One look at Melini Jesudason’s Instagram and you might wonder whether she was born a yogi, but rest assured, those insane pretzel poses came with a ton of hard work and dedication, not to mention necessary soul searching. She was carving out a path for herself in the finance world when she decided to shift gears entirely and dive headfirst into yoga—not an easy decision, but definitely a rewarding one. Now, she teaches yoga at the Alo store in Soho and sees the practice as so much more than just time spent on the mat. It’s a reflection of how she views the world and, most importantly, her own journey. Get to know Melini, below, then power up your practice with her favorite songs to flow to.

How did you first get into yoga?

My mother was an avid Ashtangi for years and my aunt is a well known teacher in Australia. I had grown up dancing, and they told me that yoga was a more sustainable practice, but at that point I found yoga boring! So it was only much later that I started taking classes at Equinox. I love teaching there since it’s where my practice began.

You made a pretty major shift from pursuing a career in finance to focusing on yoga full-time. Tell us about the moment you decided to pursue the practice and become an instructor.

I believe in destiny and that we all have something guiding us even though we might not know how certain decisions will change our life or why a decision is important in that moment. When I signed up for teacher training, I had no idea if I would teach at all. I simply desired to learn more about yoga and deepen my practice.

People didn’t believe I was seriously leaving finance to start over completely. For a while I had been dating someone who was an investment banker too, and he literally told me he “didn’t sign up to date a yoga teacher.” The fact that I was no longer making the same money really bothered him as well. So I had to let go of a lot of things. And there was a really long period of self-doubt when I made that shift. Even though I was the same person, in fact, a better, more connected and courageous version of myself, all of a sudden people who I randomly met assumed I was much less educated and intelligent because of my job title.

What was the biggest takeaway for you from your teacher trainings?

I think I was still a baby at yoga when I left my teacher trainings! After my first training I really didn’t feel ready to teach, so I did another 200-hour immediately after, and then a 300-hour after that. And I’ve done two more 100-hour trainings and a couple of 30-hour assists trainings as well. Each training brought me to a different place in my teaching, but I think the biggest takeaway is that there is still so much more to learn. I am always a student on the path. I think teaching a full schedule every week for years is what really made me a better teacher. You can’t learn that in TT.

You’re teaching at our Soho studio! What can newcomers expect when they take a class with you?

I teach different classes at the studio—more mellow, stretchy Yoga for Athletes, Dynamic Flexibility classes and Float and Fly classes that build strength and balance. I hope no matter what class people choose, they will leave feeling really good inside and out and that their time was well spent.

You were born in Tokyo, and you grew up in New York, Sydney and Singapore. Where do you consider home?

The energy, the vibrancy and the diversity of New York is definitely home for me at this point. I love traveling, but flying back and seeing the New York skyline makes me emotional every time!

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your yoga practice and how did you overcome it?

Practice for me isn’t an hour on my mat. My practice is every waking moment and even when I’m dreaming. It’s being aware from moment to moment. To become a calmer, kinder version of myself. To be more at ease and to be more myself, and more intelligent in my body and mind. To be authentic and ok that not everyone will like me or agree with me.

Who or what inspires you in your practice? Favorite Instagram accounts?

All of the Alo yogis inspire me in their own way. Dylan Werner’s practice inspires me. He is a kind soul and a skilled teacher and his captions are always thoughtful. Paul Nicklen is inspiring as an artist and a human being.

What was your last “yoga” moment outside of yoga?

I think the yoga moments come every day; they don’t have to be profound. I think part of the yoga is knowing that there is magic in everyday life and to be grateful for that. But for me it’s really to feel everything, and to really sit with those feelings and appreciate them instead of avoiding things or becoming numb to them. Feelings of impermanence, loss, sadness—all of these waves are a part of life. Becoming more flexible and supple in the mind to accept life as it is is something I work on every day.

Favorite asana? Why?

I would have to say handstands. As an Ashtangi I love the repetition and consistency of each series, but for a long time finding strength was more difficult than being flexible. And it took real consistent training with a coach to get to where I am. So there’s a feeling that my hard work paid off, and I’m further along in my practice than I knew was possible for me, which is rewarding.

Want to keep up with Melini? Follow her on Insta @meliniseri and catch one of her classes at our Soho store!