Growing up in Idaho, between an an older and younger brother, Kristin McGee can’t remember a time when sports and the outdoors were not a big part of her life. From riding dirt bikes with her siblings, to hiking and building tree forts, to playing tennis and dancing, she was constantly moving growing up. But it wasn’t until she began pursuing her bachelor’s degree in acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts that she stumbled upon the one activity that would come to have the biggest impact on her and her future: yoga.
The Yoga Bug
It was early 1990 when Kristin packed up and headed to Manhattan from Idaho to attend NYU. As she began her studies in acting, she remembers being introduced to yoga by her professors, who suggested the practice as a way for their students to become more connected with their bodies. For Kristin, however, it didn’t take long before yoga became less of a recommended supplement to her acting and more of a staple in its own right.
“I fell in love with it,” she says of her early experience with the practice. “It became this huge part of my life, and when I graduated, I decided to get certified to instruct so that I could teach while pursuing my acting career.”
Before long, Kristin’s plan to teach yoga on the side of her acting pursuits transformed into a full-on career. From teaching group yoga classes and private celebrity sessions – she’s worked with Tina Fey, LeAnn Rhimes, and Bethany Frankel, just to name a few – to creating yoga videos, each opportunity within the yoga world continued paving the way to another for Kristin, all the while bringing her closer to the yogi community.
“I just kept getting asked to do so much more in the yoga world,” she says as she describes the sequence of events that made yoga more of a central career focus for her. “I started thinking that maybe I should just stick with that route and I absolutely love it.”
The Actress-Yogi Balance
While the decision to make yoga a full-time career could have easily felt like turning her back on acting, Kristin has never looked at the situation as a trade-off. Instead, she considers the two – acting and yoga, that is – to be remarkably complementary. If anything, Kristin’s experience is evidence that this notion is valid, since her background in acting is what opened many doors for her in the world of yoga.
“I really think that that’s how all of my DVD work came about,” she says of the link between acting and the work that she has done as a yogi. “People know that I have that background in acting, so I will constantly get asked to do work like that. That’s how I got into doing a yoga video series for MTV, and then from there I did a Pilates for Beginners title for them, and then I did a video with Bethany Frankel after that, too.”
As she describes the yoga and Pilates video projects that she’s worked on in the past, she grows especially excited when it comes to her work with Bendigirl, an approach she developed to bring yoga to youth.
“That’s my passion!” she says enthusiastically. “I have a Bendigirl video, I teach Bendigirl classes, I do Bendigirl birthday parties – it’s great! I just hope I can continue making it bigger. Eventually, I would love to have a huge charity around it and to continue building the Bendigirl brand and bringing yoga to youth and kids at a very young age.”
Besides the role that acting has played in opening doors for Kristin in the yoga world, she also
doesn’t hesitate to credit her training as an actress as coming in handy as a yoga instructor in general. For Kristin, who describes her preferred method of instruction as alignment-based Vinyasa flow, teaching bears a strong resemblance to performing, and she feels that she uses her skills as an actress to regularly keep her classes engaged when she is instructing.
The Yoga Lifestyle
As with any fitness pro, Kristin knows that regularly exercising is only one part of the health equation, and that the real trick is developing a lifestyle that makes health a priority in every aspect of life. Naturally, as the busy mother of a 2-year-old, she also realizes that this is often easier said than done. Luckily, yoga comes in handy as more than just a physical exercise, allowing her to create a healthy routine that are essentially rooted in the practice’s philosophies and principles.
“Of course, the first step to being healthy for anyone is a willingness,” she says. “That, and consistency. But for me, yoga has also played a huge role because it’s all about balance and not being so extreme in one direction or the other. So I’ll have a glass of wine at night when I want to, and I’ll have a grass-feed burger every now and then. I’m not strict in ways that make my life. I just stick to an overall healthy diet, lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, good carbs. I move as much as much as I can, I try to sleep a decent 7 hours a night. I focus on having face time with friends away outside of the world of social media. All of that is essential.”
Kristin also touches on yoga as instrumental in keeping her outlook positive, thanks to the focus that it places on breathing and simply being present in the moment, which comes in handy in all parts of life.
There’s a Yogi in All of Us
For novices who are reluctant to jump into yoga – this is hardly a rarity – Kristin assuages fears with her confident assurance that yoga is for everyone.
“Yoga is just about getting to know your body better, and anybody can do that,” she says. “At any age and at any stage in your life, it’s possible to develop a better relationship with your body. You can learn how it moves better; that if you fold in a certain way, you’ll be able to control your hips better and get a better stretch through your hamstrings, or that if you use your abdominals in a certain way, you’re going to sit taller all day long and your back is going to feel better at the end of the day. It’s just important to think about it as adding little pieces of yoga to your life instead of feeling like you have to go from where you are now to being a contortionist.”
Just in case you’re still wondering why yoga even deserves to be a part of your routine in the first place, Kristin has your answer for that, too: “One down dog a day keeps the doctor away.” How about them apples?