Travel and Adventure host for Discovery Channel, Environmentalist, former- MTV star, Ford Supermodel and YJSG cover model tells us, in her own words, why more than anything else—she’s a yogi.
By Denise Keller
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE on the yoga mat was a series of Surya Namaskaras (sun salutations) when I was 17, didn’t own a single yoga pant and couldn’t do half the poses called out by the teacher. I struggled like hell to hold myself up in that Down-Dog, arms quivering, instantly giving me a rush to the head as the blood collected in my skull. I watched in horror as the women around me continued to effortlessly move into all sorts of positions that my body refused to follow.
Fast forward to 2016, I juggle my roles as a travel presenter and producer, a live host, an environmentalist and a yoga teacher. I did a self-introspection recently to understand why I do the things I do, specially why I turn to the yoga mat so often.
I had been on and off the mat for 15 years, not really understanding why I sought yoga whenever the cameras were off. Sometimes I would sneak into a pose to stretch out the aches and stiffness between camera setups. Was it a light exercise to alleviate work stress or was there some sort of a deeper purpose? I also wondered why I preferred more meditation in my 30’s than my 20’s. There were many questions about yoga in my head and the answer was actually quite simple.
I realized that I do yoga because it connects me closer to myself and to others. I first started doing yoga for flexibility and strength, but over the years as my practice grew stronger, I learned to be present: to sit in the seat of the observer. Yoga inspires me to uncover my fears and hesitations, so I can grow and move past them to reach my unlimited potential.
I understand that passion for life can transform you, as aptly put forth by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras: “When you are inspired by some great purpose, all of your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world!”
Indeed, I had no idea how much of an impact yoga really had on my life until now. This year, I made yoga a priority in my work schedule, something I had never done before. Instead of making time for yoga after work, I made yoga the center of my work. I blocked out months for yoga teacher training courses throughout the year, and rearranged my ‘celeb’ life around them. My manager thought I was nuts, to say the least. I lost jobs and I even turned some away.
My recent 300-hour yoga teacher training with Dice Iida-Klein and Briohny Smyth (Bryce Yoga) in Koh Samui was the final training for the year.
Spending a month with 42 incredible teachers from all over the world was life changing. Not only did it teach me to be vulnerable and open—things I don’t normally get to feel on a daily level back home—but it also taught me how to make better decisions in my life. Everything about practicing yoga involves intention; you set apart time in your day to do it, you move in a specific manner and you breathe in a specific way. And when you are mindful and deliberate in your yoga practice, you create an opportunity to become more mindful and deliberate in your life.
And when you’re lying in Savasana, the corpse pose, at the end of your 2-3 hour daily yoga practice, after you’ve worked so hard and felt thoroughly present and connected to your body, that sense of joy and freedom you experience is an expression of your true nature. Even though it may be fleeting, it shows you what is possible. To sum it up, I became more of me and less of everything else around me.
I returned home, with a heart full of gratitude, to my patient husband who endures all my yoga chatter; to a curious mother who now asks about yoga (funnily, she always thought yoga was only for Indians!); to supportive teacher friends at Pure Yoga who gave me my foundation in yoga; to my new and exciting film ‘Expedition X : The Silk Road Rising’ on Discovery Channel; to an abundance of job bookings including a Yoga Journal Singapore cover shoot! Yoga Journal is a magazine I love reading on plane rides and a magazine I archive in my yoga room at home.
I’m grateful everyday for where yoga has brought me and hold it as the most important part of my life. I’m so grateful I made yoga the center of my world.