A Day in the Life of Horizon Hot Yoga’s Dream Director

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This article is sponsored by Horizon Hot Yoga.

When you arrive at Horizon Hot Yoga, you’ll find 29-year-old Ceci Castillo, the studio director, quietly perched on a stool tending to business. Don’t let her quietness fool you — she’s tenacious. In fact, most people don’t realize the dark-haired beauty is a driving force behind the success of Horizon.

While owners Mike and Mary Von Ahnen have a corporate background, Ceci brings the yoga experience. Together, the trio has created a unique and sustainable yoga venture — even becoming well-known across the DFW area.

Like most yogis, yoga wasn’t on Ceci’s radar as a career path or personal journey. While most people don’t take up a yoga practice until they’re in their 30’s or even golden years, Ceci fell in love with yoga at the youthful age of 18.

Horizon Hot Yoga cecilia castillo

Ceci shared, “I first encountered yoga at the 24 Hour Fitness center where I regularly worked out. I always saw the yogis happily attending class.” She wondered what the yoga glow was all about and asked her friends to try it with her. She quickly learned what the coveted “ahh” yoga-state-of-being was all about.

“I felt so good,” she says. “I just instantly fell in love with yoga and started practicing regularly with hopes of bettering my body, but received far more. Yoga gives me a sense of calm in the chaos of life.”

Horizon cecilia castillo 1Over the next seven years, Ceci became dedicated to her Bikram yoga practice. In fact, she loved the journey so much that she took a desk staff position at a yoga studio in Richardson. There, she began to learn the ropes of studio management.

I loved running the format of a yoga studio and wanted to help others have the same amazing experience!”

Along her journey, she explored various yoga styles, teachers, and studios, helping her to determine not only what she preferred, but what was trending in the yoga world.

After years of practicing the “hot as hades” style of yoga (Ceci loves the temp) along with running a studio, it was natural for her to transition into instructor mode. But, like many of us, she needed an encouraging push. Studio owner Yassi Maige was right there to give her an encouraging nudge. “What are you waiting for?”

Ceci earned her certification and began teaching Bikram and Hot 26 yoga. The yoga sessions offer 26 postures and a two-breath pattern sequence. Loving to explore and learn, she didn’t stop there with her yoga education. To fine-tune her credentials, she consistently avails herself to training and workshops, gleaning experience from various teachers around the world.

“I hate the term guru and refuse to use it.”

On a comical note, when asked Ceci who her favorite yoga guru is, she said, “I hate the term guru and refuse to use it.” I had to chuckle. When I reworded the question to ask, “What yoga teacher has resonated with you the most?” She immediately said, “David Kyle. I love the way he moves freely in yoga and I want to move like that.”

Kyle is most notably known for Ashtanga and Rocket yoga in the industry. After taking Kyle’s five-day Rocket Yoga training, she felt confident to walk out the door and begin teaching. Ceci liked Kyle’s style so much that when word got out that he had a training scheduled in September, she immediately signed up. She’s also a big fan of Jonas Park, owner of Second Side in Dallas. Don’t be surprised if you occasionally see her down-dogging it at Park’s studio.

It’s a small world.

It was at that Bikram studio in Richardson where the Horizon Hot Yoga trio first connected. Mike and Mary Von Ahnen attended classes there and Ceci helped to run the studio. Mary observed how efficient Ceci was in her role as a desk staff person.

Horizon cecilia castilloMary said, “Ceci performed many behind the scenes activities to help the studio run smoothly.” Later Ceci ventured off to a position with more responsibilities at the East Dallas Bikram yoga studio, ultimately losing touch with the Von Ahnen’s.

Meanwhile, Mike and Mary said goodbye to the corporate world, and hello to owning Horizon Hot Yoga in Frisco. Recognizing the need to find a good studio manager, the search began. Mary shared,

Positions like Ceci’s don’t really exist in the yoga community. You generally find owners who want to make all the decisions and maybe they have desk staff. In other cases, a studio manager is mostly there to carry out the orders of the owners.

After eight months of searching for the right person, they had almost given up. Then, mutual friends reunited “the trio”.

Ceci made a decision to unite her passions with Mike and Mary’s business backgrounds, and join their team. Mary adds,

The last three years have been pretty amazing! Ceci has an instinct for raw talent and has worked with new teachers to shape them to be instructors well-loved by our community. More importantly, instructors that fit Horizon’s culture. Horizon’s community is our secret sauce!

~Mary Von Ahnen, Co-owner, Horizon Hot Yoga

Through Ceci’s training and exploration in the yoga world, she’s made many priceless connections. Her networking has landed “yoga-lebrities” like Ben Sears and Carson Clay Calhoun to host workshops and training at HHY. Names like these have attracted yogis across the metroplex to visit the Studio.

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If her passion and background weren’t enough, Ceci also brings the fresh perspective of a millennial. She understands that her generation is known for prioritizing their health and well-being and that millenials love to have everything at their fingertips.

So, when the pandemic hit, Ceci quickly helped Mike and Mary shift their offerings to digital. Classes were offered on Facebook Live and later transitioned to Zoom. Moving forward, they will continue to offer online class offerings as well as in-studio.

As Horizon Hot Yoga enjoys their current success and considers the future, Mike and Mary hope to open more studios across the metroplex. And one thing is for certain — they want Ceci to be right there paving the yoga way!

Horizon logo orangeTo experience one of Ceci Castillo’s Hot 26 or Rocket classes checkout Horizon Hot Yoga’s schedule. It might become an unexpected, inspiring journey, just as it did for “the trio”.