Yogini. Humanitarian. Compassionate. Storyteller. Four words that describe Nadine McNeil, Universal Empress. In sum, an evolutionary catalyst committed to global transformation.
With over twenty years of solid experience in the fields of emergency response and logistics operations primarily with the United Nations, her career has taken her across the globe, serving in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, S.E. Asia, her native region the Caribbean, and beyond.Her most recent assignment was in the Central African Republic where she served as Head of Operations for the UN’s peace-building efforts there for nearly two years.Throughout her work, she weaves the practice and philosophies of yoga.Now fully devoted to expanding the reach of yoga through what she refers to as the “democratization of yoga,” she designs and delivers workshops to a widecross-section of communities who ordinarily may not be exposed to nor reap its benefits.
I found out about Nadine after reading one of her articles on elephant journal a few years ago. I have been in awe of her since then. She’s a ball of dynamite. As I am growing into the conscious love centered entrepreneur that I strive to be, its such a relief to see women like Nadine doing the work that she does with so much grace and compassion.
[Misia Denéa]When did you start practicing yoga ?
[Nadine McNeil] I was first introduced to yoga as an alternative to being in gyms. A fitness enthusiast for several years, I reached a point in the gym where I was simply bored and unchallenged by the notion of lifting weights, etc. Both yoga and pilates were introduced to me while living in Holland, around 2002. When I moved to Indonesia in 2005 to join UNICEF as an Emergency response and Logistics specialist, I began practicing Bikram yoga 6 days a week and continued to do so consistently for about 3 years. Bikram then led me towards Ashtanga. Being in Indonesia, I had access to some of the best teachers in the world. My practice truly deepened when I met my own personal ‘meltdown’ while doing an emergency response to the 2006 earthquake that rocked Jogjakarta. ‘Diagnosed’ with being on the verge of burnout that manifested as anxiety attacks, I found that engaging in deep pranayama helped me to alleviate those frightening symptoms. The more I deepened my practice the more I uncovered about my true self. In short, yoga completely transformed my life – the way I ate, slept, thought and ultimately how I showed up in the world. Yoga heightened my awareness to the weight of my blessings. Being given so much when so many others have so little, it ignited my drive to give back and to be astand for others who for one reason or another, are incapable of doing so on their own.
[MD] You have a busy schedule that includes alot of travel, how do you stay grounded and enjoy the benefits of being a wanderlust?
[NM] My yoga quest brought me to India in early 2009 where I obtained my first yoga teacher training certification from the Sivananda ashram in South India. Even then, I had no clear intention of actually becoming a yoga teacher. However it was during my teacher training there that the potential for the principles of yoga being employed as a viable tool for peace came to me. I began teaching immediately after my teacher training and one of the first places I felt moved to share yoga was in inner city communities in Jamaica. I continued to weave yoga into my UN work and wherever I served, I led classes for fellow peers as well as the communities that I served.
Now fully committed to what I term the ‘democratization of yoga,’ though based primarily in Jamaica since early 2013, my teachings continue bring me across the world under my brand name Universal Empress – aevolutionary catalyst committed global transformation. In addition to primarily asana-based classes, I offer workshops that intertwine yoga with writing as an effective tool for self-discovery as well as healing trauma. All of our stories are encrypted in our DNA. Unresolved trauma gets trapped within the physical body and left unattended to, manifests as dis-ease. Yoga ethnochoreology is a term I use that describe how through the movement of yoga, we are able to unblock and eventually release trauma from the body and the psyche.
[MD]Jamaica is a popular destination for vacations, Can you share information about why Jamaica is a special place to experience Yoga and Wellness?
I regard Jamaica as one of the world’s spiritual havens. Our national topography lends itself to this – the sea, the rivers, the mountains, the vegetation. The Rastafarian community for example is one that is naturally in alignment with the principles of yoga: proper diet, proper exercise, proper breathing, positive thinking, meditation and prayer. Already a deeply religious society, the practice of yoga only stands to deepen our faith in our beliefs and practices.
I am exceptionally pleased to be a part of the Jamaica Yoga Association (JAYA), formed barely a year ago. Since its inception, JAYA has managed to bring yoga to a wider cross-section of society who otherwise mightn’t be exposed to it. Its mission – to mainstream yoga throughout our society – is one that is in complete alignment with my own mission as a transformation catalyst for change at a global level. But first, it must begin where I call home – Jamaica. In addition to being a part of JAYA, I also offer classes in inner city communities such as ROKTOWA, located downtown Kingston. I am exceptionally pleased that through combined efforts with others in Jamaica who believe in the mission that one teacher, Christopher Mark Jones who hails from turbulent Tivoli Gardens was born.
Jamaican society is poised to embrace the tenets of yoga as a viable tool for healing. Much of the violence that we witness is a direct result of unbridled anger left to fester. The increasing number of young men behind bars is a testament to this. Yoga serves as an effective anger management tool for all of our society. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. When one of us heals and transforms, it impacts positively on families, our communities and ultimately our country.
[MD]You have a busy schedule that includes alot of travel, how do you stay grounded and enjoy the benefits of being a wanderlust?
[NM] ‘Wherever I go, there I am.’ I read this somewhere many years ago, and have fully embraced it since. And in the words of Michael Franti, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do, just don’t become a Roman.’ Be present, be aware, be focused, be mindful. This is how I manage to keep myself grounded — and a whole lotta laughter. We have a tendency to take ourselves and life way to seriously. A consistent practice of yoga, both on and off the mat, continue to teach me how to be the witness of self, from a place of love.
[MD]What health & wellness advice do you have to offer to women of all ages ?
[NM] Embrace your divine feminine self; especially your imperfections. Delve deep into the crevices of your soul and discover what enlivens you. Especially within Western societies, we’ve been programmed to diminish the role that we’re intended to play in ALL of life. We are the co-creators, we are the givers of life; literally and symbolically. How we see and how our health and wellness manifests comes from learning, understanding and embracing this vantage point of the feminine. Our health and wellness is an intrinsic part of our entire being. We cannot address those aspects without first dealing with our emotional selves which is deeply inter-connected with our appreciation of the Divine Feminine that is in each one of us; some of us choose to awaken her more than others. Release and re-birth is the guidance that I offer to every single human being on the planet.
LEARN MORE ABOUT NADINE at http://www.universalempress.com