MindBodyGreen: When and how did you first discover yoga? You received your certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga by its founder in Mysore, India. What can you tell us about your experience with Ashtanga's founder, Sri K Pattahbhi?
Kino MacGregor: I joined my first yoga class when I was 19, but only when I discovered Ashtanga yoga did I fully commit myself to a daily practice. When I traveled to Mysore for the first time at the age of 22 I asked Sri K. Pattabhi Jois where I could find the illusive state of inner peace that all yoga practice seeks to instill. Known as Guruji to his students, he said, "You take it practice many years, then Shantih is coming... no problem" and my heart opened to the grace of his teaching. It is my great fortune to consider this amazing man my teacher and I attribute the depth of my personal practice and teaching to the light that Guruji's fire ignited within me. Always joyful to see a new student, Guruji carried the torch of Ashtanga yoga while it grew over the last 34 years from a few disinterested students into a flowering, international community of dedicated, passionate practitioners. He lived to see Ashtanga yoga reach more than 30 different countries, transform thousands (if not millions) of yoga practitioners and sprout centers all around the world. The full fruition of his life's work became manifest within his lifetime. Guruji used to say, "Ashtanga yoga is for all people, old people, young people, fat people, skinny people, only not lazy people." That is because Ashtanga yoga is challenging; it asks tightness to bend, softness to be strong and pushes the limits of the mind and the body beyond popular medical notions of safety, possibility and comfort. In doing so practitioners literally expand their consciousness.
MBG: Is teaching and practicing yoga in Miami unique from other parts of the world? If so, how?
KM: What I love about teaching yoga in Miami is that my husband and I own Miami Life Center, which our own center for yoga and holistic health in the heart of South Beach. It's an honor every day that we have created this space near our home that enriches the lives of people directly in our community. Once we established Miami Life Center we found that our students from all over the world began traveling to Miami to seek us out and enjoy a good healthy does of the bountiful sunshine here. Every city is unique but what is most amazing about Miami is the multicultural flair of the city itself, so sometimes we teach a class filled with students from all over the world. Living in a beach town and enjoying the warm summer nights we found that offering classes all day really fits well with the fun, relaxed and happy vibe of the city.
MBG: You have an extensive background in holistic health. What is the connection between yoga and wellness? How can yoga help the healing process?
KM: Yoga purifies the mind and body by asking you to develop deep self-knowledge. When you unify with the deepest part of yourself an incontrovertible understanding of not only your own life, but all life takes root. The highlights along the path of yoga are epiphany moments where your higher self is revealed to you in between your breathe, your posture and point of attention. After you maintain a steady yoga practice over a long period of time the immeasurable benefits begin flowing through your life. Yoga gives you direction and pointers to show you how to excavate layers of yourself hidden below dirt, debris and toxins, and in doing so you experience the deep peace that is inherent in your nature. Whenever there is tension, stress and unhappiness it is because the connection to your higher self has been lost in the sea of the six poisions and the samskaras. In order for you to transcend these unhappy states of being and experience the true luminosity of self-realization you must first accept the inevitable pains of life as help for purification. Yoga reconnects you with your inner world so that you can make contact with the indescribable space of ultimate knowingness where transformation happens.
MBG: Any tips for beginners to stay conscious on the mat (and in life)?
KM: Regardless of your intention when you plants the first seeds of your lotus flower the transformative power of this ancient spiritual science works on a deep level of your being. Many people start yoga for fitness reasons only to find that yoga changes their lives in ways far beyond the physical. Even if you are not a true believer and only wish to receive the physical health benefits of yoga, merely attending a yoga class regularly will have a lasting impact on your life. The beauty of the physical yoga postures is that you do not actually need to believe in them in order for the healing power of yoga to work. Hatha yoga approaches the transformation of the human spirit from the body first and then works its way subtly through to the mind and soul. The body itself is an avenue to the spiritual that works from the inside out. As you water the seeds of padmasana the full blooming lotus opens in your mind and soul.
MBG: What's your favorite healthy food?
KM: Fresh, young coconuts.
MBG: What are you reading? Do you have any favorite books?
KM: Love to read good literature and inspirational books. Right now I'm reading The Joy of Living by Yongey Minyur Rinpoche. While I was traveling through countries that don't speak English as a native language I love to read good novels because it helps me stay connected to my linguistic foundation.
Some of my favorite books are:
The Feast of Love
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
The White Tiger
The Deeper Dimension of Yoga
The Yoga Sutras (Swami Satchidananda)
Ask and It Is Given
When Things Fall Apart
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
MBG: Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes?
KM: "Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it. Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved, but hope for the patience to win my freedom." ~Rabindranath Tagore
"My happiness depends on me, so you're off the hook." ~Abraham Hicks
"The body is a string of pearls held together by our awareness." ~ BKS Iyengar
"All your past except its beauty is gone, and nothing is left but a blessing... Delay does not matter in eternity, but is tragic in time... only infinite patience produces immediate effects." ~A Course In Miracles
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