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Hottest Trainer Contestant #1: Natalia Benitez

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Welcome to our search for New York City's hottest trainer. Over the coming weeks, we'll profile twenty-two smoking candidates who work at local gyms and studios. Once you've gotten to know everyone, we'll host a March Madness-style showdown in which you get to vote for your favorite.

Photos by Driely S

Bikram Yoga NYC instructor Natalia Benitez has been teaching and training on and off since 2001, but in 2010 she discovered the popular (albeit very hot) practice. She's energetic, personable, and extremely enthusiastic, but make no mistake—she's tough as hell, thanks to the United States Air Force and the New York Police Department. After the jump, a little bit about her background, and why the fear of looking silly isn't a valid excuse for not working out.

What prompted you to become a trainer. Did you have a different career path in mind?

Oh boy, did I ever. I served in the United States Air Force for four years. That's where I really fell in love with fitness—I was a part-time trainer at the local gym off base. In 2003, I returned to NYC. I was a personal trainer for a couple of gyms but still never found my niche, so I joined the New York Police Department in 2005.

I started Bikram Yoga in 2007 for clarity, flexibility, and peace of mind, and got so much more out of it. It was a game changer. I started really improving my eating habits, and changing my ways of thinking and breathing. I went on a retreat to Costa Rica in 2009 and just knew I had to teach this yoga.

What's one piece of advice everyone should hear before beginning a new workout?

I was just at a summit and one of the speakers said: "You do not have to be good the first time you do anything, you just have to have a first time." I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've heard the excuses for not trying Bikram Yoga or to not even workout. Many times it is fear of "looking silly" or "not being good at it", and that is a shame. For my beginners: Be bold and move your body!

Natalia teaches out of the Midtown and Flatiron Bikram Yoga studios, and occasionally substitutes at the Upper East Side spot. Her website with contact info is below, under her maiden name of Maldonado
· Natalia Benitez [Official Site]
· Bikram Yoga NYC [Official Site]
· All Hottest Trainer 2013 Contestants [Racked NY]