By Chad Ruiz
Miami native Kino MacGregor creates a beautiful, successful career from her passion, love and commitment to the practice of Ashtanga yoga.
Yoga is introspective. It forces us to look inward, to linger and meditate upon our thoughts, emotions, weaknesses and strengths. And while doing so, our inner radiance glows brighter, eventually mending internal and external conflicts.
When Miami-native Kino MacGregor practiced yoga for the first time at 19 years old, something sparked.
“When I finished my first yoga class, a deep feeling of peace washed over me. After that I knew I wanted to keep practicing,” MacGregor said. She dove head-first into it, reading books and practicing techniques on her own. It wasn’t until several years later, when she joined her first Ashtanga class, that MacGregor found her calling.
“It was out of a period of deep searching that I decided to dedicate myself to the practice of yoga,” particularly Ashtanga yoga. Since then, MacGregor has authored four yoga books, opened the Miami Life Center (a holistic health and yoga studio) and most impressively, received her certification to teach Ashtanga from its founder, teacher Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India.
“Within a year of Ashtanga yoga practice I was traveling to India to meet Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Guruji, and it was really this meeting that changed the course of my life,” MacGregor said. With less than 100 certified Ashtanga yoga instructors in the U.S., and even fewer receiving certifications from Guruji, MacGregor is elite.
What’s so special about Ashtanga yoga?
According to the Yoga Journal, it’s physically demanding and generates “an internal heat designed to purify the body” as you quickly change between poses. Yes, it strengthens the core and tones your muscles but MacGregor focuses on the deeper benefits of yoga.
“Yoga has the potential to establish health in the physical body, healing in the emotional body and high levels of awareness in the spiritual body. Each individual posture has documented positive impacts on overall health and well-being and yoga poses can in fact be used therapeutically.”
MacGregor knows firsthand the healing power of yoga. “Depression has been my biggest medical roadblock. I’ve struggled through periods of depression since I was nine years old,” she said. “The practice gave me the foundation of a calm and clear mind. Meditation, yoga, a good therapist and a daily connection to God are my keys to healing depression.”
Yoga for Beginners
If you’re trying out yoga for the first time, MacGregor says to “start where you are” and focus your thoughts “on the inner experience.” “While the physical poses of yoga are the foundation, they are not, in fact, the goal,” she said. “You have to learn to believe in yourself and your own sense of worthiness. As you commit to taking the practice into your life with as little as five minutes a day, you will feel the essential nature of your spirit infusing every moment of your life.”
MacGregor believes with regular practice, you’ll begin to “feel renewed, restored and reborn.” The first step is to believe you can do it. “When I was younger, I never believed I could do it, that is, live my dreams. But looking back now, I can see all I was missing was faith. If you have faith, then the world changes.”
Healing Power of Yoga
In addition to the internal healing provided by yoga, the practice has numerous physical advantages too. There are copious types of yoga exercises, but most, if not all, concentrate on breathing, meditating and contorting your body into various postures. These actions, according to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), stretch and flex muscle groups and aid the “body’s natural tendency toward health and self-healing.”
“The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” stated Natalie Nevins, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and a certified Kundalini yoga instructor. Yoga also protects against injury, improves cardio and circulatory health, sheds excess fat, increases muscle strength and flexibility, improves breathing and maintains a healthy metabolism.
Additionally, the government-backed National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reported that one “study of 90 people with chronic low-back pain found that participants who practiced lyengar yoga had significantly less disability, pain and depression after six months.” And another study funded by NCCIH involving several hundred adults “suggested that 12 weekly yoga classes resulted in better function than usual medical care.”
“Aside from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress, which is known to have devastating effects on the body and mind,” states the AOA. Dr. Nevins reaffirms MacGregor’s healing message, stating that “regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration.”
MacGregor says Ashtanga yoga is a powerful blend of movement, poses and breathing. “Every practice is built on the unique synergy between breath, posture and focal point. My personal style of teaching is about empowerment. Without my daily discipline, meaning, without getting on the mat and practicing every day, there is no way I could be the person that I am.”
Ashtanga is so powerful, MacGregor says, that when performed correctly and religiously, it can replace your other exercise routines.
MacGregor plans to continue teaching her students and her one-million-plus social media followers how they too can use yoga to change their lives.
I always say that when you practice yoga, you can change your world one breath at a time.