Ninie Ahmad: Off her yoga mat.

Her daily AFFIRMATIONS of staying optimistic especially when she's (upside) down.

Archive for the ‘Legendary Yoga Teachers’ Category

This is how I thank my teacher and our female Ashtanga warrior – the mighty Kino MacGregor.

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I didn’t know how to even begin thanking Kino MacGregor.

Although I have never met her before last week,
I have been practicing Ashtanga Yoga with her DVDs almost everyday for the past 4 years,
I have been replacing my TV time with repeating her YouTubes preaching about yoga and life,
I have been improving my strength with her generous and genius practice techniques,
I have been trying to teach and heal by paraphrasing wisdom of her words and inspiration.

Kino MacGregor is the biggest rockstar in this world for me.

So when I finally got to meet her last week,
I held back my tears of unbelieving that there she was, standing in front of me,
with a welcoming smile, warmly asking my name and telling me to take the most front position and begin my Mysore practice.

The first day of Mysore with Kino,
I practiced ‘only’ First / Primary Series as my lower back has not been feeling happy :( since I returned from Bali.

The persona of a great teacher,
all of my pain, fear and insecurities seemed to disappear,
all my attempts to float in my Surya Namaskar, jump backs and jump throughs were successful that day as it I was granted superpower.

The power of a great teacher,
she recognizes the true potential in you.
At the end of my Day 1 Mysore with Kino,
she told me “Tomorrow, you practice Second (Series). Do you memorize the sequence?”

I hesitated before I answered because although I memorize every pose in Second / Intermediate Series,
my Second Series practice is embarrassing nothing to be proud of, as I have been avoiding Dwi Pada Sirsasana like a plague and usually skim through the leg-behind-the-head-poses and rush to arms balancing with the likes of (and my favourite!) Mayurasana, Pincha Mayurasana and the seven Headstands.

So I nodded a shy ‘Yes’ and came up with my excuse “But I injured my back while posing for a photo a month ago. Should I still practice Second?”

“Yes but with correct techniques. Whenever we get injured, don’t skip the practice, don’t avoid the poses but heal by keeping bandhas and correct techniques. I will help you tomorrow.”

And help she did.
I feel healed alright.

Now how do I thank her?

You know how they say,
give like how you like to receive?

I love making, giving and getting greeting cards.

My husband and I have this ritual of giving each other cards on every 11th of the month after we got married (we got married on 11th December). When I feel at my most creative, I’d personally handmake the cards.

And so I gave Kino my cards for every day I practiced Mysore and did workshop with her.

Day 1

Day 3

Day 4

My time in making the cards and money spent for the four days in Singapore
(God help me, Singapore hotels are crazy expensive!)
were nothing compared to THIS smile I got from Kino upon receiving my card again..

But words are easy and cards are just papers.

I felt the need and responsibility to do something more
as she has genuinely shared so much more with the world by sharing beautifully-edited DVDs and thoughtfully-made YouTubes.

What more can I do?

I stick to my best.

Pens and papers. And scrapbook goodness goodies my Canadian mother-in-law and sisters-in-law have been stocking me with.

I decided to start a scrapbook on Kino’s teachings on Ashtanga, yoga and life (my husband said I’m a Kino stalker groupie..) :roll:

Preview of a couple of pages:

And lucky me, Kino already signed her blessings on the first page!

I promised Kino

  • to show her the completed scrapbook the next time I see her, be it on other part of this world.
  • and to keep sharing, teaching and practicing, practicing and practicing. The rest is coming.

Thank you Kino,

for everything you are,
for everything I am
and for everything I will be.

I bow to the Lotus feet of Kino MacGregor.

Written by Ninie

May 3rd, 2012 at 4:41 pm

‘May leaders govern the world with law and justice.’ ~ASHTANGA MANGALA MANTRA

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One of the best things I love about daily (OK OK, six days a week..) Ashtanga practice is
the beautiful and meaningful Opening & Closing Prayers that we recite before and after practicing.

Since the mantras are translated from high-level Sanskrit,
they have different translations depending on who translates it.

My favourite version has got to be from Matthew Sweeney’s Astanga As It Is book
(did I tell you I attended his workshop THIS VERY MORNING? :cool: )

At Celeste Lau’s Back On The Mat, Singapore

स्वस्तिप्रजाभ्यः परिपालयंतां
न्यायेन मार्गेण महीं महीशाः ।
गोब्राह्मणेभ्यः शुभमस्तु नित्यं
लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनोभवंतु ॥

svasti-prajā-bhyaḥ pari-pāla-yaṁtāṁ
nyāyena mārgeṇa mahīṁ mahīśāḥ
go-brāhmaṇebhyaḥ śubham-astu nityaṁ
lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhino-bhavaṁtu

May all mankind be prosperous
May leaders govern the world with law and justice
May divinity and erudition be protected
May people of the world be happy.

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
auṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
Om peace, peace, peace.

Ashtanga Closing Prayer / Mangala Mantra

Since I am in Singapore for Matthew Sweeney and Kino MacGregor’s Ashtanga workshops and Mysore classes, I don’t know what is on front page of local dailies back home but this is what I read this morning.

Singapore’s New The Sunday Times (29 April, 2012)

Power to the people.
Be the change we want to see in this world.

I accept and welcome opportunities, good fortune and blessings showered upon me.

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2012 has been too kind to me.

In April this year and this month alone,
I managed to study with Ashtanga Godfathers:
Danny Paradise
, Govinda Kai and Prem Carlisi (3 of only 35 certified Ashtanga teachers in this world).

I must have done something really good in this lifetime
(despite what some people say about me “What other people think of me is none of my business.“)
as I will be meeting another two certified Ashtanga teachers and also on the top of my list of five people I want to meet in my life,

all in the same weekend starting tomorrow!

Last week, in the spur of a moment, I decided to eliminate all Yogilates classes at Upward and had our scheduled changed to Intro to Ashtanga as I felt strongly that everything my Yogilates (Yoga + Pilates) class promises can be achieved with Ashtanga Yoga (with investment of more practice and patience).

After I officiated that (resulting Upward to have six Ashtanga classes a week now) – within the next immediate couple of hours, I received unplanned and unbelievable good news that I got the very last spot to study and practice Ashtanga with

THE Matthew Sweeney

the most advanced Ashtanga practitioner in this lifetime
whose ‘Astanga As It Is’ book is a bible to me and a thousand others.

AND the Kino MacGregor,

that I have mentioned only about a hundred times here and in my classes as my biggest inspiration.

All of her videos especially this YouTube speak for me in every level. From her ‘no background of gymnastics and dancing’, ‘wearing make-up and bright coloured coloured clothes’ and ‘always being the smallest person when she was young’, she worded my every issue with grace, compassion and kindness.

Her small frame executing poses that most people give up on even trying and thinking about – has been my strength on how ‘impossible is only an opinion’.

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

I am finally ready.

I don’t know if this is my calling to spread the legacy of Ashtanga to more people around me
but I accept and welcome good fortune and blessings showered upon me.

Til’ I come back in May,
(all classes at Upward GO ON when I’m gone, with the exception of Prenatal Yoga),
see all of you back at Upward with spectrum of Matthew & Kino’s light to be shared!

Love and practice, practice, practice.
Shanti is coming.

The more I teach yoga, the more I practice Ashtanga, the more I realize I am a just tiny drop of water in the ocean and just a small being with thoughts, sensations and muscles I never know I have.

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I might be a yoga teacher but I am NOT an Ashtanga yoga teacher.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might not know the difference of Bikram, Anusara, yoga classes at the gym and Ashtanga.

I might have been teaching yoga for 11 years this year but I am NOT an Ashtanga teacher.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might have no idea that there is a world difference between a yoga teacher and an Ashtanga teacher.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you must have no idea that there is a big difference between an authorized Ashtanga teacher and a ceritifed Ashtanga teacher.

I might be certified in teaching yoga but I am so NOT a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might not know that there are less than 200 authorized Ashtanga teachers and less than 35 certified Ashtanga teachers IN THIS WORLD of 7 billion people and probably a million people having yoga teacher certificates out there.

Unless you practice Ashtanga in Malaysia, you might not know that there is only ONE authorized Malaysian Ashtanga teacher in KL and that she is taking a break from teaching this year.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might not know that you CANNOT pay any body to be an authorized or certified Ashtanga teacher.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might not know that 2 to 5 years practice and 200-hours or 500-hours TTC (Teacher Training Course) are NOT ALL IT TAKES to be an authorized Ashtanga teacher.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might not know that you have to teach (and of course, practice before you teach) Mysore style EVERY MORNING for six days a week.

Unless you teach Ashtanga, you might not know that you have to go to Mysore India at least once EVERY YEAR to renew your practice, authorization or certification.

I am so NOT an authorized Ashtanga teacher.

And so when I travel to Bali or North America, I hunt for Mysore classes with authorized Ashtanga teachers like most Malaysian girls run to the nearest H&M.

And so when I hear any Ashtanga teacher stopping by Kuala Lumpur, I go beyond my means to have them teach a workshop or two at my humble little yoga studio.

And so I am blessed to have Elizabeth Derow who has studied with late Shri K Pattabhi Jois and assisted his grandson Sharath at Mysore last November conducting Ashtanga workshops at Upward twice for the past 4 months.

Liz Derow (UK) | KPJAYI Level 2 with Guruji (Mysore, 2001)

And so I am beyond grateful for Liz is not only a great and compassionate Ashtanga teacher, but for the past week of having spent some time with her showing her around KL, I realized that she truly embodies a walking Ashtangi in her every word, walk and breath. She sees beauty at every corner, she speaks highly of everyone, she sees the positive in everything  – humbling yoga teacher qualities that I am not embarrassed to admit I don’t have.

And so I am humbled when Liz reminded me and my friends at Upward during our last Ashtanga workshop last weekend of how we are of a person outside our yoga mat would truly show when we are alone and still on our mat. If we have been stingy, greedy, impatient, vulnerable, like to put blame on others, arrogant, highly likely we will be the same on our mat and chances for us to get injured, to rush our practice and to blame our ‘inflexibility’ and ‘incapability’ to be still on our mat and perhaps, our ‘incompetent’ teacher. With regular if not daily Ashtanga practice, it is easier to reflect within ourselves why are we behaving in such manners on our mat.

And so I am excited and blessed to have 2012 already filled and planned with visits and workshops at Upward from respected and authorized Ashtanga teachers from all around the world with sea of wisdom and legacy of practice.

Greg Nardi (US) | KPJAYI Level 2 at Upward in July 2012

David Robson (CAN) | KPJAYI Level 2 at Upward in October 2012

I might have been practicing yoga for 13 years but everytime I am on my mat for Ashtanga every morning before I teach, I feel smaller and smaller.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might not know that to say that you practice Ashtanga, you have to practice the series you are practicing (and the previous) six days a week.

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might not know that there are seven Series of levels in Ashtanga yoga with only two people in this world have completed the Seventh Series.

Primary / First Series with Kino MacGregor

Intermediate / Second Series with Kino MacGregor

Advance A / Third Series with Santina

Advance B / Fourth Series with Mark Togni

Unless you practice Ashtanga, you might not know that it takes many years to complete Primary Series, the ‘beginners’ series for Ashtanga and many people will just practice Primary Series for the rest of their life in the same body.

I might have been practicing Primary / First Series almost everyday for the past five years and Intermediate / Second Series almost every Sunday for the past two years and I am still humbled by how more flexible, strong and humble can I be (or not..) everytime I lay everything I have on my mat.

If you think you are strong, fit, perfect, beautiful, powerful, have full control over your body and everyone around you or in this country and could use a slice of humble pie, try Ashtanga (if you don’t mind Idiot’s Guide to Ashtanga with an unauthorized Ashtanga teacher, we have it three times a week at Upward).

Love, light and free breathing with sound.

Yoga 101: Anusara VS Ashtanga Yoga

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Well.. if you have to ask me what’s the difference between Anusara and Ashtanga,
I bet you also don’t know that,

  • Vegan is NOT the short form for vegetarian. All vegans are vegetarians but not every vegetarian is vegan.
  • Pescetarians though (muggles that eat only vegetables and seafood), ARE vegetarians.
  • Briohny Kate-Smyth from this most watched yoga YouTube ever

used to be a mega Thai teen popstar in Thailand, check these out!

Have a good weekend!

“Every Yogi needs a chiropractor and massage therapist, (just like how) all advanced machines need maintenance.” ~MIKE GRAGLIA

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A couple of my students at Upward that are very close to my heart are recovering from some injuries (one minor, one major) and they have expressed their doubts in continuing the physical practice of yoga.

I get injured too sometimes, usually

  • when my ego & arrogance win over my intention to heal & to inspire
  • when I need to look good in photoshoots while standing on my hands instead of caring for my wrists
  • when I have to demonstrate a Chakrasana in Introduction to Ashtanga class while I am not warmed up
  • and.. when I practice Ashtanga anyways on Moon Days

In You Can Heal Your Life, Louise H. Hay addressed
that wrist injury is usually associated with ’stubbornness’.

Injuries are highly personal and must be addressed with ample rest, sitting still and doing absolutely nothing (which is NOT easy to do if meditation is not part of our yoga practice) as healing can only take place when our brain is not busy executing instructions to move parts of our body.

While there might not be a cookie-cutter yoga pose to heal a particular injury (unless we can pinpoint the very cause or exact reason why an injury happens – which is highly unlikely), I came across a couple of very helpful articles written by my yoga inspiration and my fellow yoga teacher friend and I wish to share them here to assist our path to healing (bruised parts of our body, broken corners of our heart and weakened corners of our mind).

With love, I am dedicating these articles and my practice throughout this week to my recovering students and friends.

.   .    .   .   .   .   .

ARTICLE: Let Her Fall: the Road through Pain, to Suffering to Forearm Balance.

by Kino MacGregor

Ashtanga Yoga is, first and foremost, a spiritual practice.

It is not an exercise where you judge your success by how hard you work your body, or how perfect the posture is.

You cannot measure a good yoga class by how many adjustments you get, or how much attention the teacher gives you. While it always feels good to receive the guidance of your teacher, either through verbal or physical cues, there is a deeper relationship to the practice that becomes possible only when you let go of the need to “get” something from the teacher or the class.

Some of my best practices have been in the shala in Mysore, when I did not have a single adjustment from my teachers. Instead, the energy of the room and the practice itself provided a forum for me to explore and experience a myself more fully. In some ways all the adjustments and guidance from a teacher are really just there to create a doorway to the realm where we experience the beauty and grace for ourselves directly. If we rely on getting adjustments and attention from our teachers in order to have a good practice, then we will always be focused on an external source for our own development. Eventually, we must take responsibility for our practice and our own journey.

In the beginning it is, however, essential to have a teacher guide you into the postures. And when you really need help, the teacher should ideally be there for you. But some students get too attached to having help in postures where they would benefit from trying several times on their own. For example, I recently heard R. Sharath Jois say to his assistants in Mysore, India, to let certain students work on challenging arm balances or backbends for awhile before going over to help them. His actual words were

“let him suffer”


“let her fall.”

These two experiences tie directly into the discussion of pain and suffering within the context of our yoga practice, and as such they also offer the most potential for growth and development in the student. When you learn a new posture you often need the teacher present to go to places inside of the body and mind that bring up fear and pain. After awhile, you will need to strengthen your nervous system and face these places with your own inner resolution. Sometimes, asking for the teacher to help you every day is a kind of escape that prevents you from experiencing exactly what you would need to experience in order to learn the tough lessons contained within some of the most difficult postures in the Ashtanga Yoga method. In a posture like Pinchamayurasana, you need to learn how to fall freely and safely to get over the fear of it. If you always either go to the wall or ask a teacher to spot you, then you will never develop the kind of self-confidence that it takes to master the posture on your own. You have to learn to…let yourself fall.

When I first learned Pinchamayurasana, I fell over and over. One day I even fell over more than 20 times. I was impatient and determined. Then after 18 months of trying and falling the balance came and stayed. Yes, you read that correctly! It took me a full year and a half of trying every day to learn how to balance in a simple forearm balance. While I was learning, I used the wall once a week and mostly practiced on my own, so I never even had the chance to have someone catch me. When I went to the wall I stayed for 25 breaths to build strength. When I toppled over I picked my body right back up and tried again. My back was always more flexible than I was strong so in order for me to learn how to balance in this posture I had to learn to be strong enough to control my spine. Pinchamayurasana was a lesson in patience (I am not a naturally patient person), perseverance (I wanted to quit nearly everyday) and ultimately a lesson in self-confidence (I had to learn to believe in the idea of my own strength). Every posture has its own time and its own lesson for each person. They key is to be willing to put in the work whenever you face a moment of difficulty, pain or suffering.

You have to let yourself fall. If you do you practice from the perspective of avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of falling then you deprive yourself of full scope of learning possible through yoga. If you can learn how to face pain and suffering without avoiding it then you have understood what the practice is all about. Learning how to fall is about understanding what suffering is, how to face it, accept it and ultimately make it your friend. This is at the core of yoga’s deepest teaching. Yoga is an ancient spiritual tradition, of which the practice of physical postures, known as asanas, are just one component. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras asana is in fact only one out of the full eight limbs of practice. Recent dialogue within the yoga community, most notably in the New York Times article on yoga-related injuries, presents the notion that yoga might be potentially discounted because of the risk of physical injury. Yet this fails to take into account the spiritual journey to the heart of each student’s essential nature that is at center of the yoga practice itself. A true student of yoga is a sincere spiritual seeker and is willing to go through the work of pain, suffering and potential injury if that road ultimately leads to liberation, happiness, healing and freedom.

My teacher Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said that if you experienced an injury during your physical yoga practice the only real way to heal that injury was through more yoga. He also said that if you quit your practice after having experienced that injury that it would stay with you for a long time, perhaps the rest of your life. If pain can be avoided by students learning their lessons the easy way through an open heart, healthy alignment and accepting attitude that is the fastest road. However, when pain and injury arise it is crucial that you do not run from them nor allow their presence to rule your experience of your body, your practice and your life.

There is a mind-body connection that underlies the practice of physical postures. Yoga is more of a body awareness technique than a physical exercise routine. In fact the main purpose of all the postures is to prepare your body and mind for deeper states of realization. When you try to feel and awaken a forgotten area of the body for the first time it is often hard to rouse. Yoga students must use the posture to dig deeper into the layers of the body and reach through memories, emotions, thoughts and anything else to touch the heart of their human soul with all its foibles and vulnerabilities. In the path of yoga it is essential that when pain arises you do not run from it, reacting to the pain from a purely psychological perspective and throw out the whole tradition based on fear. In fact, when you do experience pain it is sometimes a better teacher of the inner work that happens along the path of yoga. Any injuries that arise can be used to learn a deeper lesson about life so that then actually the path of yoga is truly working from a broader perspective.

When you accept yoga as a spiritual path, the notion of ‘the need for safety’ is challenged. You have the confidence to let yourself fall with the full faith that one day you will catch yourself in the air. Think of the yogi as a brave warrior going on a long and epic journey to the center of the soul. Just as in every heroic epic there are fearsome, painful and worrying battles that test the limits of the hero’s ability, so too in yoga are there challenging, difficult and nearly impossible postures that test the limits of your body and mind. But if you are the hero who is committed to the whole journey, then you also have the heart to see the experience all the way through to the end and win your final freedom.

When you look back you will also see that every step—not just easy ones, but perhaps especially the hard ones—along the way were indeed crucial to the successful conclusion of the your life’s greatest epic.

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ARTICLE: Yogi Support System: Massage and chiropractic

by Mike Graglia

Every Yogi needs a chiropractor and a massage therapist.  Here’s why…

Not what everyone does with their spine.1. All advanced machines need maintenance.
What we do in Yoga (asana, pranayama, meditation) is use our bodies at a level very different than day to day life.  If you are like me you had a couple decades of modern living before you came to the mat.  During the process of increasing range, flexibility and strength, there are likely to be some tweaks.  Just like real life, if you don’t address these small issues, they will grow into bigger ones.  I don’t know about you, but I love learning new poses and pushing my body in new directions, but I then balance that wonderful growth with care and attention from people who can make sure everything (muscles, tendons, vertebrae) are back where they should be.

Small tweaks, big impacts2. Your sensitivity is going up.
Many people walk around all out of whack.  ”Old sports injuries” is something I hear from students often.  And they go on to address this pain or that ache with some over the counter pill to numb the pain.  This is suboptimal.  As Yogis we start to learn that the sensations tell us things and need to listen them.  (We also know that pain killers, also kill balance, which is handy in Yoga.)  We enjoy more sensations as well become more in tune with our bodies.  Like peeling layers off an onion, we become  aware of misalignment and tensions in our body.  This is a gift.  The intelligent intervention of a Chiro and/or massage therapist will help put us on course so those hours on the mat can increase balance instead of reinforcing unhealthy patterns in the body.

Shoulder on left lower than on right…

Bad bike accident3. When things go wrong, you want your support team already in place.
One downside to being a Yogi is that you go to an MD/PT/Chiro/Massage therapist after an accident or a spill and say “My X isn’t right, I can’t move it as much.”  They have you move around and say “Your range of motion is 2x better than most of my patients, go home take some Advil and come back in a few weeks.”  That is when I say “You’re fired.”  But who can blame them?  They see people whose bodies are tied up in knots, then injured and when an injured Yogi walks in, no big deal.  If you already see a therapist/chiro for maintenance, then they know the body, they can define normal–and they can help get you back there.  So they know what to look how, how much your body can handle and what needs help.

I’ve had various minor falls and tumbles off tSeparated shoulder!  Ouch.he mat and on my bike.  I get into my chiro, he looks adjusts and I’m can feel that things are back in order.  This is all the more important when things go really wrong.  Like when I took a flip off my bike and separated my shoulder.  So not good.  One of DC’s best orthos told me not to move, take lots of drugs and come back in 6 weeks to see about surgery.  Fired.

After homeopathics, meditation and many thoughtful gentle chiropractic adjustments, I was back to normal (handstanding) in a few months.

Take care of this body, you only get one per life.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

Ninie’s footnote:

My support system are

Eric from Osteocare

Osteocare is at 3F3, Bangsar Village II.
For appointment, call 6016-333 3797.

and Gwyn Williams from ZenThai Shiatsu.

Gywn practices in Sunshine Coast, Australia
but you can catch him at Balispirit Festival every March

During Balispirit Festival 2011, Gwyn gave my husband and I a big pointer when it comes to choosing a massage therapist. He said, “Only allow people that do a lot of internal work (daily meditation/ritual prayers) themselves to work on and touch you as only ‘bodyworkers’ that are in-touch, in-tuned and aligned with their own happenings on the inside, are intuitive and have psychic abilities to tune and realign other people through their touch. Consider yourself lucky if you can get a yoga teacher who has daily meditation practice to massage you.”

Love and healing hugs.

“According to the quality of the student, they are attracted to the right guru.” ~DHARMA MITTRA

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I keep rewatching Dharma Mittra’s YouTube that I posted in my previous post and his soft voice whispering,

“According to the quality of the student, they are attracted to the right guru. Those who are sincere, seeking enlightenment, full of reverence, not criticizing anyone – they attract the right guru.”

..and I realized something.

I remember the years when I first started teaching yoga somewhere in year 2000, I was attracted if not addicted to my first yoga teacher as she struck me as someone really smart, beautiful, generous, strong and everything I wanted to be in an 18-year-old mind and body.

If I were any good in my early years of teaching yoga, I fully credit the strong foundation I earned from my first yoga teacher. If I had a good eye for alignment, it was mostly from being under her tutelage for years. Unfortunately, we had a fallout and I sold my soul to the devil in a form of a giant yoga chain in Malaysia.

Over a couple of years that I was constantly being featured on local publications as ‘celebrity yoga teacher’, I was under my own  impression (if not delusion) that I was already the teacher I have always wanted to be – when I was not even close to being anyone’s celebrated yoga teacher if you strip me off my shell of tiny shiny stripey yoga clothes and fancy schmancy yoga poses. I was one of the great yoga poseurs.

I thought when I nailed Headstand, I was ready to teach others. I figured I could do most arm balancings on my two hands, I was better than some other teachers who couldn’t. My greediness, hunger for validation and intention of spreading my gift of yoga back then were far from the alignment of what made me want to be a yoga teacher in the beginning – to heal people like how yoga healed me.

I am not proud to advertise the fact that – I used to be a smoking yoga teacher. I started ’speeding up the process of killing myself’ (that was what my mom said when she first caught me) at the age of 18. I was really young and everybody around me in Bangsar and in uni smoked back then. I was also in relationships and friendships that were unhealthy for me and I held on long enough to have seemed like I did not care and love myself enough.

Looking back now, no wonder I attracted a lot of beautiful, famous, kindhearted nonetheless smokers as my yoga students (and former boyfriends) back then.

I might have been a yoga ‘instructor’ (a pretty Google-able one at that) but I knew that I did not deserve to be called a yoga teacher / guru.

In the origin language of yoga, Guru means ‘the remover of the darkness’ or ‘the one who sheds light’. I might have been ‘instructing’ step-by-step to sun salutation, but I did not dare speak nor preach about ‘life’, ‘happiness’, ‘light’, ‘non-cruelty’ in my classes many years ago as I knew that, I was not ‘living the life’ and ‘walking the talk.’

How could I shed the light when I was the one offering them the lighter?

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

Special yoga teachers have mysterious ways to sneak into your life, inspire you with their kindness and show you the ‘light’ when you are ready.

In 2007, I first met Dharma Mittra, one of the most respected living yoga teachers who has turned thousands of people off meat just by attending his yoga class. As if my (unlit) stars were up, the week I felt I was ready to stop turning my lungs into tar balloons and my body from being a cemetery for dead cows, I was assigned to interview him for an article aptly titled, ‘What Makes A Good Yoga Teacher?’ and his first line to me was, “You have to stop killing animals and yourself” when he did not even know that I was still a meat-eating and cigarette smoking yoga teacher.

Dharma Mittra & I (2007, photo by Tom Hayton)

The power of a great teacher, from the first day I met Dharma Mittra until today, I have successfully stopped eating slaughtered animals and shortafter, I swore to never smoke cigarette anymore to stop inviting cancer cells to multiply in my body when I have invested so much time and energy on my mat to achieve almost equilibrium state of health.

I then and until now, aspire to lead my classes, teach yoga to people like Dharma. With kindness, smiles, humour and inspirations, maybe nowhere close to Dharma’s teaching and dedication but I figured if I am one of the lucky ones to have been touched by Dharma Mittra, he must have seen something in me, or maybe beyond me (my first, middle and last name means ‘The Highest Light of Enlightenment’, how did Dharma realize that – I have no idea. Thank you Allah Almighty, the highest power behind the Universe for the gift of yoga and all of my yoga teachers for making me realize why am I in this lifetime for).

.  .  .  .  .  .  .

I am grateful for everyone who have been to my classes since year 2000 until yesterday.

With addition to all my amazing yoga teachers (and some yoga instructors) that I have met and learned from over the recent years, I learn tremendously a lot from all of my students. The more students I have taught, the more happiness I brought, the better teacher I got (to be).

I don’t know if I finally deserve to be called a yoga teacher today, but I do know that I am definitely a better teacher today than I was 12 years ago, 5 years ago, 1 year ago and yesterday. If you did not favour my teaching instructing then, come to my class today – let’s fall back in love with our great qualities in each other again.

I am back to sharing the healing light of yoga and to help you awaken your mind and body’s infinite wisdom to heal yourself.

Love and light at Upward (August 2011)

I know this much because I see a different crowd and yoga students at Upward since we opened July last year compared to the overall quality of students coming to my classes at all the different yoga centres I have taught at. Everyone that has been coming and keeps coming to Upward today is very kind, very strong, very honest, very clean, very enthusiastic, very punctual and very loving.

In my optimistic mind, I would like to think that it is because I am more kind, stronger, more honest, more punctual and more loving now – therefore I attract my same kind nowadays.

And you wonder what brought you here..

Heart and light of Upward (December 2011)

My gratitude for accepting and for shining my light.

Written by Ninie

January 31st, 2012 at 4:22 pm

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