Yoga Matters: Kino MacGregor of Yoga Gives Back

It is now said that there are more yoga teachers than actors in Hollywood, and that seems pretty spot-on: every corner we turn, there is a new studio, a new gym, a new store proudly displaying Manduka mats and Buddhas galore. As the pool of yoga teachers grows larger and larger, we wonder: if yoga is truly a way of life, if yoga is more about purpose than postures – how is this surplus of teachers affecting our world outside of the studio? For the better?

You cannot help but be in awe of Kino MacGregor. She is “multitasker extraordinaire:” an international yoga teacher, author, producer, writer, and co-founder of the prestigious Miami Life Center in Miami, FL. In addition, she has spent countless hours working as an ambassador to Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds in order to alleviate poverty in India. Their signature annual event, Thank You, Mother India will be held worldwide on September 29th, helping to fund programs who lend small loans to women in need. Both Miami Life Center and Kino herself are joining forces with studios worldwide to raise funds and awareness, while offering thanks to the country and culture of India which founded yoga.

Kino’s yoga practice alone leaves us floored (check out her YouTube channel and prepare to be amazed), but it is her open heart and warm spirit that hooked us. She is a life force who is a testament to the fact that we are truly more capable of greatness than we could ever imagine.

The Chalkboard Mag: What originally drew you to yoga?

Kino MacGregor: “I was searching for a more peaceful life and I turned to yoga as the path to lead me towards more inner peace.”

TCM: Your yoga practice is stunning and a true testament to what the body can accomplish. Your videos are internationally admired and your words of wisdom have gone viral – you are somewhat of a yoga superstar! At the same time, you are so very loyal to the roots and traditions of the practice. The combination of the two creates a vehicle for grounded empowerment unlike any other. What about the tradition of yoga – and specifically, Ashtanga – speaks to you loudest, and how can we weave those values into our fast-paced and goal-oriented culture?

KM: “Thank you so much. It is always nice to hear that my videos and my teaching message are reaching people. That is my motivation and inspiration. I used to want to take the message of yoga to TV, but now that I have my YouTube channel I feel like the at least a part of that dream has come true.

My lesson in Ashtanga Yoga has been to never give up, to develop the inner strength and determination to stay the course, especially in times of darkness and doubt. Whenever I thought I reached a certain level particularly in strength or whenever I wanted to quit, my teachers always told me to “be stronger”. In many ways Guruji and Sharath never let me develop the egoic mind that is too self-satisfied, they would always encourage me to go deeper, to literally be stronger in the body and mind. They believed in me before I was strong enough to believe in myself and it is through their grace (and divine grace of course) that I have attained what I have through the practice of yoga.

One of Ashtanga Yoga’s greatest lessons for our fast-paced goal-oriented culture is the humility to recognize tradition, devotion, patience and dedication. It is very humbling to take root in history while powerfully gazing toward the future. The promise of yoga is to relieve lifetimes of suffering and to me the notion that we could do that by ourselves without the grace of a true teacher is one of the largest statements of hubris that exists. I would not be who I am today without the good fortune to meet my teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, when I did. I am thankful for that every day of my life.”

TCM: How did you first hear about Yoga Gives Back and become involved?

KM: “I first became involved in Yoga Gives Back because I have gotten so much out of the journey to India to study Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore. Since I spend so much time teaching students all over the world I wanted a way that I could literally straddle those two worlds. For me Yoga Gives Back add such an important contribution to the connection of the yoga that I learned in India with the yoga that forms my life in the U.S. (and the world).”

TCM: How has your deep connection to India and your involvement with Yoga Gives Back informed and enhanced both your career and day-to-day life?

KM: “I love to do charity fundraisers for Yoga Gives Back when I travel and at home. It creates more opportunity for students to see the value in connecting their yoga practice with its source in India.”

TCM: What is the biggest lesson yoga has taught you?

KM: “Humility.”

TCM: What is the biggest lesson you hope to teach through yoga?

KM: “Right now what I am focused on in my teaching is the notion that yoga seeks to provide a full spiritual path towards liberation. In order to gain this freedom from the cycles of suffering this students must confront their attachments to pleasure and their aversions to pain. The yogi’s mind is not disturbed by the constant shifts in polarities between pleasure and pain (sukha and dukha). The balanced, peaceful middle way that the yogi’s mind occupies is a blessing in the world and I hope to give people the tools to transform their mind and their habit patterns away from attachments and aversions into a clear, liberating view of the present moment. When this happens the true potential for yoga as a spiritual path unfolds and the heart of the yogi is revealed in all its perfection and beauty.”

TCM: What has been your most rewarding yoga-related experience?

KM: “Meeting my teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, continuing the practice now with his grandson R. Sharath Jois and the blessing to share this sacred tradition with so many students all over the world.”

TCM: What are 5 things on your Bucket List, personal or professional?

“1. My husband and I have a beautiful house in Miami and we have a lot of home remodeling projects that I would love to see our ideas built out in the “real” world. I’d like to spend more time at home with my husband enjoying our life there, sleeping in, cooking, going to the beach, hanging out with our little cat.

2. Visit Bhutan, Fiji and Cambodia and perhaps do a meditation retreat in one of those countries. I’d like to teach in Rio and maybe some other places in South America.

3. Speak more Danish (my husband is Danish) and more Spanish (living in Miami it’s really helpful).

4. A solid steady one-arm handstand and press-up to handstand from Navasana/Padmasana but I’m not attached to either of those happening in this lifetime!

5. I just released my first book, Sacred Fire, and my second book, The Power of Ashtanga Yoga, comes out next year published by Shambhala Publishers. I have really enjoyed the process of writing these books and I would love to do more of that in the future. I am also in the process of thinking of a way to put more in-depth classes and home practice classes online for students in remote locations.”

TCM: What advice would you give to your 16 year old self?

KM: “Believe in your dreams, your beauty and your perfection. Go for it now, it’s all right there for you behind the veil of doubt and ignorance. Be free to be who you really are.”

TCM: What is your personal mantra?

KM: “How can I take the message of yoga as a spiritual path to as many people as possible?”

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