mala yoga

Interview with a Fitness Professional - Stephanie Creaturo

Stephanie Creaturo is one of those people who you want to bottle up and take with you everywhere you go. From her wise words on yoga, life, business and relationships to her fun, realistic personality, Steph is a rare human and the Brooklyn community is lukcy to have her. Catch her amazing yoga classes (and runners - YOU NEED to go to her Yoga for Runners class) at Mala Yoga in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. She's running the NYC Marathon in November and we are so excited to cheer her on! We took a slightly different format for today's interview. Enjoy!

Hi, I'm Steph, one of the owners of Mala Yoga, a community-based yoga studio in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. I'm a yoga teacher, business owner, a mom, and life-long runner!

Let's see, I started running as a kid, like 8 years old or so. I hated (and still do!) team sports and I'm kinda uncoordinated, so running was the thing that made gym bearable for years.  Since I was shy and a bit of a bookworm,  I liked the solitary nature of running. Even though there have been times when I fell away from running (uh, college), I have always returned to it.  As I grew older, running became the default thing to do to clear my head and hit reset on everything in my life.  

Best piece of running advice? From the Hot Birds - Put one foot in front of the other.  There is something so profound in that basic statement - well, we sorta miss the wisdom in it.

One piece of advice to new runners? You are your own point of reference, both in body and mind. Running is amazing that way. Sure, you can compete with other runners, but your running emerges when you connect with where you are in your health, your life, and your body.  Only by knowing where you are in body, mind, and spirit  will you get stronger, faster, wiser. Or whatever your goals are - they won't be met by using joe dude over there as your starting point.  Oh, and the race won’t run itself - training is essential and transformative - you may be surprised at how much in your life shifts when you’re on a training plan.

Inspired me to run? My aunt. She ran in the 1970s and 1980s when there were not a lot of women running. She was the coolest person I knew and always did her own thing, which included running. I watched her run the NYC Marathon in the early 1980s and remember thinking “I want to do that one day.”

Who do I want to run with? This was hard! I love music and, along with running, it has been a mainstay in my life. I thought about this and I think someone like Blondie or Joan Jett or the Go-Go’s.  What those gals did for music gets a bit lost these days - but their sound back then was really revolutionary. I'd love to hear their stories.

One of my fave things is to work with runners. Their discipline is Inspiring and they love to work hard. And they tend to intrinsically understand the value of process.

Fave way to sweat? Always running. I do love yoga, but for different reasons.

Fave post-workout meal? While I love smoothies, I need real food after I run. Here’s my marathon training go-to: a salad of quiona, kale, roasted chili chickpeas, lots of seasonal veggies, homemade cumin & lemon dressing, and some roasted nuts.  And a huge green juice!


We Love...Cross Training

Over the next week, we are featuring things, products, races, classes and places we love. Let us know how you love to cross train in the comments section!

Running is our go-to activity however we love checking out classes and cross training activities.  Besides being a vital part of any running schedule, cross training is fun! It makes your muscles and mind work differently.

One of our favorite ways to cross train is to hit some of NYC’s amazing studios and gyms and take classes from instructors who inspire us and make us like a sweaty indoor 60 minute class. We’ve found some kick-ass classes in other cities during our travels as well. Here are a few that we love.

  • Fitness/Cardio Classes
    • Liz Lefrois is our go-to instructor. She teaches at Equinox locations in NYC. She’s fun and offers a challenging class
  • Spin Classes
    • Gregg Cook  is our FAVE instructor. You feel like an athlete in his classes, which we love.
    • Soul Cycle and FlyWheel are fun, sweaty classes
    • Best option - get outside and ride in Central Park or Prospect Park
  • Bar Classes
    • Physique 57 is a fast paced class that leaves you sweaty and tone.
    • Bar Method is a bit slower but still tones and lengthens. Check out their SoHo location.
    • Barre 3, out of Portland, OR, offers online bar classes that we've been doing in our kitchens (subscriptions are $15/month)
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
    • Our go-to is Mala in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
    • Check out Virayoga in SoHo for alignment based yoga
    • Laughing Lotus in Chelsea is a fun, flow class
    • Shambhala in Prospect Heights has an array of classes

How to Stay Strong Anywhere

We love being outdoors and pretty much do anything we can to avoid the gym, with the exception of our favorite yoga and pilates classes. However, we need to stay strong to ensure that we are able to run efficiently, faster and maintain overall balance in our body.

So, if you are like us and don't relish the gym and weights, make your living room or your local park your very own personal gym!

Here are our favorite exercises. We do these 2-3 times a week and sometimes mix them up within our run. We recommend warming up with a fast walk for slow jog for about 10 minutes and then jumping into these exercises that only require your body weight.

Full Body:

Walk outs: These suckers will get your heart rate up and strength your whole body. Make sure you hold your core tight and breath.


Single Leg Squat: Improve your balance, flexibility and strength your leg muscles all at the same time!

Step Back Lunge: This variation puts less stress on the knees. If your knees hurt while doing this exercise, try a stationary lunge by stepping your leg back and then moving up and down without returning to the starting position.

Single Leg Deadlift: We love this exercise because it improves one legged stability and gets your glutes firing which is key for an efficient and powerful stride.

Calf Raises: All to often, runners overlook their lower leg muscles. Add in calf raises to increase strength and ward off injuries.

Upper Body:

Superman: You will feel super powerful after performing 2 sets of this exercise. Cape optional.

Triceps Dip: Find a bench or stairs on one of your runs and work those arms!

Plank Walks: Great total body exercise. Keep those abs tight and shoulder blades flat on the back and your legs engaged.


Plank and Side Plank: Another one of our favorites. Try this as a series: 30 second forearm plank, 30 second left side plank, 30 second forearm plank to 30 second right side plank. Don't sink those hips and make sure your shoulders are over your elbows.

Russian Twist: Strengthens the obliques which are essential to maintaining proper running form. The slower the twist, the deeper the burn.

Bridge Lift: This is a great exercise for your abs and your glutes. Hold for 10-15 seconds on your last rep and really engage your obliques closest to your hip bones.

Hot Bird Running Class on Saturday

Our outdoor classes are back! We are kicking off a season of Hot Bird Running classes this Saturday at 9am. Meet us at Mala Yoga, 162 Court St at Amity St, for an hour long, fun running and strength class. 

During the class, we'll run 2 to 2.5 miles with stops in between to perform strength exercises targeted to runners. Must be able to run 2 miles continuously. Email us if you have questions!

Class is $15, cash or check. Bring water and a friend! See you at 9am outside of Mala.

Yoga for Runners

We asked one of our favorite teachers, Stephanie Creaturo, to help us with some post run yoga. Her take on yoga, the body and runners always blows us away. Need to slow down, relax, stretch or feel good after a run? Head to Mala Yoga. Every single teacher knows their stuff and cares.

As a yoga teacher and a runner, I get asked a lot what are the best stretches to do after a run. There’s a good chance my fellow runner will also say “I don’t have a lot of time to stretch.” I get it! There are a million stretches out there and even more yoga poses.  And training for a race takes a lot of time. What’s a runner to do?

I totally believe that running and yoga can peacefully co-exist!  I hope you can check out an appropriate-level class for you at your local yoga studio – many studios (like mine) offer classes just for athletes or runners. Even if you go once a week, the teacher will lead you through a variety of poses, some of which you may be familiar with, some of which you may not.  Either way, you’ll certainly stretch out those muscles used in running, but you can also be inspired to get out of your stretching rut!  Yoga mixes up how it challenges the muscles in the body, which is great conditioning for the body and the mind.

Here’s one of my favorite poses to teach runners and to do after a long run. (Note, I don’t use the words “stretch” and “pose” interchangeably; I can think of a million different things when I’m stretching. When I’m engaged in a yoga pose, my attention is squarely placed on my breath and how my breath is guiding my physical alignment. But no matter what you do post-run, yoga or stretching, your body will thank you by staying healthy!)

It is called Parsvottonasana, or intense side stretch. Many yoga teachers call it “pyramid pose” because of the shape your body takes once its in the final pose. I find it to be a wonderful post-run balm for the backs of my legs, my low back, and my spine.

I love to do this pose with my hands on a wall or a park bench. By pressing my hands into a wall or the edge of a bench, I can integrate my arms to my shoulder sockets and let my shoulders & hips be aligned while I lengthen the muscles at the back of my legs.

Let’s get into the pose on the right side first!

1.     Place your hands on a wall or the edge of a bench.  Keep your ears in line with your upper arms as you walk your hips & feet back in space, bringing the spine parallel to the ground beneath you.

2.     Step the right foot towards the wall or the bench. The right toes point straight forward. Keep the right knee straight and the right heel in line with the right sitting bone. The right hip draws straight back in space as you firmly press the four points of the right foot into the ground beneath you.

3.     Squiggle the left leg back a bit, angling the left foot at a 70 degree angle. Zipper the outer edge of your left foot to the ground as you firmly press the four points of that foot down. The left heel is in line with the left sitting bone.  Your legs are now asymmetrical to each other.


4.     The hips are level in space – imagine that you’ve placed your open bottle smack in the center of the pelvis and you don’t want it to slip to the floor, spilling all your water.

5.     Push your hands into the wall or the bench, which will help take your hips and thighbones back in space. Keep firming the bottoms of the feet to the ground as you tack your sitting bones to your heels.

6.     Make sure you’re not locking your knees! Of course, if the hamstrings are singing an opera to you, then bend that right knee. Otherwise, engage the quadriceps to the thighbones and make sure you’re not rolling to your outer right foot.

7.     Breathe in Parsvottonasana for at least five breaths, working up to 10 deep breaths. To exit the pose, lift your gaze, step your left foot forward to meet your right foot, then repeat on the second side.

Now that you’re in the shape of a pyramid, you may wonder why it’s called intense side stretch. Good question! Most of us would call it calf or hamstring stretching pose.  But the name is a great reminder to keep the sides of the waist long and the abdominal area engaged as we stretch our legs.

Remember, yoga poses can take a zillion different shapes and your body is as unique as your fingerprints! When doing a post-run pose, make sure you’re stretching the belly of the muscle and not at the junction your muscles connect to the bone. Also, use resistance – it is a great tool to keep the muscles, bones & connective tissue speaking the same language post-run.

Lastly, make sure to budget a few extra minutes into the end of your run to stretch or strike a pose - it’s a better than striking out due to injury or exhaustion, especially if you’re training for a race.