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Amy Ippoliti on Finding Happiness Through Seva

Yoga Teacher Amy Ippoliti talks seva, yoga trends, and cultivating happiness.

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We can all get so self-obsessed. I used to be in my own bubble, really worried about what others thought of me. Sometimes it takes the action of doing something like seva (selfless service) to get out of that self-obsession. My Nonnie showed me that. She was always a very generous person, giving compliments, money, or her time to help others. Even up until the end, she was doling out sweet kindness. When she lost her ability to do that, when she didn’t have the energy to speak anymore, she slipped into unconsciousness. That was a huge eye opener for me: Giving back was her life’s purpose; seva makes you happy.

It was my fantasy as a child to see animals underwater, to explore that world. I thought I would be a marine biologist, but that didn’t work out. I was lucky to meet Taro Smith, my partner, later in life. He was part of a network of some of the country’s most powerful marine conservationists and activists. When they began photographing humans with animals underwater to illustrate our interspecies connection and I saw the images, I said, “We really should photograph marine animals with humans doing yoga!” I began training, and we got started. It’s been amazing; the images are still going viral. People get inspired, they start asking questions, and as they get educated, they’re more inspired to protect the animals they love.

See also Seva Yoga: Bringing the Power of Practice Around the Globe

I feel like the majority of people on the planet are not operating at their fullest potential, and they’re not always happy. So my mission as a teacher is to help wake people up to their potential, to help them live an embodied and conscious life. Yoga
has the power to help make people figure out how to have a happy and conscious life, and one that’s going to help make the world a better place for all of us.

The trend in yoga that I hate most right now is that studios are not paying educated teachers what they’re worth, and they’re not prioritizing putting teachers with 500 hours or more of training on the schedule. In the studios that are hiring teachers at the higher level, the quality of the yoga shows, and there’s a generosity there. I wish we could find a business model that supports teachers who have more education. Ultimately, it’s the students who suffer.

See also Should All Yoga Teachers Be Employees? One Studio Sets a New Standard

Teacher trainings don’t give students enough training on how to conduct themselves as entrepreneurs. Part of the problem is that so many people take a teacher training just to deepen their practice, not to become a teacher; in turn the instructors don’t provide enough professional training. Then you have a bunch of graduates who see yoga as a hobby, and others who do want to make a living by teaching but don’t have the tools. That’s essentially why Taro and I started 90 Monkeys [an online resource for yoga professionals] and wrote our book, The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga—to offer the professional training teachers need.

Words Amy Ippoliti Lives By

“’You are the company you keep, so keep great company.’ I learned this from my teacher, Douglas Brooks, and it’s always true—it’s never not true.”

See also Find the Happiness Within You