Mandy Ingber, Celebrity Instructor, on the Craft
By Samantha McConnell
As a mom, finding time for any sort of exercise can be next to impossible. Additionally, it has become incredibly easy to get discouraged when all of the fad diets, exercise programs, and supposed magic diet pills on the market prove to be flops. However, the tried and true exercise form of yoga has proven time and time again, and for the span of centuries, just how effective it is. This is a practice so effective, that even the most sought after celebrities have given yoga a go. And the wisdom and teachings behind many of Hollywood’s finely tuned physiques comes from none other than Mandy Ingber. Former actress turned yogi, yoga instructor and now author, Mandy gives great advice to all on life, fitness, and the importance of carving out time for yourself in this special interview.
1) Yoga is a practice that has taken America by storm. What is it that drew you to yoga?
I was raised on yoga. My father was very progressive and cutting edge. When I was age 5-6 my father began his practice which evolved throughout his life. In an effort to gain my father’s praise, and due to his example of self exploration, I too was pulled into the yoga world. There was no yoga community or culture when I was a child. It was extremely fringe. Many people found out about yoga at my house. We were also the first people to be vegan, macrobiotic, use acupuncture rather than go to doctors…it was just the way my household was. I was not drawn to yoga, I was steeped in it. I didn’t really have a choice…I didn’t have to seek it out.
2) You have had a hand in shaping the bodies of some of Hollywood’s most prominent and sought after celebrities. From Jennifer Aniston to Woody Harrelson; you have been everywhere! Do you feel a strong sense of pride knowing that your teachings played a part in their fitness?
Woody was actually one of my co-stars from my former career as an actor. I remember the first episode of Cheers that Woody ever shot. The ‘80s! He was one of the people in my life who knew me as a cutting edge yogi, because although he was just getting into yoga, I had been practicing for over a decade at that time. He encouraged me to be a teacher. He probably doesn’t even remember saying that, but I remembered. It just somehow resonated, and now I understand why.
Regarding feeling pride. I do feel proud that I have been an aspect of so many people’s lives. Prior to being a teacher, I was an actor and watched many of my friends become successful. Then I became a spinning instructor in 1996, and I have had a hand as a supporter in many people’s lives. Being an observer of people caring for themselves fills me with joy. So, yes, that’s very gratifying to hold space for the individual that is practicing self- care. It’s one of the most challenging aspects of our culture: to make time for self-care. I love my work, for it is a safe place for people to do that. I also love that through the celebrities that I have turned on to spinning or yoga or anything health related, that the very practices I was raised with have gotten more exposure. In that way, I feel I have contributed immensely to the yoga community as well. I almost owe it to my personal history….to my father. It’s the legacy.
3) For many women today, carving out time to take care of their body is a struggle. What advice would you give to those who have a hard time squeezing exercise into their day?
We all struggle with putting ourselves first. You kind of have to trick yourself into it. Perhaps putting it in your date book like it is an appointment, making it buddy time so you have a healthy way to be social with your friend, or reminding yourself that your child follows your lead. I follow my father’s good example of self care. It’s hygiene. Good healthy habits. So, I guess if you can’t do it for yourself, pretend you are doing it for someone else! You might even enjoy it, and look forward to it as your “me” time. It’s like brushing your teeth though or taking a shower…your body requires daily practice and consistency to feel good, and the body is the greatest gift you were ever given. Celebrate it and use your gift! You only need 30-6- min 5 x’s a week.
4) Do you think moms can get a good yoga session in with their children around, or would you say that yoga is best practiced with no distractions?
It really depends upon the individual. Maybe there is a way to do it together? My father practiced in the middle of the hall in the morning and the living room at night. We attended a family yoga class once a week…so I would say, it can be a part of family time. However, it’s whatever works for you.
5) What is the biggest misconception that beginners to yoga seem to have expressed to you?
That it makes you calm or spiritual. Yoga is just like anything else, you make it your own. You can take a walk in a spiritual way, just as you can practice yoga in a Type A way. The mindset is up to you. There is no magical pill that is going to change you. It’s a choice you make. It’s not one action that creates us, it’s an accumulation of our habits and the way in which we execute them. Also, yoga does not have to be boring, too easy or woo woo. We are living in a time where there are yoga options for everyone, so I recommend trying 6 different styles with a variety of teachers until you find what resonates with you.
6) Aside from the physical benefits from engaging in the practice of yoga, would you say there are any additional benefits? Would you say there to be any psychological benefits perhaps?
Of course. No matter where you go, there you are. Yoga confronts you with yourself in a challenging process. You get to observe where your thoughts go when you hit your edge. You get to hang with it, and build a relationship with your own thoughts, emotions and physicality. When you develop a sense of self observations through this detached way of being, you are able to make changes in multiple areas of your life. It’s a great model for the rest of your life and a terrific place to start. I will say that you can find this way of observation off of the mat, with proper guidance.
7) When people take on a new activity there are bound to be some humorous slip-ups. What is the funniest thing that has ever happened in one of your classes? Have you ever had a beginner student that took to it particularly well?
Humorous? I can’t think of one. I guess my favorite is when people freak out if a cell phone rings. My theory on that is, if you can’t handle that…you’re gonna have a really hard day. Life is a lot more challenging than a phone ringing. Regarding students taking to yoga, of course! I find that often dancers will try yoga, and immediately appear to be connecting with energy lines and the dynamic expression of the pose. Actors tend to take to it well, since the physicality of a role is part of the craft. Yes, people who are new take to it all the time. In fact, even if you have taken it before and didn’t like it, you may find that now you do, Life is funny that way, in terms of timing. What wasn’t possible yesterday can be possible today.
8) Let’s say that I wanted to start doing yoga right now. What would you say I would need for my yoga starter kit? Have you found any products to be superior to others?
A yoga mat. I like Manduka or Kulae. You won’t need a brick strap or bolster if you try a class, for the studio will have that for you to play with. If you have wrist issues, you may consider a wedge. A glass water bottle to bring to class, Life Factory, which has multi colors and a protector is a great brand. My DVD Yogalosophy and my Book of course! My app on your iPhone! The greatest part about yoga is that all you really need is your body. Also, love some good yoga wear. Lululemon, Athleta, Fabletics, all great. My favorite yoga music: Krishna Das.
9) Your book, Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover, available for purchase from the official Mandy Ingber Store, provides a 28-day plan for the reader to achieve a healthier body and better eating habits. What made you decide to do the book considering how much of your teachings can be found on YouTube?
I always wanted to write a book because my students would say that I should share my philosophy and daily motivations, so the book was an organic extension of what I was sharing in my classes. When you write, you are able to go deeper [than] in a video which is visual and entertaining. I have always been a voracious reader and like to hold something in my hand, take it with me and think on it. I may seem bubbly, but the bubbles well up from the depth. I also love reading and books myself. It’s a quality product. The quality of this book is what I love especially. Jen told me that when Courteney Cox held it that was the first thing she said. I agree. Seal did a great job with the layout.
10) Yoga is a practice that dates back to the first millennium BCE, yet you have managed to keep it fresh, engaging, and most importantly, successful! Where do you find the inspiration to keep this old practice fresh and interesting?
I am inspired by making each day a fresh start, and each moment a new opportunity. Yoga is no different than how I feel about the rest of my life, we are constantly evolving. Usually it is more internal than external. That journey is about perception. It is lovely to be able to approach each moment with beginners mind. I simply share what my perspective is and attempt to be open to what comes my way. It’s never too late to start over again.