Best of the Boat: Best Yoga Instructor — Cristen Malia
November 11, 2017
Cristen Malia took her first-ever yoga class during high school physical education.
"It was on the periphery," she says. "It wasn't normal to have yoga in P.E."
She enjoyed the practice, but wouldn't return to it for several years; she moved from her childhood home of Northern California to Boulder for college, and then landed in Steamboat. Here, she found several offerings of yoga, and a newfound connection to the practice under local yogis, including Jill Barker.
"She's one of the pioneers of yoga in this valley," Malia says.
Malia taught at Strawberry Park Elementary for seven years, staying grounded through yoga. She practiced during her entire pregnancy with her first child, and soon after attended a Core Power yoga teacher training in Denver.
"I started teaching right after completing yoga teacher training; this was my new career," Malia says. She's taught at every studio in Steamboat: Old Town Hot Springs, Elevation Dance Studio, The Foundry, Rakta Hot Yoga and more. "Each studio has its own unique community and offering," she says. "There are so many different ways of sharing it, and we're lucky to have access to such variety of skilled teachers."
Besides the physicality and community, Malia also enjoys studying its philosophy.
"The teachings of the practice are incredibly wise and applicable in modern day, informing us on how to heal and live out the best versions of ourselves," she says. "I try to universalize these ancient teachings, make them a bit more contemporary while still honoring the lineage."
Two years after her initial teacher training, Malia trained with teacher Rusty Wells in San Francisco for her 500-hour certification, and has since worked on his teacher certification team.
"I want to continue to learn how to best share this practice," she says. "I am always a student, and I’m inspired to keep growing as a human being. I also enjoy supporting new teachers in finding their voice, offering guidance on their path of sharing yoga."
Malia is also currently back in school, earning a master's degree in counseling: transpersonal psychology.
"Yoga is a practice of transpersonal psychology," Malia says. "It is exploring the psyche and one’s whole being intimately, expanding consciousness, which is what yoga teaches us how to do.
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"I love teaching yoga in this town," she adds. "I find great joy in the process and hopefully it benefits others. To see people in class drop into their body, breathe, and evolve in their practice blows me away. It's not always easy to be with yourself, to shift and change patterns, to open and get stronger. They're doing it, and it's inspiring to me. They teach me."
Malia will be leading a yoga retreat at Costa Rica's Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort in March. As usual, she says, all are welcome.