Donavan Wilson has been using yoga to develop patience, and he needed it when he sent me an extended interview with Kino MacGregor, the Miami-based Ashtanga master teacher. I sat on it for months. I’ve got my excuses, but none of them can account for all the time that’s slipped by since the 3000-word article landed in my inbox. He and Mary Naeger wrote up a Kino workshop at Woodley Park Yoga in December. Donavan wrote up an even more extended exchange with Kino, so much that I am breaking it up into separate notes. He provides a look into the personal evolution of a yoga teacher. Contact Donavan at dwilson95 AT gmail_com.
“I was 19, fast and wanted the world to happen yesterday” said Kino MacGregor whose passion for life exuded from her. Kino is from Miami, Florida and is an only child. Kino’s mother is Japanese and father Scottish. She has spent her college years at the University of Miami and earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Later, she obtained a Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration on science studies from New York University (NYU).
After suffering injuring her Achilles tendon from taking too many aerobics classes, her desire to remain physically active led her to yoga. As she was working out she wanted to experience something new and different. “I went into this Sivananda-style class and just hated it,” said Kino. The class was relaxing and calm, which happened to be the exact opposite of what she was looking for.
“Since I had to give up exercising, I would go home and read yoga books… I would try and do some of the stretches and exercises. There were some meditation guidelines, like sit and stair at a candle, and directions for Headstand and Bakasana (Crane pose) and felt really good,” she said. Kino’s introduction to Ashtanga was at the age of 22 in Miami with Ryan Spielman. She participated in two guided classes a week.
After Kino moved to New York City to pursue a Master’s Degree at NYU, she needed a place to practice. The guided classes did not work with her schedule and she discovered the Mysore-style practice. “So I got up at 7 o’clock in the morning, took the subway to Lafayette Square and walked to the Jivamukti Yoga Center, when they still had Ashtanga yoga and Mysore-style classes. I joined the class of the man who is now my friend, Govinda Kai.”
Kai is a Japanese-American and his real name is Russell Kai Yamaguchi. Kai is a stoic yet compassionate person whose heart really lies in the tradition and philosophy of yoga as a lifestyle. Kai’s interest is in the spirit of yoga, rather than technique and alignment of the practice. Kino was amazed at Govinda Kai’s connection to the tradition of yoga. At this point, Kino had only been practicing Ashtanga for 3 to 4 months. [MLS: Kai is also an extraordinary photographer.]
“Suddenly I arrived and memorized all the postures, rolled-out my mat and at the end of my practice he came up to me and said this class meets six days a week, you can come at 8:00” said Kino. “He didn’t give me a way out. It’s not like he said, would you like to join? It was this decision, do this or don’t do yoga and I thought, I can do this. After my first Mysore-style class, it was like wow, it was an answer to a question that I didn’t know I was asking,” she said. “After my first Mysore class it was the definition of inspiration.” Kino’s practice consisted participating in Govinda’s classes six days a week and started at 8:00, grew longer by starting early by arriving at 7:30.”
“I didn’t think I would ever be strong enough,” said Kino. “The first time I put my leg behind my head, it didn’t go there. I wonder if it would ever go there. I had some pain and I thought it would last forever. I learned it was only temporary; it was through the daily practice just having the experience of gaining a little more strength and little more flexibility each day.”
During this period time, Kino received the inspiration to travel to Mysore, India. Govinda made an announcement in class, congratulating two students regarding their trips to Mysore. She read Sri K. Pattabhi’s book Yoga Mala. Jois (Guruji) is the founder of Ashtanga. Jois wrote Yoga Mala in Sanskrit, so there is some confusion regarding the directions because of the translation. Despite the confusion, Kino was fascinated with this book. After finishing Yoga Mala, she had a dream where Jois rescued her from Shiva.
“This sort of wild embodiment of Shiva came down and was larger than life yelling at me,” said Kino. “Just rage, pure rage, there weren’t any specific words. Suddenly Guruji appeared and said to Shiva, please let me take her. Shiva response was, for you, old one, for all that you have done, I will make an exception. Guruji took my hand and put me with a group traveling for Mysore, after that, I woke up and said I immediately have to go to Mysore.”
Two weeks later she purchased her ticket for the trip and during the summer of 2001 traveled to India.
[More installments to come]