Having left behind her life on a whim to pursue yoga, Amina Taha now poses to a global audience of hundreds of thousands.
From novice, to obsessive, to globally-recognised instructor, Amina Taha’s journey in the world of yoga is the kind of rousing story that one can’t help but attach words like ‘inspirational’ and ‘motivational’ to – but worry not, we’re going to steer well clear from them. Based in New York, where she teaches at prestigious centre, Alo Yoga, the Egyptian yoga fanatic didn’t set out with any real goal when she attended her first class. But a few short years later, she finds herself speaking the language of yoga to hundreds of people from across the world via social media.
“I started with my sister, who is 13 years younger than me,” Taha tells CairoScene of her beginnings in yoga. “I was 27 when I started and she was 14. It was such a learning experience to see how different our bodies were; she could easily back-bend into the deepest back-bends ever and not feel a thing. She had no fear. I realised that we can often hold onto so much tension as we get older, and this tension manifests into our physical state. We get a lot more fearful as we age, too. She was never afraid to fall.”
Learning to let go of that fear (a fear compounded by the fact that she had no history in sports or gymnastics), Taha went on to become a prominent teacher in New York and is now able to bend backwards, sideways and in ways we didn’t even think humanely possibly. It’s letting go of her fear that also allowed Taha to do the unthinkable and leave a stable job and income to pursue her career as a full-blown yogi. A daunting decision for most, but for Taha, it was a leap of faith she was willing to take and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I remember feeling very excited about thinking of anything yoga-related and that excitement would carry me through the day,” she recalls like a star-struck lover talking about her one-and-only. “I also remember that the day I quit my job. I had no feeling of regret or worry — I felt I was following my true calling and that so much was waiting on the other end.”
With 255K followers on her Instagram page, Taha doesn’t shy away from practicing her yoga poses everywhere she goes. With the help of her photographer husband, Taha’s account is awash with photographs that brilliantly capture the essence of yoga. These aren’t planned or choreographed set-ups, though. Not dissimilar to how she found her way into yoga, Taha follows her instincts.
“Sometimes, we’ll to be walking, the light would be just right and he’ll ask me if I’d like to do something in that spot,” she explains. “It’s usually the location that inspires the pose, but sometimes, it’s a pose I have in mind and the location falls into place.”
What gives Taha’s photos depth is her unique outlook on what she considers to be a marriage of yoga and photography. She’s not merely documenting her poses, but presenting them almost as performance art, going as far as to compare what can constitute beauty in both.
“Yoga photography can be incredibly beautiful, as you are capturing the human form in all the possible ways the body can make shapes. I find similarities [in yoga and photography] not only in shapes, lines and colours, but also as mediums of self-expression.”
Despite what you see in her photographs, however, Taha is quick to point out that it didn’t always come naturally.
“It’s easy to see a picture-perfect pose of someone strong and flexible and think that this person is just born that way; that they’ve been genetically blessed or have done gymnastics or ballet their whole life; that it’s too late to do something like that now,” says Taha.
Taha has carried this spirit in her latest venture, Living Room Yoga Sessions, a platform that brings handstands, back-bends and camel poses in all their glory straight to the living rooms of yoga enthusiasts.
"I started Living Room Yoga Sessions because I'd been getting a lot of question concerning the progress photos I'd post online, with people asking me how I'd gotten from this point to that,” explains Taha. “I wanted to show people guided techniques that are safe and that balance flexibility with strength. It’s designed so that you’re able to develop your home practice. I share all the techniques that I have personally used, come up with myself or was taught by others, to get to the point that I'm at right now.”
With a set of six classes, most of which extend from 75 to 90 minutes, Living Room Yoga Sessions ensure safe techniques including the basics that can be practiced at home.
“My whole message is that what you don’t see everything behind the photos — the hours of hard work, discipline, research, falling and failing, yet showing up again and again and figuring it out. There’s is no magic and there’s no shortcut, it’s all about showing up and being consistent, believing in yourself and practicing.”