by Dana Meltzer Zepeda
Santa Monica yoga instructor Amy Lombardo may be one of the most in-demand teachers to the stars, but her practice is deeply rooted in the spirit of service.
In addition to keeping clients like Gisele Bundchen and Laura Dern flexible and focused, the 37-year-old helps run Karma Krew, the national nonprofit she co-founded eight years ago. The group's mission is to connect yogis to service projects in their communities, and now has "krews" in dozens of towns and cities across the globe that tackle service projects such as offering free yoga at orphanages, painting halfway houses, or working in soup kitchens.
For Lombardo, yoga is more than a practice, it's a life calling. She was just 9 years old, away at summer camp, when she was first exposed to its effects. “I was an insecure kid, but my first experience with yoga changed that. It made me feel good. I still remember the first time I did Savasana–that's where it all began.”
That path eventually led her to New York City where she studied yoga with John Friend and Doug Keller, and Kashmir Shaivism, non-religious Tantra philosophy, while holding down a job at the Audubon Society. (Environmental stewardship is Lombardo’s other life passion.) She began teaching around the city, in nursing homes, children’s hospitals, and even a school for the blind.
Relocating to Los Angeles in 2008, this Chicago native quickly found a new client base among celebrity practitioners who were drawn to her holistic approach (she also practices reiki, massage and aromatherapy), and her genuine love of sharing the practice. In addition to her private clients, she teaches public classes at The Hub in West Los Angeles.
“We live this life once and I want to make sure I'm living it in a way where I can grow and become more aligned with my soul's purpose,” she says. “Even if I practiced yoga for the rest of my life, I feel like I'd only be scratching the surface.”
Each of us can tap into the spirit of karma yoga in our own way, Lombardo says. Here are her 3 tips to get started.
1. At the end of your morning meditation, ask yourself, “How can I use my talents and gifts today to serve others?” There are endless opportunities to be of service each day, from volunteering on a humanitarian project to helping a friend or even a stranger in the moment. By asking yourself this question in a mindful way, you'll begin to create a new pattern in your consciousness orienting you to those opportunities. You'll be amazed and inspired by how many ways there are to help.
2. Connect in meaningful ways with others. In our highly technological world, it's easy to feel isolated and disconnected from community. This can lead to things like depression, cynicism, and even a sense of hopelessness and purposelessness. Restoring or creating a sense of connection, to the place you live and the people around you, will not only help you see the very important role you can play in the world, but will inspire the natural instinct humans have to support one another.
3. Become an expert on a cause. Whether it’s a local issue or a global one, dare to go deep. When we commit to really learning an issue, we create an opportunity to become a steward for that cause in a much more meaningful way. It's easy to get fired up by all the needs out there. But spreading yourself too thin and fragmenting your attention only lessens your effectiveness. Instead, put that powerful energy into one thing, and feel the exhilaration of really helping to create change.