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Celebrity Health - Kristina Rihanoff

Image of Kristina Rihanoff © Benji Dotan @benji_dotan_creative

Former Strictly Come Dancing star Kristina Rihanoff talks to Liz Parry about her new life as a yoga teacher and owner of a wellbeing centre

Professional ballroom dancer, instructor and choreographer Kristina Rihanoff has been dancing since the tender age of five. Born in Vladivostok, Russia, she has travelled the world during her glittering career, competing in dance championships and choreographing shows. However, she is perhaps best known for her time as a professional dancer on the hit BBC show Strictly Come Dancing. Having first joined the show in 2008, she competed every year till 2015, partnering with the likes of Jason Donovan, John Sergeant and her now husband, former rugby player Ben Cohen. Kristina lives in Northampton with Ben and their daughter Mila. The couple now run a yoga and wellbeing centre called Soo Yoga.

Q What prompted you to set up your own yoga and wellbeing centre?

Kristina: I have always loved yoga and have practised it for 25 years. I’m a big fan of hot yoga especially. I was hooked after the first time I tried it because my body felt amazing. I felt, as a dancer, I could just go further in my flexibility and I had that lightness about me. So when I became a mum and had my little one, I was desperate to go back to yoga and get back in shape. But there was nowhere offering hot yoga where I lived. Ben and I were thinking about what we could do next with our lives after I had finished Strictly and he had finished in sport, so we decided we wanted to create a wellbeing centre with families and mums in mind.

Q So you retrained as a yoga teacher?

Kristina: Yes, I did the training, and I’ve been teaching it for five years now. I’ve always been a dance teacher and I find that the two disciplines are very similar. You need to find the right vocabulary to relate the movements to beginners and you must be able to talk about anatomy and alignment, as well as correct posture and correct breathwork. It’s an amazing crossover and I feel like one enhances the other.

Q What are some of the benefits that yoga has brought to your life?

Kristina: When I first started doing hot yoga I would go with my dance partner four or five times a week. After days of teaching and doing our own practice, we would always go to a class in the evening. It became our little ritual before dance competitions as it really helped to calm the nerves. We would start doing the breath work and a bit of vinyasa flow or sun salutations and all the other dancers would look at us and think we were crazy! I love it because it’s like a moving meditation. It’s very therapeutic. When you dance, or when you do yoga, you can’t think of anything else because you have to focus on your breathing, the movements and the music. So you’re switching off that little machine inside that is full of constant worries and thoughts. It’s my time just for myself, and I love that.

Q Do you still teach dance?

Kristina: Yes, I run a dance school, Bespoke Ballroom, which has been around since my days on Strictly. I teach dance to children and I take them to competitions so I’m kind of passing on the passion for dancing to the next generation. Maybe we are raising the next generation of dancers for Strictly Come Dancing!

Q You switched to a plant-based diet a few years ago. How has that benefitted your health and wellbeing?

Kristina: I started following a plant-based diet around a year after having my daughter Mila, so four years ago now. I took a food intolerance test and it turned out that I have a really strong dairy intolerance. So I removed dairy from my diet and within the first month I lost a lot of weight. I also felt so much better and lighter. I think I had been quite bloated but all that went after I cut out dairy.

Q What do you tend to eat during a typical day?

Kristina: I always start the day with coffee – I can’t live without it! And I will have fruit of some kind, like berries, a banana or an apple; something I can take with me in the car. Then at around 10.30 or 11am I might have a protein shake with a plant-based milk like coconut or almond. Lunch is often a big salad, sometimes with some tofu or a plant-based meat alternative. Then, late afternoon, around four or five o’clock I’ll have another protein shake or smoothie. For dinner I really love stir fries, so I’ll have some vegan noodles and lots of veggies. Or I might have a vegetable curry made with coconut milk.

Q What do you do to relax and chill out?

Kristina: I love doing things with my family like going to an adventure park, or to a movie or for a meal. Going out with the family is a really wonderful, relaxing thing to do. Also, my little guilty pleasure is to sit and watch Netflix as that helps me to relax too.

To find out more about Soo Yoga, visit Follow Kristina on social media: @krihanoff

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