If you were going to cast someone in the role of “yoga instructor,” Krystal Say would be a natural fit. She’s warm and kind—and not in a superficial way. When Krystal speaks to you, it feels like every word is pouring straight out of her soul. With her toned arms and calm demeanor, you could easily imagine that she grew up on a yoga mat.
She’ll be the first to tell you that’s far from the truth.
Movement has always been Krystal’s thing. She never received a math or science award in school, but from third grade on, she received the Presidential Physical Fitness Award every year. Her first job was at a circuit-training gym. (She was fired for making the cardio circuits fun—a change the clients loved and the manager couldn’t understand.) Her post-college career has been a series of one-on-one and group fitness gigs, eventually leading her to build her own business. For years, however, Krystal took a “go hard or go home” approach to exercise.
“I was a punk,” she said. “I was like, ‘Nobody needs yoga.’”
You can imagine her surprise when she discovered that she needed yoga.
Krystal had left a job at a health club and opened her own training business when she decided to try yoga to cope with stress.
“I took a beginner's class, a gentle class, an intermediate class, and then I found Ashtanga,” she said. “It blended what I love so much about movement and why I teach movement to other people. It gave me access to everything that was already within me—that I may have been numb to, or just unconditioned to listen to—for the rest of my life.”
After embracing yoga in 2014 and getting her teacher certification, Krystal went on to launch Sweat Power Yoga, a studio in East Longmeadow, Mass. that offers both traditional power yoga and TRX Yoga.
Krystal acknowledges the cliches around yoga instructors—the hippy, peace-loving, treehugger archetypes—but she said yoga isn’t about being a stereotype; it’s about being authentic.
“There definitely is a stigma out there—always positive, always happy, a yoga teacher has their life together… I'm always going to be kind. Always. But if I'm tired, I'm gonna let myself be tired.”
Motivated to Move
Krystal’s approach to fitness entrepreneurship is fearless, because she truly loves what she does.
“I literally eat, sleep and breathe to teach. Nothing else brings me more joy. I don't want to do anything else,” she said.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy running a fitness business—especially during a pandemic. The last two years have been an exercise in balancing evolving health guidelines with her clients’ and staff’s safety. Krystal realized along the way that her business model had to change, and her team stepped up to support her in those decisions.
“We started doing on-demand classes. We started doing live streaming classes. I wrote my first 200-hour yoga teacher training program, which was probably the most stressful and exhilarating thing I've ever done in my life,” she said. “I am really, really grateful for a lot that the past few years have offered. I don't want to ignore the fact of how hard it was, and the sacrifice, and how tired and still uneasy the ground is underneath us—but it's starting to feel better.”
Krystal also expanded her role with TRX Yoga during the pandemic. After working with TRX for years to create yoga education for fellow instructors, she started teaching both On Demand and Live classes through TRX Training Club.
While she still loves in-person teaching at her studio and yoga retreats, Krystal recognizes the opportunity that online yoga offers—especially to people who are new to the practice or intimidated by the thought of attempting new postures in a crowded room.
“TRX Training Club really allows people to go at their own pace,” she said. “Maybe you just want to watch today and see what it might be… or maybe you decide to start a class, and—after the first 10, 15 minutes—you just decide you've had enough. You can stop. You can go at your own pace. It's a self-led journey. Once you become comfortable, you don't even have to look at me. I'm going to talk to your body. I'm going to tell you where to put your hands and your feet, where to look, where to feel, so that you can build the confidence on your own timeline, versus somebody else's timeline.”
Slow Is Strong
Fitness buffs. Gym rats. Health nuts. For a lot of people, being strong is about chasing the next goal. It’s that go, go, go approach that Krystal herself once subscribed to. But these days, she sees the power in slowing down and focusing on the movement.
“I like to say, ‘Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.’”
Yoga has loads of benefits—it relieves stress, increases body awareness, sharpens your mind, and improves athletic performance—but creating time and space to slow down may be the most rewarding part.
“The slow down at the end of the practice is sometimes the hardest part of the practice, and the most important. What it can expose is just how much you need that in your life. We've really gotten into a culture where we have separated mind, body: mind-body is the same. Slowing down allows you to get up calmly, clearly, and then perhaps have the clarity to make better choices; for you to keep that space between you and all the stress.”
Yoga is about movement, but it’s also about listening to your body, and giving yourself what you need—whether that’s taking a step back, or accepting a new challenge.
“We think that yoga is a physical practice. It's not. Yoga is actually a way of being. You can't get yourself wrong. It's all about doing the work to always find your authentic self, be who you are, and express that.”