Tag Archives: Ninie Ahmad

A weekend with Kiri Sutherland


This weekend, my mornings was been spent with Kiri Sutherland at Upward Yoga studio practicing LED Ashtanga on Saturday and then attending her workshop today. She is a visiting practitioner from New Zealand and one of the 200 certified Ashtanga Teacher in the world. Coming back from the rigorous training in Vikasa where the all-famous Vikasa Salutations leaves many gasping for breath, I was craving for an equally intense teacher led class since. There is a stark difference between pushing myself in my own daily morning practice, and being pushed by someone else in a classroom setting. Kiri’s class was my first teacher led class since I had gotten back.

I don’t identify my practice with a specific type of yoga, and Ashtanga with its own rigorous set of poses (even in the primary series) always has me a little bit apprehensive. So when I decided to turn up at Ninie’s studio yesterday, I was warned that it will be a full primary series practice. Then again in hindsight, what else would you be expecting from say..one of the only 200 certified ashtanga teachers in the world right?

My first thought was “holy shit”. I diligently handed over my fee for the session (no backing out now!) and walked to the lockers to extract my phone and eventually tweeted something that sounded like “OMG, I just signed up for full primary series. We can do itttt…we can do itttt” as images of Sirsasana and arm balances flashed through my mind. It didn’t help that I had just downed a whole cup of freshly brewed Christmas Brew Coffee at Starbucks in an effort to kill of my migraine before the class. My thoughts were racing from one end to the other and the excitement of being able to practice in a class again made it feel like I had an orchestra of chatter up in my head.

The class opened with the soft spoken Kiri as she gently guide us through Surya Namaskar A & B and then the common poses throughout the primary series. We had lots of binding which I love and we went through the whole series of it – From Marichyasana A all the way to D. Hey maybe Ashtanga isn’t so scary after all. Kiri conducted her class with a lot of warmth, a lot of  gentleness about it that it felt comfortable. I think I might have forgotten it was an Ashtanga led class midway through the session!

The workshop today had a slightly larger turn out then the class yesterday with more in depth coverage on the jumpbacks and jump throughs she taught yesterday. My arms aching from yesterday, attempted more of these beautiful-to-watch jumpbacks and jump throughs but SO SO complicated when doing it unto yourself. One knee goes up close to your chest, through the gap between your arms,… and uhh what do I do with the second leg?? A few more practice, and perhaps with a little less calculated thought going into it, maybe, just maybe I will get it looking half as graceful as Kiri’s.

After the workshop ended, a few people hung around and I got to catch up with Ninie on her recent trip to Bali. At the same time I got to ask her about the infamous Chaturanga which I have been trying to do correctly since I realised in Anatomy class at Vikasa that my upper body strength requires lots to be desired for in a perfect Chaturanga. True, that yoga is more than just perfection in asanas, if ever perfection is attainable, but to be able to do it correctly and safely is obviously the ultimate goal.

Ninie, owner of Upward and also someone whom I secretly (or not so secretly anymore I guess, judging by my past entries on her classes) admire is now about 7 months into her first pregnancy. And even in pregnancy, she still keeps up with her practice and posted a jaw dropping practice in her 21 weeks.

I watched in awe as she set herself up into a plank and lowered herself mid-way to a chaturanga, shoulders strong holding her entire body up, knees and belly hovering close to the floor but never touching. “Ok now you try it” she said and I had to stifle a giggle as I set myself into a plank and said “even YOU can do it and you’re pregnant, you’re putting me to shame”. I think she chuckled a little before she said “well I’m pregnant, my tummy can’t really touch the floor anymore now!”

Both Kiri and Ninie reminded me today why yoga can be so humbling, and the gentle kind warmth that radiates from those who understands it well and practices it constantly is inspiring.


The upside of Upward Yoga


Upward Yoga is yoga studio opened sometime in 2011 by Ninie Ahmad-Forget, one of the better known yoga teachers around Malaysia. I only knew about her recently when I stumbled onto her blog, intrigued by her writings and finding out that she has a yoga studio quite close to where I happen to live.

For the last 6 years, I have been a frequent student to the Kevala Center. During this time, I took many classes with different teachers mostly out of convenience of timing rather than a purposeful choice. I went through a number of teachers, all bringing their own unique way of teaching and understanding yoga. The diversity was great and it showed me that there is much to learn about yoga, and ones own understanding and acceptance of it can vary greatly from one person to the other.

Nevertheless, I always find myself gravitating back to Dr. Dhilip and his classes and for the past 1-2 years, he has been the only teacher which I have been learning my poses from, and the one that continues to teach me great many things about the philosophy of yoga beyond what is required on the mat.

One of the beautiful things that he’s taught me about yoga is that it encourages you to tune into yourself, and really listen to what your body is trying to tell you. A new pose might feel uncomfortable, yes, but it should never feel painful or make you temporarily stop breathing because you’re trying so hard to keep still in that one pose. A great article covered by the Yoga Journal recently summarizes this point perfectly (Yoga shouldn’t hurt). When I recently got my best friend, Z to sign up to his classes, one of her ways to describe his classes was “wholesome” which is true, because I am always calmer, and more at peace at the end of his classes. His classes can be challenging at times, one which I have grown to love but lately I have been feeling the need to attend classes which ‘pushes’ me more and further into my poses. In short, something that will challenge me outside of my comfort zone.

So when I learned that this wonderful, tiny teacher by the name of Ninie who writes so eloquently has a studio nearby, I decided to drop by for some trial classes today.

Being a public holiday, Z and I woke up nice and early and headed straight for our class at 9am. We had about maybe 10 students in there and went through the sun salutation – a variation which was different to what I am used to. I am not sure if sun salutations should be practiced in exactly the same way in different types of yoga but variety in this case was truly the spice of my morning 🙂

I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone, and that was exactly what I got. Straight out of the comfort circle and into the wilderness of sweaty, challenging, and uncomfortable poses. Maybe it was because I was new to the class, I felt like I had something to prove (and you know how that ALWAYS ends up ugly right?), at times feeling like I should be able to do what that chick in front of me in her grey Lululemon yoga pants and top is doing.

Once I lost my balance in the Ardha Chandrasana pose and nearly crashed into Z who was beside me, narrowly avoiding a domino effect of stumbling yoga students in that class. A couple of times I find myself thinking “how to become yoga teacher like this??”

But Ninie was a good teacher, leaving you to decide at which pose to safely remain in whilst giving you options to take those poses deeper and challenging yourself further. She made the effort to know her students by name (which always scores brownie points in my ‘yoga teacher evaluation’ books). She complimented on my “line” during a variation of the Bitilasana pose, but also pointed out that I had the wrong leg up during the Vrksasana pose. She was big on the safety part of the practice and gave a couple of reminders throughout the 75 minutes. Never have I been in a class when my sweat threaten to drip to the floor while holding a pose. At the end of it, there was a certain sense of rejuvenation, and I felt energetic like my internal batteries were all fully charged up. I most definitely got what I wanted out of the class, and I think I will be back for more when my need for variation and an extra challenge calls for it.