From Fashion to Yoga With Amina Taha

Author: Kristen McCloud

While Amina Taha has always loved fashion -- so much so that she received a formal degree in design -- she has found true solace in yoga. After moving from New York to Dubai and discovering the practice, Amina became hooked and never looked back. Overtime, the benefits of yoga spanned across all aspects of Amina's life, both physical and mental. After not being able to get enough, Amina completed hundreds of hours of yoga teacher training and entered the space professionally. Now, she is a globally recognized teacher and will soon have her own archive of online classes accessible worldwide. Read on to learn more about Amina's journey from beginner yogi to full-blown yoga instructor.

You got your masters in fashion design in New York. How did you make the switch from fashion to yoga?
The switch happened quite naturally -- I don't think I was fully aware of it as it happened. It was a shift in my life that led me there.

After graduating, my husband and I decided to leave New York and move to Dubai. I had a strange curiosity about yoga, so I looked up yoga studios and I went to a nearby one. It was an intermediate hatha flow. I couldn't keep up with anything, I could not touch my toes, I was out of breath, but I was mesmerized. How people were being led to move with the breath and the beauty of the flow, everything seemed to be in harmony. I saw the teacher cueing people at the end of the class to go into a headstand and I was in awe. I wanted to stand on my head! Then, when the time for savasana came, I found myself being completely immersed in letting go and entering this bizarre, relaxed state that I wasn't used to.

Safe to say I was hooked! I practiced every day. I even used a mobile app and I would wake up early before work just to practice. I was amazed at the things my unhealthy body at the time could do!

I decided to do my teacher training to learn more about yoga after practicing for 1.5 years. I found myself teaching afterward, it was one of those things I didn't actively seek or control. I realized how fulfilling it felt to wake up and do something I loved -- I loved expressing my passion by teaching others. I decided to quit my 9-5 fashion job and teach yoga full-time.

What has been the greatest benefit that yoga has had for you personally so far?
I think with yoga, I've learned how to breathe. I don't mean it in an advanced yogic breathing way or pranayama -- I mean that I've learned to bring awareness to my breath. When learning to breathe, I've learned to be aware of my thoughts and not let life events control me or dictate how I should react to situations. I have also come to know my body; to honor it and trust it. It has helped me develop a strong connection to my body, which has encouraged me to drop a lot of previous bad habits.

What’s your favorite yoga pose and why?
I think my favorite yoga pose is dancer's pose. It also goes by the name "standing bow" or "natarajasana." I was in awe at how aesthetically pleasing the pose looked -- then I realized that a tremendous amount of focus was required to learn how to balance in it. I love how it's a mixture of active flexibility, balance, and strength all in one pose!

You’re offering online video classes soon! What sparked your decision to enter the digital space with yoga?
I've had some friends ask me to send them videos, or people who do not live in the UAE who would like to try a class. I would film flexibility tutorials for my sister from my phone -- such a hassle to send -- so I realized that I would love to share my classes with people who live all around the world.

I personally benefited a lot from online classes and I love that you can practice them at your own pace, and on your own time; pausing whenever you want to work on something a bit longer. It felt more personal and less rigid than a studio group class, but offered the structure and guidance needed for practice.

Anything that you do in addition to yoga to aid your healthy lifestyle?
Yoga has caused a shift in my lifestyle naturally. I was never into exercise being a "chore" and I prefer movement rather than a timed workout. My husband loves outdoor activities so we go camping and when we travel we always bike, hike, etc. But other than yoga, I don't practice anything else daily.

In addition to yoga I have changed the way I eat. I was not very mindful of what I ate or where it came from before, and now I have switched to a more holistic approach to nutrition. I have a more conscious, vegan, plant-based diet.

Some people who feel that their minds run a mile a minute are apprehensive about trying yoga because of how mellow it requires you to be. What advice do you have for them?
My advice for them would be, yoga is not always mellow! Actually, it can be quite the opposite. Some of my students are surprised at how much yoga can make you sweat! It can be quite fast paced and intense.

I do think, however, that yoga asana (posture) can pave the way or spark an interest in other aspects of yoga. The awareness of breath, balance, and focus that yoga teaches you might increase your curiosity towards meditation or practicing stillness. Yoga teaches you slowly how to find peace in stillness and how to appreciate movement.

“I love that feeling of connection when the teacher chants 'om' because you feel united, no matter where you are in the world."

You’ve traveled all over the world doing yoga, do you find that practices are generally the same everywhere or do they differ?
Everywhere that I have been so far has been slightly been different in an interesting way. It's fascinating to see that the core philosophy of yoga is preserved in a way; it is encouraged worldwide to be kind to your body, move with your breath, and to never force anything. I love that feeling of connection when the teacher chants "om" because you feel united, no matter where you are in the world.

You’ve talked on Instagram about how your fear of teaching has turned into a love of it! What’s the most rewarding part about being a yoga teacher?
I didn't know during or before my Yoga 200-hour training that I already LOVED teaching, I wasn't very aware of it. Now looking back I remember that during my own home practice, when I would be able to do a certain pose after a long time, I would feel this urge to teach it to anyone around me. My husband, my sister, or even my mom! I would send videos of how to do a pose or work towards one on What's App to my friends. I was so comfortable and passionate about doing it.

Then during my YTT it all became very real. Suddenly, I had to stand in front of a room and teach to other yogis and teachers. I was terrified. I did not know the words, and my voice was weak and small. I was not myself.

When I returned to Dubai, I started teaching some of my friends and then my student group started to widen. I realized with every class, I found more of that "voice." It comes and goes, to be honest with you. I have been teaching for less than a year, and teaching itself is an art on its own that requires years of training. But it is the most rewarding feeling I have experienced, to channel a passion for something in order to teach others and watch a student begin to learn more about their body through their practice.

What are three hidden gems in Dubai?
1. Life n'One, a really cute vegan cafe I found in Dubai! The food is delicious and it is in a beautiful, outdoor garden.

2. Not exactly hidden, but it is one of my favorite places in Dubai because it feels like home! It's an aerial arts studio called Pole Fit Dubai. My favorite teachers, Michelle and Vlada, are the ones who founded it. They offer pole and silks classes, as well as body flex (flexibility classes) where I got my first split. When you go to their beautiful space, you are constantly surrounded by incredible energy, inspiration, and so much girl power!

3. My French hairstylist, she is incredible. Her place is one of the most beautiful apartments I have ever been to, overlooking the entire city! She has a taste for subtlety, and she paints hair in a way that resembles a long day at the beach, sunkissed and natural. She keeps your natural color and adds a few lighter streaks so magically. I do my balayage with her twice a year!

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
A woman whose energy radiates from within. She is graceful, strong, passionate, and full of energy!

Who’s your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she’s an inspiration to you.
My MISSBISH is my mom. She's a symbol of unconditional love, grace, and endless giving. My mom used to be a ballet dancer and I believe my sisters and I inherited her natural flexibility. She has given me so much love and support to follow my heart and do what I love, from a very young age.

Photographer: @azkosber