The Surprising Wonders Yoga Does From Core To Heart, As Told By Ninie Ahmad
It’s amazing what the diminutive Ninie Ahmad can achieve in a day that revolves around back-to-back yoga classes at her studio Upward and running after her two young children. Between all that, she’s even carved out time to connect with her Instagram followers via inspiring and personal postings, on top of observing her personal yoga routine.
“I have a shorter and customised Ashtanga Yoga practice now of around 60 to 75 minutes everyday and that is for my daily asana,” she explains.
“Asana is just a branch of 8 Limbs of Yoga. My service to my family and community denote my bigger picture of yoga"
As if that’s not enough to keep her hands full, Ninie is also in the final stages of conceptualising her YouTube channel hosting short yoga practices and preparing to lead a yoga retreat at Tanjong Jara Resort, Terrenganu, later this month.
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Ninie’s ability to take it all on with ease and grace can only be attributed to the long-standing benefits reaped from yoga, which goes beyond a strong physical core and shapes her mental strength, too. Here, Ninie shares the surprising way yoga has changed her life and opened her heart.
Yoga has shown me life from a holistic perspective.
“I used to have a low self-esteem growing up as I was usually the shortest and smallest in everything. After discovering yoga and what I can achieve with it, I acknowledge that I am enough and I am perfect. Though I am short, I can feel tall in a handstand. Though I am small, I know I have a big heart in being okay with forgiving myself on the mat.”
A 10-minute yoga routine for anytime, anywhere.
“Three rounds of Ashtanga Yoga sun salutation A, one set of Ashtanga sun salutation B and 11 standing poses in the Ashtanga Standing Sequence. This will start off your day energised, stretched and strong. You just need enough space (2ft x 6ft) to stand and lie down flat on.”
Yoga is suitable for everyone.
“Anyone can 'do' yoga as long as they are still breathing so technically a baby and a 100-year old can do yoga. It is the only exercise that works every single muscle in the body and awakens all feelings we didn't know existed within the fibre of our being. All other workouts make us move, sweat and go fast but on a yoga mat, we cannot run away from discomfort and unaddressed issues in our body, our mind and our heart when we are made to hold still in an uncomfortable pose.”
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A simple way to adopt yoga into your routine.
“The first two limbs in yoga are being mindful to others and then to ourselves. By respecting and being kind to others (yama) and taking good care of ourselves (niyama), we are already doing yoga. The fancy yoga poses (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) only come third and fourth in the order of 8 Limbs of Yoga. By adopting yoga values into our routine, soon enough we will be 'enlightened' to be mindful of what goes in our body (food intake, skincare products), the words we say to others and how to be grateful for another day, another breath.”
The mental and spiritual impact of yoga.
“Yoga bridges us to our purpose in this lifetime, to be mindful and present on and off the mat, to utilise and appreciate what we have and to stretch our limit without being cruel to our body and without having to compete with anyone else.”
One practice to uplift my mood.
“Nadi Shodhana pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing exercise). It neutralises the opening of our right and left nostril, fosters a symmetrical oxygen intake to both hemispheres of the lungs and brain, and balances us.”
Non-yogi tips to keep calm in stressful moments.
“Take extended, prolonged and audible breaths, and visualise that with every inhale. Absorb the positive energy of your surroundings and with each exhale, release all stress, fear, anger and sadness. This works everytime I encounter stage fright when teaching in a big crowd or performing asanas in public.”
My essentials for a relaxing yoga practice at home.
“Uplifting and relaxing essential oil or yoga mist, something soothing to look at over the mat (a photo or an inspirational quote) and quality yoga mat and bolsters.”
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Observing mindful eating.
“I stopped eating all kinds of meat and poultry since 2007 and came to understand and learn about my body type (in Ayurveda) which does not take well to cold food. I avoid refrigerated food, cold salads and iced beverages.”
How yoga lays the foundation for good habits.
“Yoga disciplines the being, to have mindful and body positive habits. It is usually the mind that refrains the body from even trying inversions and complicated poses. I always tell my students and my children that you are only what your mind believes. Over time with habit and practice, yogis will awaken their mind's infinite wisdom and body's highest intelligence. Embed the habit of believing and visualising positivity and I believe we will attract opportunities and blessings.”
For days you don’t feel like taking to the mat, tell yourself this...
“The motivation that with each extended breath I take in an asana will make me live an hour longer, and each headstand I do will make me look a year younger!"
Cover photo: Courtesy of Cheem for Lululemon Malaysia