this day I feel like I was meant to be a teacher, there is something that I’m meant to share with my students.
How do you keep that love affair alive and combining that with a business?
That can be challenging. There are ups and downs with that. For me, I find self promotion very difficult, but I also recognize that what we do as teachers is very important, so we have to put ourselves out there. The past five years I’ve spent more time focusing on myself and doing the things that I love. Before I was very focused on running my yoga studios, growing the business, and leading retreats. As I get older I feel myself more interested in slowing down. I still want to do what I’ve been doing, but I’m more interested in working one-on-one because then I can better see the progress of my students. I’m also starting to work more with an older population, mostly women in their 60’s and 70’s to help them become more mobile and working with their joints. It feels like really meaningful work.
Who are your biggest influences in your teaching?
I’ve studied with a lot of amazing teachers, including Shiva Rae, Saul David Raye, Rodney Yee, and Max Strom, but to be honest I feel like my greatest Spiritual influence is my mother. She doesn’t necessarily practice yoga, but she is a Quaker, and I was taught as a child very important values like non-violence, simplicity, and treating others equally. I feel like there is a lot of synchronicity with yoga. So, Quakerism is a great teacher for me.
Tell me about your teaching style and philosophy?
I hope that I bring playfulness. I like students to be a little bit challenged, so they can test their own limits and strength . I try to weave in dharma so it’s not just a physical class, and I place a big focus on the breath. I try to end with time for silence and meditation.
What keeps you motivated to keep up your personal practice?
Going back to how I first got into yoga, with the ski accident, if I don’t practice, even if it’s just two days, I really feel my back. I actually feel grateful for the accident because it really has kept me consistent with my practice. I’m not waking up at 5am and practicing for 3 hours everyday, but I do try to do something every day that feels yogic. Even if it’s walking along the river at a really peaceful pace, it could be taking a class, it could be doing some pranayama or meditation in my room, but every day I am trying to do something. I also feel that not only the movement, but our daily encounters and how we deal with others is yoga. It’s more than physically getting on the mat and moving your body, but how you want to interact with others and what kind of energy do you want to offer them.
Tell our readers a little about Ayurveda and why it’s so important to you?
‘Ayur’ means nature and ‘veda’ means knowledge. I’ve been fascinated by Ayurveda for years. Its such a natural branch to yoga. It’s the sister science to yoga. It’s over 5000 years old. Last year I spent 8 months going back and forth going from PA to Kripalu to do an ayurvedic degree. I didn’t actually know what kind of window I was opening, but now I recognize it’s such a huge world, and there is so much to learn and so much to explore. I’m only at the very beginning of that journey, but I feel like it’s helped me to figure out somethings that I can do everyday to bring myself more into greater balance. Whether that is going to bed at a certain time, or waking up at a certain time, doing a little bit of exercise everyday. What is fascinating to me is that I used to be more of a type A yogi, who was doing really hardcore yoga. Ayurveda doesn’t advocate that. It actually says that you reach the point of exercise and sweating and then you slow down. I’m at a point in my life where I feel like that slowing down and embracing that is really important and Ayurveda is helping me accept that. There is also the benefit of tweaking your diet and becoming more familiar with your Dosha. I know that I’m Vata Pitta, so I’m paying more attention to when I need more rest, what type of food I should be eating, and when I need more exercise.
What yoga brands are your favorite? What do you look for when you’re buying yoga clothes?
I definitely like pretty clothes, but my style is very simple. I adore white, and very soft products. I love clothes that are made out of bamboo and sustainable materials. I like knowing that the company is doing something in addition to selling yoga clothes. That is always important to me, I like fun colors and very feminine.
How can our readers find you?
You can visit my website at inspiredyoga.com, here you can find links to Ayurvedic consultations, my Yoga podcast, and online yoga classes. If you are in Portland come practice with me at Sellwood Yoga and Mandala Yoga at Tabor Park!
A huge thank you to Kyra for taking time out of studying for Anatomy and Physiology and running around teaching yoga! It was such a joy to get to learn more about this beautiful inspiring yogini! As always, if you have anyone you’d like to nominate for a yogispotlight contact me at email@example.com
Laura C. Helms