On Yoga, Celebrities, and Radical Self-Acceptance


By YJ Editor  |  

yogalosophyMandy Ingber, who is becoming a household name in yoga circles thanks to her celebrity clientele and her new best-selling book Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-body Makeover, may have come from the world of show business and glamour, but her path to a healthy body was hard won through her own search for self-acceptance.

Growing up in Los Angeles, and as a television and theater actress, Ingber struggled with her weight, developing eating disorders and struggling with self-confidence. She became a fitness instructor but realized that blending in yoga, which she learned growing up, was a better means to achieving the mental, emotional, and physical balance she craved.

Her hybrid path to health and self-acceptance has since become popular with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Kate Beckinsale, and Helen Hunt, and includes everything from dietary advice and recipes to playlists and journal questions.

We talked to her to learn more about her practice, her book, and her passion for sharing yoga with others.

What first drew you to yoga?
I was introduced to yoga by my father in the early ’70s. I grew up in LA, and my father was very cutting edge. He began practicing Iyengar Yoga from the Light On Yoga book, and was a teacher by example. In trying to get some air time with my dad, my brother and I would try to contort [ourselves] into the more advanced poses. Yoga has always been a part of my life. It’s like my amniotic fluid.

What is Yogalosophy?
It’s my fitness philosophy, which is based on a “love your body and self completely” mentality. It includes intention setting, self-acceptance, and self-observation, and teaches people to be present and accept what they have, while striving to improve at the same time. The practice part of it is a hybrid routine of yoga and fitness, pairing traditional yoga poses with basic toning exercises.

What influenced you to create this practice (and to write this book)?
Although I was raised with awareness around health, I found that the pressure to stay healthy could also be very stifling. After struggling with body image, perfectionism, and eating disorders for years, I became a spinning instructor. When I began teaching, I was far from the model of perfection, but I became the voice of loving myself into shape. I came to realize that while my energy was too intense when I only directed it toward myself, it could effectively power an entire room filled with people! I started to create a hybrid routine of yoga and fitness that included positive messaging, and to teach it to my students in L.A., many of whom were celebrities. After Jennifer Aniston and I did a spread in SELF magazine together, I started to share some of that routine with the public and created the Yogalosophy DVD. The book is an extension of that DVD.

What’s it like teaching to celebrities and what drew you to that population?
Celebrities are just like you and me in terms of self-care. We each are in a body and have certain limitations and challenges. We all have this amazing gift that needs daily care and requires a certain level of commitment and attention. Each of us makes decisions each day about how we treat our bodies. Celebrities are really no different on that level. As far as why celebrities have been drawn to me: I am a former actress, so celebrity has always been a part of my life.

In one part of the book, you tell readers that it’s OK to watch TV while doing yoga or drink a glass of wine afterward. Not all yoga teachers offer this kind of advice. Can you talk about why you suggest making these allowances in your practice?
If we become too strict with our regimen or place too many rules around the conditions for our practice, we run the risk of paralyzing ourselves from action altogether. Additionally, it is important that we not set such unrealistic expectations of ourselves, so as to set ourselves up for failure. By allowing yourself to watch television during your practice, you create more opportunity to engage in your work on the yoga mat, which is beneficial. Similarly, it’s important to understand that bringing yoga into your life does not mean renouncing certain sources of enjoyment, like a glass of wine. Let’s say you have plans to grab drinks with friends later in the evening—don’t give them up. While a diet comprised of healthy, whole foods is an essential part of the Yogalosophy, it’s important to keep living your life. In a pinch, I have some go-to snacks like mixed nuts, almond/coconut water or KIND bars, because they are made from real, all-natural ingredients that keep things as close to nature as possible.

In your book, you talk about your father’s death, and what it taught you about the temporary nature of the body. How can contemplation on death teach us to make the most of our bodies right now?
It prevents us from taking the miracle of the body for granted. The impermanence of life is what makes it so beautiful. Each moment is so rare. Being present in it is really all we have. I have loved each moment. Even my struggles have made sense. I am not sure if we can ever truly grasp how much love there is all around us all of the time. That was one thing my father was saying a lot in his last six weeks. I could see it in him as well. I don’t want to wait to feel that love. I want to live heaven on earth.