Interview with Kristina Kashtanova

Internationally Acclaimed Photographer and Yoga Teacher

The Interview

Andrew: What is the #1 thing you do to maintain your health??

Kristina: Every morning when I get up I write three pages of my thoughts. I let it all out, no judgement, not making it a literature masterpiece. It's a cleaning of consciousness procedure for me. Then I usually do a meditation and write an affirmation for the day. I put it somewhere where I can see it often and it reminds me of something important for the day. My favorite affirmations so far are, "I am love," or "I choose to see peace instead of this."

Andrew: Where is your favorite place in the world?

Kristina: My favorite place in the world is where my close friends are. I can be happy anywhere as long as I feel connection with people around. I'm a people's person.

Andrew: Beach or Mountains?

Kristina: Mountains. I was born around mountains but left when I was 16 years old and haven't been to mountains ever since. In my dreams and visions I have mountains following me and calling to return one day.

Andrew: Was there one moment or event that set you on track for a healthy lifestyle?

Kristina: There were two moments.

One, was when I was 22 years old and I worked long hours as a software engineer. One day, I was going to have a massage and in my country you had to take some medical tests to have it covered by insurance. So I did my tests and went back to work and in the evening I was called and said that I had a terminal blood condition that's going to eventually kill me. It changed my life. I quit my job, I went to see all the people I love and I didn't tell anyone about it because I didn't know how. But thankfully my mum knew what happened to me and she refused to believe that I would die. She convinced me not to refuse therapy. Originally, it was my decision because I didn't believe it would be effective. But I was 1 of 3,000 people luckily cured. It made me trust that you always need to try everything available to survive. Seven years later I became a blood donor. It takes longer for me to recover after every donation but I'm qualified to do that and each time means a victory for me because it was a journey from being so sick to being healthy enough to help others. 

Second moment was related to my mental health and was as important. I was struggling with my mind so much when I was 26 years old. I didn't know what to do. I tried drugs and it made me feel even worse and lose many of my friends. I managed to stop, then I tried therapy and it helped and explained to me a lot of things about myself, but I didn't know what to do next. Then by happy coincidence, thanks to my passion for photography, it led me to yoga. I photographed a yogi and he introduced me to this beautiful practice. My life was transformed by yoga and keeps me alive and going every day. I still struggle a lot with my mind, but yoga and meditation helps. 

Andrew: What ONE thing would you recommend everyone should do daily?

Kristina: Taking a walk outside for at least 30 minutes without any single purpose with your phone off.

Andrew: Where do you draw inspiration from?

Kristina: My inspiration comes from my meditation practice. I like books. I read all the time and can't get enough of it. I'll list a few books. I think, every person benefits from reading.

Books I recommend: 

"On Writing" - Stephen King

"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" - Elizabeth Gilbert

"The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma" - Bessel van der Kolk

"The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" - Eckhart Tolle

Andrew: Can you sum up your philosophy on health in one sentence?

Kristina: My philosophy is our mind has a power beyond anything we know of. I believe that love has a healing power and an open heart and care to others can save lives. Physical health depends a lot on mental health and I made my life goal to find ways to decrease emotional suffering of others and myself.