I discovered Pilates in the ‘90s while attending New York University's theatre program, where we used it—along with yoga and other techniques—to warm up. At the time though, I was focused on performing. I had been a dancer ever since starting tap, jazz and ballet when I was four years old. And my family was full of entertainers. My parents met as lead players in “Little Mary Sunshine” at Idaho State University before eloping and having me and my two brothers. My dad loved to sing and play the piano, so much so that my mom encouraged him to start a singing group (called K.C. and the Sunshine Kids!). You could say I was bitten by the performing bug at a very young age and always dreamed of moving from Pocatello, Idaho to the Big Apple to become a Broadway star.
When I graduated from NYU, my parents gifted me a gym membership, and I instantly gravitated toward the yoga and Pilates classes. In my first-ever yoga class, I felt like I had come home. It was the kind of movement and connection I had been looking for. I did a headstand right away and had a realization that I must have practiced yoga in a past life. I felt drawn to the practice and knew it was my calling. After that first class, the teacher, Cyndi Lee, announced she was holding a yoga certification—and I immediately signed up.
After certifying in 1997, I soon began teaching yoga at the very same gym. There, I was often asked to substitute teach Pilates classes because there were so few teachers in both disciplines back then. So I decided I had better learn to teach Pilates as well!
I went to the Kane School of Core Integration and certified in Pilates with Kelly Kane, who is just a brilliant teacher. Although yoga and Pilates are similar in some ways, they are completely different disciplines. But I loved teaching both forms of mindful movement techniques and felt so in my groove.
One day, when I was teaching a yoga class in Times Square, a producer from MTV was in my class and approached me afterward. She asked if I had a headshot on me—and sure enough, I did! At the time I was still actively pursuing my acting career and was so psyched I was prepared. Soon after, I was cast as the host, choreographer and star in the first MTV Yoga video.
That DVD did so well that the next year we followed up with MTV Pilates and MTV Power Yoga. I have to tell you about a hilarious moment (in retrospect): We filmed MTV Pilates in Arizona, and one day we picked up shooting after a lunch break. I started rolling like a ball … and I accidentally passed a little gas. It was probably my most embarrassing moment ever, and the poor cameraman who was going in for a low shot jumped back a few feet. Sometimes those yoga and Pilates moves mix things up a bit!
A year later, we shot MTV Pilates Mix (a combo of yoga and Pilates). MTV got my name out there as a talented on-air yoga and Pilates teacher, which granted me some tremendous opportunities. I began working with celebrities like Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Leann Rimes, Savannah Guthrie, Jennifer Lawrence and Emilia Clarke, to name a few. I graced the cover of “Pilates Style” magazine three times, and I was the expert on HSN for the Pilates Power Gym for seven years. In 2010, I had the super fun opportunity to play “Kaitlin the yogaerobics instructor” on Season 4 of 30 Rock opposite Jason Sudeikis. It was a pinch-me moment where my acting dreams and my passion for what I do as a yoga and Pilates instructor came together. Acting and mind/body movements are both intimate and immediate experiences. You can’t be somewhere else when you’re focused on your breath and staying present, whether in an acting role or on the mat.
I never thought a girl from Pocatello, Idaho could still be living out her dreams in NYC. I wake up every day so grateful for the opportunity to share what I love with the incredible Peloton community. The magic of working out together while connecting to ourselves and with others is truly a gift. Connecting to our core is not just a physical process; we also feel more connected to our core values, our gut instincts and our true self. It reinforces our relationship to our powerhouse that gives us the strength to achieve everything we want in life.
If you’re ready to join Kristin in her journey, count yourself in for an upcoming yoga class!