If you’ve not seen much of Denise Keller recently, it’s because she’s spending more time honing her skills on the yoga mat.
With toned muscles and spotless skin, the former model, MTV Asia VJ and travel show host is simply glowing these days. Much of it has to do with a more balanced lifestyle and yoga practice.
“After filming the final episode of Expedition X: Silk Road Rising for Discovery Channel, I told myself I just couldn’t do it anymore. Other people were happy but I was not – I was exhausted!
“I had been in showbiz for 14 years and the time just flew by.
“The hours of show business are so gruelling; there are no breaks because time is money. We’d be in a destination for two nights, then pack up and go to the next city.
“When you’re doing it for months, it’s easy to go crazy. I longed to go home and spend time with family, so I got married in 2015.
"I also wanted to find a balance between work and my passion for wellness,” the Singaporean said in a July 2018 interview.
Keller took two years off to do yoga and got herself certified as an instructor. She currently teaches yoga jam (yoga flow to music) at TripleFit Singapore, and also has private students, including expectant mums.
She even creates her own yoga playlist. “I was taking a yoga class with an instructor named Hee Boon Lim and it was flowing with good music. I asked if I could make a playlist for him and that’s how it started,” she shares.
Keller was in Kuching, Sarawak, in July 2018 to conduct a yoga retreat organised by Under Armour (she’s one of their ambassadors), in conjunction with the Rainforest Fringe Festival.
She was one of two instructors, the other being Indonesian yoga practitioner and entrepreneur Hendri Take, who led the three-day event.
The duo took the motley crew of roughly 20 participants through a series of sweaty beginner-to-intermediate yoga asanas (postures) against the backdrop of Mount Santubong, facing the South China Sea. It couldn’t get more picturesque.
Contrary to someone who claims to “never sit still”, Keller was oozing with warmth and a sense of peace during the retreat.
She says, “I was a child gymnast and could never sit still. I moved from coach to coach and injured my shoulder while on the beam. But I had to go on because it was during a competition.
“I was about 12 then, and had also started modelling, so my (modelling) manager suggested I go for yoga to rehabilitate.
“There were only community classes back then, which were affordable, and the students were all ‘aunties’, but they were bendy and stretchy! I was hooked.
“The teacher helped me recalibrate my shoulder and I’ve been practising since then.
“Yoga gives me focus and concentration. I learnt meditation from a young age and I think kids can benefit from it.”
While Keller admits she has a preference for stronger styles such as Ashtanga, she also enjoys teaching beginners.
“I like to see the innocence when they first arrive on the mat. I want to feel connected because the eyes can be very inquisitive. But I also like teaching advanced postures such as handstands.
"My favourite asana is Shavasana (corpse pose or relaxation) because it is tough to calm the monkey mind. To help me get through my day, I do breathing exercises.
“I always want to deepen my practice so whenever I learn something new, I offer free classes. The feedback I receive makes me a better teacher,” says Keller, who got into teaching by accident.
One of her teachers commented that she had a very positive outlook and suggested she become a yoga teacher.
“I asked ‘What’s the pay like?’ and the reply was ‘Not very much’. Oh, so I guess this is something I have to do from the heart!
“Now, I teach two classes a day. Yoga offers the perfect complement to other forms of exercise.”
A disciplined person, Keller’s own practice is done early in the morning (she wakes up at 5am daily) to “get it out of the way”.
She also runs, hikes, walks and does a bit of gymnastics.
“You’ve got to create self-love. From yoga, I’m learning to be non-judgemental and open-minded, though I’m guilty of labelling people sometimes.”
Yoga may have given her a sense of purpose, but the lure of the cameras is difficult to resist so Keller is going back to Discovery Channel to do a series on Kashmir, India, and is working on another project on port cities with cruise ship Genting Dream.
“I have itchy feet!” she says, laughing. “My husband is more of a homebody and I’ve negotiated with him not to be away for more than a week.
“He’s a creative director and my biggest fan so he understands the nature of my job. We’ve got three cats, a dog and a turtle to look after ,and I definitely want kids.”
But, for now, motherhood will have to wait.