#PinayCrush: Kaye Peñaflor

 Photo: Jay Crews

Photo: Jay Crews

Although I've only known her for a few days, I can say for sure that Kaye Peñaflor definitely makes a strong case for getting into mindfulness. She juggles multiple roles but still moves through the world with grace and calm, sharing her gentle, beautiful energy with everyone she encounters. Kaye is the queen of a Toronto-based yoga empire - a certified Vinyasa and Aerial yoga instructor, host/producer of Live Breathe Yoga on Filipino TV, founder of yoga lifestyle brand kaye.yoga, and ambassador for companies like luxury activewear brand lululemon. Her television show brings yoga and wellness tips to elevate mind, body, and soul, and is currently in production on its fourth season and aired to over 100K subscribers weekly. In addition, Kaye has been an accomplished dancer for almost two decades as a principal dancer for Canada's second oldest traditional Filipino folk dance troup, Folklorico Filipino Canada, and a principal dancer for contemporary neo-Filipino folk dance troupe, Hataw. She combines her two passions into her own special program called Pineapple Flower Yoga - taken from her last name, Peñaflor - which combines movements from Filipino folk dance with a dynamic yoga practice. Did we mention that she's also a former actor and model?

I've been blessed to bask in Kaye's radiant energy this week and see her perform as part of Fringe Manila, an annual arts festival showcasing emerging and established artists from both the Philippines and internationally. Read on as we chat about her experiences as a WOC in the wellness industry, the importance of representation and inclusivity, how her heritage has influenced her practice (and her secret poetry skillz) below.

 

HP: Tell me a little bit about your journey and how you got into yoga and wellness.

Kaye: Yoga started for me when my friends opened their first yoga studio in Toronto almost 12 years ago now. My friends and I would take classes to support them and then it became something that I was drawn to do on my own.

Meditation, on the other hand, did not come as easily. I tried it at a Buddhist temple when I was 20 and couldn't wrap my head around it. I kept doing the head bob trying not to fall asleep. I learned about Vipassana in 2008 and knew it was something that would help me connect to building a stronger, healthier relationship with myself. When I finally committed to the 10-day silent retreat, I found meditation much easier to practice.

Are there any styles of yoga you specialize in or particularly love?

I'm a big fan of all things yoga - there are so many styles and amazing teachers to suit my ever-evolving practice. There are days when I am in need of a practice that is more subdued so I lean towards a Restorative or Yin practice. There are days when I want to be dialed-in with a physical practice so I love connecting with an aerial yoga, or acro yoga, or an Ashtanga Vinyasa class. It is likely the reason why I specialize in such an array of styles - to help me understand and be there for my students' growth and evolution within their practice as well.

 Kaye demonstrating Pineapple Flower Yoga // Courtesy of FringeMNL

Kaye demonstrating Pineapple Flower Yoga // Courtesy of FringeMNL

I really want to know more about Pineapple Flower Yoga - how it got its name and how you're combining seemingly disparate elements into a new practice.

Pineapple Flower Yoga takes the skills and movements from Filipino folk dance and complements an empowering yoga practice. As a Principal Dancer with Folklorico Filipino Canada (affectionately known as FFC) I landed my dream role as Princess Gandingan in Singkil the year I began my yoga journey. It wasn't until I really started to look into my practice as a dancer and as a yoga practitioner that I started to see the correlation between the two movement practices. 

The name of the program comes from a story I learned about my family name. In highschool, my Dad shared my grandfather's diary with us. The entry that stood out to me was about our family, generations ago, travelling (or being shipped) from one island to the next. While the last name was written as Piñaflor, it was read as Peñaflor in the transfer and is why it is my last name today. To honour my family name before the mix up from island to island and my Canadian upbringing, I named this program Pineapple Flower Yoga.

What are your thoughts about the conversation around cultural appropriation in the yoga community?

There is a huge shift in consciousness right now. Questions people once kept to themselves are being voiced. Important conversations are being had and yes, sometimes (a lot of the time) there is tension. One would think that the conversation around cultural appropriation in the yoga community would be effortless because, well, zen. The reality is just because a person is a yoga instructor or practitioner, it doesn't mean they are free from defense mechanisms. The topic of cultural appropriation is making everyone question their authenticity and integrity with respect to the practice. That said, everyone connects to yoga for different reasons. Whether it is the physical or spiritual side, yoga helps people connect with a better version of themselves. If we teach and learn from an authentic space, a learned place, it becomes cultural appreciation. 

 Courtesy of FringeMNL

Courtesy of FringeMNL

As a proud Filipina, is it important for you for there to be more representation for POC in the wellness community/industry?

Absolutely. It has become clearer to me within this last year. On one occasion, one of my students said she found me because she typed "Toronto" "Yoga" and "Filipino" into Google and my name popped up. She expressed the importance of having an instructor that she could relate to. Additionally, I was a part of a lovely program with Kapisanan called Clutch and co-facilitated a yoga and reiki workshop with my dear friend and Reiki Master, Pearce Cacalda. It was interesting to hear the feedback from this group of young Filipinx about their thoughts about yoga. One participant expressed that when she thinks of lululemon, she pictures white women in nice yoga clothes. That hit home for me and made me even prouder of my role as a lululemon Ambassador who is woman of colour. Representation is so integral to inclusivity. Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world - the wellness community needs leaders from all cultural backgrounds to inspire self care and personal development within each community.

How does it feel to return to the Philippines after twenty years and be able to participate in an event like Fringe as an adult?

Phenomenal. The experience now feels more grounded and true to who I am. 

At only 18 years old, my first experience was very different. I was acting and modelling back then and had some amazing experiences working with very talented people who have become quite established in the industry since. Being so young and new to the scene, I had little to no control of the gigs I had access to and landed. As time progressed, I ended up stepping away from the entertainment industry altogether in 2005 because I started to lose my sense of self and the only way I would go back was if I had full creative control of what I produce. 

Fringe has given me a platform to share my passion for health, wellness and yoga to a generation of artists who are wildly receptive to personal development. 

Tell me about some of the events and workshops you're going to be doing while you're out here!

I'm super excited to share the things I love with the Fringe community :) Check out this awesome schedule:

  • February 11 / Master Class / 3-6pm / Commune >> This workshop is designed for the ambitious artist. It includes a guided meditation, exercises to outline your vision and goals, as well as a mindful movement practice.
  • February 17 / Pineapple Flower Yoga / 3:30-6:30pm / Beyond Yoga Rockwell >> This program takes movements & skills from Filipino folk dance to complement a dynamic yoga practice.
  • February 18 / Lovers Rock: A Daycation for Artists / 11am-7pm / Nest Nano Suites Rooftop >> This one-day yoga retreat introduces healing self-care practices to help guests cultivate creativity. There will be an intro to reiki, chakra balancing, sacred sexuality & self-touch, sound healing with a beautiful sunset yoga practice to close the day. Each guest will receive a special gift from lululemon :)
  • February 20 / Strength & Length: Aerial Yoga / 3pm, 4pm, 5pm (3 sessions to choose from) / Century City Mall >> Each 45 minute class will allow students to explore spinal decompression and core stabilization with the support of an aerial hammock.
  • February 24 / Konnekt: Acro/Partner Yoga / 3:30-6:30pm / Beyond Yoga Rockwell >> Bring a friend or fly solo (we can pair you up with a group!) Acro & Partner Yoga help students Konnekt - not just with their own development but with their team as well. This is established through effective communication, anticipating the needs of your team and exploring body awareness.

Tickets range from 500-1500 Php (for 3hr workshops) 2200-2500 Php (for 1 day yoga retreat)

Additionally, I will be continuing to share weekly online classes while I'm here. These free classes can be found on my YouTube channel www.youtube.com/c/kayeyoga

 One-legged wheel pose in Batangas

One-legged wheel pose in Batangas

How does your Filipina heritage inform your work?

The hilot within me is the gentle force behind every class I share. Without my Filipina heritage, I wouldn't have been able to conceptualize Pineapple Flower Yoga. 

What makes you Hella Pinay or what does that mean to you?

I'll share it in a Haiku:

Ay Hella Pinay!

Malakas at Maganda

I, Hella Pinay.

 

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Connect with Kaye via Instagram @kaye.yoga, online at kaye.yoga, or take a free weekly online class on her YouTube channel

If you're in Canada, tune into her show Live Breathe Yoga, currently in its third season on Filipino TV