Kino McGregor – A True Master Preserving Astanga Yoga and the Traditional Teacher Student Relationship

It has been over four years since I practiced Astanga Yoga regularly and for those of you who are familiar; Astanga Yoga is not like learning how to ride a bicycle. Yes, when you attempt the Primary Series the practice is unforgettable and sticks with you, though your endurance, comfort, and level of intensity with the practice does not come right back to you when you stop and start again.

I discovered this truth a couple of months ago, while traveling to Birmingham, when I joined a “Mysore” practice in a small yoga room housed in a climbing gym. If you are not familiar with what “Mysore” means, first the expression comes from the name of the second largest city in India where Shri. K. Pattabhi Jois, more often referred to as“Guruji”, created and began teaching in The Astanga Research Institute. Today Sharath Jois (grandson) and Saraswathi (daughter) along with other family members and certified instructorʼs from around the globe, continue to teach and preserve the integrity of The Astanga Yoga Method.

When we refer to “Mysore” in other parts of the world, this typically refers to a two hour time frame where you can practice Ashtanga Yoga as you would in India. Basically, within the two hour window, you start when you are ready and follow a set sequence on your breath until you have mastered that level in an integrated manner. Before moving onto the next and more challenging series of six, one of the few Astanga approved teacherʼs, may officially approve for you to advance.

I say this with all sincerity too. I can remember vividly years ago when my Astanga journey led me to a big beautiful ballroom in SanFrancisco for a week with Guruji, Sharath, and Saraswathi. At this point I had a home practice without access to an Astanga Master and I naively registered for the Secondary/Intermediate Series class. At the time I didnʼt realize that you had to be approved to move past the Primary Series and that there are obvious reasons for the systematic approach.

On the first morning, after the Salutations and Standing Poses, Sharath kindly walked over and in a soft voice he said, “What are you doing here?”. I looked up at him with innocent child like eyes and he realized that I didnʼt know how the process worked. For the next hour I sat on the side of the class and watched. Slowly, many others did the same as they came to a posture in the secondary series that they had not mastered. It is important to know that this was not as though we were benched in a sporting event and that we wanted to get back out their to give it another immediate try. Instead, we sat in awe watching the beauty, strength, and softness of the other fellow practitioners, in the midst of a form that we aspired to eventually feel and be. To this day, I remember sitting and this was one of my most inspirational practices. This class taught me how to be a respectful student.

Therefore, when I found myself practicing Astanga again after all those years, tears of joy starting falling from my eyes. This Classical Yoga method magically sheds light on where you are and where you are going in your life and the series are designed for the practitionerʼs safety and progress towards evolution and true transformation within all the subtle bodies. After the practice, I walked out of that warm lit space in Birmingham and felt like I had returned to my roots; I was home. Later that day, I found Balance Yoga in Atlanta, and was so happy to see that they were an Astanga and Vinyasa School. Also, Kino McGregor was coming to teach a five tiered weekend workshop on December 9-11th and I knew I wanted to go.

Three days may have passed and while I was being interviewed by Jessica Ewart, of Yoga Stage and Namaste Yʼall; I mentioned that I was going. She shared that this is the exact type of story that she would like to have on the companies sites, such as the recent article posted covering a weekend with Ana Forrest.

Astanga opportunities always seem to align for me and yet again magic was abound, when I was able to attend the weekend workshop as a Delegate. From the first line of contact on email, Balance Yoga Atlanta embodied kindness, authenticity, and peacefulness. The first conversation I had with co-owner/instructor Jennifer Smith made me feel completely at ease. She was strong, straight forward, and playful. She was very comfortable saying that after 7 years, Balance Yoga still remains a place to practice yoga. “ We are not about ego, and Kino is one of our teachers. It is always a big event when any of our teachers come.”

So, about half an hour before the first Mysore Practice on Friday night, I arrived to the modest home transformed into a studio in the periphery of Buckhead Village. The lights were warm and smiling faces were gathering and checking into the simple boutique full of plants and wood. When the studio door opened, the heat felt incredible and I set my mat up in the back row of the almost filled room. Then one at a time when ready, Ujjayi Pranayama started and the practice began. I felt so grounded as I found my way into the wave of everyoneʼs breath, which quickly resembled a symphony of insects harmonizing during a warm summer night. It was not much longer that Kino walked into the studio. She was petite, strong, and literally glowing with sunshine from the inside out. Though many of us were already in the depths of practicing, there was a collective awareness that our teacher had arrived. A layer of energetic respect began filling the yoga room and then in a confident, yet nurturing voice Kino said “Samastitihi”.

Everyone stopped where ever they were, without delay, and we calmly came to , “Samastitihi, Standing Mountain Pose with Prayer Hands. We chanted call and response sending love to all in the world. Unlike a led Ashtanga practice that came the next morning, Kino barely used any words after that point for the next two hours. She assisted us and moved us further into postures than we had ever experienced. She was a master and spoke to students for encouragement and also with honesty if they needed to back off.

The discussion of the Sutras following the practice was the most in depth talk I have every heard regarding philosophy and traditions in the entire 17 years I have been practicing and studying. Kino spoke many of the Sutras in Sanskrit and translated them so that we understood what each pearl of wisdom meant. She explained how these Sutras still apply to our current lives and she often shared her clean and funny sense of humor throughout. Going into the weekend I knew that Kino was the youngest approved female Astanga Teacher traveling the globe and after one talk with her I was not surprised to discovered that she also holds a MA from New York University, is working on her PhD, and an upcoming book. I came across this information as I was marveling over she and her husbandʼs Tim Feldmann, who is also a certified instructor, beautiful website of The Miami Life Center, on the South Beach of Florida.

The next morning I met the other lovely owner/instructor of Balance Studio, Marsha McNeight. Marsha immediately gave me a warm welcoming hug and I felt as though I had yet again made another new friend. We talked about her recently becoming a mother and then later I heard her studentʼs lovingly say that Marsha had also been practicing in India the previous year.

The entire community was kind and humble and one woman in particular whose name was Libby shared so dearly that Balance Yoga Atlanta is almost like a precious secret. Libby and I sat with our legs up to our chest in a little ball and there was a twinkle in her eyes as she talked about how much the studio is cherished by everyone.

I sat alone in my cousinʼs home on Saturday night after a wonderful dinner with another teacher and his fiance in Atlanta. I thought about how Kino and all of the Master teacherʼs who travel the globe truly have devoted there lives to others. She must miss her home and family, though she chooses to preserve the Ashtanga Yoga Method and share her insights, and wisdom. Once again I found myself inspired with gratitude and respect just as the first day with Guruji, Sharath, and Saraswathi in San Francisco. After all these years, I was still learning how to be a respectful student and I hope to always be fortunate enough to continue this process.

Sunday morning before our final Mysore practice while taking off my boots amongst the array of belongings, I overheard Kino calmly say that she would like to return for the flight in the afternoon at a particular time so that she could make it home without delay. She told Marsha that she had many things to do in the next couple of days, as she was returning to India on Wednesday. I new this might be my only opportunity for one candid shot so I asked if I could take a picture of Kino, Marsha, and Jennifer before the practice began. In a supporting tone, Marsha said that Jennifer was home with a sick child. Then Kino, in her soft, inclusive tone said, “ Would you like to be in the picture?” In that moment, I knew why I felt at home with this Astanga Yoga Community. Our guides, such as Kino McGregor honor tradition, respect, intellectual inquiry, and kindness. They encourage us when we can do more and protect us when we need to back off. Theylead us in the direction of true peace, as we are one big human family.

Jessica, Kino and Marsha at Balance Yoga

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Jessica Jollie is a writer and yoga instructor in Chattanooga, TN. She is also a YogaStage Delegate. You can learn more about her at www.jessicajollie.com

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2 Responses to Kino McGregor – A True Master Preserving Astanga Yoga and the Traditional Teacher Student Relationship

  1. Alex says:

    Kino MacGregor is nice yogini. Her practice of asana very good. Mostly attractive hands balance, which not easily for women!

  2. Hwasoon says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m practicing Ashtanga yoga in South Korea. As I’m planning to move to FL next year, I hope to have a chance to meet Kino teacher and learn from her.