From her official website www.kinoyoga.com, Kino MacGregor is described as an international yoga teacher, author of three books, producer of six Ashtanga Yoga DVDs, writer, vlogger, world traveler, co-founder of Miami Life Center and founder of Miami Yoga Magazine. With more than 15 years of experience in Ashtanga Yoga, she is one of a select group of people to receive the Certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga by its founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India and practice through the Fourth Series of Ashtanga Yoga.
As a yoga student and newbie yoga teacher, I see Kino as a star. Not just a star in the “celebrity” sense of the word but a star that shines a bright light in a dark sky. When feelings of incompetence and low self-esteem come about, I look to Kino (among others) for inspiration. Inspiration that does not turn into envy, but a pure, wholehearted yearning to understand her practice, to understand how one can bring about light to the self and to the world.
Looking at her photos, watching her videos or meeting her in real life – there’s this spark in her eye and always a warm smile that radiates kindness in strength, and confidence in humility. Kino has lived through many personal matters and unsolicited criticisms that challenged her not just as a famous personality in the yoga world but also as a person. She has always shown how yoga has helped her realize and love her true self, and in the journey, pass (and continuously brave through) the challenges of life with sincerity and acceptance.
Kino was in Hong Kong in January 2015 and Asana Journal caught up with the highly sought-after yogi in between her workshops. In this face-to-face interview, we get to know Kino deeper – the practice, her inspirations, realizing the authentic self and how a modern-day yogi fulfills her dharma or life purpose to “help people experience the limitless potential of the human spirit through the inner tradition of yoga”.
Kino: Haha! In Mysore, I wake up at 2 AM because I have to get to the yoga shala at 3:45. So I wake up with enough time just to get up, do my meditation, make tea and have a shower. When I’m doing my normal practice in my normal life, I usually wake up between 6 and 8 AM. This morning I woke up at 5:30! To be honest, I like to sleep in… if it weren’t for yoga I would be sleeping in. It absolutely takes a lot of effort to wake up early.
Asana: What’s a typical day for you?
Kino: Back home, a typical day for me is I get up, and the first thing that happens is my mind is really active in the morning in a good way, so I will get up and make tea, and I will do some writing projects for an hour. Then I’ll do my meditation, my asana practice, and then after that I usually have a lot of meetings and business work to do for new projects that I’m launching. If I teach at home it’s usually for an intensive, then that’s a different schedule.
Asana: Do you teach private lessons or group classes?
Kino: My time at home is not spent primarily teaching. I have a lot of business projects that I’m working on over the week. When I travel, which is almost every weekend, I’m teaching intensives. I stopped teaching daily classes a while ago when I’m home (at Miami) because I have so many other projects that I’m working on and if I’m teaching all day, I can’t do it all. I’m really passionate about some of these other projects that I’m working on so I made the choice to take the time over the week to maintain my personal practice and focus on these new projects.
Asana: You’re a multi-tasking and hyphenated modern-day yogi. What’s in store in the near future for you?
Kino: My friend Kerri (Verna, also known as beachyogagirl in social media) and I just launched a clothing line – Om Stars Apparel. We’re super excited about that and it took 6-8 months of work behind it!
We also have some really big projects that we are working on, I can’t really say much about it as it’s at the development stage, but I can say that it involves video, a new sort of video platform and some new types of video content.
Kino: I always love handstands. I love all of the asanas but handstands are always super fun because they were so difficult for me – I was so bad at them!
Asana: Is there one specific pose that you still find challenging and that you constantly work on?
Kino: For me, everything about strength. I’m just constantly working on how can I be stronger, how can I get more strength, whether it’s with the abs, with the core, or mentally, emotionally. I’m always working on being stronger.
Asana: Which part of your body do you feel is the strongest?
Kino: I don’t know… I don’t feel like any part of my body is naturally strong. I feel like I have to work and work and work. I wasn’t born with it; I had to work for everything in the practice.
Asana: How can one achieve strength physically and mentally?
Kino: Take the decision that you are willing to humbly put in the work, no matter how long it takes, and never give up.
Asana: We know that you love your green juices. What other nourishing superfoods do you love and would have on a daily basis?
Kino: I love fruits, I love exotic fruits and I think they’re just amazing. When I travel in Southeast Asia, I love to eat durian, I think that’s amazing.
Asana: You’re not bothered by the smell?
Kino: No, I like it! I love that!
On a cold day, my favorite thing to eat would be vegetarian ramen. I’m vegetarian, and on a cold day, a really good ramen just makes me so happy.
Asana: Do you still have time to cook?
Kino: I prepare things more than I make a big meal. I’m not someone to cook a big, 5-course meal but I do things that are fast and easy within our lifestyle.
Asana: You’ve been practicing yoga for over 15 years. Do you have anyone in the yoga world that you look up to aside from your teachers?
Kino: That is a difficult question because my biggest inspiration in yoga are my teachers Guruji and Sharath. They’re my inspiration to practice and they’re the reason why I started the practice. They’re the ones I turn to when I’m feeling a lack of anything. Other than them, I think my biggest source of inspiration is the students – to see so many of them embracing the traditional practice and being really interested in the spiritual journey of the practice is just amazing. That’s so inspirational to me. I have some really great friends too. I would say my husband (Tim Feldmann) is a constant source of strength and he’s also a yoga teacher and we teach together. And then there’s Kerri, we run the yoga challenges together. To meet someone so aligned with the spiritual journey of the practice and the friendship we share is a constant source of inspiration for me.
Asana: There are many different traits that make up a person’s being. To you, what is the most important trait that a person should have or aspire to have?
Kino: I think humility and kindness. To be humble, to be kind, to be filled with compassion – I think these are the most defining moments not just of a yoga teacher but what it means to live a good life. To understand that everything we do we receive through grace; that we act and we do certain things, but it’s really more of receiving. If we focus on what we do and we focus on our own activity too much, then I think we can get lost in the circle of narcissism whereas if we can really focus on humility and kindness, then we can make our world a better place.
Asana: Is there anything in the current yoga landscape that you would like to improve or change?
Kino: That’s a good question. The one thing that I would love to inspire everyone in the current yoga landscape is to embrace the traditional practice, to understand that the practice isn’t there to make you something other than who you are; the practice is there to tune you into a place inside of yourself where you are already whole, you are already complete; that the divine spark is within each of us. And if we could stop judging ourselves by the shape of our bodies, the shape of our asanas and instead tune in to that infinite place within and embrace the spiritual journey of the practice in its totality; to live the yoga life, to embrace all of the philosophical aspects, the study, the discipline and to let us experience the true nature of who we are. To constantly remember that the practice is a path to faith, and the practice is a path to more grace.
Asana: You’ve always talked about staying true to yourself to find the deeper, authentic self. In this day and age, how would you define an authentic yoga practice?
Kino: Authentic yoga, just like anything else, you could judge by the fruits of the practice. If you look according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, sattva-suddhi-saumanasya-ekagrya-indriya-jaya-atma-darsana-yogyatvani ca – “sattva suddhi saumanasya” – the yogi’s mind is in a state of peaceful, harmonious balance, in a state of happiness, has a cheerful disposition; “ekagrya” – able to keep the mind on a single point of attention, “indriya jayatma darsana” is able to perceive, have darsa or direct perception of the self, of God; able to control the indriyas or senses. These are the fruits of a lifetime’s worth of practice. So then you can ask, is the practice authentic? Is this person a balanced, harmonious, calm, peaceful, loving, cheerful person? Does this person have control over the senses? Does this person have direct experience of themselves, of the true self, of God? Then you’ll know the practice is authentic. It’s the inner qualities that must manifest in your life. It’s a lifetime commitment and it’s a decision you make every day.
Asana: How would you compare a modern-day yogi such as yourself to a traditional yogi?
Kino: There is a difference between a sadhaka which is someone who is a true spiritual seeker, or there is the idea that the yogi is in the path of a renunciate. I consider myself to be a true spiritual seeker but I am not on the renunciate’s path, so I have not renounced the world, I have a husband, we have a home, so I’m on the path of integrating yoga with living a more peaceful life.
Asana: Would you say you’re integrating yoga with the current needs of the world?
Kino: I am that person. This is just to practice in our contemporary era and make that effort to go on that journey. I’m not trying to go back to the past, I’m embracing everything about the present. I love social media, I love technology and spreading the message in that way and personally I don’t believe in trying to bring it back into just being in a cave or something like that – I embrace and believe in integrating our practice with these new technologies.
Asana: You are probably the most famous yoga personality across different social media platforms. In Instagram, you have almost 1 million followers. Let’s say you are only given one social media platform; which one would you choose and why?
Kino: Well… that’s not really fair! But I think if I could have unlimited mobile data worldwide regardless of what remote destination I am in, I would choose Periscope (Author’ s note: Periscope is a live video streaming mobile app owned by Twitter). I love the live broadcasting elements of it, I think it’s super awesome! I love the no filter, no edit nature of it. It’s just pure; it is what it is. But, I obviously love instagram, I love the pictures. I love the beautiful photography too.
Asana: Does someone manage your social media accounts for you?
Kino: I do all my Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope posts. I do have an assistant who helps me manage all the incoming e-mails, my workshop bookings, my airplane tickets, et cetera. He also helps me manage my other social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Asana: Do you find updating your social media platforms daunting or do you feel like it’s already an important part of what you do?
Kino: I love the social media part, I think that’s awesome. It’s fun for me!
Asana: A lot of people draw inspiration from you. Is there any tip you’d like to give new yoga practitioners or even seasoned/long-time practitioners?
Kino: The most important thing is just to believe in yourself. To realize that if you have a dream, it’s probably because you’re meant to live it. Even if it feels like there’s no space for you in the world, even if it feels like your dream is never going to happen, just keep working for it little by little. And little by little, with faith, with grace, it’s going to happen one day – whether that dream is an asana or whether that dream is to be a CEO of a company. Whatever it is, you’re going to live your dream and you’re going make your world a better place. Just believe in yourself and let that seed of faith turn into a lifetime of grace, strength and happiness.
To read the full article please download our Asana Journal App or purchase Issue 159 March 2016.