Denise Keller

Cover girl Denise Keller shares how she feels younger and happier than ever in her mid-30s – thanks to yoga, a healthy diet and liv­ing mind­fully.

Shape (Singapore) - - Front Page - TEXT ESTELLE LOW PHO­TOG­RA­PHY VEE CHIN

The travel host re­veals how yoga lit­er­ally changed her life

You might re­mem­ber Denise Keller as the MTV Asia VJ with the megawatt smile. Or the model who fronted mul­ti­ple in­ter­na­tional cam­paigns af­ter win­ning the Ford’s Su­per­model of the World fi­nals in 2000.

And if you watch cable TV, you would have seen her host­ing Discovery Chan­nel travel shows, like Pas­sage to

Malaysia, and Ex­pe­di­tion X: Silk Road Ris­ing, in which she jour­neys from China to Turkey along the an­cient Silk Road, and dis­cov­ers how a new gen­er­a­tion of ex­plor­ers, en­trepreneurs and in­no­va­tors is mak­ing it rel­e­vant again.

Fast for­ward to to­day, this TV pro­ducer and pre­sen­ter spends more time on her yoga mat than be­hind the cam­era. “Af­ter a decade in show­biz, I de­cided to slow down and find a bal­ance be­tween work and my pas­sion for well­ness,” she says, let­ting on that she’s be­come more mind­ful about spend­ing time with her fam­ily af­ter get­ting mar­ried in 2015. So far, that work-life bal­ance has paid off.

Denise had yoga teacher train­ing – 1,500 in­ten­sive hours, to be ex­act – and now teaches Yoga Jam (yoga flow to mu­sic) at TripleFit Sin­ga­pore. She also has pri­vate stu­dents, in­clud­ing ex­pec­tant mums.

Be­sides teach­ing, she works out at least six times a week for two to three hours each time, do­ing a mix of yoga, gym­nas­tics, calisthenics and run­ning. “I like to switch things up. Some days, I’ll run 5km around my neigh­bour­hood, other days I’ll just do a yoga flow on my mat till I’m drenched. There are also days when I want to do all the things I used to do as a kid, like jump­ing around. I need my play­time!”

With her crazy ac­tive life, it’s no sur­prise that Denise scored an am­bas­sador­ship with Un­der Ar­mour, and re­cently made her foray into fit­ness fash­ion by col­lab­o­rat­ing with lo­cal brand Vivre Ac­tivewear to launch an ex­clu­sive col­lec­tion, which is avail­able on www. vivre­ac­tivewear.com and at the #B1-04 Wisma Atria store, while stocks last.

Truth be told, the Denise Keller we see to­day is much more self-as­sured than the one seven years ago, when we first fea­tured her on Shape’s July 2010 cover. She’s also glow­ing – and it’s not be­cause of makeup.

“I feel the youngest I’ve ever felt,” the 35-year-old con­fesses. Still at her av­er­age weight of 52kg, she has gained sig­nif­i­cant mus­cle tone in her arms, abs and thighs, and lost some body fat. Her skin is just as taut and spot­less as we re­mem­ber. And there’s an un­mis­tak­able sparkle in her eyes when­ever she talks about yoga, fit­ness and well­ness.

She’s def­i­nitely on to some­thing.

SHAPE How did you get started in yoga? DENISE I’ve been do­ing yoga since I was 15. My then-mod­el­ling agency sug­gested I try yoga to main­tain my weight and re­ha­bil­i­tate my old in­juries from gym­nas­tics. Due to my left knee injury, I was strug­gling to walk in high heels for fash­ion shows and needed to learn to strengthen my legs. There weren’t many yoga classes back then, but I found one in a com­mu­nity cen­tre. I’ll never for­get my first class be­cause the women in the room left such an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion on me: so strong, el­e­gant and poised. I was hooked.

SHAPE How has your yoga jour­ney evolved over the years?

DENISE Yoga’s the one con­stant thing in my life. I’ve al­ways had a hard time con­trol­ling my mon­key mind and yoga gave me fo­cus and con­cen­tra­tion dur­ing my TV days. When­ever I felt anx­ious be­fore the cam­era rolled, I would find a quiet spot and do prayanama (breath­ing ex­er­cises). On the road, when­ever I felt tired, I would do yoga at the air­port to recharge.

SHAPE Why did you de­cide to be­come a yoga teacher?

DENISE It was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion for me. I had a pretty strong self-prac­tice and read many books about yoga. Arun Rana, Hee Boon, Sandy and Pu­nam from Pure Yoga gave me my first foun­da­tions as a yoga teacher and I will al­ways be grate­ful for their wis­dom, sup­port and love.

SHAPE Who are your yoga train­ers and men­tors?

DENISE Tif­fany Cruik­shank will al­ways be my pil­lar of yoga train­ing. She in­spires me to learn more, study more and ob­serve more. Lisa Low from Sage­house, who in­tro­duced me to Tif­fany, men­tored me through­out my teacher train­ing. She is my go-to for when I don’t know or un­der­stand some­thing about the body. Lastly, Fir­daus Fidr­ishah from TripleFit, who coaches me from the heart in gym­nas­tics. I never knew I would re­turn to my gym­nas­tics roots at this age!

SHAPE What in­spired you to teach Yoga Jam at TripleFit?

DENISE Yoga Jam was in­spired by my love for mu­sic. Hav­ing been in the in­dus­try for so long, I al­ways en­joy a good playlist or jam ses­sion. The other in­spi­ra­tion came from a class in Los Angeles, where the teacher taught us sim­ple vinyasa se­quences and then al­lowed stu­dents to flow and play to mu­sic. It was sim­ply awe­some!

SHAPE Who are your favourite mu­sic artists for yoga?

DENISE James Brown, Al Green and Cur­tis May­field are some of my clas­sics, but I can hype a class with Eminem or Red Hot Chili Pep­pers. It varies on peo­ple’s moods, too.

SHAPE What’s your yoga mantra? DENISE May the space be­tween where I am and where I want to be in­spire me.

SHAPE And your favourite yoga pose? DENISE Adho mukha vrk­sasana (hand­stand). It pow­ers me up bet­ter than cof­fee in the morn­ing.

SHAPE Many yo­gis aim to do cool in­ver­sion poses like hand­stands. How important do you think it is to mas­ter these poses?

DENISE That de­pends on how important such poses are to them. Ev­ery­one’s prac­tice is dif­fer­ent. Mas­ter­ing a phys­i­cal pose is great, but mas­ter­ing your mind is even more pow­er­ful and re­ward­ing.

SHAPE More peo­ple are do­ing yoga as they be­lieve it will help them lose weight. What do you think of that?

DENISE It’s great that yoga has be­come so pop­u­lar. But los­ing weight will only hap­pen if you’re mind­ful of what you eat. I’m all for spread­ing knowl­edge about what yoga rep­re­sents. It means to unite, to con­nect, to come back to the cen­tre, and to pre­pare your­self for med­i­ta­tion. All the body con­di­tion­ing is fan­tas­tic, but yoga has no value if you can’t med­i­tate af­ter­wards. This is why we have savasana (corpse pose) at the end. It is a con­scious sleep; to let your body re­lax. It’s also about be­ing present, stay­ing calm, emp­ty­ing your mind, and fo­cus­ing on your breath. Most peo­ple can’t do a savasana. I couldn’t do it when I first started.

SHAPE How would you de­scribe your yoga style?

DENISE My yoga style has shifted to a more yin and med­i­ta­tion prac­tice. I med­i­tate for five to 10 min­utes daily as it helps me fo­cus, and I do breath­ing ex­er­cises. It gets me through my day. I would highly rec­om­mend this to any­one who, like me, can’t sit still.

SHAPE What do you say to mo­ti­vate your stu­dents in class?

DENISE What you are feel­ing will pass… Ride the wave.

SHAPE Any pet peeves when teach­ing? DENISE Hand phones. Leave yours in the locker or put it on si­lent, and don’t make phone calls. It’s just dis­re­spect­ful.

SHAPE You al­ways seem so op­ti­mistic. What’s been your big­gest ob­sta­cle?

DENISE Let­ting go of the toxic peo­ple in my life. Af­ter I hit 30 and be­came more med­i­ta­tive, it was an epiphany for me. In my younger days, it was hard to set healthy bound­aries and say no to peo­ple who were hurt­ing me. To a cer­tain de­gree, peo­ple in show­biz are trained to al­ways say yes or at least have a can-do at­ti­tude, but when it leaks into your per­sonal space, it can be quite de­bil­i­tat­ing. I want to be sur­rounded by pos­i­tive peo­ple, not neg­a­tive peo­ple who drag me down. If some­thing doesn’t make you happy or feel good, get rid of it.

SHAPE What do you do when you’re not ex­er­cis­ing?

DENISE I love go­ing to the movies, check­ing out new brunch spots or sim­ply cook­ing at home. The sim­plest things give me joy. I also love spend­ing time with my fur ba­bies – three cats, a dog and a tur­tle. They ground me, heal me and love me un­con­di­tion­ally. I would adopt more an­i­mals if I could, but I think my hus­band would go mad.

SHAPE What’s the most ex­treme thing you’ve done in the name of fit­ness? DENISE I once went up and down Bukit Timah Hill with a big ruck­sack of stones

I’VE AL­WAYS HAD A HARD TIME CON­TROL­LING MY MON­KEY MIND AND YOGA GAVE ME FO­CUS AND CON­CEN­TRA­TION DUR­ING MY TV DAYS.

for weeks to train for moun­tain climb­ing in Malaysia. I also walked bare­foot in the jun­gle to learn more about the creepy crawlies, and how to heal my cuts and bites.

SHAPE Do you fol­low a spe­cific diet? DENISE I was a veg­e­tar­ian for 11 years be­fore I re­alised how ter­ri­ble of a veg­e­tar­ian I was, so I changed my diet to a flex­i­tar­ian diet – 30 per cent pro­tein and 70 per cent fruits and veg­gies.

SHAPE What do you usu­ally have for break­fast, lunch and din­ner?

DENISE Break­fast is green juice with lemon. When I’m re­ally hun­gry, I’ll have an egg white omelette with an avo­cado. And cof­fee when I’m des­per­ate. Lunch would be a pro­tein bowl I’d pre­pare my­self or or­der from The Daily Cut or The Green Bar. For pro­tein, I usu­ally take steamed fish or chicken, and beef when I’m on my pe­riod. Din­ner is some­thing light, like brown rice por­ridge with chopped leafy greens or an egg white omelette. I also like mak­ing soups us­ing kale, spinach or lentils to keep my tummy warm.

SHAPE What’s the most ex­treme thing you’ve done to look good?

DENISE Fast­ing for two weeks to lose weight for a role. I was on a liq­uid diet of broth, juice and al­ka­lised wa­ter. I thought I was go­ing to die but it worked. I lost 2kg to 3kg and ac­tu­ally felt way bet­ter af­ter­wards!

SHAPE Pray share your beauty tips for such flaw­less skin.

DENISE 1. Hy­drate more than you think you should be hy­drat­ing. 2. Sleep, snooze, pow­er­nap, and med­i­tate. 3. Ex­er­cise at least twice or thrice a week. 4. Use less makeup, and more sun­block. 5. Eat a bal­anced diet of non­pro­cessed foods: whole grains, lots of fruits, leafy veg­gies, and your favourite pro­tein.

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