It seems I’m the last one to hear about Kino MacGregor, ashtanga yoga teacher, superhuman yogi and internet sensation. Since finding her website a couple weeks ago, I’m now seeing her everywhere.
Stumbling around on YouTube’s yoga videos, I came across this incredibly fit woman repeatedly pressing into handstand, forearm press and other lifetime-goal-postures…and speaking to the camera while doing it. No big deal.
I thought to myself: ‘Self: You should probably get in touch with this chick.’
Friends, I bring you my first ‘Muse’ of MuseDays on Peace and Hotness.
In addition to her stellar online presence and demonstrative videos, what impressed me about dealing with Kino was the promptness of response from Kino’s team. Her assistant was like BAM response to initial request, BAM check with Kino, BAM sure, she’ll do it. Then, when I finally sent her my questions (as if I didn’t spend waay too long on them trying to make them super awesome) she responded the next day.
Not sure why I expected to wait. As I’m learning more and more, this is modern yoga, and modern yoga has an agenda.
Kino defines yoga as “A conscious effort to train the mind to be fully present by controlling the body, breath and mind in one harmonious moment. At the end of the mountain of desire lies the real truth of existence.”
Her videos are asana magic to shoot for, dream about doing, or simply marvel at: No joke, just watch 30 seconds of this.
The words that come to mind: dedication incarnate.
She has been clear that handstands, back-bending and all the Cirque-esque asanas she can perform are not just natural ability, but a dedication to her practice and her personal growth. The emphasis on the other elements of yoga, rather than just the hatha practice, was why I wanted Kino to be my first muse on MuseDays.
Here’s the Peace + Hotness Interview with Kino MacGregor:
1) My website is called Peace and Hotness. Do you have students who sacrifice their peace to seek hotness through yoga? Have you ever had a stage in your practice when you felt you were practicing for more superficial reasons?
Kino: There is a point in the Ashtanga Yoga method that I feel is a pivotal turning point for practitioners. When you finally complete the Intermediate or Second Series and begin learning the Advanced A or Third Series many students (myself included) feel a kind of ego-attachment to the practice and advanced postures. It’s easy to suddenly identify with yourself as an “advanced” yoga practitioner and think that entitles you to something, but the truth is that it’s just a posture. I had to complete the Third Series to let it fully humble me. Here’s an article that I wrote on that topic:
2) What percentage of practitioners, in your experience, do yoga for primarily physical reasons? Would you say the majority of practitioners consciously have spiritual development in mind when undertaking yoga as an activity?
Kino: I think most contemporary yoga students begin the practice in search of some of the physical benefits, which range from health and healing to the thin, flexible yoga body. The beauty of the practice is that it will actually transform you from the inside out so even if you start for just physical reasons you will eventually find the spiritual side of the practice. When I was 22 I was searching for a path that would teach me how to live a more peaceful life. I can look back now and see that I turned to yoga to lead me out of a difficult period. When I joined my first Ashtanga Yoga class I felt as though the practice answered questions that were so deeply held in my subconscious mind that I didn’t even know I was asking them. I was so inspired by the practice of yoga that I went to India to practice with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath Jois within the first year that I started Ashtanga Yoga.
3) Where do you feel compassion fits into your practice? Was there ever a time you feel you practiced without compassion towards yourself? If so, what was that like?
Kino: Compassion comes into the practice at two distinct points. First in the practice of Ahimsa, which means non-violence, and is the first of the yamas or moral and ethical guidelines to live a yogic life included in the traditional eight-limged (Ashtanga) path of Patanjali’s yoga. Practicing ahimsa means being compassionate to yourself as well as other beings. This includes how you treat yourself and your body while you practice and your choices in diet and lifestyle outside of the practice. The second place where compassion is traditionally taught in the Ashtanga Yoga method is in the form of karuna, which means the active practice of cultivating an attitude of compassion for those who are suffering. The key element in yoga practice is to have the clear sight to see that perhaps all beings who are here on Earth are somehow suffering and worthy of our compassion.
4) What do you feel is the most important yoga lesson for your students?
Yoga teaches you how to believe in and connect with the limitless potential of the human spirit.
5) Big picture, how do you feel the proliferation of pictures, videos and visual representations and teachings of hatha yoga practice impact the consciousness on the planet? (I know, big question.) How do you feel the internet, specifically social media, impacts yoga as a widespread spiritual practice?
Kino: The more people who find out about and ultimately practice yoga, the better. Having so much yoga available on social media and online allows people who are interested in yoga but live in places without a teacher access to at least some of the rudimentary aspects of the practice. Hopefully the online content will be a bridge that will lead interested students into deeper study of the spiritual practice of yoga. Noting can substitute for a direct teacher-student relationship, but hopefully the online content will be a door that leads to deeper practice.
6) India. Obviously there are lots of differences between practicing there and in North America, but which stick out most in your mind? How do you try to carry those into your teaching and practice?
Kino: Traveling to India and spending many months of my life there has taught me to appreciate the difference in my life experience, to surrender to those things which are beyond my control and to love endless amounts of chai and coconuts.
7) Do you practice 80/20 breathing in your postures, specifically back bending?
Kino: The Ashtanga Yoga method relies on deep breathing with sound that is based in the ujjayi pranayama. In this method of practice it is advised to keep equal lengths of inhalation and exhalation in all postures so that the ascending and descending sides of our nervous system and the giving and receiving sides of our awareness can be balanced.
8) In your videos, you do repetitions of backbends, handstand and forearm stand. Why would you recommend this technique to an experienced practitioner? Do you feel that this has been one of the main techniques that has helped you achieve so much strength and flexibility?
Kino: Whenever there is a posture that I am working on I break it down into smaller, more easily accessible parts based on the alignment, technique and anatomy. I study the areas of my body that might be weak, stiff or undeveloped and then I work specifically on conditioning and training those areas. I would definitely recommend that type of detailed self-inquiry for any experienced practitioner of yoga.
9) Do you maintain a specific meditation practice outside of your yoga practice? If so, how do you feel meditation is best approached from a beginner’s perspective?
Kino: I have a sitting meditation practice that is Vipassana in the style of S.N. Goenka. The most important thing for beginners is to understand that as little as five minutes a day can make a difference and that you do not need to have a peaceful mind to start a sitting practice. All you have to do is start. I recently wrote an article about sitting meditation, here’s a link:
10) How would you describe your diet?
Kino: I follow a simple vegetarian diet.
11) Have you ever struggled with your relationship to food? If so, do you find that struggle still surfaces for you, and under what circumstances?
Kino: Yes, absolutely. I describe the details of my relationship with food in my first book, Sacred Fire. Anytime we have a sore spot emotionally I find it can get triggered when we are under stress. That is something that my daily yoga and meditation practice helps me with.
12) Would you say that overall your relationship with food and your body is one of peace? If so, what advice would you give a student who struggled with their relationship with food and body?
Kino: Healing the relationship to food is about healing the ability to accept and receive love. Everyone has their own personal issues with regard to that process. If you are currently struggling with your relationship to food remember that no habit is who you are and that you can always change your behavior and find the way out of your misery.
13) Do you find, being so popular online and clearly advanced in your hatha practice, that this can bring a surfacing of your ego? If so, how do you deal with this?
Kino: My practice and my marriage both keep me humble. No matter how many viewers like my videos or positive comments I might read online or hear from students in my workshops, I can trust the pure, raw difficulty of my practice to keep me humble. Being married is a definite ego-breaker for me because no matter how wonderful the world may think I am, my husband is never afraid to point it out to me as soon as he sees me out of my integrity or engaging in behavior that is not in alignment with my core values.
14) Do you have any suggestions for our readers on creating more peace in life?
Kino: I would quote my teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, “Do your practice and all is coming.”
Thank you Kino. You’re rad.
After I submitted the above questions, I started reading about the controversy around her cute little outfits, how she dyes her hair and wears mascara, and her abundance of photos and the fact that she teaches online. It seems even the yoga world isn’t impervious to haters. It also seems to me that Kino embodies much of what I’m promoting on this website. She’s hot. She’s peaceful. She sure sounds balanced to me.
I love how she addresses rumours and her stance on modern yoga in this article: Confessions of a Loved and Hated Ashtangi. “To them, I’m the Kim Kardashian of the yoga world. But to myself, I hope I’m more like Oprah Winfrey. I would love to take the message of yoga to millions of people, because I believe in the power of yoga to transform the world.”
The agenda of modern yoga is clear: Share the benefits and message of yoga with the world via whatever mediums available. The world needs it. It just so happens there are many mediums available, and fortunately for us, Kino is using most of them.
If you want more Kino, you can subscribe to her YouTube channel, check out her site, www.kinoyoga.com, follow her on twitter, and surf her Facebook page. She’s also written a couple books, and has published extensively across the internet.
Happy training everyone. And thanks Miss Kino for your contribution and for doing this interview. Your asana practice demonstrates the subtle notes of real yoga, and your pictures are inspiring on many levels.
Dear readers: Do you know someone who’s hot (dedicated, confident, beautifully unique and strong) that would like to be featured in my Muse-Days section? Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.