Ninie Ahmad: Off her yoga mat.

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

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ARTICLE: ‘Anything beautiful we see in others is us recognising the beautiful qualities we already possess.’ (HELLO! Malaysia, March 2013)

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From last inside page of HELLO! Malaysia (March 2013)

Written by Ninie

March 14th, 2013 at 6:28 pm

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“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

I am healthy, compassionate and prosperous as I only allow clean, cruelty-free and organic food to build every fibre in my being.

with 14 comments

Since I shared my interview with Natural Health mag, I have been showered with these questions:

  • What’s wrong with eating meat?
  • What is organic diet?
  • I also want to not fall sick in years! How do I start?

This entry is strictly for those who asked..

And those who wish to initiate change in your body, our community and this country.

What’s wrong with eating meat?

Before you start with me on ‘eating meat is not a sin / haram in Islam’, let me just stop you there. In the Islam I know and believe in, NOT eating meat is also NOT a sin in Islam if you avoid eating them to live longer.

Forget about (if you have the heart to :P ) animal suffering and that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of planet’s carbon footprint (by comparison – ALL the world’s cars + trains + plaves and boats account to a combined of 13% of gas emissions),

..meat is simply:

(summarized from What’s Wrong With Eating Meat book)

1. Full of chemicals
Animals that you eat, eat at fields that are treated with poisonous chemical (pestisides and fertilisers). When you eat meat, you consume higher concentration of chemicals that accumulated during the animal’s lifetime.
2. Full of diseases
To produce meat at highest profit, animals are force-fed, injected with hormones to stimulate growth, given stimulants, antibiotics and sedatives that cause cancer. Animals with undetected tumours and cancers will pass them to their meat-eaters. That simple.
3. Full of decay
Meat passes very slowly in human digestive system, it takes at least 5 days to pass out of human body as opposed to vegetarian food which only takes 24 to 36 hours maximum. During this time, decaying meat are in constant contact with the digestive organs and the habit of eating animal flesh in its state of decomposition creates a poisonous state in the colon and wears out human’s sensitive intestinal tract prematurely.
4. Full of bacteria
Beef, poultry, lamb and pork, even when untainted with disease, contain massive amounts of saturated fats and cholestrol that fasten clogging of arteries, hospitals and cemetaries worldwide. That is why all studies proved that meat-eaters live shorter lives.
5. Main cause of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, gallstones, kidney disease, gout, arthritis, constipation, diabetes, ulcers..
I could go on if you want.

What are ‘bad’ foods?

Bad foods are chemical-laden food with additives and preservatives (MSG, colourings, bulking agents, hormones, etc) to mimic natural flavours, to colour food to make them look more ‘natural’ or ‘fresh’ and to preserve foods for longer shelf life.

Why manufacturers make ‘bad’ food anyway?

(summarized from Avoid Chemical In Your Food book)

1. Profit
Manufactured ingredients are cheaper that natural ones so synthetic foods generate more profits from natural foods. Fruit flavourings are cheaper than real fruits, most artificial sweeteners are cheaper than real sugar.
2. Product life
Preservatives and antioxidants are used to prevent product decaying in the natural way (this is important to retailers and possibly consumers who may expect the products to last an unrealistic length of time).
3. Physical stability
- Emulsifiers are used to stop ingredients from clumping
- Anti-caking agents ensure lump-free powders
- Bulking-agents add to product weight without increasing nutritional value
4. Appearance
Products may be dyed, coloured or glazed to fulfill visual demands and expectations of certain consumers.
5. Flavours
Flavourings are used to provide a taste corresponding to product’s description when food ingredients cannot provide it sufficiently.
6. Convenience factors
Certain so called ‘convenience foods’ require additives to allow for their method of preparation (includes products to which hot water is added to serve and products that are to be heated in microwave ovens).

All the books I referred to above are available at Justlife (my favourite local organic, vegan / vegetarian and fair-trade shop) nationwide

What are organic foods?

(From Wikipedia)
Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

Organic VS ‘Natural’

(From Nature’s Path)
While both ‘natural’ & ‘organic’ mean no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives, only certified organic foods guarantee no fertilizers, toxic pesticides, irradiation, GMOs and hormones were used.

What’s in my kitchen / fridge?

What I ban in my kitchen / fridge

1. Any products with MSG (‘perencah nasi goreng’, Ajinomoto and the likes)
2. Any form of poultry, meat and shellfish
3. Instant food (instant noodle, instant porridge, instant pizza)
4. Carbonated drinks
5. Usage of microwave
6. Usage of Teflon / non-stick pans
7. Plastic containers / water bottles especially to store leftover food (generic / brand name: Tupperware. Now you know why I just don’t get advertorials anymore)
8. ‘Vegetable’ cooking oil

Hey, you asked!

Love and long life to all beings everywhere.

Interview: “I don’t know if it’s the daily yoga practice that I do or my vegetarian diet but, I hardly fall sick anymore. I really can’t remember the last time I caught fever or the flu bug, not in the last two or three years.” ~NINIE AHMAD

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In celebration of International Vegetarian Week,
October 1 – 7, 2011

NINIE AHMAD-FORGET, 28
Yoga Teacher & Founder of Upward, Saujana Resort

How long have you been a vegetarian?
Almost 4 years now (since November 2007).

Your reason for becoming a vegetarian?
I have always inspired to be a vegetarian since many of my yoga teacher friends and
inspirations are vegetarians and they always carry a different persona and energy
- more calm, collected and compassionate. During Malaysia’s Yoga Conference in
November 2007, I was given the opportunity to interview one of the biggest living
yoga legends in the world – Sri Dharma Mittra on the topic “What makes a good
yoga teacher?” He held my shoulders, looked at me in the eyes and said “You have
to stop killing animals.” He didn’t even know I was a yoga teacher (I interviewed him
as a writer) neither was I a vegetarian at that time!

Everything he said during the interview made perfect sense and I stayed up all
night reading and Googling about vegetarianism and instantly get turned off eating
meat after knowing how the food got in my plate. Not to mention, most living yoga
teachers in their 90’s (and they look no older than 50) say that, the secret to living
longer, looking younger is, stand on your head for an hour a day and to not let
your body be the cemetery for dead animals.

I have not eaten meat nor poultry ever since. Since a year ago, I also don’t wear
leather handbags and footwear anymore.

The benefit you’ve gained since becoming a vegetarian?
I don’t know if it’s the daily yoga practice that I do or my vegetarian diet but, I
hardly fall sick anymore. I really can’t remember the last time I caught fever or the flu
bug, not in the last two or three years. I’d like to believe it is both yoga and by not
consuming animals’ suffering anymore. And believe it or not, just a couple of weeks
after stopping eating meat, I was suddenly able to do super complicated yoga poses
that I never thought I could do with this body in this lifetime!

Was it difficult being a vegetarian when many people around you are not?
People would be surprised that it is not that difficult. Most restaurants in KL now
have vegetarian options or I just opt for a bowl of hearty green salad anyway. Since
I prepare most of my meals for myself and my husband at home (as that’s the only
way I can ensure my meals are not only vegetarian but also, clean, free from cruelty
and prepared with love), it is not that difficult. Whenever I have guests over, they
usually forget that they are not eating meat. With creativity (and Asian spices!), I am
lucky vegetarian food can taste just as good!

Some say that vegetarian diet may lack protein and important nutrients..
I always make sure my big meals (breakfast and lunch) would consist of lots of beans
and grains. I also love hazelnut milk which is way more nutritious (and delicious!)
than cow milk. And do you know that Brad Pitt, Christian Bale and Brandon Boyd (of
Incubus) are all vegetarians?

Many meat eaters say that vegetarians are not active and weak..
I practice Ashtanga yoga which is the most physical form of yoga and vegetarianism
is one of the fundamentals in Ashtanga practice and lifestyle. Most Ashtanga
practitioners (Asthtangis) have the strongest and fittest looking body and they are
the last people on earth to be called inactive and weak as they can stand on their
hands, tuck their legs behind their head, can light up a room with their Ujjaiyi breaths
yet staying so humble about it, compared to most bulky meat-eaters who can be
compared to crabs – hard shell on the outside but empty on the inside. And again,
which part of Brad Pitt screams not-strong?

Many also say becoming vegetarian is expensive..
It can be expensive as when we choose to only consume good food in our body, we
also tend to be aware on investing not only in vegetarian food but also, unprocessed,
organic and macrobiotic. I always say, what’s grocery bill now compared to hospital
bills later. It is a little costly as the demand is not big in our community (compared
to in North America) but I believe as handsome as a plate of organic Greek salad is
nowhere close to how expensive a plate of Foie Gras or Wagyu steak can be.

Will you encourage your friends and family members to become vegetarians?
I am lucky that my husband is also into vegetarianism, organic, macrobiotic and raw
food movement (and he does yoga everyday too!). I have never and will never force
my close friends and family members but I aspire to inspire them by leading a good
example of living a happy, healthy and cruelty-free lifestyle. So one day when I’m 50
but looking 25, I can finally say – do lots of yoga and don’t eat meat!

From NATURAL HEALTH magazine, October 2011
Available at Borders and major newsstands

“I’m short but I’m healthy, yeahhh!”

with 14 comments

10 things you might not know about me..

  1. For generation Lady Gaga, I still if not only listen to mellow rock music from 1996 to 2002. Lotsa Radiohead pre-Kid A, Silverchair, Alanis, Bush, Third Eye Blind, Travis, Lifehouse..
  2. For fun, I actually play a lot of a little bit of guitar.
  3. For a new-age housewife, I actually cook EVERY lunch and dinner for my husband on weekdays. How else can I make sure the food that is going to be our flesh and blood is prepared using organic if not the freshest of ingredients, made with love and cruelty-free?
  4. For English as my second language, I kickass at Scrabble. Okkk, I actually memorize all two-letter words and errr, most pages of Official Scrabble Dictionary.
  5. For a small girl, I drive a pretty mean machine.
  6. For an Asian, I don’t condone whitening anything. My sporty tan is a hit in North America!
  7. For a Malay, I don’t eat any type of meat / poultry. For that matter, I have also long stopped wearing leather handbags / footwear.
  8. For the betterment of my integrity and yoga practice, I don’t endorse and wear three-stripes anymore.
  9. For a tiny person, I am stronger than you can ever imagine. (Although) for a yoga teacher, I am not as flexible as you think I am and I’d like to be.. But I take strength and balance over flexibility any day!
  10. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe in (going to the) doctors. Our body is built to heal ourselves when we reflect, acknowledge and meditate. Everytime. Everyday.

Now, tell me what should I know about you :)

Written by Ninie

May 24th, 2011 at 11:53 am

Interview: ‘Nimble Ninie’

with 3 comments

By NIKI CHEONG, picture by NAPIE MOKSIN

If you’re familiar with the Malaysian blogosphere, you’ve probably heard of Project Alpha, a reality show which aims to uncover the lives of our country’s top bloggers. One of them is Ninie Ahmad.

Pictures by Napie Moksin

When did you start blogging and Twittering?
Blogging in 2004, Twittering in mid-2009.

And what are your Tweets about?
My affirmation for the day, usually my blog post’s title or self-affirmation I think funny like, ‘I shall blog today.’

That’s funny. Do you also ReTweet funny stuff? What are your favourite kinds of Tweets to RT?
Usually positive affirmations as well from my favorite spiritual guru or yoga teachers.

And where do you Tweet from most often?
Tweetdeck.

Product plug! Okay, how often do you Tweet?
I try at least once in every two days with three Tweets back-to-back to match the Twitter template on my blog.

Let’s get to your blog. What kinds of blog posts do you like writing most?
The ups and downs of my day when I am not teaching yoga (blog name: Ninie Ahmad: Off Her Yoga Mat) in the most creative affimation or the most unimaginable yoga pose!

Have you ever had a blogger fan moment?
Well, I do get readers introduce themselves to me sometimes (if not everyday :P ) but I was mostly surpised when two Malaysian blog readers (husband and wife) appoached me at the lobby of Empire State Building, New York a couple of weeks ago asking me if they can help me snap my photos (as they saw me taking photos at arms length because I went to Empire State Building alone)!

That’s the photo they took & that’s lovely Zetty, my Malaysian reader from UK in NYC!

Camwhoring! You’re a true blogger! :) Okay, which do you prefer, blogging or twittering?
My blog and Twitter depend on one another. Usually my Tweet is a teaser of what I blog about that day.

And let’s get to some tips. What should you never blog about?

Anything bad about anyone/any restaurant/any product. You don’t want to read such thing about yourself written on someone else’s blog, right?

What should you never Tweet about?
Anything bad about anyone else ESPECIALLY if that person’s on Twitter!

I suppose it could start a Twitter war! What is the most controversial Tweet you’ve seen?

How’s this from @ninieahmad: http://bit.ly/9ELpQ8 was shot 2 minutes before my partner & I almost got sent to jail for PDA (Public Display of Acroyoga) in KLCC, M’sia.

Why should I follow you on Twitter?
Because I’d never Tweet anything bad about anyone or anything?

At all?
I really believe in what I say, write or Tweet for that matter, is my affirmation to achieving and receiving my calling.

And why should I read your blog?

Because I am annoyingly optimistic and sickeningly positive about everyone and anyone, for a change (for blogs)!

Finally, describe yourself in 140 characters.
The ‘banned’ yoga instructor who will keep blogging, Twittering & fighting for her yoga even when she’s (upside) down.

Follow Ninie on Twitter at @ninieahmad.

From Daili Chilli

Written by Ninie

August 7th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Article: ‘Hot Malaysian Yoga Star Banned from TV For F-Word, Fatwa’

with 4 comments

From THE YOGA DORK July 13, 2010

With all these world record yoga events and baited sun breaths waiting for the Eat, Pray, Love merchandising avalanche, have we really forgotten about the Fatwa?

The wha? Hey, watch your language! No, really, at the end of 2008 and early ‘09 we had fatwas flying out from every direction. OK, mostly the east. To be specific, the Muslim regions of Indonesia and Malaysia. Just to bring us all up to speed, a Fatwa is otherwise recognized as a religious edict, a kibosh, or ban on things that are deemed ‘haram’ or harmful.

The Fatwa Councils of both Indonesia and Malaysia made news by slapping one of these fatwas on our beloved yoga, inciting outrage by practicing yogis who also practice Islam. In short, both cases saw retractions on the ban so that asana was eventually permitted so long as the freaky chanting and “mind body connection” remained absent. Turns out Indonesians didn’t care anyway. (Note the Bali Spirit Fest, formerly Yoga Fest, 2010 went off without a hitch).

We’d all but forgotten about the yoga ban in Malaysia until we heard from Ninie.

Ninie Ahmad is as close to a Malaysian yogi rock star as they come, her image gracing oodles of magazine covers, appearances on numerous TV shows and a role as an official Adidas ambassador. So why was her most recent moment in the spotlight cruelly edited in accordance with the F-word?

Via FreeMalaysia:

“(On Sunday, July 4) I was informed that Astro [Malaysian Satellite TV] will not air my episode of Project Alpha that is scheduled tonight because the Quality Control (QC) department said that under Fatwa law, they could not air a Malay person teaching yoga.”

For your reference, ‘Project Alpha’ is a reality show like ‘Top Chef’, but about bloggers! Sadly Ninie was denied her time to shine, because of yoga.

That’s ridic! some of you say. Is it yoga censorship?? But Malaysia isn’t devoid of yoga naysayers. So, fairly miffed and confused, Ninie has taken to twitter to defend herself from detractors in 140 characters or less:

We’re no scholars, but we are pretty sure yoga can be practiced in tandem with most religions, or with none at all. (though, due to the sensitivity of the matter might we suggest in our best publicist tone that Ms. Ninie reconsider her ‘about’ section where she mentions attending yoga “religiously” and her decision to “join the cult”… just sayin’)

Anyway, the physical practice is supposedly allowed, so why was yoga cut from programming? We think Astro at least owes an explanation! Dang it, anyhow. Besides, if the country of Malaysia is going to ban public displays of yoga,  how’re they going to make bank off this EPL-crazed tourism wave?

Stay strong Ninie. One love.

Earlier

.   .   .   .   .   .

Special thanks to Yoga Dork for the mention and online hugs from yogis all across the map.

The universe is working its magic, I can feel it!

Written by Ninie

July 14th, 2010 at 11:13 am

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