by Erica Rodefer Winters
Amy Ippoliti is one busy yogini. From teaching sold-out classes at Yoga Journal Live! events, to headlining workshops and festivals around the country, to sharing her passion and teachings on social media, to serving as an ambassador to for Prana and to performing deep-water yoga dives for conservation initiatives, the 44-year-old is a perpetual motion machine. Turn Up Your Volume is the mantra she shares with the world, and she's a living testament to how much living there is to do in each and every moment.
We caught up with the Boulder, Colorado teacher in between flights, dives, and modeling and teaching gigs to learn more about how her yoga practice fuels her quest to protect natural spaces and the creatures who inhabit this planet with us.
See In Deep for more about Amy and her work with Taro Smith and Shawn Heinrichs to document and raise awareness about endangered ocean wildlife.
Yoga Journal: How did you protecting wild spaces and animals become one of your passions?
Amy Ippoliti: I could go back to when I was 4 years old—I naturally always had this intense love for animals and beautiful things in nature—but it really started when I was a teenager. When I was 15, I found out what actually happens in the meat and animal products industry. I ran into some animal rights activists in New York City and got educated. I’d always been curious why people like pop singers—Morrissey and Howard Jones—were vegetarian. Before I knew it, I was standing on the corner protesting animal-product testing for cosmetics. I found myself at an animal rights conference when I was 18—that’s when I met River Phoenix and became good friends with his family and friends. I started lobbying before I even went to college.
YJ: How does your yoga practice impact your life as a nature lover and activist?
AI: Any yoga practice is going to increase sensitivity—meaning presence, how present you are in the moment, and how aware you are. It will increase your ability to be compassionate. You'll see the beauty in little things as opposed to going through life not aware of how beautiful and sparkly everything is. It turns up the volume. It's like putting on magnifying glasses. As a result, it's almost impossible not to be more aware of what's happening on the planet or have a sense of caring about what's going on. You also get a sense of outrage when you see something out of alignment, like cutting the fins off of sharks and tossing them back into the ocean for shark fin soup. We're in such a quick culture. When we do yoga, we slow down. We simply do and be. That's going to give you a greater appreciation of nature.
YJ: Speaking of sharks, how did you end up swimming with whale sharks?
AI: My significant other, Taro Smith, and his good friend, Shawn Heinrichs, are photographers and marine conservationists. To raise awareness about how important sharks are to the ocean’s ecosystem, we came up with the idea to get the yoga community involved by taking photos of me doing yoga poses next to whale sharks. I trained for like crazy for eight months—doing pranayama, and practicing Lotus and other poses 10-feet deep in the pool. Our hope is that the images you see here will inspire not only conservationists to do yoga, but yogis to be conservationists.
YJ: The website you co-founded, 90 Monkeys, is an amazing resource for yoga teachers. What's the story there?
AI: Great yoga teaching and professionalism in yoga is a passion for me. The intention behind the site, ultimately, is to help more people try yoga, adopt a yoga lifestyle, and stick with the practice for many years to come. To achieve that dream, it takes exceptional yoga professionals. 90 Monkeys is devoted to helping yoga teachers and studio owners uncover their greatness through education that fills the gaps left out of most teacher trainings.
YJ: What's your favorite way to spend time when you're not on your mat?
AI: Getting outside. I love to grow food and flowers, swim, ride my road bike, stand up paddle board, skate ski, and hike with friends. I recently got to harvest tropical fruit in Hawaii—avocados, grapefruits, limes, lemons and oranges. That was heaven!
More fun facts about Amy:
She busts out a Handstand every time she takes a bathroom break.
She drinks green juice daily.
She was a guest vocalist on two of Krishna Das' albums.