Internationally renowned Ashtanga yoga instructor Kino MacGregor is the kind of person who doesn’t just put both of her legs behind her head — she does it while smiling.
“Just for fun,” she recently attempted a no-hands headstand. (Yes, that’s a headstand that requires balancing on just your skull.) The pose “is a good test and teacher of alignment,” says MacGregor, who posted photographic evidence that she actually did it “for a very brief second.”
So when MacGregor plans a weekend of workshops at Woodley Park Yoga (see box), you’d better believe people will have their cameras ready. In fact, MacGregor — whose home is in Miami Beach, where she and her husband run the Miami Life Center — is already thinking about the photos she’ll take in D.C.
As part of her monthlong #backbendmadness challenge on Instagram, MacGregor is demonstrating progressively tougher poses every day in March. While she’s here, it’ll be time to show off scorpion handstand, which requires standing on your hands while bringing the soles of your feet to your head. MacGregor is soliciting suggestions of an iconic D.C. location for the photo.
“I’d love to do it any place I won’t get arrested,” she jokes.
All kidding aside, the fact that MacGregor can pull off so many of these advanced poses has helped change perceptions of Ashtanga. Although women have long been practitioners of this style of yoga, the leaders have traditionally been men. Her photos are proof that women are just as strong as the guys.
“There was talk the female body couldn’t do these movements,” MacGregor says. “It was a huge mental block.”
Many of the hurdles that arise in yoga are in the brain, not the body, MacGregor adds. That’s why when she’s teaching, she likes to help participants push their boundaries. At the point when they want to quit, she encourages them to keep going, to turn it into a mental exercise.
That technique has allowed MacGregor to continue to progress in Ashtanga. In January, she finally completed the discipline’s fourth series of poses — an undertaking she began six years ago.
“It used to be so challenging that it would put me in a bad mood,” MacGregor says. Luckily for her students, the learning process ended up boosting her empathy, she adds.
She understands how tricky it can be for newbies to work their way through even the first few postures in Ashtanga’s primary series. So her latest project is aimed directly at helping them. In April, MacGregor is releasing a beginner’s DVD with five practices, starting with a breakdown of sun salutations.
Kino MacGregor will lead four workshops this weekend for Woodley Park Yoga at the Edmund Burke School (4101 Connecticut Ave. NW). On Saturday, she’ll guide students through the Ashtanga Yoga Full Primary Series at 9 a.m. and offer “Fly like a Bird: All About Bakasana” at 1 p.m. On Sunday, she’ll offer a Mysore-style practice at 8 a.m. and teach “Strong Steady Grace,” which focuses on arm balances, at noon. The full weekend is $195; each session is $55. To register, email email@example.com.