The Spiritual Guru
The founder and sole teacher of livingroomyogasessions.com, Amina Taha, is a New York based wellness guru, who refused to settle for less when it came to leading a spiritual lifestyle. Leaving corporate life behind without looking back, the former fashion designer now seeks to change the lifestyles and perspectives of her students with yoga, the way it had the same impact on her. Amina Taha talks about yoga for beginners, prenatal poses and how this meditative practice changed her life around.
You were originally a fashion designer. Why the shift to yoga?
I went to my first yoga class before starting my first job in fashion design. I remember how I felt after. Lying down, confused but following instructions on “relaxing” my entire body onto the floor. I felt intrigued, curious and had a million questions whirling through my head. Like I had just met a really interesting person and wanted to get to know more about them. This is how my relationship with yoga began. I was simply enjoying the practice, while finding moments of stillness in my mind. After I started working, I would wake up every morning before work and practise. It was my time for myself, and often my favourite time of the day. The shift was quite dramatic. I remember doing headstands in my dress and heels all day at work, excited to learn a new pose. I was always reading about it and curious as my practice progressed and I had a natural love to share what I was learning. When I felt I was ready to take my knowledge of yoga to another level, I looked into doing my 200-hour yoga teacher training. I loved it even more after delving a little deeper in anatomy, philosophy, meditation and all the things we learned in our teacher training. I came back and taught right away. That’s also when I started my Instagram, so I was getting contacted by people who were in Abu Dhabi where I lived, requesting privates. I taught before work, after work and sometimes even in my lunch break! Then it finally made sense to transition into teaching full-time and I’ve been doing that ever since.
Do you miss fashion design?
I do, but I don’t miss working in the field. I did not find it fulfilling for me to wake up everyday doing it. I admire fashion design. It’s an art that I have so much respect for, but I did not want to be in that field anymore. Once I found my love for yoga, I knew I wanted to wake up and do it everyday. I want to practise yoga and teach it to others because I know how life-changing and beautiful it is.
Is there an age limit to starting yoga for the first time?
I don’t think there’s an age limit to starting yoga or developing flexibility. I started at 27, and I had always thought it was “too late” to learn to do a handstand or the splits. Yoga taught me that anything is possible with daily practice done with love and commitment.
What are the different types of yoga, and what kind do you teach? Does each type target a different goal?
There are so many different types of yoga asana, which is the physical practice of yoga. The ones I have personally practised are Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Iyengar yoga. I combine a bit of all of these in my teaching, but it’s a Vinyasa sequence which means all the postures are somewhat connected.
Every school of yoga definitely has its own style and purpose. For example, Ashtanga yoga is great for building strength and endurance in the body – but there’s also a style of yoga called restorative yoga, and it’s amazing for someone who just wants to bring their nervous system to a calm state without sweating and moving so much.
Is yoga good for just the physical body?
The physical practice is just one out of eight limbs of yoga. Yoga as a whole is a healing and transformative practice, to the physical, mental and emotional body.
Do you consider yoga more of a type of mediation or exercise?
The eight limbs of yoga include the physical practice as well as meditation. I consider them both to be connected. Once you are committed to this practice, there is no separation. The physical aspect of yoga is often referred to as a “moving meditation”, as it is a time to quiet down the mind a little as you stay fully present with your body and breath.
What kind of diets do you follow to complement your healthy lifestyle?
I eat intuitively. If I’m hungry, I listen to my body and eat. During my pregnancy, I was hungry all the time! I eat mainly plant-based diets. I try to fuel my body with nourishing, nutrient-rich foods especially now during breastfeeding, and I swap for healthier alternatives. For example, I love pasta so I enjoy eating red lentil spaghetti with mushrooms and tomato sauce so it’s a little more nutrient dense than white flour pasta. I like to research the different benefits of food and experiment with what makes me feel good. I don’t believe food is an experience during the meal only, I think a very important part of it is how we feel after. I don’t enjoy meals that make me feel too heavy or full. Opting for a more plant-based diet makes me enjoy food a lot more.
Can women do yoga while pregnant?
Of course! Pregnant women can continue their practice and just modify as necessary. If someone has never done yoga before, prenatal yoga is also wonderful to try during pregnancy. They should generally avoid any poses that are done lying on the belly -like the bow pose- or deep twists, and anything that causes the abdomen to bulge or cone as this places pressure on the linea alba and can cause or worsen abdominal separation. It differs from woman to woman. I continued inversions all throughout my pregnancy because they felt great, but avoided backbends because they didn’t feel good in my pregnant body.
How can first-timers deal with muscle fatigue?
Drink a lot of water, take days off for your muscles to rest and recover, and make sure you eat nourishing food that heals and replenishes you.
How important is attire when practising yoga?
It really depends on your own individual preference. I personally like practising in attire that does not feel too restrictive. Quality is also incredibly important for me, especially when I teach. When I practise at home, I usually wear a pair of Alo shorts and bra, or Alo goddess leggings, because they’re just so comfortable. I am lucky to be sponsored by a brand that makes incredibly high quality, stylish yoga wear. I used to buy them all the time before my sponsorship, just because I found that I preferred practising in their fabrics. Your practice has nothing to do with what you wear, it’s just an added comfort.
What are some effective poses for beginners to try out?
Cat/cow, downward facing dog, chair pose, balancing table and dolphin pose to name a few.
Name your favourite:
Sports/Athletic Show… I don’t think I have one, I barely watch TV!
Healthy Hangout Spot… I love Candle Cafe in the Upper East Side!
Healthy Snack… Perfect Bar.
Gym Accessory… I honestly never go to the gym, but if I did I imagine it would be coconut water.
Any advice for beginners?
Try to let go of any ideas you’ve attached to your body and your practice, such as “I’m not flexible. I’m not strong. This is so hard..” etc.
Instead, show up wholeheartedly, and allow your practice to be whatever it is on that day. Enjoy and be grateful for every breath on your mat. Celebrate the little victories that happen. Take lots of photos and videos, and stay curious. Observe your body. Practise with love and have faith that with practice, everything will come.