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Bronze yogini figurines resting on slip-resistant Manduka mats. – Pictures by Choo Choy MayBronze yogini figurines resting on slip-resistant Manduka mats. – Pictures by Choo Choy MayPETALING JAYA, June 1 — Yoga teacher Ninie Ahmad’s studio, Upward Yoga, was a wedding gift from her husband. She says, “Ten days before our wedding, he took me to view an empty space near our new home. At the time, I had taken a year off teaching. He told me that the space was perfect for me to resume my classes. ‘It’s time,’ he said.”

Opened in 2011, Upward Yoga is a pristine, open space. There are many photographs of New York city and I Love NYC posters. Ninie says, “I modelled Upward Yoga after my favourite studios in New York city.

Those yoga studios don’t use mirrors so I find students will correct their poses based on what they feel within rather than checking their reflections.”

Smiling, the petite yoga guru adds, “Most serious yoga practitioners seem to find their enlightenment in India. I found my place of peace in New York, and now here in my own studio.”

Ninie Ahmad has found her place of peace in her yoga studioNinie Ahmad has found her place of peace in her yoga studio1. Mats

Upward Yoga offers students the use of high-performance, slip-resistant Manduka mats, which are made from a blend of polyester and eco-certified PVC. Ninie says, “Serious yoga practitioners swear by this mat as it supposedly never gets damaged and has a lifetime warranty. The idea is it should last long enough to pass down to your children.”

One of Ninie’s favourite yoga books is Ashtanga Yoga As It Is by Matthew SweeneyOne of Ninie’s favourite yoga books is Ashtanga Yoga As It Is by Matthew Sweeney2. Yoga books

One of Ninie’s favourite yoga books is Ashtanga Yoga As It Is by Matthew Sweeney, one of the most advanced practitioners of Ashtanga yoga in the world. She says, “I started yoga in 1999 but only began my Ashtanga practice in 2008. This book is an indispensable step-by-step guide, complete with what to do and how to eat.”

Ashtanga yoga requires serious discipline and commitment as it requires six days of two-hour practices per week. Ninie says, “It is not for everyone but I enjoy this, what I consider to be the most challenging form of yoga. Others often think I’m good at yoga because I am flexible and strong. In fact, all my flexibility and strength comes from practising Ashtanga yoga.”

Ninie took five years to complete all the poses in this Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series posterNinie took five years to complete all the poses in this Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series poster3. Yoga poses poster

A framed poster on the studio wall displays the poses and sequence of the first and easiest series of Ashtanga yoga. For Ninie, it’s both an easy reference and a source of motivation. She says, “I used to wake up at 4am to practice for a couple of hours before breakfast. For example, the Chaturanga (or yoga push-up pose) turns up 84 times in this sequence alone. Imagine doing that number of triceps push-ups!”

Ninie admits that initially she didn’t like Ashtanga yoga because being unable to do all the poses frustrated the perfectionist in her. It took her five years to complete all the poses in sequence. She says, “Ashtanga humbles me.”

These beautiful feathers hint at Ninie’s favourite yoga pose, the Peacock Pose or PinchaThese beautiful feathers hint at Ninie’s favourite yoga pose, the Peacock Pose or Pincha4. Peacock feathers

Two tall vases of peacock feathers have an important place in Ninie’s studio and in her heart. She explains, “My mother-in-law gave me these feathers as she knew I loved feathers. My favourite pose is also called the Peacock Pose or Pincha.”

When Ninie was pregnant with her daughter, she found that the Pincha pose, previously difficult for her, was now easy. When it came time to name her newborn child, it was a no-brainer. She says, “Pincha chose her own name.”

5. Bronze yogini figurines

Ninie first saw these bronze figurines of yoginis (female master practitioners of yoga) at a shop in Bangsar. However, as they were very expensive, she decided to save up to buy them. She recalls, “I was pleasantly surprised when my husband bought me one for my studio opening.”

When Ninie returned to the shop to buy the rest, the shop owner told her someone had bought the rest. She was disappointed till she received another figurine from her husband for her birthday, and then a third for their wedding anniversary. She says, “They are a beautiful reminder of devotion to my practice as well as my husband’s love.”

This mural made from giant Scrabble tiles reminds students to breathe, stretch, and healThis mural made from giant Scrabble tiles reminds students to breathe, stretch, and heal6. Scrabble tile display

Upward Yoga’s feature wall used to be covered with numerous framed magazine interviews from Ninie’s early years. She later removed them to remind herself not to hold on to the past as well as not to distract her students from their practice.

In their place, she has put up a mural made from giant Scrabble tiles. She explains, “I used to be a big Scrabble player. I had bought some of these tiles as decorations for my daughter’s first birthday and then decided to recycle them into a new focal point for yoga practice – to breathe, stretch, and heal.”

Ninie believes that each essential oil has a different healing attributeNinie believes that each essential oil has a different healing attribute7. Candles and essential oils

The calm, steady glow of a candle’s flame and the fragrance wafting from essential oil invigorate the minds and bodies that enter the Upward Yoga studio. Ninie says, “Each essential oil has a different healing attribute. My favourites are citrusy oils such as orange, tangerine, lemongrass and mandarin. These really help to refresh the studio and everyone within.”

The right music can help deepen the focus on breathing during yoga practiceThe right music can help deepen the focus on breathing during yoga practice8. Music

During her classes, Ninie plays a musical accompaniment for Ashtanga Yoga’s Primary Series titled Learn to Float. Created by David Robson, the music leads practitioners through the sequence of poses to the steady, hypnotic beat of a drum. She says, “This helps deepen the focus on breathing during the practice. Also, I find the repetitive beats a form of meditation on its own.”

In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, everyone is believed to have a predetermined number of breaths in a lifetime. Ninie says, “Therefore, the longer the breaths we take, the longer we live. I always tell my students to inhale the optimism around you and exhale all the stress.”

9. Singing bowl

Similarly borrowed from Tibetan lore is the singing bowl (also known as a standing bell or suzu gong). Ninie shares, “The Tibetans believe that when you hit the rim of the bowl with a handle, it produces a fundamental frequency that balances and rearranges the molecules in your body back to perfection again. At the end of my classes, I will ring the singing bowl to wake my students up from Savasana or the resting pose.”

Ninie’s singing bowl is a handmade bronze bowl from Ubud, Bali, where she attends the BaliSpirit Yoga Festival every year. She says, “As it’s handcrafted, the bowl is not perfectly smooth and therefore produces a more organic sound. It creates different energies that are healing and meditative.”

Upward Yoga

Bungaraya Complex, Persiaran Golf, Saujana Resort, 40150 Subang, Selangor

http://upwardyoga.com

http://facebook.com/upwardyoga

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