I met Heidi Kristoffer in August 2013, when I was lucky to celebrate my very special 25th birthday blissing out with the Strala team – Heidi, Tara Stiles and Mike Taylor, at the amazing yoga retreat they organized at Standard Spa in Miami. She got me at STRONG – her yoga classes are intense, super fun, and feel incredible both during and after. She cracks jokes during the class and gives an alternative: either someone in the class says a joke, or we keep moving in the bow pose. Oh, and her “frame” your face” line, inviting to lift your hands up while in triangle pose to tone those abs, is an often requested one.
As I got to know Heidi better through her classes as Strala NYC, I came to understand what she really is: an incredible woman with an empowering message to the world. She shines bright, sharing her personal mission of making people happier not only through being the happiness bubble that she is, but also through giving back: Heidi is a shelter animal advocate and recently introduced a new and wildly popular class, CrossFlowX at The Movement: a studio that gives $1 back to Brain Cancer Research. The class was a combination of hardcore cardio and yoga flow: super sweaty, fun and satisfying. I’ve tried hardcore cardio DVD programs before, and even though it did make me feel toned, the flexibility and flow department were lacking. CrossFlowX solves that!
One sunny New York morning before a yoga class, Heidi, aka one of the hottest trainers in America 2014 according to Shape Magazine, and I indulged the Breakfast Criminals Raw Chocolate Bomb (recipe coming to MindBodyGreen on May 12) at a park, and here are a few things we chatted about. I was all fuzzy and happy after – being in the company of this wonderful lady does that to you!
You are one of the most radiant, happy people I’ve met – and leave everyone around you feeling the same. What are some of the things you do to maintain inner balance that keeps you going? First of all, thank you, that is so kind of you to say! I do lots and lots of yoga 🙂 Yoga was the first place that I was reminded that “everything you need is right there inside of you” – that thought was so freeing and empowering that it gave me the space to explore and find joy, which is exactly what I aim to share with everyone else I am lucky enough to come into contact with.
How did you start your yoga journey? I moved to the far west side in NYC, and googled gyms in my new neighborhood. A yoga studio came up in my google search, and with much grumbling, I decided that since everyone said it would be so good for me, I would try it out. I fell head over heels in love with my first class – all I wanted to know was, “What IS this? And, how do I do more?!” I signed up for that studio’s 3-month unlimited new person special, and the rest is history 🙂
How did you meet Tara Stiles and become a Strala guide? My husband, Alex, was in the same fraternity in college as Jason Wachob, founder of MindBodyGreen and very good friend of Tara Stiles. Jason and I reconnected by chance at the first yoga studio I was teaching at, and as a result, he and his amazing wife, Colleen, were kind enough to come take my class. They then both informed me that I “HAD to meet Tara Stiles”. I knew nothing about Strala, but after much prodding from Jason and Colleen, I went to Tara’s class. I pretty much camped out at Strala until Tara offered me classes there, and have been there for more than three years.
You have recently introduced a totally new class that blends yoga and cardio with the launch of The Movement, a new charity-driven NYC studio. Tell me more! I lost my step-father to brain cancer two years ago, and have been looking for a meaningful way to give back ever since. I have loved my time at Strala so much, that I never had any interest in being anywhere else. But, when Dana (one of the owners of The Movement) reached out to me, and told me that they were donating $1 per person per class to brain cancer research, I KNEW I had to at least meet with them. Then, they asked me to create my own class.
I have been doing some very similar stuff for my SHAPE.com videos for years now, and for so long, I have been lamenting that there is nothing like this that exists for me to take, and have had so many people tell me that I should create it, but the timing never felt right. The Movement is the place, and now is the time. CrossFlowX (my new class at The Movement) is everything I love: hard core power yoga flows, mixed with cardio intervals and Kundalini Kriyas, set to awesome tunes – it is a big sweaty smile-y party that will leave everyone feeling exhausted yet exhilarated – a completely clean slate. I am SO beyond excited to get to share this with everyone – it is exactly what I would want in a class!
What’s the most rewarding part of what you do? Getting to know amazing, inspiring women (and men!) like you!! I am so grateful for all of the remarkable people that I have the opportunity to meet and share with. I was in a pretty dark place when I started yoga, and in a lot of pain in my body. So, any time I get to help bring a little light into someone else’s world, or aid in alleviating pain, my world is complete 🙂
You have a yoga and surf retreat in Nicaragua coming up in December! Insider info: there’s going to be a full kitchen (read: vegan blending fun!). Are all levels of yogis and surfers welcome? YES!! I am SO excited! This is truly my dream vacation: luxury ocean front condos at a resort with pools, yoga twice daily (with me), surf lessons (with real surf instructors!), bi-lingual guides, private boat tours with bi-lingual tour guides, and a day on a private island catered with all of the local delicacies, the list goes on! Everyone is welcome. I have always wanted to go on a New Year’s yoga retreat (and I love surf and yoga retreats way more – one is so complimentary to the other!), but they were always so cost prohibitive. This retreat is the best deal I’ve ever seen (everything but airfare included for $1800 early bird special!), so I am thrilled to offer it to everyone, and cannot WAIT to celebrate New Year’s this year on the gorgeous beaches of Nicaragua!
Ok, this makes us ready to talk about something we both love… healthy eats! You’ve been vegan for 8 years. What’s the reason behind it, and do you feel differently after making the switch? I was born allergic to seafood, shellfish, and dairy. When I moved to NYC I was trying to save money, so I decided not to buy any red meat. After not eating it for six months or so, I went home and ate some. The result was excruciating pain in my stomach; I was curled up in the fetal position of my childhood bed for hours. It seemed to me that my body was trying to tell me something, and so I stopped eating it. Gradually, my body stopped wanting chicken or any other kind of animal, so I stopped eating them. I eat what makes my body feel its best: for me, that is vegan. I am a huge believer that you should eat what makes you feel the best, and allows your body to function at it’s peak. That is going to be different for every person every day – it’s about listening to your body!
From your Instagram feed, it’s clear that you’re an expert when it comes to vegan eats. You even wrote the Vegan Guide to New York! I can’t think of a better person to ask: What are some of your favorite vegan spots in New York? I do love to eat! (And, until I discovered vegan cuisine, what I could eat without getting sick was always so limited!)
- Pure Food and Wine is my absolute favorite! I would eat there every day if I could. I also love Rockin’ Raw.
- If I am craving deep fried vegan (which is decidedly not often), I love Red Bamboo – they have all of the Vegan Treats cakes and cheesecakes, which are heaven.
- I love Sacred Chow for brunch!
- Peacefood Cafe also is a pretty often visited place for me – they have an in-house bakery which is phenomenal.
Po Boy at Sacred Chow
Pure Food & Wine
What are some of the books that influenced you the most? Jack Kornfield’s “A Path With Heart” and Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life”. Both books were life changing for me the first time I read them, and every time since.
Favorite words to live by? “You never know what you can do until you try!” and “Don’t take yourself so seriously!”. I say this to myself all of the time – life is way more fun if you aren’t hung up on being serious 🙂
What is your favorite breakfast to make at home?
If I ever go to a pot luck brunch, or have people over on the weekends, this is my GO-TO. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t fall head-over-heels in love at first taste with this delicious “coffee cake”. This recipe can also easily be made into muffins (and I have been told you can lessen the sugar amount by quite a lot, but I have a super sweet tooth!)
Serves 12 to 16
- 1 1/4 cups vegan dark chocolate chips or chunks
- 2/3 cups organic vegan brown sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
- 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1 1/3 cups very ripe mashed bananas
- 3 Tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1 1/2 cups spelt flour (or gluten-free flour)
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with margarine and flour.
2. Mix streusel ingredients in small bowl and set side.
3. Mix applesauce with flaxseed meal and set aside.
4. Using a mixer, mix sugar, coconut oil, and applesauce mixture in large bowl until fluffy. Add mashed bananas and almond milk, and blend. Slowly add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix until smooth.
5. Spread half the batter into the prepared baking pan, cover with half the streusel, then cover that with remaining batter, and top with remaining streusel.
6. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when placed in center of cake.
7. Allow to cool over night and serve in the morning.
Favorite breakfast to eat out? Sacred Chow’s Po’ Boy Sandwich is my current fave – it’s a fabulous vegan biscuit covered in a heap of fluffy tofu scramble and some delicious gravy. It comes served with a salad dressed in a delicious mustard dressing.