After practicing yoga for almost a decade, Mahgul Kabir became blown away by the practice and all its benefits – physical and otherwise. She then decided to do her teacher training in Bali and introduce the city of Lahore to yoga and all that it entails, and with that, her yoga practice Soulmat, emerged. In just a short span of time, Soulmat gained immense popularity with classes being full and students wanting more of Mahgul and her yoga.
Mahgul takes time out from her yoga practice Soulmat, to speak to OK! Pakistan about her journey, growth, healing, what yoga means to her, and so much more.
How did you start your journey into yoga?
Mahgul Kabir: I started practicing about 8 or 9 years ago, as a part of my physical fitness routine and somewhere along the way I just fell in love with the movement. After that in 2018 I went and did my yoga teacher training which really made me understand the world of yoga as a philosophy and a way of life.
Why do you devote your life to this practice, and how has it changed you?
MK: Well, simply because I really enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like as much as a devotion, as it does as a way of living and seeing things. And I guess that has been the biggest change it has created in me – the change of perspective. I have started to observe the world around me and in me through a different set of lens.
What’s your mission as a yoga instructor? Who are you trying to reach and why?
MK: My mission as a yoga teacher is to help people feel good in their bodies and through their bodies. There is a quote “Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel” and I think that when initially people get into yoga, that’s what they are surprised by – just how good they feel with it. So just helping people get more connected to that is one focus of mine. On another end of the spectrum I’m super interested in yoga therapy and helping people heal and manage their ailments through the practice of yoga.
What’s your definition of healing? How would you go about the process of it?
MK: There is no simple answer to this, is there? Healing i feel is when you are able to acknowledge, process and release all trauma, memories and attachments that create your reality. There are so many processes to it and so many ways… I don’t think there is only one way. But essentially it begins with becoming more aware of your own self and behaviour.
Yoga in Pakistani media often does not represent the diversity of the human form or experience. What kinds of changes do you feel are necessary for a true paradigm shift?
MK: Well to be honest, I feel like yoga is just not that prevalent here. I feel like it’s just starting to be appreciated and adopted by people. I feel like as this market becomes bigger, the interest in it will become more wide spread and we will see a lot more diversity emerge in the practice. Yoga is really for everyone, and I think the more that people get into it, the more we will see that broader spectrum of experience being offered to people.
Can a person of any size/shape/fitness level start practicing yoga?
MK: Of course! Yoga is for everyone.
What’s your relationship to your own body? How has this changed over time?
MK: Well it has its ups and downs. I’ve always been very conscious about my body since I was a child. I think for anyone who has been chubby or overweight in their life, the stigma remains in-grained no matter what shape you become. So I have become a lot more accepting of my body, a lot less obsessive about working out and what I am eating, but then healing is not linear; I often go back to the same old relationship of judging my body, wishing it was different and how I would be happier if only I was 5kg lighter.
What are some other common, incorrect assumptions about yoga?
MK: Well people often take yoga as stretching, and while it’s not entirely incorrect, yoga is so much more than that!
Finally, what is the goal of yoga as you see it? Where do you see Mahgul/Soulmat in five years?
MK: The ‘goal’ of yoga is essentially self realisation. The self being the ‘true self’ and that’s a journey that I think we all are on whether we see it that way or we don’t.
In five years I see Soulmat being a platform for all things yoga, healing and self awareness. More than that, if I am completely honest, I haven’t thought much about how I would like Soulmat as the platform to evolve. For myself, I think I can only imagine becoming softer, gentler, growing to become a better teacher, a better entrepreneur and hopefully a better person.
INTERVIEW: MAIRA PAGGANWALA
PHOTOGRPHS COURTESY MAHGUL KABIR