What Yoga Teacher and Filmmaker Mel Mah Can Teach You About Living Your Wildest Dreams
Spoiler alert: She credits mindfulness for helping her transition from having a career to living her passion.
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“Yoga was really the only thing that made me feel at home and at peace,” says Mel Mah from the front seat of her car. The California morning is bright behind her as she explains the clarity and steadiness her practice has brought her as she transitioned from professional dancer to yoga teacher, mentor, and filmmaker.
Her Early Years of Yoga
Like many of us, Mah began her yoga practice during a time of personal turbulence. Born and raised in Toronto, Mah moved to Los Angeles in 2011 to pursue a career as a dancer. She Distanced from her family and friends, she was barely out of her teens when she was learning to navigate the entertainment industry while acclimating to a completely different country.
It wasn’t an easy time. “Most of my friends are still in college and I’m here in LA paying my bills and auditioning and it was just a lot emotionally,” says Mah.
It was during this transition that she found her yoga practice, which ultimately became her way forward. “I was questioning whether or not I made the right decision,” she says. “Yoga was the thing that kept me centered on my path and allowed me to trust that the challenges were there for a reason. They were teaching me something.”
Mah looks back on this as her turning point. At the suggestion of a friend and mentor, Mah decided to take yoga teacher training through CorePower Yoga. She questioned whether or not she would teach, until she was asked to start a yoga program at Millennium Dance Complex shortly after the training. It was during those early teaching experiences in the attic of the old studio on Ventura Boulevard that Mah witnessed the profound effect that yoga could have on others.
“I remember once in a three-person class, one person came up to me at the end, teary-eyed, gave me a huge hug, and said she had never felt that way before,” Mah says. “That experience gave me goosebumps.” It was the first time she felt, ”Wow, like we can actually help people through this.”
It was that moment of clarity early in her teaching career that made her want to learn more about the philosophy and what she calls the “spiritual depths of yoga.” Grounded in mindfulness, self-discovery, and personal experience, her teachings advocate for an unwavering dedication to personal growth and inspiring others.
“I really have always stayed true to that: the best teachers are the best students. So I’m constantly practicing, learning, studying, reading, and doing everything I can to be a student so that I can spread the most information to other people through my teachings,” she says. “I never think of myself as a higher figure or authority. I’m on the same page as you. I’m speaking to you, you’re speaking to me. This is an exchange.”
For Mah, the practice of teaching is as educational as the study of yoga. “I think the beautiful thing about teaching is that you’re learning so much about yourself as you are guiding,” she says. “Especially when I was in my twenties, teaching was like therapy for me. You pull from your own life. That’s your inspiration.”
An Expanded Approach to Yoga
Mah’s commitment to continuous growth and learning is reflected in her understanding of yoga as the pathway to uncovering your truest self. She continues to teach what she knows. Throughout her yoga experience, she toured as a dancer with pop stars including Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, Justin, Bieber, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry. She attributes it all to mindfulness.
In 2016, Mah founded You Got This, Girl!, a company focused on empowering women through mindfulness, yoga, and community. “After I accomplished this huge dream of mine, which was dancing on a world tour for Janet Jackson, I was literally like, I want every woman to feel this way, like ‘I literally manifested this dream,’” she says. “That’s the basis of all my work with You Got This, Girl—encouraging women to believe their wildest dreams are actually possible.”
Mah’s mission is to inspire women to discover their purpose and cultivate confidence in themselves. She conducts workshops, coaching programs, and one-on-one mentorships, emphasizing the belief that women can achieve the life they desire—and that this can happen through mindfulness practices.
She is grateful to have been raised by very strong women, including her mother. “I remember when I was younger, she would say to me, ‘You can do anything you want to do.’ It wasn’t until I got older that I was like, ‘Oh, not all women were trained to think this way because of the society we live in.’”
Mah encourages her students to find stillness, embrace the present moment, and tap into their authentic truth. By doing so, they can connect with their inner joy, intuition, and positive qualities, leading to fulfilled moments as they pursue a fulfilled life.
Her Current Teachings
Similarly, Mah credits yoga with guiding her toward her next creative pursuit: storytelling through filmmaking. Drawing parallels between teaching and directing, Mah highlights the importance of using her voice, holding space, and guiding energy in both practices.
“Dancers just don’t get to do that. You’re following someone’s instruction, you’re behind somebody as a backup performer. I was just seeing how that wasn’t really aligned with who I was anymore as I was growing as a soul,” says Mah.
Once again, her dedication to authenticity was rewarded. Her award-winning short, “Dear Mom,” was released in 2021 and quickly drew acclaim. The storyline addresses the relationship between a woman who unexpectedly learns she’s pregnant and reaches out to her estranged mother.
“Teaching yoga actually segued me into this whole new path, which is what I teach when I coach,” explains Mah. “These practices will literally keep you on the path that you’re meant to be on, which might mean that your whole entire life has to shift. But after that transitional period, you find yourself in a place where you’re like, ‘This is perfect. This is exactly what I want to be doing.’”
Throughout Mah’s transitions, there was her ever-expanding experience of yoga. In 2019, she traveled to Bali and studied tantric yoga, which she describes as “much more meditation focused.” That experience caused her to change her approach to teaching.
Mah’s current approach is helping others slow their racing minds enough so they can become still and remember their authentic selves. “In that place of truth and stillness is where you remember that we all have a purpose and you have distinct gifts given to you that you are meant to share with the world,” she says.
Whereas we tend to think of our purpose as a career, Mah believes purpose is actually an essence. If you focus on it with mindfulness, she says, then it naturally expresses itself in every area of your life. And, inevitably, it leads you to what you are meant to do and share with others.
Recently, Mah and the mental health brand Calm launched Daily Move, a short, gentle, accessible movement practice. The five- to seven-minute videos are designed to help people relax and focus and can be incorporated into any part of the day. Since the series’ release in January, the practices have been viewed more than one million times.
It’s yet another outlet for Mah’s mindful movement revolution. “Everything can be solved in presence, and that’s really the power of yoga,” says Mah. “When we tune out the past and the future and come back to the now, all the answers are there. All the fulfillment, joy, peace, intuition, and positive qualities that we’re looking for are in the now. So, it’s a lot simpler than we think in order to live a fulfilled life.”
With her dedication to personal growth, her focus on empowering women, and her belief in the transformative power of mindfulness, Mah continues to inspire others to embrace their most authentic selves, pursue their desires, and find purpose in each moment.
Practice with Mel Mah this Wednesday, May 24, at noon ET/9 am PT as she takes you through a Daily Move practice of mindful movement, similar to what she shares on Calm, in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month and AAPI Heritage Month. Join us on the Yoga Journal Instagram page.
About Our Contributor
Sierra is a writer, yogi, and music lover living in the Pacific Northwest. She’s been practicing yoga for nearly a decade & got certified to teach in 2018. She writes and teaches all about connection: connection to the body, to nature, and to the universal love that holds us together. She’s also the author of Your Year of Magic, a moon magic journal and witchy workbook.
For free yoga and witchy wisdom, find Sierra at thelocalmystic.com, on Instagram @thelocalmystic, and on YouTube.