VJ-turned-travel-host and yoga instructor, Denise Keller’s personal journey is just as compelling as her globetrotting ones. I had the chance to find out more about how this multitasker is able to take it all in and stay on top of the ladder in her career.
FEMALE: How did you get started in yoga? Did you always have a passion for fitness?
Denise: “I’ve been practicing yoga since I was 14, but it was an accidental discovery. I was a child gymnast since three and I could never sit still! Unfortunately when I was 12, I dislocated my shoulder in a competition and that was the end of my gymnastics career. It was actually my modelling manager who suggested yoga to aid my rehabilitation and recovery so my mum took me to yoga classes in a community centre. Back then, the only attendees for yoga were older aunties who doted on me and I loved it!”
F: How important is it to have the right yoga instructor and why did you choose to become one?
D: “The right teacher will help you understand better and find that special connection. Yoga is yoga, but finding your guru – for me that’s the connection. I didn’t always want to be an instructor. I just wanted to learn more and deepen my practice. I wanted to test out my knowledge so I did free classes and taught anyone who was willing to learn. That’s how I got into teaching.”
F: You said before that you might have gone mad if you didn’t take up yoga. Why is that?
D: “I think it was the hours we have to put into showbiz. It’s gruelling to be on the road for so long and not have a break when you film, because time is money. And you have to be [in character] because your persona is what you’re giving to the camera, so you have to turn it on and that’s energy that you’re pushing out. Not forgetting all the early mornings, packing and unpacking, going from city to city… you come back and you feel dead. You do that for months and when you come back, you don’t feel like you have a home. Like, where do I belong, and what am I doing with my life? It was one of those things that made me wake up and think, where did my life go to? It was all on TV. I wanted to come home and have a family because my life up till then had always been on the go. 14 years went by and I forgot I had a life.”
F: What are some of the lessons that yoga has taught you in life?
D: “I think whatever you learn on your yoga mat should be applied to the rest of your life! Maybe it’s a bit cliché, but the reason why you practice yoga is so you can be like that off the mat – mindful and connected to yourself, nature and others. I learnt how to be open-minded and practice non-judgement. I think that’s really important. Inhale, exhale and don’t judge. We don’t need extra friction in life, so if you can practice compassion wherever you go, it helps.”
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F: What are your plans in the near future?
D: “I am going back to Discovery Channel to do a series on Kashmir and I’m going to start a new travel series on this ship called Genting Dream. We’re doing a six-part digital web series on port cities like Klang, Langkawi, Penang, Phuket, and Bali through the cruise. I’ll also be teaching yoga on the ship!”
F: Are you afraid of going back?
D: “No, I think it’ll be different this time. Kashmir is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m only going to be away for a couple of weeks this time, not months or years. The reason why I was gone for so long on my other shows was because it was my own production where I was both the producer and presenter. It was great training but it was exhausting and I’d probably not do it again because I love the balance I have now.”
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F: What’s your advice on how to find balance in life (primarily career and personal life)?
D: “I’ve negotiated some terms with my husband about how many days I can be away. As a creative director, he knows what it’s like and he understands that I have itchy feet. My advice is this: if you can take 10 to 15 minutes of your day to do one thing, be it yoga, stretching, a walk or a bit of meditation, I think that’s great already. I recommend waking up earlier rather than staying up late on your phone or watching TV. Just learn how to switch off.”
F: Have you considered retirement?
D: “No, no. I definitely want to have kids and settle down but we’re still both very busy and we have to be in the same country first. For now, we’ve got three cats, a dog and a turtle called Kangkung!”
F: How do you spend your free time?
D: “I do yoga and go for walks and runs with my husband. And reading too! Right now, I’m obsessed with all my books on Kashmir. It’s so romantic. I like to cook too. I make a pretty good Thai Basil Chicken and Wiener Schnitzel!”
From the print edition.